M.N. Pokrovsky and the origins of Soviet historiography

White, James D (1972) M.N. Pokrovsky and the origins of Soviet historiography. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

An examination of the early form of Russian Marxism espoused by M.N. Pokrovsky and other radical historians of his generation leads one to the conclusion that it lacked any dialectical component and could be more accurately described as "economic materialism". It profoundly affected the physiognomy of early works of Russian Marxist historiography of which those of Pokrovsky are typical examples. Since "economic materialism" could not produce any epistemological theory of its own, it readily adopted that supplied by the German school of neo-Kantian philosophers, especially Mach and Avenarius, and this is widely reflected in Pokrovsky's historical thought, in particular in his ideas on the relationship between history and politics. The theory of "economic materialism" also demanded that Pokrovsky should find economic motivation for all events in the Russian historical process, especially an economic explanation of the actions and policies of the Russian autocracy. This he supplied by means of his scheme of merchant capitalism, a scheme which he finally formulated shortly before the revolution in 1917. His ideas on Russian autocracy as expressing the interests of a merchant capitalist class, however, early brought him into conflict with the rival explanations of Russian history put forward by Plekhanov and Trotsky. Since Trotsky's view of Russian historical development lay at the root of his theory of Permanent Revolution, Pokrovsky in the mid-twenties found himself involved in the current campaign against Trotskyism in the Soviet Union, a circumstance which lent particular political importance to his polemic and it became widely held that his scheme of Russian history served as a theoretical basis for socialism in one country, and as such received the approval of Stalin. From 1925, however, various researches by Pokrovsky's pupils - N. Vanag and others - produced results which tended to confirm the version of Russian economic development put forward by Trotsky, and from 1926 to 1930, Pokrovsky himself became convinced of their correctness and went so far as to deny that the economic prerequisities for socialism existed in Russia though towards the end of his life he renounced this view and condemned it as a Trotskyist heresy. After Pokrovsky's death, Vanag's findings were universally condemned as being at odds with Stalin's doctrine of socialism in one country, but in 1934 Stalin suddenly adopted them as the new orthodoxy while obscuring their true authorship. As most of Pokrovsky's published works in 1934 were concerned with combating precisely such views, it became obvious that he too must be discredited. The offensive against the "Pokrovsky school" was consequently launched in the same year.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Rudolf Schlesinger
Keywords: Philosophy, Economics
Date of Award: 1972
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1972-73879
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2019 08:56
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2019 08:56
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/73879

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