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Book Title: Былое и думы|
The author of the book: Alexander Herzen
Date of issue: 1972
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 7.67 MB
Edition: Советская Россия
Read full description of the books Былое и думы:I find Herzen a most personable and approachable man. I admire his great personal confidence and independence of mind, one entirely unafraid of confronting shop-worn ideas and contradicting the pious of whatever faith. And through it all - and I do mean all - a close observer of revolutionary Europe and European revolutionaries and socialists. I now understand fully his vaunted rejection of abstractions and disembodied notions of "freedom" and "justice." And I can read books such as Venturi's "Roots of Revolution" with a keen sense of the person behind and beyond the analysis of his political journalism.
It is quite easy for me - a historian - to forget the contents of each publication in the flood of writing he produced, but I will say that once I have even a finger-tip grasp of the man. I can form a mental image of him, and can imagine his conversation and his endless diatribes as if he were actually present. It's exactly that sort of "net" that I need to catch and hold even a small fraction of all the information about him that other biographers and analysts have collected in thousands and thousands of pages of historical narrative.
Just a few more words upon finishing this book. Herzen clearly represented a "third" way to socialism. As I wrote, he rejected all abstractions and disembodied laws of history. "Liberty, equality, fraternity," abstract human rights and the laws of historical materialism were so many excuses for yet more and different varieties of autocracy. As far as I can tell in my early study of this man, he may well have drawn upon or created Russian anarchism. Now in the Russian sense, anarchism did not imply no government or the absence of regulated behavior. It meant, however, a complete de-centralization of authority and allocation of all authority to forms of government and regulation that are the product of the most localized forms of "national life," the Russian village and commune in the country-side, for example, workers soviets in urban areas, with the possibility of association of highly localized authorities, i.e. All Russian Soviets of This, That and the Other, the All-russian Congress of All and Sundry. It also connoted the continuing and continuous accountability of elected authority to its electorate. The Kronstadters must have drawn much of their "constitution" from Herzen, or conversely perhaps Herzen merely codified peasant traditions that most Kronstadters knew from their lives as peasants.
Toward the middle of the book I finally detected the strand of thought, a vitalism, I suppose, that became progressively central in Herzen's memoirs (He wrote them over many years.) - namely his thoughts about human life - in general - whatever that may be, "national life," in particular, and the highly multiform and very untidy instantiations of culture that "life" generates. I suspect that if I read the book again, I would collect all this material and attempt to make sense of them in some more or less systematic fashion - most likely in direct contradiction to Herzen's defense of the particular and the individual. But it seems to me that his approach to socialism rejected the dictates of "reason," which created the terror of the French Revolution, the results of "analysis," e.g. Marx's "scientific" laws of history and historical change that ultimately generated Bolshevism and the one-party state, which Herzen would have cursed with every charged particle in his body had he lived to see it. He appears to have thought that each nation or ethnic or cultural collective generated forms of society and government by some undefined "natural" process fueled by local "life" in one form or another. In Russia in particular and perhaps elsewhere that process created a form of socialism - the peasant commune - quite appropriate for the people of that time and place. No international revolution of workers and peasants for him.
Of course the book is well worth a second or third reading, and I suspect that I've only noticed the bleeding obvious about which scores of graduate students have covered thousands of pages with their citations and comments. I just might try to find one or two hundred.
Throughout it all, Herzen remained a "mensch," apparently sociable, approachable, generous, even club-able - if that's a word - a way of life facilitated, I suspect, by his ownership of vast inherited wealth. I would very much have like to have known the man - in his day or any other.
A final word on the translation. I can't see how one could ask for clearer, more fluent English prose. I think the world owes Ms. Garnett a great debt of gratitude for this book as for so many others.
Read information about the authorAlexander Ivanovich Herzen (Russian: Александр Иванович Герцен) was a Russian pro-Western writer and thinker known as the "father of Russian socialism", and one of the main fathers of agrarian populism (being an ideological ancestor of the Narodniki, Socialist-Revolutionaries, Trudoviks and the agrarian American Populist Party). He is held responsible for creating a political climate leading to the emancipation of the serfs in 1861. His autobiography My Past and Thoughts, written with grace, energy, and ease, is often considered the best specimen of that genre in Russian literature. He also published the important social novel Who is to Blame? (1845–46).
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