Lenin and the Political Theology of 'Mammon'

Work in Progress:

This paper will consider the pronounced political ambivalence demonstrated in several literary journals with respect to the consolidation of Soviet power following the Russian revolution and the weirdly consistent theological elements that accompany many attempts to express this ambivalence.

The September 12, 1912 issue of The Freewoman presents a comparison of Socialism and Syndicalism that seems to focus the difficulty many journal’s had articulating their position with respect to Socialist movements in Europe. This brief article “On Machines,” addresses questions raised by an article that appeared the week before concerning the magazine’s position on different Marxist political movements. The September 12th article in question is found in one of the few unattributed sections that often appear in the magazine’s opening section, in this issue titled “Topics of the Week.” Here The Freewoman clarifies the central conflict between Individualism and Communism that is presented by Socialism and Syndicalism. The editorial body argues that “it is clear-cut; Morality or the Machine. It is as definite an opposite as that between God and Mammon, Christ or Caesar” (324). The editors argue that Marx has firmly settled this question “in favour of the machine,” (324) and it is for this reason that the position of The Freewoman can not fall squarely in line with a Marxist position.

For The Freewoman, failure to acknowledge this antinomy directly and to attempt to resolve it without acknowledging its central contradiction, is already causing confusion in syndicalist theory. The editors remark that “Syndicalism is, in its nature, anarchist, insurrectionist, individualist; yet it is floundering about with theories of Communism. It is beginning to talk about the nationalisation of the means of production because it is being driven in that direction by its fallacies on Machines” (324). The Freewoman is not clear in what sense the concept of machines produces this contradiction, nor the strict sense in which machines is evoked. However, the comment should be recognized as politically prescient insofar is it very accurately forecasts the eventual development of national socialism as an attempt to resolve this antimony by both centralizing, nationalizing and simultaneously privatizing parts of its economy without feeling obliged to rationalize the necessarily contradictory aspects of this movement.

We see something similar in The New Age and its inability to fully form its position with respect to the new consolidation of powers in what would become the Soviet Union. The journal, having maintained a certain optimism leading up the the 1917 revolution, became more critical in the years that followed. An interesting example, that concentrates all of these themes is found in J.A.M. Alcock’s review of Aurel Kolnai’s book Psycho-analysis and Sociology. Here Alcock seems to be using his review of Kolnai’s book to suggest connections he himself is unwilling to make explicitly. For example, Alcock like many of the writers examined below is interested in the connection between religion and Marxism. Paraphrasing Kolnai, Alcock repeats the formulation that the “earliest religions were mother-religions, the next Judaism and early Christianity, were religions of the father, and now on the horizon is the religion of the son” (162). Alcock does not explain what he means by “religion of the son,” but he clearly identifies that the contemporary problem with Soviet power concerns, and here he borrows a conceptualization developed in Kolnai’s book, but not specifically related to the Soviet Union, “present expressions of father-revolt” (162). Alcock, while not specifically making a statement on behalf of The New Age, wants to make it clear that his position is in alignment with the goals of the journal. Using the book review to develop his critique of Soviet power, Alcock pauses to point out, “as was said in The New Age long ago, Bolshevism is Capitalism reversed . . . What then remains? As Kolnai indicates not only the death but the regeneration of the father. God is made of the values extracted from Mammon” (163). Here again, the word Mammon conjures simultaneously both a religious discourse and a pre-Marxian critique of the money-form. Of course this critique of Soviet power, while not specifically addressing its historical situation, appears just a year after Lenin’s implementation of the New Economic Policy, and refers both to Lenin’s centralized authority and the need to reinstall free market and capitalist elements in the Soviet economy through this policy.

Discuss The New Age "Notes of the Week: World Affairs" (2-10-1921) - Interesting contrast with Alcock: Here M. M. Cosmoi presents an extremely racist an antisemitic evaluation of the Russian revolution from the context of the larger spiritual development of “Aryandom.” Cosmoi’s article presents an extremely convoluted article that can neither reject nor embrace any aspect of a secular liberalism or Christianity. He ends by saying that the body of Albion (a term that both refers to Great Britain, and in its original Greek also refers to whiteness) will over come both Man and Christ.

Political Theology - God and Mammon
Look at the use of "Mammon" in other contexts and using Carl Schmidt’s concept of Political Theology as elaborated in contemporary considerations by Kenneth Reinhard and Slavoj Zizek speculate on the unassimilable religious concepts present in essays that express the ambiguity of political positions with respect to the Russian Revolution. Reformulate thesis on the basis of discoveries.