Tektology – Energetic Materialism: The Bogdanov – Sultan Galiev Connection



13th Historical Materialism Conference London, November 10-13, 2016

Örsan Şenalp, orsansenalp@gmail.com


Alexander Bogdanov and Mirsaid Sultan Galiev are two forgotten precursors of the 1917 Russian Revolution. Both were scientist, artists, teachers, and political leaders who were eliminated by the primary names of the Revolution. Bogdanov lost his leadership quarrel with Lenin, and Sultan Galiev was the first Bolshevik leader Stalin arrested. Bogdanov was leading the Moscow branch of the Communist University, and Sultan Galiev was one of the managers at the Kazan branch. Bogdanov’s life work and magnum opus Tektology is recognized as a forerunner of modern Structuralism, Cybernetics, General Systems, Chaos and Complexity Theories -which have shaped the development of ‘bourgeois sciences’, during the 20. Century. On the other hand Sultan Galiev is seen as the father of ‘Third Worldist Revolutionism’, because of his political vision, called ‘Muslim National Communism’, and the strategy he developed for the creation of ‘Colonial International’ to lead the world revolution. While Bogdanov’s work was first of its kind that was updating Marx’s Dialectical Materialist methodology in a way that could provide systematic principles, uncovering patterns, generalizations and simplification to analyze the complexities inherited in every kind of living and nonliving systems as well as their change; Sultan Galiev’s theses can be seen as predecessor to the structuralist analyses of global capitalism and imperialism delivered in late 60s and 70s by theorists like Althusser, Foucault, Balibar; Dependency theory of Baran and Sweezy, or ‘Capitalist World-System Analysis’ of Wallerstein and his colleagues. However, despite the physical and psychical proximity of the spaces they lived, work they did, people they met, and vision they developed, there has been no historical study establishing the relationships between these two significant figures of the Soviet Revolution. Proposed research, as part of a broader project analyzing further the contemporary relevance of Bogdanov and Sultan Galiev’s theory and practice for global labour class formation and organizing its emancipation, aims to trace such relationship by investigating any influence of Bogdanov’s elaborated scientific philosophy (Empriomonism / Tektology), on the political and strategical vision developed by Sultan Galiev (Muslim National Communism and Colonial Internationalism). My starting point is the key article written by Sultan Galiev in 1925, which caused his second arrest in 1928,  where he claimed deploying ‘Energetic Materialist’ methodology, with his own words “more radical strand of revolutionary philosophy of Historical and Dialectical Materialism” (Sultan Galiev, 2016), when building his political analyses and world revolution strategy. It was well known, then and now, that it was Bogdanov who did dedicate his life time effort to advance Marxist methodology by synthesizing ‘incomplete-monist’ Energetism and Empriociticism of Ernst Mach, Wilhelm Ostwald, and Richard Avenarius, and Dialectic and Historical Materialism of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Although the term ‘Energetic Materialism’ reemerged in 70s and 80s with the work of Gilles Deleuze, for the time of Sultan Galiev the only source for  such a ‘rebranding’ had to refer Bogdanov’s work. My initial research questions thus are: Were there any direct or indirect personal relationships, or correspondence between Bogdanov and Sultan Galiev? and to what extend the philosophy and methodology developed by the former did influence the political analysis and practice of the letter? I will study relevant archive material, analyze and compare published and unpublished writings in their originals, and map the social networks of the two figures to find answers to these questions.
Keywords: Alexander Bogdanov, Mirsaid Sultan Galiev, World Revolution, Science, Philosophy, Methodology, Dialectical Materialism, Historical Materialism, Energetic Materialism, Empriomonism, Tektology, Emancipation of Labour

—– Very early draft work in progress —-


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s