I must disagree with the comments of Lewis Siegelbaum, St Antony’s, 1976 when he took offence at comments made about Leszek Kołakowski and Marxism. Mr. Siegelbaum objected to the statement that Prof Kołakowskihad been ‘dismissed from his post in Poland in 1968 on account of his successful debunking of Marxism.’ Mr Siegelbaum asked: ‘Does this mean that Marxists throughout the world – historians, philosophers,’ etc, etc, etc... ‘have been operating under the delusion all these decades since? . . . Seems to me, (he went on to write) the nameless compiler of this particular bio was exercising a bit of legerdemain both uncharacteristic and unworthy of Oxford Today.

Tosh! Back in the day, as young people say today, I was at dinner at Linacre College with the legendary Prof Kołakowski who had been brought to college by an Australian colleague around 1973 or 1974. As I watched, fascinated, the old Pole listened with barely concealed, and increasing annoyance, to two, young, earnest Afghan graduate students holding forth on the value of Marxism in the future of their homeland. When they paused for breath, he spoke slowly emphasizing every word: ‘Marxism is as much value in the development of Afghanistan as witchcraft!’ This brought an abrupt end to the young Afghans’ peroration and they left the table in a huff.

I believe that Prof Kołakowskiwas keenly interested in debunking Marxism throughout the world. Indeed, he carried on doing so while at All Souls in Oxford, and in my own country from 1981 to 1994 as a part-time professor at the Committee on Social Thought and in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Chicago. The main thrust of his work was to criticize ‘the laws of dialectical materialism for being fundamentally flawed – finding some of them being ‘truisms with no specific Marxist content’, others ‘philosophical dogmas that cannot be proved by scientific means’, yet others being just ‘nonsense.’


References can be found for these statements in: (Kołakowski, Leszek (2005). Main Currents of Marxism. New York: W W Norton and Company. P 909.ISBN 9780393329438. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leszek_Ko%C5%82akowski