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Love and Revolution

By BO Staff Wriiter

Black Opinion is featuring an excerpt from the article “Love and Revolution: an interview with Srećko Horvat” which strikes at the core of the subject matter. The article has been accessed from the roarmag website.

“It is a curious fact that with every great revolutionary moment the question of ‘free love’ comes to the foreground” ~ Frederick Engels.

There is a well-known anecdote about Lenin told by Maxim Gorky, which is a nice illustration of this false dilemma “love or revolution”. Lenin was listening to Beethoven’s Appassionata at Gorky’s home and he remarked: “I know nothing that is greater than the Appassionata. I want to say gentle stupidities and stroke the heads of people who, living in this dirty hell, can create such beauty. But it is necessary to beat them over the head, beat without mercy, even though in our ideal we are against the use of force against people.” In other words, Lenin had problems with emotions. And what if the Appassionata really stands not only for the “terrible beauty” of the music but for Lenin’s mistress, Inessa Armand, who beautifully played his beloved Beethoven and died just before Lenin visited Gorky?

This is not just speculation. If you do serious research on the October Revolution, you will find very interesting stuff. For example: did you know that just before the revolution there was a discussion between Lenin and his fellow communists on whether it is allowed to have flowers in communist offices? The thesis of the contra-flower communists was that if someone has flowers in an office it is directly linked to emotions and you can easily end up as a typical British gardener who just cares about flowers.

And if we go on, you will see that this is not only something on the anecdotal level, such sorts of discussions — from flowers to “free love” — were part of the revolution. At the very beginning of the October Revolution you have an incredible figure like Alexandra Kollontai, who was the first woman minister in Europe ever, she was the minister of welfare where she administered the most radical laws. It was during the October Revolution, already in December 1917, that the Bolsheviks implemented laws permitting gay marriage or laws permitting divorce. In other words, an inherent part of the revolution was sexual emancipation.

But then, already at the beginning of the 1920s, a counterrevolution started, with the thesis that sex and love are dangerous. Already in the early 1930s, the laws against gays are once again reinforced. And what I try to show is that Engels was right when he said that “it is a curious fact that with every great revolutionary moment the question of ‘free love’ comes to the foreground.” Maybe this is the measure of a “great revolutionary moment” and a possible answer to why today the question of love is missing: is it because there is no great revolutionary moment today?

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