7 December, 2011
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).
29 May, 2011
Two great moments on the sheer joy of revolution. First Lefebvre:
Between the moment of faith and that of joy there would be a place for the revolution…. Marxism … was a means to pass from the reign of faith to that of joy, or if one wishes, from the reign of faith to the reign of Spirit.
And then August Bebel on Engels’s weekend parties, which provided a small taste of what communism might look like:
On Sundays, Engels would throw open his house … On those puritanical days when no merry men can bear life in London, Engels’s house was open to all … We kept it up till half past three in the morning and drank, besides claret, sixteen bottles of champagne.
3 May, 2011
For Lenin, reform is known as ‘tinkering with wash-basins’ – that important stuff like water supply, electric trains, and similar matters. Unlike revolution, such tinkering does not endanger the foundations of what is called ‘the existing social system’. Not a bad way to describe the whole edifice of parliamentary democracy – tinkering with washbasins. See Collected Works, vol. 10, p. 189.
26 February, 2011
In reply to the charge that historical materialism offers a determinism that turns individuals into marionettes pulled by invisible strings, Lenin writes:
The idea of determinism, which postulates that human acts are necessitated and rejects the absurd tale about free will, in no way destroys man’s reason or conscience, or appraisal of his actions. Quite the contrary, only the determinist view makes a strict and correct appraisal possible instead of attributing everything you please to free will. Similarly, the idea of historical necessity does not in the least undermine the role of the individual in history: all history is made up of the actions of individuals, who are undoubtedly active figures. The real question that arises in appraising the social activity of an individual is: what conditions ensure the success of his actions, what guarantee is there that these actions will not remain an isolated act lost in a welter of contrary acts? Collected Works, vol. 1, p. 159.
This is the first appearance of a theme that will reverberate in different ways throughout his writings: the dialectic of revolution, which is also the dialectic of grace (the theological register of revolution). In this case the dialectical problem takes the following form: how do you make sense of the individual act of rebellion within the larger scale of things, ensuring that such an act is not futile, or that it doesn’t run off into some reactionary position? On another level, it opens to the question as to how you negotiate the unexpected spontaneity of revolution/grace? How do you organise and what conditions ensure that you are both ready for that moment and can direct it in the path you want?
3 February, 2011
Some things never seem to change:
We are past masters of the art of lamentation: we lament the tactlessness and self-assurance of revolutionaries in harrassing the government; we lament the government’s indecisiveness when, finding that it is not confronted by a real force, it makes pseudo-concessions and takes back with one hand what it has given with the other; we lament ‘the age without ideas and ideals’, when the government, having settled scores with revolutionaries whom the people failed to support, hastens to make up for lost time and fortifies itself for a fresh onslaught. Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 5, p. 55, in 1901.
31 January, 2011
One of the few internet links from Egypt, after Mubarak cut internet access, is found here.
30 January, 2011
With at least 1.5 billion in support from the US last year for Mubarak and his hated ‘security forces’ in Egypt, you’ve gotta love this revolution. Details, as usual, at the reliable Lenin’s Tomb.
19 January, 2011
‘The New Luther?’ has just been published by Monthly Review.
10 November, 2010
Sonia Borenstein at her best:
As far as I’m concerned the brassiere is a far worse symbol of female repression than the burqa.
The bra was probably invented by a sadistic misogynist, wringing his hands with malevolent glee at the knowledge that his torturous creation has been adopted so enthusiastically by western womankind.
It’s okay to go bra-less in public for nubile girls with perky breasts, but what if, like me, you are on the wrong side of 50 and burdened with huge melon-like breasts going south. For us, bras are like straightjackets.
The sight of saggy baggy breasts causes shock horror in our community. I can almost hear people saying, ”Disgusting. How dare she allow them to hang so low. Doesn’t she know they should be pointing towards the stars, as nature intended?”
Barring revolution, the solution for now is to rip it off as soon as possible:
I live for the moment I can stop suffering and liberate my thankful bosoms from their cruel bondage.