The Sovietology of Józef M. Bocheński: Transnational Activism in Catholic Switzerland, 1955–65

  • Matthieu Gillabert
Part of the The Palgrave Macmillan Transnational History Series book series (PMSTH)


When the Institute for Eastern Europe (IEO) was created at the University of Fribourg in 1958, the announcer from Radio Geneva declared that “the story does not lack a certain piquancy”. Marxism was to be studied, dissected and taught on Catholic soil, in Fribourg, at the Swiss university perhaps the least inclined towards communist philosophy. Father Bochen´ski (1902–95), the leader of the IEO, immediately responded to the editorial team of Radio Geneva by saying that Catholic philosophers are precisely the most capable in dissecting Marxist-Leninist thought. It was precisely the radical divergences that divided communism from the Catholic Church that bestowed his colleagues with a greater sensibility for dealing with these questions.1


Rockefeller Foundation Transnational Activism Soviet Philosophy Rockefeller Archive Catholic Philosopher 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    Jan Parys, Entre la logique et la foi. Entretiens avec Joseph.-M. Bochenski recueillis par Jan Parys (Montricher: Editions noir sur blanc, 1990), pp. 291–307. See also his interview with Guy Ackermann, a journalist with French-speaking Swiss television, in 1970, available online at <>.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Józef Bocheński, Wspomnienia (Krakow: Philed, 1994), pp. 54–57. For him, the church would have represented, above all, a rampart against the modernity inherited from the French revolution.Google Scholar
  3. See Ludwig J. Pongratz, Philosophie in Selbstdarstellungen, Part 1 (Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 1975), p. 14.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Zbigniew Wolak, “Naukowa Filozofia Koła Krakowskiego”, Zagadnienia Filozoficzne w Nauce 36 (2005), pp. 97–122.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Józef Miche, Filozofia bolszewicka (Rome: Druk, 1946).Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Jan Sikorowski, “De la fondation du Musée Ko´sciuszko à la fermeture du Musée de Rapperswil (1936–1952): deux exemples d’un anticommunisme suisse?”, MA thesis, Université de Neuchâtel, 2010, p. 119.Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    A. Ross Johnson, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty: The CIA Years and Beyond (Washington DC: Woodrow Wilson Center, 2010), p. 86.Google Scholar
  8. See also Michał Kasprzak, “Radio Free Europe and the Catholic Church in Poland During the 1950s and 1960s”, Canadian Slavonic Papers/Revue Canadienne des Slavistes 46 (2004), p. 323.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Bolesław Piasecki, Zagadnienia istotne (Warsaw: PAX, 1954).Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    Mikołaj Stanisław Kunicki, “The Polish Crusader: The Life and Politics of Bolesław Piasecki, 1915–1979”, PhD dissertation, Stanford University, 2004, pp. 275–82.Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    Innocent [Józef] M. Bocheński, Der sowjetrussische dialektische Materialismus (Bern: Francke, 1950), p. 10.Google Scholar
  12. 15.
    Evert Van der Zweerde shows that Bochen´ski considered Soviet philosophy to be similar to a well-structured system of logic, while Wetter had a more “continental” approach that was more interested in Marxism as applied in the USSR. Evert van der Zweerde, “Soviet Philosophy Revisited: Why Joseph Bochen´ski Was Right While Being Wrong?”, Studies in East European Thought 55.4 (2003), pp. 317–20.Google Scholar
  13. 16.
    Josef M. Bochen´ski, Die kommunistische Ideologie und die Würde, Freiheit und Gleichheit der Menchen im Sinne des Grundgestzes für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland vom 23.5.1949, Schriftreihe der Bundeszentrale für Heimatdienst, Part 21, 1956, pp. 71–2.Google Scholar
  14. 18.
    Joseph M. Bochen´ski and Gerhart Niemeyer, Handbuch des Weltkommunismus (Freiburg/Munich: Karl Alber, 1958). According to the report of the Institute of East-European Studies, this work had already sold 120,000 copies by 1959. Report of the Institute of East-European Studies, 30 March 1959, C3.1, OEI3, AHP-Bo. The communist periodical Kommunist considered the work to be the bible of anti-communism.Google Scholar
  15. See Tim B. Müller, Krieger und Gelehrte. Herbert Marcuse und die Denksysteme im Kalten Krieg (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 2010), p. 410.Google Scholar
  16. 19.
    “Son [Bocheński] antidogmatisme dogmatique constitue une brillante preuve a contrario du manichéisme idéologique contre lequel il s’élève” (“His dogmatic antidogmatism constitutes a brilliant demonstration a contrario of the ideological Manichaeism he is protesting about”), Bernard Jeu, La philosophie soviétique et l’Occident (Paris: Mercure de France, 1969), p. 402. In Catholic circles the Jesuit father Henri Chambre, another recognized specialist in Marxism, was also not especially close to Bochen´ ski.Google Scholar
  17. 33.
    The editor of the Handbuch des Weltkommunismus and one of Bocheński’s PhD students, Maibaum acted as director of the Ostkolleg in Cologne in 1964. Rüdiger Thomas and Bergisch Gladbach, “Ein Brückenbauer mit Phantasie und Leidenschaft. Zum Tod von Werner Maibaum (1928–2007)”, Deutschland Archiv 3 (2007), pp. 404–5.Google Scholar
  18. 43.
    Józef M. Bochen´ski, “Did We Not Waste Our Time?”, Studies in Soviet Thought 42 (1991), pp. 295–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Matthieu Gillabert 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthieu Gillabert

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations