Reading ‘Revolution on My Mind:Writing a Diary under Stalin’ by Jochen Hellbeck and am on page 155, of this compelling book.
‘Revolution on My Mind is a stunning revelation of the inner world of Stalin’s Russia. We see into the minds and hearts of Soviet citizens who recorded their lives during an extraordinary period of revolutionary fervor and state terror. Writing a diary, like other creative expression, seems nearly impossible amid the fear and distrust of totalitarian rule; but as Jochen Hellbeck shows, diary-keeping was widespread, as individuals struggled to adjust to Stalin’s regime.
Rather than protect themselves against totalitarianism, many men and women bent their will to its demands, by striving to merge their individual identities with the collective and by battling vestiges of the old self within. We see how Stalin’s subjects, from artists to intellectuals and from students to housewives, absorbed directives while endeavoring to fulfill the mandate of the Soviet revolution—re-creation of the self as a builder of the socialist society. Thanks to a newly discovered trove of diaries, we are brought face to face with individual life stories—gripping and unforgettably poignant.
The diarists’ efforts defy our liberal imaginations and our ideals of autonomy and private fulfillment. These Soviet citizens dreamed differently. They coveted a morally and aesthetically superior form of life, and were eager to inscribe themselves into the unfolding revolution. Revolution on My Mind is a brilliant exploration of the forging of the revolutionary self, a study without precedent that speaks to the evolution of the individual in mass movements of our own time.
A book I am also reading, as its would be ‘counter point’, to stretch that notion to the point of fracture? or just intellectual perversity? Mike Davis’ ‘Old Gods, New Enigmas: Marx’s Lost Theory’:
Is revolution possible in the age of the Anthropocene?
Marx has returned, but which Marx? Recent biographies have proclaimed him to be an emphatically nineteenth-century figure, but in this book, Mike Davis’s first directly about Marx and Marxism, a thinker comes to light who speaks to the present as much as the past. In a series of searching, propulsive essays, Davis, the bestselling author of City of Quartz and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, explores Marx’s inquiries into two key questions of our time: Who can lead a revolutionary transformation of society? And what is the cause—and solution—of the planetary environmental crisis?
Davis consults a vast archive of labor history to illuminate new aspects of Marx’s theoretical texts and political journalism. He offers a “lost Marx,” whose analyses of historical agency, nationalism, and the “middle landscape” of class struggle are crucial to the renewal of revolutionary thought in our darkening age. Davis presents a critique of the current fetishism of the “anthropocene,” which suppresses the links between the global employment crisis and capitalism’s failure to ensure human survival in a more extreme climate. In a finale, Old Gods, New Enigmas looks backward to the great forgotten debates on alternative socialist urbanism (1880–1934) to find the conceptual keys to a universal high quality of life in a sustainable environment.