MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of People



Fichte, Johann (1762-1814)

Fichte - stuffy-looking guy, resembles Mr Bean Second to Kant in classical German philosophy, supporter of French Revolution, professor of philosophy at Jena. Fichte emphasised the importance of "practical" philosophy, concerned with the state, law, morality, for which the "science of science", i.e. philosophy proper, was a pre-requisite.

Fichte opposed Kant’s notion of "thing-in-itself" beyond Reason, and placing the Ego at the centre of his philosophy, sought instead to deduce all forms of knowledge by direct, subjective contemplation of things with the mind. Fichte’s method had a kind of dialectics which sought to synthesise antithetical concepts.

“In 1792, a revolutionary theological and philosophical essay was published anonymously under the provocative title An Attempt at a Critique of All Revelation. Because it came from the same publisher as Kant’s work, and because Kant’s philosophy of religion was eagerly awaited, the public supposed that the work was his. The author was in fact the young Johann Gottlieb Fichte.

“In 1793, Fichte’s writings in favour of the French Revolution earned him the reputation of being a dangerous democrat and Jacobin. Nevertheless, an endorsement from Goethe helped to get him appointed in 1794 as professsor of philosophy in Jena.”. [from Hegel for Beginners]

After the death of Kant in 1804, Fichte was the “master” of “Classical German Philosophy.” In contrast to Kant’s essential conservatism, Fichte, Schelling and Hegel were all fervent supporters of the French Revolution (though each hotly contested the philosophical system of the other), and determined to find a way out of the unsatisfactory, contradiction-ridden philosophy with which Kant sought to “make peace” in philosophy.

Fichte rejected Kant’s dualism, in particular:

his concept of the “thing-in-itself” existing outside of, beyond sensuous perception, which was necessarily lacking in internal contradictions, but regarding which Understanding could prove mutually exclusive propositions, and

Kant’s “dualistic” conception of the Ego, as both Reason (when contemplating the activity of thought) and Understanding (when contemplating the empirically given external world).

Fichte set the task as creating a Doctrine of Knowledge which would be one-and-the-same for all individuals and all activities of thought. All Knowledge is by virtue of God, and the Ego is first manifested in the form of a primitive Intuition, and “this Power, which now through perception and recognition of itself has become an Ego.”

Thought, or “intelligising”, is based on the activity of this Intuition. For Fichte, the Doctrine of Knowledge was exclusively concerned with studying thought-forms, concepts, and for him there could be no question of understanding “the object before its expression in a concept.” He abolished Kant’s dualism by putting rejection altogether any concern with “things-in-themselves”, beyond sensation. This was a “subjective idealist” solution to Kant’s scepticism.

There can be an Actual Being out of God only through the self-realisation of this absolute Power: - this Power, however, can only produce pictures or Schemae, which by combination become Actual Knowledge.

Intuition was essentially ridden with contradiction because Intuition reflected Being in continual movement and change. Thus contradiction was not a product of imperfect thought, but derived from Intuition and ultimately from movement and change in the world beyond knowledge. Nevertheless, Fichte aimed to establish a doctrine of knowledge which would be comprehensive and free of contradictions, describing the general laws of the movement of thought-forms. Kant insisted that this was impossible, and did not accept Fichte’s criticisms.

Fichte sought to build up a science of the forms of thought based on their evolution from the primitive forms of Intuition. Logic was but a subordinate formal system within the Doctrine of Knowledge, not its “master.” This approach is an important step towards the system of Logic later developed by Hegel and presages also the genetic epistemology of more recent times.

However, it is the subjective-idealism of Fichte’s solution which has proved to be the most influential since - the logical positivists and others who emphasise concepts as constructs of the Mind and reject any possibility of the existence of things outside the mind to which these concepts refer.

See Johann Gottlieb Fichte Archive.

Further Reading: Fichte’s Outlines of the Doctrine of Knowledge. Also: Hegel’s History of Philosophy, Hegel on Fichte in the Logic and Ilyenkov on Fichte.


Field, Alice Withrow (1905-1960)

Alice Withrow is mainly identified with her work as a social scientist and her affilitation with the Kinsey Institute for research in sex, gender and reproduction. 1n 1929 she married William Osgood Field, a glaciologist who specialized in Russian geography and culture. The couple would travel to the Soviet Union at least twice, where Alice reported on education and women and family relations there in the 1920s and 30s. See the Alice Withrow Field Reference Library.


Fielden, Samuel (1846-?)

One of the Haymarket defendants. Fielden was a cotton mill worker in England until he came to the United States in 1868. He was became a well-known labor agitator and organizer and was a member of the anarchist International Working People’s Association (IWPA). He was giving his speech at the Haymarket meeting when the bomb went off. He was shot and wounded when trying to flee the chaotic scene. Fielden was originally sentenced to death but under public pressure the Illinois Governor converted the sentence to life imprisonment the day before the execution. He was pardoned after serving six years.

Further Reading:
Fielden’s speech in court
Subject: May Day.


Firestone, Shulamith (b. 1945)

Born in Ottawa and grew up in St. Louis and moved to live in New York City. One of the founders of Radical Feminism in the U.S., Firestone was among the founders of the Redstockings and the New York Radical Feminist journal Notes.

Further Reading:
The Dialectic of Sex
The Women's Rights Movement in the U.S.A.: New View.


Fischer, Ruth (1895-1961)

Born Elfriede Eisler, successively married Friedländer, Golke, Pleuchot.

Daughter of Viennese professor Eisler, student of philosophy and political economy, joined Social Democracy in 1914, brought together revolutionary elements in student milieu. In 1918 made contact with Russian representatives in Vienna, received funds enabling her to found weekly journal Der Weckruf. First member of Austrian Communist Party founded on 3 November 1918, imprisoned for several weeks after November days. Removed in May 1919 from revolutionary leadership, strongly criticised as rightist after defeat of Bettelheim.

Left Austria for Berlin in August. Associated with leaders of KPD(S), especially Levi, and then influenced by Maslow – who was to be her life-long companion – took leadership of left opposition. Under pseudonym of Ruth Fischer was a leader of Berlin-Brandenburg district from 1921. Acquired German nationality in early 1923 by marriage to Golke. An exceptional orator, became in 1921 champion of ‘theory of the offensive’ and opponent of Moscow Compromise. Delegated by KPD (Kommunistischen Partei Deutschlands/German Communist Party) Left to Fourth Comintern Congress. Provoked crisis in KPD at beginning of 1923 by her passionate speeches, but in May accepted compromise dictated by ECCI, and joined Zentrale. From July, resumed her opposition, took part in Moscow in preparation for insurrection, declared in favour of maintaining slogan of armed uprising, but opposed general strike following Chemnitz Conference. Supported by Zinoviev and anti-Brandler current in KPD, reached leadership of Party in 1924 and became leader of chorus for ‘Bolshevising’ Communist Parties. However, in 1925 came out in favour of withdrawing Communist candidate in second round of presidential elections, and was disavowed by ECCI. Obliged to stay in Moscow in 1925–6, replaced in Berlin by Thaelmann, and expelled in August 1926.

Founder of the Leninbund and other oppositional groupings. Exiled in France in 1933, acquired French nationality by another marriage, arranged by Doriot. In Spain in June 1940, then in Cuba, then finally in USA in 1941, taking part in various anti-Communist activities. Naturalised as American, returned to France in 1956, and died in Paris.


Fischer, Adolph (1858-1887)

One of the Haymarket martyrs. Fisher was born in Bremen in Germany and emigrated to America in 1873. Ten years later he became a typesetter for the anarchist German daily, Arbeiter Zeitung. An outspoken proponent of violent action, he authored a tract that strongly encouraged workers to attend the Haymarket meeting armed. Fischer was one of the four defendants executed by the state in 1887.

Further Reading:
Fischer’s speech in court
Subject: May Day.


Fischer, Louis (1896-1970)

American journalist and European correspondent for the Nation. Apologist for Stalinism during the Moscow trials.


Fischer, Richard (1855-1926)

German Social Democrat, Party Secretary 1893. From 1902 manager, Vorwaerts. During the war in Right Centre Majority with Ebert and Schiedemnann. Exxpelled (anti-war) members from staff of Vorwaerts, and won a Court case. Represented Majority at Stockholm Conference 1919. Member of National Assembly 1919-1920. From 1920 member of Reichstag.