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Political „culture“ can change quick (abstracts) / conference in Beijing on culture in October

Bloged in Allgemein by friedi Sonntag September 13, 2015

Political „culture“ is nothing stable. Under certain circumstances it can change quite quick. It is difficault to make a realistic  „prognosis“ of the future on the basis of the political culture of a country- for it is weak parameter.

3 examples:

1. Russian October Revolution 1917

The russian society developed in the 19th century an important culture (in literature f. e. Puschkin, Tolstoi, Dostojewski, Gogol, Cechov…). But this was only the „firnis“, the surface of a society of 80 % peasants, repression, authoritarianism, passivity etc.  This excellent culture did not reach the masses, did not really penetrate the society. It was concentrated in a few cities like Moscow or St.Petersburg (1). Russia was seen after 1815 (final defeat of Napoleon, Congress of Vienna/Wiener Kongreß) as the main „bastion of the european reaction“(2). It was finally the massive intervention of tsarist troops which crushed the Hungarian revolution 1849 (3). So Russia had a very bad „prognosis “ for changes- not to speak of revolutions.

Yet the revolution of 1905 showed that this is not true. The more the October Revolution 1917 made clear that such general conclusions on the basis of the (political) culture of the country are not valid.  The integration of millions of peasants into the army, the horrible consequences of the First Wordl War, narrow contacts with workers in uniform etc. changed the objective and subjective conditions of the society. And there was the revolutionary party of the bolshewiks and oustanding leaders like Lenin or Trotzki with the clear concept to make a radical rupture with the past (4).

During and after the revolution there was an enormous participation „from below“- not only in the soviets but in the society as a whole. Civil war, imperialist intervention and the starting process of stalinisation of the party and the country led to a strong decline of this self-activity from below (5). Nevertheless in the twenties there existed still a lot of different political and cultural tendencies: in literature and art all styles were present (6)- in the education sector worked kindergartens on the basis of psycho-analysis.  Only in the thierties -with the extreme stalinist terror- this variety vanished. In litarature and art ruled the dogma of the socalled „socialist realism“ which was neither socialist nor realistic (7)

2. Austria 1914- 1918

Before Wordl War I the Second International had in its resolutions a very clear position towards the imminent war (8). But when the war broke out nearly all socialdemocratic leaderships capitulated, acted  together with „their“ bourgeoisie , voted in favour of war credits etc. This was also the case in Austria(9). Though Austria had a „culture“ of the highest level  (Freud, Schnitzler, Kraus,…)  a widespread „war-hurra-patriotism“ dominated the country (10). Nevertheless  1918 we had a revolution in Austria- with soviets like in Russia, Germany or Hungary!

3. Chinese Cultural Revolution

Though I think that the cultural revolution was basically a voluntaristic bureaucratic manouver (of Mao and his group in the party) –  we cannot deny that positive egalitarian thoughts spread at this time, there was a lot of enthusiasm etc.  Today after the total extensive overboarding using of market-mechchanisms (11), the development of a national and and international (monopoly)capital within the country etc. (socalled „socialism with chinese characteristics“) we see the triumph of egoism,  consumism etc. sometimes combined with the revival of old reactionary ideology (f.e. confuzianism- there was even an attempt to erect a Konfuzius statue in the centre of Beijing(sic!).-

These examples show that big shifts in societies are possible – in each direction! On the other side countries with a very advanced democratic (political) culture where big positive changes could be expected can remain stable.

„Long lasting -cultural- traditions“ exist and cannot be neglected. It was  Marx who spoke of the the „nightmare of the past“. But there is in no way an automatism. In Latin America there always existed the egalitarian tradition of the indigenous communiets (12). But this tradition was „forgotten“ and oppressed. In Venezuela and Bolivia – under the governments of Chavez and Morales- this tradition was put into practice again.

Objecive -cultural- conditions are reflected in minds, in the relations, in the structure of a society but they are not stone-made: they can be „brought to dance“ (Marx) when the adaequate  „melody“ sounds.

Hermann Dworczak

(1) This can be said also for the beginning of the 20th century even when the economic social and cutural develepmnet became much faster than in the 19th century. See Karl Schlögel Petersburg. Das Laboratorium der Moderne 1909-1921. Carl Hanser Verlag München Wien 2002

(2) Eugen Tarle Napoleon. Berlin 1963. Johannes Willms Napoleon. Eine Biographie. München 2005. Volker Ullrich Napoleon. Reinbeck bei Hamburg 2006

(3) Die Geschichte Ungarns. Corvina Verlag Budapest 1971 pp.329-334

(4) When Lenin presented the famous „April theses“  to the party which paved the way for the revolution („All power to the soviets!“) many thought that Lenin had become „mad“

(5) Fernando Claudin Die Krise der komministischen Bewegung. Von der Komintern zur Kominform. Bd.1. Olle und Wolter Berlin 1977

(6) Leo Trotzki Literatur und  Revolution. DTV München 1972

(7) Sozialistische Realismuskonzeptionen. Dokumente zum 1. Allunionskongreß der Sowjetschriftsteller. Hrsg.von H.J.Schmitt und G. Schramm. Edition Suhrkamp Frankfurt am Main 1974

(8) Georges Haupt Der Kongreß fand nicht statt. Die sozialistische Internationale 1914. Europa- Verlag Wien 1967.

(9) For the specific character of the Austrian socialdemocratic party and its ideology see: Raimund Löw, Siegfried Mattl, Alfred Pfabigan Der Austromarxismus. Eine Autopsie. ISP-Verlag Frankfurt am Main 1986

(10) Still the best description of this wave of chauvinism can be found in the drama of the writer Karl Kraus „Die letzten Tage der Menschheit“ Bd I und II. Sonderreihe DTV München 1978

(11) Each transition society to socialism needs the use of market mechanisms. The debate is not new: it took place in the young sovietunion; there was „planning debate“ in Cuba in which Che Guevara participated etc). But what is going on in China (and in Vietnam too) is not a limited use of these mechanism but more and more naked capitalist modes of production are expanding.

(12) It was for above all the Peruvian marxist Jose Carlos Mariategui who analyzed the specific mode of production in Latin America before the colonialists arrived. See Jose Carlos Mariategui Revolution und Peruanische Wirklichkeit. Ausgewählte politische Schriften. Hrsg.von Eleonore von Oertzen ISP-Verlag Frankfurt am Main 1986

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