Where does that highway lead to?

At the Overman hearings in the Senate, which had resumed on February 11 [1919], the government was calling witnesses, all of them former or current government officials who described heinous scenes in which Bolsheviks committed unconscionable atrocities. The Bolsheviks had caused indescribable chaos in Russia, said the witnesses. One man who had spent time in Petrogradi.e. St. Petersberg/Leningrad. Soviet-era joke: Where were you born? St Petersburg. Where did you grow up? Petrograd. Where do you live? Leningrad. Where would you like to live? St Petersburg. testified that many of Russia’s misfortunes were due to the influx of Jewish agitators from New York’s Lower East Side.

“How would you describe these Bolshevik forces so that the average man would understand them and their composition?” a senator asked one witness.

“Like a mob of Captain Kidds with the exception that they operated by land instead of on the water,” the witness responded.

Another witness claimed with the utmost certainty that there were at least three million people in America, mostly of Russian origin, who were Bolshevik sympathizers, and among those, many were spies. And, he added, [President] Wilson seemed to be doing nothing about it. Yet another described the free love policy in Russia: all girls and boys upon reaching the age of eighteen become property of the State and must register at the Bureau of Free Love, which orchestrates forced, arranged matches once a month out of which come children who will then be government property. “Everything that makes life decent and worth living is in jeopardy if this thing called Bolshevism is allowed to go ahead,” testified a former U.S. Department of Commerce employee in Russia.

— — Ann Hagedorn, Savage Peace: Hope and Fear in America, 1919 (2007), p 129.

In a depressingly real sense, the Marxist glorification of work for its own sake, coupled with the naive assumption that as long as everybody is working hard, all sexual “problems” will disappear, i.e., reduce to a pastoral (and suspiciously bourgeois) vision of respectful, shy, young working men getting up the nerve to propose to respectful, shy, young working women, who must get up the nerve to respond, quiveringly, “Yes” (both, finally, taking courage from the fact that they are serving the state—the Marxist equivalent of “doing it for Old Glory”?), is historically, if not archetypally, one with the nineteenth-century industrial mythos: “Keep the proles working hard enough and they’ll be too tired to break out into the orgies of lust, rapine, and [incidentally] economic devastation [the absent text supplies for this term, “looting”] we know seethes just below the surface of every prole soul. Under industrial containment [read: exploitation/exhaustion] their sex [read: aggression] can be limited to the most conventional and tepid of expressions.” The entire template, Marxist and Capitalist, is a pre-Freudian disaster area which Freud’s own inability to distinguish between sensuality, sexuality, biological gender, and sex role socialization has done as much to perpetuate in the West as his basic discovery of the unconscious, sexual repression, transference, and infantile sexuality have prepared the groundwork to alleviate.

— — Samuel Delany, “Of Sex, Objects, Signs, Systems, Sales, SF…” (1975) as collected in The Straits of Messina (1989), p 55, all brackets in original.

Same as it ever was.

PS — A tip of the formalist beret to Billmon.

PPS — To the best of my knowledge, no relatives or smells of Gregor Samsa were involved in the creation of this post.

PPPS — I hope that the Hagedorn and Delany quotes make my point without support, but I also found the following quotes from Emma Goldman’s book about her disillusioning stay in the Soviet Union in 1919-20. With respect to the formal needs of this post, these quotes seem a bit like hitting the reader over the head, but they struck me, on their own merits, as too interesting to leave out.

[Chapter 2] That evening and the following day I listened to a recital of the betrayal of the Revolution by the Bolsheviki. Workers from the Baltic factories spoke of their enslavement, Kronstadt sailors voiced their bitterness and indignation against the people they had helped to power and who had become their masters. One of the speakers had been condemned to death by the Bolsheviki for his Anarchist ideas, but had escaped and was now living illegally. He related how the sailors had been robbed of the freedom of their Soviets, how every breath of life was being censored. Others spoke of the Red Terror and repression in Moscow, which resulted in the throwing of a bomb into the gathering of the Moscow section of the Communist Party in September, 1919. They told me of the over-filled prisons, of the violence practised on the workers and peasants. I listened rather impatiently, for everything in me cried out against this indictment. It sounded impossible; it could not be. Someone was surely at fault, but probably it was they, my comrades, I thought. They were unreasonable, impatient for immediate results. Was not violence inevitable in a revolution, and was it not imposed upon the Bolsheviki by the Interventionists? My comrades were indignant! “Disguise yourself so the Bolsheviki do not recognize you; take a pamphlet of Kropotkin and try to distribute it in a Soviet meeting. You will soon see whether we told you the truth. “Above all, get out of the First House of the Soviet. Live among the people and you will have all the proofs you need.”

[Chapter 20] The [two] ladies of the [hall?] related the story of the Save-the-Children Society. The organization[,?] in existence for a number of years, was of very limited scope until the February Revolution. Then new elements mainly of revolutionary type, joined the society. They strove to extend its work and to provide not only for the physical well-being of the children but also to educate them, teach them to love work, and develop their appreciation of beauty. Toys and dolls, made chiefly of waste material, were exhibited and the proceeds applied to the needs of the children. After the October Revolution, when the Bolsheviki possessed themselves of Poltava, the society was repeatedly raided and some of the instructors arrested on suspicion that the institution was a counter-revolutionary nest. The small [band?] which remained went on, however, with their efforts on behalf of the children. They succeeded in sending a delegation to Lunacharsky to appeal for permission to carry on their work. Lunacharsky proved sympathetic, issued the requested document, and even provided them with a letter to the local authorities pointing out the importance of their labours.

But the society continued to be subjected to annoyance and discrimination. To avoid being charged with sabotage the women offered their services to the Poltava Department of Education. There they worked from nine in the morning till three in the afternoon, devoting their leisure time to their school. But the antagonism of the Communist authorities was not appeased: the society remained in disfavour.

The women pointed out that the Soviet Government pretended to stand for self-determination and yet every independent effort was being discredited and all initiative discouraged, if not entirely suppressed. Not even the Ukrainian Communists were permitted self-determination. The majority of the chiefs of the departments were Moscow appointees, and Ukraina was practically deprived of opportunity for independent action. A bitter struggle was going on between the Communist Party of Ukraina and the Central authorities in Moscow. The policy of the latter was to control everything.

[These two] women were devoted to the cause of the children and willing to suffer misunderstanding and even persecution for the sake of their interest in the welfare of their [charges?]. Both had understanding and sympathy with the Revolution, though they could not approve of the terroristic methods of the Bolsheviki. They were intelligent and cultured people and I felt their home an oasis in the desert of Communist thought and feeling. Before I left the ladies supplied me with a collection of the [children’s] work and some exquisite colour drawings by Miss Korolenko, begging me to send the things to America as specimens of their labours. They were very eager to have the American people learn about their society and its efforts.

[Chapter 21] Makhno’s wife had been a country school teacher; she possessed considerable information and was intensely interested in all cultural problems. She plied me with questions about American women, whether they had really become emancipated and enjoyed equal rights. The young woman had been with Makhno and his army for several years, but she could not reconcile herself to the primitive attitude of her people in regard to woman. The Ukrainian woman she said, was considered an object of sex and motherhood only. Nestor himself was no exception in this matter. Was it different in America? Did the American woman believe in free motherhood and was she familiar with the subject of birth control?

It was astonishing to hear such questions from a peasant girl. I thought it most remarkable that a woman born and reared so far from the scene of woman’s struggle for emancipation should yet be so alive to its problems. I spoke to the girl of the activities of the advanced women of America, of their achievements and of the work yet to be done for woman’s emancipation. I mentioned some of the literature dealing with these subjects. She listened eagerly. “I must get hold of something to help our peasant women. They are just beasts of burden,” she said.

— — Emma Goldman, My Disillusionment in Russia (1923), brackets with question marks are attempts to correct apparent OCR errors.

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