Lenin on Freud

This comes from a long discussion with Clara Zetkin, when she visited Moscow in 1920:

Freud’s theory has now become a fad. I mistrust sex theories expounded in articles, treatises, pamphlets, etc. – in short, the theories dealt with in that specific literature which sprouts so luxuriently on the shit heap of bourgeois society. I mistrust those who are absorbed in sex problems, the way an Indian saint is absorbed in the contemplation of his navel. It seems to me that the superabundance of sex theories, which for the most part are mere hypotheses, and often quite arbitrary ones, stems from a personal need. It stems from the desire to justify one’s own abnormal or excessive sex life before bourgeois morality and to plead for tolerance towards oneself. This veiled respect for bourgeois morality is as repugnant to me as rooting about in all that bears on sex. No matter how rebellious and revolutionary it may be made to appear, it is in the final analysis thoroughly bourgeois. Intellectuals and others like them are particualrly keen on this.

You might want to replace ‘sex theories’ with any number of intellectual fashions. I would love to have seen him at your run-of-the-mill intellectual conference.


Anatoli Lunacharsky, poet of the revolution

Perhaps my favourite person in the Russian Revolution is Anatoli Lunarcharsky, known as the the ‘poet of the revolution’. Often more radical than Lenin, a sometime ‘God-Builder’ who wrote a two-volume work, Socialism and Religion, he was appointed the Commissar for Enlightenment in the new government. In his new program, Narkompros (Narodnyi Kommissariat Prosveschcheniya), he appointed all manner of poets, artists, writers, and the highest number of women in any of the major commissariats of the new state. A prolific writer of plays, essays and book-length works, he was widely regarded as the most educated and intelligent of all the education ministers in the world at the time. His work on Marxism, literature and art are still well worth a read, especially since they have largely been forgotten.

But why did Lenin appoint him and keep him on, despite all their differences? As Lenin put it to Viktor Shulgin:

I advise you also to be fond of him. He is drawn towards the future with his whole being. That is where there is such joy and laughter in him. And he is ready to give that joy and laughter to everyone.