Book review that (sort of) ended Bogdanov’s participation in Vpered group (1911)

2019-02-06 11_57_19-353454.pdf - Adobe Acrobat ProThe full history of Vpered group is yet to be written. A ‘traditional’ (Leninist) account is based on Lenin’s interpretation of the split between his supporters and ‘left Bolsheviks’ in the summer of 1909. One can see this interpretation in the very phraseology of Bolsheviks versus Vperedists. Soviet historiography tended to see Lenin’s struggle against various ‘deviations’ as the struggle against distortions of revolutionary Marxism – his version triumphed, the rest were defeated and forgotten.

Vpered group was formed in 1909 and officially registered as a literary group of RSDLP (Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party) in January of 1910. It submitted a platform that was written by a group of Bolsheviks in the winter of 1909 called The Current Situation and Tasks of the Party: A Platform Developed by a Group of Bolsheviks. The platform outlined its disagreement with the main Bolshevik group, led by Lenin. The main crux of the disagreement was around the assessment of the post-revolutionary situation – was the revolution of 1905-07 truly over or was the revolutionary situation that caused the initial upheaval still capable of producing another revolution that would eventually take down the tsarist regime?

A small section of the platform was dedicated to a few of Bogdanov’s ideas that he will go on to develop in 1911 book The Cultural Tasks of Our Time – you can find the Russian text here.  This short book outlined Bogdanov’s overall vision of the so-called ‘proletarian culture’ and caused a few grumbles among other members of Vpered group. When Bogdanov recalled his main reasons for existing the group (in an unpublished memoir about his ‘excommunications from Marxism’), he listed its lack of emphasis on socialist education and ‘proletarian culture’ and its continued involvement in émigré intrigues that Bogdanov no longer had any interest in.

One of these intrigants – a member of Vpered group residing in Paris – was Grigorii Aleksinskii (whose valuable archive is now at Harvard). Although inter-group disagreements regarding the program of ‘proletarian culture’ were present, nothing prepared the public for the scandal of Aleksinskii’s review of Bogdanov’s book. Aleksinskii was, of course, known for his views and his less-than-comradely ways but to publish a mocking and dismissive text directed as a fellow Bolshevik in a non-party publication – to wash one’s dirty linen in public – was indeed going a step too far.

This review is often referenced but is hard to find since it was not widely reprinted since it originally appeared in Современный мир, №7 (1911). Therefore I post it below (and as a PDF here).

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