Monday, January 5, 2009

My bad

Right now I'm reading To the Finland Station (1940) by Edmund Wilson, a history of important figures in European revolutionary and socialist thought up to Lenin. The biographical and straight historical parts are great -- both piquant and informative, so good job Edmund Wilson.I particularly enjoyed the parts about Michelet, Babeuf (poor, brave Babeuf!), and the utopian movement in America. I look forward to the section on Bakunin. (But where is the section on Alexander Herzen?!) The philosophical parts, on the other hand, are pretty terrible. Either Wilson didn't read Hegel or he didn't understand him.

What's funny though, and what I'm blogging about really, is Wilson's 1971 Introduction (remember the book was published in 1940). Wilson basically makes two points in the entire introduction. Here's my paraphrased version of them:

1. So apparently there's this thing called the Grundrisse? I hope that wasn't important for understanding Marx.

2. So apparently my hagiographic portrait of Lenin was incorrect. Apparently, he was a pretty awful guy. Damn! -- def. did not see that coming. That's what happens when you use Soviet sources. Yup, now that I think about it, that's definitely where I went wrong -- using Soviet sources for my account of Lenin's life.

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