Living Words from a Dead Russian

Greg Schofield g_schofield at
Sun Dec 9 18:18:46 MST 2001

Jared, Louis is correct on a number of points. A) it is a limited polemic against a tendency which is now extinct and was an expression of Russia's political underdevelopment at that time. B) Lenin himself said it was outdated. C) It is drawing a long bow on a short arrow to link his use of "criminal" in the way you have done (do we know what the original Russian word was - it may not have the same implications).

The translation thing bears on this especially when so much wieght is put on a single expression. For instance, Lenin's latter use of the word translated into "Violent Revolution" in "State and Revolution" turns out to mean in Russian "unpietess", "unsaintly", "forcefully" as well as "violent".

How many have hung onto the expression and not noticed that "Violent Revolution" actually means "Forceful (extra-legal) Revolution" as against peaceful legalistic changes (within established procedures)? The context was always clear enough but the phrase has become a point of creed amongst some.

Having been "brought-up" on "What is to done?" during my political life as the critical text for Marxist practice, it is in truth a very limited work, written well before Lenin was acquainted with Hegel's Dialectic (first read in 1914) from which flowed not only his works on Imperialism, but also the political platform which was so effective.

"What is to be Done?" compared to his latter works bears no resemblance in the quality of the theory and application. One needs only to read his Empirico criticism and his latter Philosophical Notebooks to see just how big of a change was made in Lenin's thinking.

In otherwords, "What is to be done?" derived from a limited understanding by Lenin of Historical Materialism, which he more than made up for later on, but it is not a strong text to depend so much on.

Greg Schofield
Perth Australia

PS - "criminal" has a provocative ring to it, but it is a very weak concept as what is made criminal is established by the state. In practice I have found that discussions of criminal political behaviour of the ruling class only emphaisize the power that "they" can do what they like and "we" can do nothing about it. Better to concentrate on those things which are "fixable" rather than past actions which at best can only serve to illustrate the direction of current policies.

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From: Borba100 at
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Date: Sun, 9 Dec 2001 17:17:51 EST
Subject: Living Words from a Dead Russian

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