Neo-Populism?

Justin Schwartz jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us
Sun Feb 12 21:32:02 MST 1995


On Sun, 12 Feb 1995, Rebecca Hill wrote:

>
> p.s. on Narodnaya Volya debate: I looked up more on the Russian Populists
> after getting the heated reply

It wasn't meant to be.

> that the pamphlet must be a forgery

Well, without pretending any expertise, I raised the question. I hadn't
any views one way or the other.

 from
> Justin Shwartz and found that not only has the document been discussed at
> length by historians (Dave Offord, for one),

OK, learn something every day. But I do note that my standard sources
didn't think it important enough to merit discussion in their chapters on NV.

 but Kropotkin, Korba, and
> Lavrov have all publicly denounced this pamphlet written by Exec. committee
> member Romanenko in writing.

Which is a little different from its being the official NV position.

 One member of the party, Figner destroyed
> rather than distributing the pamphlet, and then Jewish Populist, Pavel
> Axelrod (later to be a Menshevik) was discouraged from replying to the
> pamphlet by Narodnik Chernoperedeltsey on the basis that such a reply
> from a Jew might "alienate the peasants." Axelrod became a social
> democrat not long after this. So, Why defend the populists?

I wasn't. What I found incredible was that the NV was antisemitic. I still
do, even though we have turned up an antisemite on the NV exec. Likewise
the Bolsheviks were anti-antisemites even though they had an antisemite
(Stalin) on their CC.

 For the rest, I subscribe to the usual Marxist critique of terrorism and
other things Lenin says about the NV in his pamphlet. (No doubt this will
brand me as a troglodyte Leninist. Heaven forbid anywone should agree with
anything old Vlad said.)

 Do we need
> saints? It is better to recognize existing flaws and mistakes than to
> ignore them and risk making a model out of a potentially problematic
> political ideology.

Indeed. And If I were to make a model out of an ideolofy, I wouldn't pick
Narodism.

>     Also, J. Shwartz has confused his Russian populist
> history. Narodnaya Volya of pre 1881 and of post 1881 were somewhat
> different.

No doubt. I', no expert.

 The time of greatest Jewish membership occurred after 1885, when
> some urban Jewish radicals attempted to revive what one historian referred
> to as a "dying party." During the time of the 1881 pogroms, the executive
> committee had only 3 Jewish members out of 31.

That is, 10% of the exec.

  I think that if the
> populists (if they were anything like the rest of the Russian population of
> the time

Which is unlikely on the face of it. If the populatiuon was like them it
would have been revolutionary in the 1880s!

) were probably invested enough in anti-semitic culture to
> marginalize those 3 Jews pretty thoroughly. The point is not to demonize
> the Russian populists to the core, but rather to demonstrate that a
> rhetoric based on "the people" vs. "the foriegn conspiracy of capitalists"
> often lends itself to classic anti-semitism.

Sure. I wonder, though, how much Narodism has in common with the more or
less contemporary U.S. Populist movement, much less with later populist
manifestaions like Wallace or Newt. Again, I don't know, but one contrast
that comes to mind is that the NV was revolutionary and socialist, and
even the 19th C. U.S. populists weren't that, much less W or N today.

In any case, I stand partly corrected. Thanks, Rebecca!

--Justin




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