Russian Machism (/ˈmɑxɪzm, ˈmɑkɪzm/) was a term applied to a variety of political/philosophical viewpoints which emerged in Imperial Russia in the beginning of the twentieth century before the Russian Revolution. They shared an interest in the scientific and philosophical insights of Ernst Mach. Many, but not all, of the Russian Machists were Marxists, and some viewed Machism as an essential ingredient of a materialist outlook on the world. The term came into use around 1905, primarily as a polemical expression used by Lenin and Georgi Plekhanov. With a shared desire to defend an "orthodox" account of Marxism, from their own differing perspective they both divided the opponents of this putative orthodoxy into the "idealists" and the "Machists".[1] The term remained a signifier of Marxist-Leninist opprobrium from the 1920s through into the 1970s. This was shown by Alexander Maximov [ru]'s use of the term to criticize Boris Hessen in 1928.[2] It can also be seen in Evald Ilyenkov's chapter on "Marxism against Machism as the Philosophy of Lifeless Reaction" in Leninist Dialectics and the Metaphysics of Positivism (1979).[3]

Confrontation with idealism

In 1902 Pavel Ivanovich Novgorodtsev edited the book Problems of Idealism (Problemy Idealizma) which included contributions from Sergei Bulgakov, Evgenii Nikolaevitch Troubetzkoy, Sergei Nikolaevich Trubetskoy, Peter Berngardovich Struve, Nikolai Berdyaev, Semyon Frank, Sergei Askol'dov [ru], Bogdan Kistyakovski, Alexander Sergeyevich Lappo-Danilevsky, Sergey Oldenburg, and Zhukovsky.[4] In proclaiming the advent of a new idealist movement he also derided positivism as being narrow and dogmatic.[5]

Confrontation with Lenin

The publication of Studies in the Philosophy of Marxism (Russian: Очерки по философии Марксизма) in 1908 marked a key moment in the emergence of this viewpoint. However whilst many of the proponents of Russian Machism saw it as adding important insights to what a materialist view of the world would look like, Vladimir Lenin was a consistent opponent; he cited as such: Bazasov, Bogdanov, Lunacharski, Berman, Gelfond, Yushkevich, Sergei Suvorov and Nikolai Valentinov.

Prominent Russian "Machists"

This list includes people who at one time or other have been described as Russian Machists:

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ Jensen, K. M. J (1978). Beyond Marx and Mach (PDF). Dordrech: D. Reidel PubliShing Company. p. 19. ISBN 978-94-009-9881-0.
  2. ^ Graham, Loren R. (1985). "The Socio-Political Roots of Boris Hessen: Soviet Marxism and the History of Science". Social Studies of Science. 15 (4): 705–722. doi:10.1177/030631285015004005. ISSN 0306-3127. JSTOR 285401. S2CID 143937146.
  3. ^ Ilyenkov, Evald (1982). Leninist Dialectics and the Metaphysics of Positivism. London: New Park Publications.
  4. ^ Dahm, Helmut (2012). Vladimir Solovyev and Max Scheler: Attempt at a Comparative Interpretation: A Contribution to the History of Phenomenology. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 9789401017480. Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  5. ^ Soboleva M.E. “Soboleva Critical positivism” versus “new idealism” in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century. Vestnik SPbSU. Philosophy and Conflict Studies, 2018, vol. 34, issue 1, pp. 46–56.