On the evolution of abuse - Lev Kamenev

(Notes). Source: Under the Banner of Marxism, 1922, nr. 4, pp. 108–11. On some bourgeois rantings against Bolshevism. Reproduced for reference only.

original title: Об эволюции ругани. (Заметки).

English common law permits the condemned during the course of 241 hours after the verdict to curse their judges. History is more merciful than English common law: it allows a condemned historical group to curse longer. Russian intellectuals, serving the bourgeoisie, are swearing now for nearly five years. And as time goes by, the more intricate, subtle, broader in scope and deeper in object the abuse becomes.

Gone are the days when to forcefully express their feelings to the Russian people the venerable professor and the refined literary lady (like Ms. Gippius) did not disdain to use jargon of junker feasts. This jargon was particularly in vogue when the intelligentsia considered the source of all ills the personal composition of the bolshevik party. On the personalities of the "bolshevik leaders" was focused then all the hate of the intellectuals. People soon got smarter however, they realized that on the abuse of some bolsheviks one will not go far. The monarchist Shulgin discovered in the bolsheviks a 'strong-willed concentration of the nation'; B. Pilnyak found for this discovery a colourful formula: 'Bolsheviks... Leather jackets ... Can function energetically...'

The second stage in the evolution of swearing was when the in their best feelings offended intellectuals realised, that actually guilty of all their misfortune were not so much the bolsheviks, as the them equipping Germans. The monument of this stage will remain the first issue of Miliukov's History of the Revolution, in which this venerable historian, sitting in Kiev, under the protection of Hetman Skoropadsky, extensively and with relish scolds the "German" for casting the last attack on the Russian intelligentsia. But this too was only a transitional moment.

Now even Russkaja mysl of Mr. Peter Struve realised that the aphorism – 'the Bolsheviks were sent by the Germans in the sealed train' – is completely equivalent to the aphorism – 'The moon is made in Hamburg' and 'jews make the revolution' – and that all three aphorisms can suffice only for a very vulgar 'philosophy of Russian history' (Russkaja mysl. March 1922, p. 171).

And indeed Miliukov himself could not hold on to this position.

The second issue of his History Miliukov titled "Kornilov or Lenin." Not "Kerensky or Lenin," not "Democracy or Lenin," not "Constituent Assembly or Lenin," but precisely "Kornilov or Lenin." This approach to the question suggests that Mr. Miliukov realised that the real question was thus: the bourgeoisie could win only under the banner of Kornilov, the workers and peasants could win only under the banner of Bolshevism. As such, the object of intellectual swearing had to become of course and became, no longer the Germans and not even the very bolsheviks, but the popular masses themselves.

"Rebellious slaves" for Mr. Kerensky, the "ochlos", "mob" for Mr. Chernov, – these are the softest of all the expressions, with which the people-loving intellectuals branded their people.

Leaning their forehead, with such a vast object for their swearing, the intellectuals were bound to reflect. Part of them really doubted and finally decided to ask themselves, who is right: the intellectuals cursing at the people or the popular masses having chosen finally on their own road of development?

Another and much more significant part of the intelligentsia reflected too. If in fact are not to blame the Germans and not the bolsheviks, but the popular masses themselves, does it not follow to seek the main causes of "the fall" of hundreds of thousands and millions of Russian Ivanovs and Petrovs in some shortcoming of the universe itself? Could the really outraged intellectuals be calmed with stating the guilt of the people? Are there not to blame some "higher" and not amenable to earthly control powers? Is not the collapse of the Russian bourgeois intelligentsia and of its hopes the manifestation of some immanent to the world evil? Can you talk about any progress in the world after the collapse of baron Wrangel and prof. Struve? And is it worth to damn the Russian people, if the damning should be directed against the entire universe?

With the usual optimistic belief in progress this course of things (the course of the Russian revolution) completely does not fit. But we must, finally, have the courage to confess that progress is not at all mandatory for humanity, that evil exists in the life of the universe and of humanity as an independent real principle, just as good, that God and the devil are fighting over man in humanity and in his history.

That is how far has gone "the philosophy of Russian history" from the vulgar aphorisms about the sealed train!

But listen further:

That is why such phrases as "the collapse of tsarism" and "the triumph of socialism" can not exhaustively characterise those huge events and clashes that took place in Russia. There was not only the collapse of one system and the triumph of another. The external clash of two forces and two orders in essence reveals only the internal struggle between two spiritual orders, for whom not at all is the most significant their attitude to one or another external political or social order of life.

These formulas are not only the result of the idle verbal trickery of the very learned and very religious minister of Wrangel, Mr. Struve.

This is the last trench, where the Russian bourgeois intelligentsia took refuge and from which only also it had left to shell the Russian revolution.

How far this formula has gone from those times when the universe was perfect, progress inevitably triumphed and against this background the only small, temporary and occasional black dots were the bolsheviks! It is not Lenin who triumphs over Kornilov, but the devil over God and world evil over the "good will of the Creator!"

The angle of falling equals the angle of reflection. By the depths of pessimism and despair in the world view of Mr. Struve and his associates one can judge about the breadth and the scope of the upsurge of the Russian masses.

As we see, the object of abuse of Russian intellectuals has expanded to the limits of the whole world and the whole course of its development.

It is no wonder, that cursing the world and evil in the universe they had to curse also in Russian history everything that served the spiritual and material liberation of mankind.

First, it appears, Mr. Maklakov, former minister of the former Provisional Government and of the former admiral Kolchak has disowned Leo Tolstoy and cursed him for the fact, that Tolstoy, allegedly, was the precursor of the bolsheviks. But these were only the first steps. The redeemers of "Russian culture," the keepers of its values went further.

If you put yourself, – writes the current Russkaja Mysl, – a kind of literaturo-bacteriological task to trace in the history of Russian social thought that moment when was born the "vibrio" of Bolshevism, then with perfect accuracy one can point to the Belinsky era. It was then when that ruler of the thought of his contemporary people, with the to him proper furious volatility rushed from the teachings of Hegel to Feuerbach and yelled "with all due respect for the philosophical cap of Egor Fedorovich (Hegel), what do I care of the absolute spirit, when the muzhik suffers," – in that moment was born the "vibrio" of Bolshevism. There was broken one cultural thread of romantic idealism of Russian social thought and another began, a counter-cultural thread of materialistic and positivist-rationalist thought through Herzen, Pisarev, Chernyshevsky Dobrolyubov, Lavrov, Mikhaylovsky, coming down to us.

Whom did the "champions of Russian culture" leave to themselves, giving with such exaggerated generosity to the bolsheviks Belinsky and Herzen, Dobrolyubov and Chernyshevsky? 'The Slavophiles, Dostoevsky, Leontiev, Vlad. Soloviev and Rozanov' – responds Struve, and even the 'spiritual creativity of earlier epochs, expressed mainly in church and religious life.'

Maybe it is enough! What to this scheme of the foreign "free thinkers" can our domestic Izgoevs, Berdyaevs and Franks add? They began cursing the bolsheviks, they finished cursing the whole world and human progress, they began with contrasting democracy and Bolshevism, finished contrasting Belinsky and the archimandrite Photius. It is nice to see the enemy freak!

Posted By

Noa Rodman
Mar 10 2016 23:23


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Mar 12 2016 12:07

This led on to Krupskaya, in charge of Soviet libraries banning a whole range of books. As Maxim Gorky wrote in 1922 "She compiled a list of allegedly counter-revolutionary works and ordered these to be removed from libraries. The old woman considered works of western European philosophers, thinkers, writers as well as Russian as counterrevolutionary My first thought was to renounce my Soviet citizenship but then, it would not have changed much."
The books included Nietzsche, Plato, Kant,Mach, Spencer, Schopenhauer and Tolstoy, Vladimir Soloviev,(mentioned above)Tolstoy, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Pushkin, Gogol, Verne, Cervantes, Kipling, Gorky himself, Shakespeare,Tennyson, Taine, Pinkerton detective stories, the poetry of Esenin, Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva and the "boulevard" novels of Count Amori and Verbitskaya. Other writers banned were Voloshin, Gumilyov, Dostoevsky , Blok and Bulgakov. Lossky, Grott, Lange. The following novelists were also banned: Octave Mirbeau, Lieskov, Victor Margueritte, Nemirovich-Danchenko. All children's literature to be removed and all agitational pamphlets directed against "the Communist movement, Bolsheviks and peace partisans" and all pre-1917 pro -constitutional democratic literature, pro-civil rights, pro- Constituent Assembly, pr0-universal suffrage etc. in addition all Bolshevik and Soviet agitational and reference literature from 1918-1920 which differed with current Bolshevik approach to land, taxes, free trade, food problem etc, were to be withdrawn.

Noa Rodman
Mar 12 2016 15:12

No connection, but of Krupskaya and the libraries: https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/revhist/backiss/vol5/no4/bruce.htm...

Mar 14 2016 13:15

But that article is a pack of misrepresentations. For example, Soloviev was not unbanned from Soviet libraries until the 1980s with prestroika. The ban itself, which the author of that article fails to mention, was only partially rescinded after Gorki and others kicked up a fuss.
I thought this site was about libertarian communism, not to publish the works of Bolshevism

Noa Rodman
Mar 14 2016 15:52

Do you want me to take it down?