One of the more fascinating aspects of reading carefully through Stalin’s writings is what may be called the scriptural dynamic of spirit and letter. As 2 Corinthians 3:6 puts it, ‘the letter kills, but the spirit gives life’. Stalin is clearly on the side of the spirit in interpreting the texts of Marx and Lenin. Thus, Marx’s thought applies to emerging capitalism, while Lenin’s thought is Marxism in the age of imperialism. To emphasise his approach, he tells a story provided by Swedish socialists:

It was at the time of the sailors’ and soldiers’ revolt in the Crimea. Representatives of the navy and army came to the Social-Democrats and said: “For some years past you have been calling on us to revolt against tsarism. Well, we are now convinced that you are right, and we sailors and soldiers have made up our mints to revolt and now we have come to you for advice.” The Social-Democrats became flurried and replied that they couldn’t decide the question of a revolt without a special conference. The sailors intimated that there was no time to lose, that everything was ready, and that if they did not get a straight answer from the Social-Democrats, and if the Social-Democrats did not take over the direction of the revolt, the whole thing might collapse. The sailors and soldiers went away pending instructions, and the Social-Democrats called a conference to discuss the matter. They took the first volume of Capital, they took the second volume of Capital, and then they took the third volume of Capital, looking for some instruction about the Crimea, about Sevastopol, about a revolt in the Crimea. But they could not find a single, literally not a single instruction in all three volumes of Capital either about Sevastopol, or about the Crimea, or about a sailors’ and soldiers’ revolt. They turned over the pages of other works of Marx and Engels, looking for instructions—but not a single instruction could they find. What was to be done? Meanwhile the sailors had come expecting an answer. Well, the Social-Democrats had to confess that under the circumstances they were unable to give the sailors and soldiers any instructions. “And so the sailors’ and soldiers’ revolt collapsed.” (Works, volume 9, pages 97-98)

That wonderful site, ‘Philosophers for Change’, has agreed to publish another of my pieces, called ‘In Defence of Engels‘. Get yourself over there, even more for the rest of the material.

ME on a tandem

A new church in Podgorica in Montenegro has a lovely fresco depicting our good friends, Marx, Engels and Tito, enjoying the warmth of hell (more here).

Marx, Engels and Tito in Hell

(ht cp)

At long last, after almost four years of couch-surfing, hanging about in odd corners, taking up floor space … MEGA has a home. Since 2009, I’ve been collecting, borrowing, begging and possessing the available volumes of the Marx Engels Gesamtausgabe.



It took a bit of work, especially finding pieces of wood (which I never buy) long enough for a high bookshelf.


It reaches almost to the ceiling:


But it does mean that instead of sorting through piles of books, I can simply walk over to the shelf and find what I need:


That is, if it is in the volumes of MEGA published thus far (about half out of 112 double volumes):

IMG_9673 (2)a

I guess that’s why the Werke is across the room:


Note where the three flowers have chosen to grow.

I have already scheduled this item for the agenda at the next strata meeting over here, since I like the thought of nine apartments agreeing to setting up a similar gathering of the gang. Should be a cinch, especially since I managed to wrangle the all-important secretary position. Is not the secretary the most important member of the party? (ht sk)

What are the best things to see in St. Petersburg (aka Leningrad)? I would suggest the Smolny Institute, which was the nerve centre of the Russian Revolution.

Before the institute lies the Square of the Proletarian Dictatorship, where children play and parents talk beneath Marx’s warm gaze:

And where Engels maintains his interest in the role of religion:

I would also suggest Mars Field, where the red flag still flies:

And where Anatoly Lunacharsky, The God-builder, has penned some poems, now engraved in stone, to the heroes of the revolution and the civil war:

Add to that a visit to the cruiser Aurora:

Still standing close to its crucial location during the revolution:

One may stand by the gun that fired the shot to signal the storming of the Winter Palace:

Or you may ponder Lenin’s crotch before the Finland Station:

And so on:

(with thanks to Sergey)

Sit and ponder the universe? Lean back in a chair and look skyward? Rub the soap in your crotch while in the shower and pause for an insight?

Marx, for one, would pace up and down the room. Paul Lafargue notes that Marx would rest by doing so, while Henry Hyndman observes: ‘Marx had a habit when at all interested in the discussion of walking actively up and down the room, as if he were pacing the deck of a schooner for exercise’. Engels had the same habit. Imagine the scene, especially after Engels managed to escape the ‘huckstering’ of the family firm in Manchester: Marx would pace in one direction, puffing on a cigarette, Engels would pace parallel to Marx but in the opposite direction, puffing on a pipe, while both would engage in animated discussion.

As for Lenin, Krupskaya notes: ‘When writing, he would usually pace swiftly up and down the room, whispering what he was going to write’. Then he would leap into the seat at his desk and rapidly write down what he had just whispered to himself. 45 volumes of Collected Worksthat’s a shitload of whispering.

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