The nature of Russian Marxism


Before the introduction of the Marxist teachings Russia was less infected then other countries by atheist ideas. It did have its Voltairians who copied the ideas of the great opponent of religion and called themselves freethinkers, their influence reached until the imperial throne: the czarina Catherine the Great kept written contact with Voltaire, Diderot and d’Alembert. The freethinker ideology however was restricted to certain noble and intellectual circles.

The adherents of Marx brought the ideas of the French atheists to the general public and popularized the writings of Voltaire, Holbach, Helvétius and others. The French Revolution was the fruit of the preceding freethinker ideology against the altar and the throne: the child of atheist parents. The Russians accepted along with the parents also the child and enspirited from the start their atheism with a revolutionary spirit ever ready for battle which is the trademark of the Struggling Godless Movement. Russian socialism had put on the Marxist theories when brought into practice a Russian dress. Karsavin[1] described in his treatise on the “religious character of Bolshevism” socialism as a “highly characteristic folly of the Russian people” (p. 39).

The term bolshevism is derived from the word bolshe which means “more or bigger”. At the second congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party that was held in London in 1903 and where amongst the Russian revolutionaries Lenin took part, there was a split between the “bolsheviki”, the majority, who wanted to endorse the maximum of demands into the program (maximalists), and the “mensheviki” (menshe = less or smaller) who stood for a more moderate direction (minimalists).

The nature of the Russian always tended towards the maximum, a maximalist or bolshevist: he always reaches towards the last, the extreme, the highest. His plans are always absolute, they float amongst the clouds, storm the heavens, they can’t be realized because they reach for the unattainable. He is against the moderate, the average, against anything that hints towards compromise or a mutual agreement. This characteristic mirrors the nature of his motherland, the unmeasurable, the endless steppe, fields and forests, where time and space seem to come together in eternity and infinity.

Next to this the Russian soul urges to immediately convert the absolute, which can only be approached after a series of in between moments, into reality. This irrestistable urge towards the absolute is defined by the Russian as a concrete idea, not just a theory, which is meant to attain some kind of fantastic reality. Although he is before everything else a dreamer, someone who fantasises, he doesn’t like the dream, the theoretical, if he is unable to grab it with his hands. When he has once tried to realize these plans, he will sacrifice life itself for his theory or force them to walk side by side as a screaming contradiction, without taking offense towards this living contradiction. He will combine the dead-born product of his fantasy with a healthy lifestyle and will accuse the living organism of being affected by the insidious poison. From the inevitable self-realization of the unreachable aspects of his method, apathy develops, the indifference and passiveness of the Russian soul, which with its nitchevo (“nothing can’t be done about it”) suits itself with everything and reconciles itself with all states.

Thus Russified Marxism grew into a fanatical, fantastic, extremely radical and absolute form of communism, bloated into a borderless maximalism, that wants to turn the whole world around by means of revolution. The same fantastic, limitless desire could be found in the Russian godless movement, they promised a new life without pain and misery, human happiness without God, heaven on earth, the promise of a prospering classless future society and in spite of the obvious lacking and mishaps they stubbornly clung to it. As such atheist propaganda and the struggle against religion isn’t quaint in the bolchevist ideology: the most radical method of combat which recklessly and brutally exceeds all common sense against what is considered by the rest of humanity as decent and traditional, is of the specific nature of bolshevism. The anti-religious struggle in Russia was a struggle fueled by blind hatred, of a myopic narrow-mindedness, of the most offensive foolishness, a struggle of excited fanaticism.


[1] Lev P. Karsavin, “Das religiöse Wesen des Bolschewismus” in: “Der Staat, das Recht und die Wirtschaft des Bolschewismus : Darstellung und Wertung seiner geistigen Grundlagen”, Wieser-Wenger-Klein, Berlin 1925

About Olivier Corveleyn

I'm a 35 years old biochemist from Belgium with a particular interest in Russian culture, history and politics, and general slavic culture and history. This blog is intended to put the Russian Godless Movement and its main media outlet, the journal безбожник, bezbozhnik (godless) and several others in its wake which existed during the interbellum period, in an objective historical perspective. Currently I must use mostly secondary sources as the journals are difficult to locate. The blog is a work-in-progress which I mostly put together during the little free time I have. I'll try to make it not too chaotic and keep it more or less structured. Also, English is not my first language, so forgive me any grammar and spelling mistakes in advance.
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One Response to The nature of Russian Marxism

  1. Pingback: The Two Faces Of Russia (essay by Oswald Spengler) « besboshnik

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