Subtitle: A Compendium of Devotional Literature 1966-1970.

(Note to the right my prized copy of the movie, The Fall of Berlin, soon to be shown at the inaugural Stalin Prize evening.)

The deadline draws nigh for the Bible and Critical Theory Seminar’s call for papers. Still I cannot decide between:

‘Miracles Can Happen: Lenin and Revolution’,

‘The Music Album Musical Bum of the Bible’,

or, ‘The Matriarch’s Muff’

(as a companion piece to ‘The Patriarch’s Nuts’).

Lenin’s position on the miracle is a far cry from the ‘state of exception’ theory that now has a spirited half-life in debates in political theology. The rediscovery of Schmitt’s now infamous observations on the analogies, if not the sublimation, of the miracle in jurisprudence (the omnipotent God becomes the omnipotent lawgiver), in the sovereign’s intervention in a legal order, and thereby the valid ‘suspension’ of standard procedure of the modern, secular Enlightenment state by the Third Reich, have become grist for a range of responses. Schmitt, of course, accepts the Humean definition of miracle as a ‘transgression of the laws of nature through an exception’ (Political Theology, p. 36), but it is worth noting that Lenin foresees, as it were, the profoundly conservative nature of Schmitt’s argument. The latter opts to call upon the counter-revolutionary Roman-Catholic tradition of Bonald, de Maistre, and Donoso Cortés, theorists for whom the French Revolution, the abolition of the monarchy and thereby the exception, was to be much lamented. Exactly, points out Lenin; indeed, your theory is entirely appropriate for an autocracy like Russia, in which ‘a state of siege is always in force, supplemented, now here, now there, by provisional regulations. Are not all political affairs in Russia conducted according to provisional regulations?’ (Collected Works, vol. 5, p. 273).

Almost time to turn from a long immersion in Lenin’s miracle=revolution, with its dialectic of spontaneity and organisation, operating within and without the system, and the paradox of the genuine universal of an explicit partisan freedom that abolishes the conditions for distinguishing between formal (limited) and actual (absolute) freedom. So my next focus is the fascinating topic of venerating Lenin. A complex web of factors here, such as the Orthodox superstition that the bodies of saints do not decay, Lenin’s perpetual metaphors of decay, rotting alive and disease, his concern over his health coupled with his love of (and skill in) skating, swimming, hiking, mountain climbing and cycling, the continued influence of Lunarcharsky’s God-Building after the revolution, and the clear recognition by the communists that the revolutionary leader, especially his own body, is vital.

Plenty of stuff here, such as this great song, ‘Lenin is Always With You’

Lyrics:

ЛЕНИН ВСЕГДА С ТОБОЙ

День за днем бегут года —
Зори новых поколений.
Но никто и никогда
Не забудет имя: Ленин.

   Ленин всегда живой,
   Ленин всегда с тобой
   В горе, в надежде и радости.
   Ленин в твоей весне,
   В каждом счастливом дне,
   Ленин в тебе и во мне!

В давний час, в суровой мгле,
На заре Советской власти,
Он сказал, что на земле
Мы построим людям счастье.

Мы за Партией идем,
Славя Родину делами,
И на всем пути большом
В каждом деле Ленин с нами.

   Ленин всегда живой,
   Ленин всегда с тобой
   В горе, в надежде и радости.
   Ленин в твоей весне,
   В каждом счастливом дне,
   Ленин в тебе и во мне!

1955

Translation of chorus:

Lenin is always alive
Whether you laugh or cry
Lenin is (in) your spring
He is (in) every great thing
Lenin is within thee
As he is within me
(ht sk)

Following on from my earlier post in which Lenin points out that ‘a revolution is a miracle‘, a few of his more juicy statements on the same line.

After the 1905 revolution:

Revolutions are the locomotives of history, said Marx. Revolutions are the festivals of the oppressed and the exploited. At no other time are the masses of the people in a position to come forward so actively as creators of a new social order as at a time of revolution. At such times the people are capable of performing miracles, if judged by the narrow, philistine scale of gradual progress (1905, Collected Works, vol. 9, p. 113).

And then in the famous ‘Letters from Afar’ after the February Revolution of 1917, in which the tsar was overthrown:

The slogan, the “task of the day”, at this moment must be: Workers, you have performed miracles of proletarian heroism, the heroism of the people, in thecivil war against tsarism. You must perform miracles of organisation, organisation of the proletariat and of the whole people, to prepare the way for your victory in the second stage of the revolution (1917, Collected Works, vol. 23, pp. 306-7).

Comrade workers! You performed miracles of proletarian heroism yesterday in overthrowing the tsarist monarchy. In the more or less near future (perhaps even now, as these lines are being written) you will again have to perform the same miracles of heroism to overthrow the rule of the land lords and capitalists, who are waging the imperialist war. You will not achieve durable victory in this next “real” revolution if you do not perform miracles of proletarian organisation! (1917, Collected Works, vol. 23, p. 323).

After the October Revolution and in the face of almost insuperable difficulties:

It is indeed a miracle. Workers, who have suffered unprecedented torments of hunger, cold, economic ruin and devastation, are not only maintaining their cheerful spirit, their entire devotion to Soviet power, all the energy of self-sacrifice and heroism, but also, despite their lack of training and experience, are undertaking the burden of steering the ship of state! And this at a moment when the storm has reached the peak of its fury … The history of our proletarian revolution is full of such miracles (1919, Collected Works, vol. 13, pp. 72-3).

After two years of furious and vicious ‘civil’ war:

The question that primarily comes to mind is: how was it possible for such a miracle to have occurred, for Soviet power to have held out for two years in a backward, mined and war-weary country, in the face of the stubborn struggle waged against it first by German imperialism, which at that time was considered omnipotent, and then by Entente imperialism, which a year ago settled accounts with Germany, had no rivals and lorded it over all the countries on earth? From the point of view of a simple calculation of the forces involved, from the point of view of a military assessment of these forces, it really is a miracle (1919, Collected Works, vol. 19, p. 208).

Finally, when the Red Army was victorious after four years of foreign intervention, blockade and civil war:

Four years have enabled us to work a miracle without parallel, in that a starving, weak and half-ruined country has defeated its enemies – the mighty capitalist countries (1921, Collected Works, vol. 33, p. 117).

To make sure that no-one is excluded from the miraculous, even the water transport workers are capable of miracles in the subsequent task of economic reconstruction:

That is why, comrades, I will conclude my speech by expressing the hope and certainty that you will devote the greatest attention to the tasks of the forthcoming navigation season, and will make it your aim, and will stop at no sacrifice, to create real, iron, military discipline and to perform in the sphere of water transport miracles as great as those performed during the past two years by our Red Army (1920, Collected Works, vol. 30, p. 432).

As I begin my central treatment of miracle in Lenin and Theology, I have a wealth of juicy texts from which to draw, such as this one:

In certain respects, a revolution is a miracle. If we had been told in 1917 that we would hold out in three years of war against the whole world, that, as a result of the war, two million Russian landowners, capitalists and their children would find themselves abroad, and that we would turn out to be the victors, no one of us would have believed it. A miracle took place because the workers and peasants rose against the attack of the landowners and capitalists in such force that even powerful capitalism was in danger …  The defence of the workers’ and peasants’ power was achieved by a miracle, not a divine miracle – it was not something that fell from the skies – but a miracle in the sense that, no matter how oppressed, humiliated, ruined and exhausted the workers and peasants were, precisely because the revolution went along with the workers, it mustered very much more strength than any rich, enlightened and advanced state could have mustered (Collected Works, vol. 32, pp. 153-4, 1921).

It is that magical process whereby a pair of soiled undies, smelly socks, filthy pants, or sweat-stained shirt become clean again. How? Put them into your backpack after wearing, leave them there for a few days, and – lo! a miracle! – they are clean again.

In assessing miracles, we can discount that shoddy operation known as the Vatican and its saint-mongering. Instead, I suggest we use that profound investigator of all things theological, V.I. Lenin. With news that the tsar had abdicated and a provisional (bourgeois) government installed in early 1917, he writes:

There are no miracles in nature or history, but every abrupt turn in history, and this applies to every revolution, presents such a wealth of content, unfolds such unexpected and specific combinations of forms of struggle and alignment of forces of the contestants, that to the lay mind there is much that must appear miraculous. (Collected Works, vol 23, p. 297).

Once he warms to the idea, he puts aside his scepticism and says, ‘shit yeah, that is a miracle’:

Workers, you have performed miracles of proletarian heroism, the heroism of the people, in the civil war against tsarism. You must perform miracles of organisation, organisation of the proletariat and of the whole people, to prepare the way for your victory in the second stage of the revolution. (Collected Works, vol. 23, pp. 306-7).

Note carefully: one miracle down (overthrowing the tsar); one to go (turfing out the bourgies and bringing about the second stage of the revolution). So now we have two miracles.

Comrade workers! You performed miracles of proletarian heroism yesterday in overthrowing the tsarist monarchy. In the more or less near future (perhaps even now, as these lines are being written) you will again have to perform the same miracles of heroism to overthrow the rule of the land lords and capitalists, who are waging the imperialist war. You will not achieve durable victory in this next “real” revolution if you do not perform miracles of proletarian organisation. (Collected Works, vol 23, p. 323).

When you have two, you have a multiple: one, two, many miracles are now possible. Ever keen for a motivating slogan, Lenin identifies two. ‘Miracles of proletarian heroism’ might be back-dated to the overthrow of tsarism, but what is the slogan for the forthcoming October revolution?

Miracles of proletarian organisation! That is the slogan of the moment! (Collected Works, vol. 23, p. 360).