Shortly before his death, Georg Lukács wrote a brief and elliptical autobiographical sketch. Unable to expand further in writing, he reflected on the events of his life in two long interviews, recorded in 1969 and 1971, with István Eörsi and Erzsébet Vezérs. These documents were collected and assembled as Record of a Life, published by Verso in a translation by Rodney Livingstone in 1983.
In the excerpt below, Lukács discusses his experiences during the years of World War I, the Russian Revolution, and the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic, for which he served as the People's Commissar for Education and Culture.
It is the contradictions of the dictatorship of the proletariat, as it was beginning to develop in Russia, that form the object of Lenin's analysis and of his arguments. If you forget this fact, you can easily fall into dogmatism and formalism: Leninism can be represented as a finished theory, a closed system — which it has been, for too long, by Communist parties. But if on the other hand you remain content with a superficial view of these contradictions and of their historical causes, if you remain content with the simplistic and false idea according to which you have to "choose" between the standpoint of theory and that of history, real life and practice, if you interpret Lenin's arguments simply as a reflection of ever changing circumstances, less applicable the further away they are in history, then the real causes of these historical contradictions become unintelligible, and our own relation to them becomes invisible. You fall into the domain of subjective fantasy
Women, Resistance and Revolution and all books on our Russian Revolution reading list are 50% off until May 28 at midnight UTC. Click here to activate your discount.
Detail from c. 1920s Soviet poster for International Women's Day.
First published in 1973, and reissued as part of Verso's Radical Thinkers series, Women, Resistance and Revolution: A History of Women and Revolution in the Modern World — Sheila Rowbotham's first book-length study, a landmark in feminist history — reconstructs the often neglected feminist currents in the English, American, French, Russian, Chinese, Algerian, Cuban, Vietnamese revolutions, and within European socialist movements. "This is not a proper history of feminism and revolution," Rowbotham writes, "Such a story necessarily belongs to the future and will anyway be a collective creation. Instead I have tried to trace the fortunes of an idea. It is a very simple idea, but one with which we have lost touch, that the liberation of women necessitates the liberation of all human beings."
Throughout May, our Weekend Reads series will feature selections from books about or related to the Russian Revolution.
Delegates at the 8th Congress of the Russian Communist Party, 1919.
Published in 1985, Marxism, Wars & Revolutions collects essays written by Isaac Deutscher over a period of more than thirty years. "From them," Perry Anderson writes in his preface to the book, "we can see Deutscher as he was, a much more complex and multi-dimensional figure than the terms by which he became best-known in his lifetime would suggest: not simply a scholar, but a thinker, of the Left; and not only a commentator on events, but a participant in them."
The text below, an assessment of the yet unfinished Russian revolutionary epoch, was written for Political Quarterly in 1944, five years before the publication of Stalin: A Political Biography, while Deutscher was working as a journalist for The Economist and The Observer.
Isaac Deutscher's Marxism, Wars & Revolutions and The Prophet are available for 50% off until May 28 as part of our Russian Revolution reading. See all the books on the reading list, here.
Continued from Part I.
Alexandra Kollontai became notorious as one of the defenders of sexual freedom. In fact her ideas were quite different from the "glass of water" theories described in novels like Without a Bird-Cherry Tree by P. Romanov, and The Dog’s Lane by Lev Gumilevsky. Instead she followed the tradition of the young Marx and Engels in The Origin of the Family in imagining that love would develop rather than disappear under communism: