Lipton’s Journal/February 1, 1955/398
Disagreeable as it is to admit, Stalinism may be the child of Socialism—the mongoloid who grew out of the womb of the social-democrat couple. For apart from the very real and possibly insurmountable problems of socialism in one backward country, there was a time of alternative and choice. The Revolution of ’17 opened more than economic perspectives of equality—it opened sexual equality. And from Lenin on down, the deeply bourgeois conservative social sense of the Bolsheviks were more than a little aghast at the sexual liberties which flowered. I quote Lenin from memory: “I wish some of these comrades would realize that sex is not the same as taking a drink of water.”
But of course sex is the same, or sex should be the same. Trotsky, with his extraordinary half insights, his extraordinary which could never be completely contained in -formulations so he was always overflowing into poetry and what seemed undisciplined enthusiasms, shrieked and shrieked and shrieked for the world revolution. He was of course not inclined at all toward a sexual revolution. Nothing consciously could have been more repellent to him. Yet I believe that dimly he sensed that world revolution might open the anarchist perspective. And Trotsky was spiritually an anarchist which is why he is tragic and beautiful—what figure could have been chosen more ironically to crush anarchism. (The Kronstadt rebellion.)
To build socialism in a backward country surrounded by hostile enemies may have been impossible, but the one possibility of bringing it off, considering the incredible number of work hours and the poor consumer goods which would be given the proletariat for a decade and then another, was to allow them their H. Men can draw upon themselves far more endlessly if the H is permitted great rein. And they would have had genuine enthusiasm rather than enforced social enthusiasm. But the socialist mind is a bourgeois mind, stripped of H, infatuated with the proletariat because it believes (and not altogether incorrectly I would guess) that the proletariat has sex, has love, has life-energy which their own class has not.
But the horror of socialism underneath its radicalism is that its bourgeois intellectuals who have written the commentaries on the great book, and have been its intellectual leaders as well as a great part of its political leaders, have always seen the proletariat with contempt. Their vision of the proletariat is to raise the proletariat in their own image, rather than be enriched themselves by the life of the proletariat. So the sexual revolution which was in the air, and actually in small ways in practice, was suppressed, was seen as the ultimate danger. And, in parallel, Trotsky was stripped of power, exiled, hunted, and slain. For Trotsky was the orgiast of revolution no matter how he tried to play at being the social builder. (I wrote play but torture is a better word. Play is the casual word we use to conceal torture.)
And Stalin, the nouveau riche, the arriviste, built a bourgeois society the way only an arriviste can build one, laboring it with social ostentation, vulgarity, and outright cruelty. He was power-mad, a violent H in an unbelievably severe S, and so he was a leader, a monster, and a caricature of bourgeois society. He was the animal masquerading as a man, and the Russian people undoubtedly admired the Great Bear in him crushing everything with his powerful arms and his fat smelly seat. But the nouveau riche always come into bourgeois society with a fixed image of it, frozen be their childhood hungers. So arrivistes are vulgar because they are old-fashioned. They set in panoply the outmoded bourgeois taste of twenty years ago, fifty years ago.
Stalin was obsessed with creating a society as all nouveau riche are, but his idea of society was Victorian society, and that is why Russia is so cumbersome, insensitive, and crude in its social methods. Socialism—let us read Stalinism—was built in one country, but it was built in the image of the nineteenth century, a throw-back, and a throw-back is a monstrosity, just as Joe McCarthy is a monster because he acts like a hanging judge in the Wild West, a man’s man with the rope forever in his hands. (In this sense, the monster is to the rebel as a throw-back is to the creator.) (Note on McCarthy: The more I think of the image of the hanging judge the better I like it. The hanging judge always talks man-to-man to the wretch in the docket before he says, “Okay, boys, string him up.”)
Anyway, what I have tried to outline is that Stalinism is the monster child of Socialism because Socialism being society-oriented could conceive of revolution only as new society, more rational society, and the result was an ape in a dinner jacket. The alternative: to have a sexual revolution which I believe was probably real to many of these Bolsheviks who were anarchists at heart was legitimately terrifying because the capitalist world with its profound anti-sexuality would probably have felt obliged to destroy it, or at least attempt to, and they might have been destroyed, but that was the gamble which should have been taken, and not the other.
- According to a Bolshevik theorist, Alexandra Mikhailovna Kollontai (1872-1952), “The sexual act must not be seen as something shameful and sinful but as something which is as natural as the other needs of a healthy organism such as hunger and thirst.” Lenin repudiated this view, saying, “This glass of water theory is completely un-Marxist, and moreover, anti-social. In sexual life there is not only simple nature to be considered, but also cultural characteristics, whether of a high or low order. . . Drinking water is, of course, an individual affair. But in love two lives are concerned, and a third, a new life arises, it is that which gives it its social interest, which gives rise to a duty towards the community.” From Zetkin, Clara (2004). "Lenin on the Women's Question". Marxists.org. International Publishers. Retrieved 2021-04-03.
- In the winter of 1921, a group of sailors and workers at the Russian naval base of Kronstadt revolted against the Bolsheviks. The uprising was swiftly and violently suppressed, and thousands were killed. Leon Trotsky was the leader of the Red Army at the time.