Make way for Winged Eros: A Letter to Working Youth
(1872 - 1952)
Alexandra Mikhailovna Kollontai (Russian: Алекса́ндра Миха́йловна Коллонта́й, née Domontovich, Домонто́вич; 31 March [O.S. 19 March] 1872 – 9 March 1952) was a Russian revolutionary, politician, diplomat and Marxist theoretician. Serving as the People's Commissar for Welfare in Vladimir Lenin's government in 1917–1918, she was a highly prominent woman within the Bolshevik party and the first woman in history to become an official member of a governing cabinet. (From : Wikipedia.org.)
Make way for Winged Eros: A Letter to Working Youth
First published: in Molodoya Gvardiya (Young Guard) magazine #3 in 1923, by Komsomol (All-Union Leninist Young Communist League).
Translated: by Alix Holt'
Transcribed: by Joey Ostos.
You ask me, my young friend, what place proletarian ideology gives to love? You are concerned by the fact that at the present time young workers are occupied more with love and related questions than with the tremendous tasks of construction which face the workers’ republic. It is difficult for me to judge events from a distance, but let us try to find an explanation for this situation, and then it will be easier to answer the first question about the place of love in proletarian ideology.
There can be no doubt that Soviet Russia has entered a new phase of the civil war. The main theater of struggle is now the front where the two ideologies, the two cultures – the bourgeois and the proletarian – do battle. The incompatibility of these two ideologies is becoming increasingly obvious, and the contradictions between these two fundamentally different cultures are growing more acute. Alongside the victory of communist principles and ideals in the sphere of politics and economics, a revolution in the outlook, emotions and the inner world of working people is inevitably taking place. A new attitude to life, society, work, art and to the rules of living (i.e. morality) can already be observed. The arrangement of sexual relationships is one aspect of these rules of living. Over the five years of the existence of our labor republic, the revolution on this nonmilitary front has been accomplishing a great shift in the way men and women think. The fiercer the battle between the two ideologies, the greater the significance it assumes and the more inevitably it raises new “riddles of life” and new problems to which only the ideology of the working class can give a satisfactory answer.
The “riddle of love” that interests us here is one such problem. This question of the relationships between the sexes is a mystery as old as human society itself. At different levels of historical development mankind has approached the solution of this problem in different ways. The problem remains the same: the keys to its solution change. The keys are fashioned by the different epochs, by the classes in power and by the spirit” of a particular age (in other words by its culture).
In Russia over the recent years of intense civil war and general dislocation there has been little interest in the nature of the riddle. The men and women of the working classes were in the grip of other emotions, passions and experiences. In those years everyone walked in the shadow of death, and it was being decided whether victory would belong to the revolution and progress or to counter-revolution and reaction. In face of the revolutionary threat, tender-winged Eros fled from the surface of life. There was neither time nor a surplus of inner strength for love’s “joys and pains.” Such is the law of the preservation of humanity’s social and psychological energy. As a whole. this energy is always directed to the most urgent aims of the historical moment. And in Russia, for a time, the biological instinct of reproduction, the natural voice of nature dominated the situation. Men and women came together and men and women parted much more easily and much more simply than before. They came together without great commitment and parted without tears or regret.
Prostitution disappeared, and the number of sexual relationships where the partners were under no obligation to each other and which were based on the instinct of reproduction unadorned by any emotions of love increased. This fact frightened some. But such a development was, in those years, inevitable. Either preexisting relationships continued to exist and unite men and women through comradeship and long-standing friendship, which was rendered more precious by the seriousness of the moment, or new relationships were begun for the satisfaction of purely biological needs, both partners treating the affair as incidental and avoiding any commitment that might hinder their work for the revolution.
The unadorned sexual drive is easily aroused but is soon spent; thus “wingless Eros” consumes less inner strength than “winged Eros.” whose love is woven of delicate strands of every kind of emotion. “Wingless Eros” does not make one suffer from sleepless nights, does not sap one’s will, and does not entangle the rational workings of the mind. The fighting class could not have fallen under the power of “winged Eros” at a time when the clarion call of revolution was sounding. It would not have been expedient at such a time to waste the inner strength of the members of the collective on experiences that did not directly serve the revolution. Individual sex love, which lies at the heart of the pair marriage, demands a great expenditure of inner energy. The working class was interested not only in economizing in terms of material wealth but also in preserving the intellectual and emotional energy of each person. For this reason, at a time of heightened revolutionary struggle, the undemanding instinct of reproduction spontaneously replaced the all embracing “winged Eros.”
But now the picture changes. The Soviet republic and the whole of toiling humanity are entering a period of temporary and comparative calm. The complex task of understanding and assimilating the achievements and gains that have been made is beginning. The proletariat, the creator of new forms of life, must be able to learn from all social and psychological phenomena, grasp the significance of these phenomena and fashion weapons from them for the self-defense of the class. Only when the proletariat has appropriated the laws not only of the creation of material wealth but also of inner, psychological life is it able to advance fully armed to fight the decaying bourgeois world. Only then will toiling humanity prove itself to be the victor, not only on the military and labor front but also on the psychological-cultural front.
Now that the revolution has proved victorious and is in a stronger position, and now that the atmosphere of revolutionary élan has ceased to absorb men and women completely, tender-winged Eros has emerged from the shadows and begun to demand his rightful place. “Wingless Eros” has ceased to satisfy psychological needs. Emotional energy has accumulated and men and women, even of the working class, have not yet learned to use it for the inner life of the collective. This extra energy seeks an outlet in the love-experience. The many-stringed lyre of the god of love drowns the monotonous voice of “wingless Eros.” Men and women are now not only united by the momentary satisfaction of the sex instinct but are beginning to experience “love affairs” again, and to know all the sufferings and all the exaltations of love’s happiness.
in the life of the Soviet republic an undoubted growth of intellectual and emotional needs, a desire for knowledge, an interest in scientific questions and in art and the theater can be observed. This movement towards transformation inevitably embraces the sphere of love experiences too. Interest is aroused in the question of the psychology of sex, the mystery of love. Everyone to some extent is having to face up to questions of personal life. One notes with surprise that party workers who in previous years had time only for Pravda editorials and minutes and reports are reading fiction books in which winged Eros is lauded.
What does this mean? Is this a reactionary step? A symptom of the beginning of the decline of revolutionary creativity? Nothing of the sort! It is time we separated ourselves from the hypocrisy of bourgeois thought. It is time to recognize open that love is not only a powerful natural factor, a biological force, but also a social factor. Essentially love is a profoundly social emotion. At all stages of human development
love has in different forms, it is true) been an integral part of culture. Even the bourgeoisie, who saw love as a “private matter,” was able to channel the expression of love in its class interests. The ideology c’ the working class must pay even greater attention to the significance of love as a factor which can, like any other psychological or social phenomenon, be channeled to the advantage of the collective. Love is not in the least a “private” matter concerning only the two loving persons: love possesses a uniting element which is valuable to the collective. This is clear from the fact that at all stages of historical development society has established norms defining when and under what conditions love is “legal” (.e. corresponds to the interests of the given social collective). and when and under what conditions love is sinful and criminal (i.e. contradicts the tasks of the given society).
From the very early stages of its social being, humanity has sought to regulate not only sexual relations but love itself.
in the kinship community. love for one’s blood relations was considered the highest virtue. The kinship group would not have approved of a woman sacrificing herself for the sake of a beloved husband: fraternal or sisterly attachment were the most highly regarded feelings. Antigone, who according to the Greek legend risked her life to bury the body of her dead brother, was a heroine in the eyes of her contemporaries. Modern bourgeois society would consider such an action on the part of a sister as highly curious. In the times of tribal rule, when the state was still in its embryonic stage, the love I held in greatest respect was the love between two members of the same tribe. In an era when the social collective had only just evolved from the stage of kin ship community and was still not firmly established in its new form, it was vitally important that its members were linked by mental and emotional ties. Love-friendship was the most suitable type of tie, since at that time the interests of the collective required the growth and accumulation of contacts not between the marriage pair but between fellow-members of the tribe, between the organizers and defenders of the tribe and state that is to say, between the men of the tribe, of course; women at that time had no role to play in social life, and there was no talk of friendship among women). “Friendship” was praised and considered far more important than love between man and wife. Caster and Pollux were famous for their loyalty to each other and their unshakable friendship, rather than for the feats they performed for their country. For the sake of friendship or its semblance a man might offer his wife to an acquaintance or a guest.
The ancient world considered friendship and “loyalty until the grave” to be civic virtues. Love in the modern sense o he word had no place, and hardly attracted the attention either of poets or of writers. The dominant ideology of that time relegated love to the sphere of narrow, personal experiences with which society was not concerned; marriage was based on convenience, not on love. Love was just one among other amusements; it was a luxury which only the citizen who had fulfilled all his obligations to the state could afford. While bourgeois ideology values the “ability to love” provided it confines itself to the limits set down by bourgeois morality, the ancient world did not consider such emotions in its categories of virtues and positive human qualities. The person who accomplished great deeds and risked his life for his friend was considered a hero and his action “most virtuous” while a man risking himself for the sake of a woman he loved would have been reproached or even despised.
The morality of the ancient world, then, did not even recognize the love that inspired men to great deeds – the love so highly regarded in the feudal period – as worthy of consideration. The ancient world recognized only those emotions which drew its fellow-members close together and rendered the emerging social organism more stable. In subsequent stages of cultural development, however, friendship ceases to be considered a moral virtue. Bourgeois society was built on the principles of individualism and competition, and has no place for friendship as a moral factor. Friendship does not help in any way, and may hinder the achievement of class aims; it is viewed as an unnecessary manifestation of “sentimentality” and weakness. Friendship becomes an object of derision. Caster and Pollux in the New York of London of today would only evoke a condescending smile. This was not so in feudal society, where love-friendship was seen as a quality to be taught and encouraged.
The feudal system defended the interests of the noble family. Virtues were defined with reference not so much to relations between the members of that society as to the obligations of the individual to his or her family and its traditions. Marriage was contracted according to the interests of the family, and any young man (the girl had no rights whatever) who chose himself a wife against these interests was severely criticized. In the feudal era the individual was not supposed to place personal feelings and inclinations above the interests of family, and he who did so “sinned.” Morality did not demand that love and marriage go hand in hand.
Nevertheless, love between the sexes was not neglected; in fact, for the first time in the history of humanity it received a certain recognition. It may seem strange that love was first accepted in this age of strict asceticism, of crude and cruel morals, an age of violence and rule by violence; but the reasons for acceptance become clear when we take a closer look. In certain situations and in certain circumstances, love can act as a lever propelling the man to perform actions of which he would otherwise have been incapable. The knighthood demanded of each member fearlessness, bravery, endurance and great feats of individual valor on the battlefield. Victory in war was in those days decided not so much by the organization of troops as by the individual qualities of the participants. The knight in love with the inaccessible “lady of his heart” found it easier to perform miracles of bravery, easier to win tournaments, easier to sacrifice his life. The knight in love was motivated by the desire to “shine” and thus to win the attention of his beloved.
The ideology of chivalry recognized love as a psychological state that could be used to the advantage of the feudal class, but nevertheless it sought to organize emotions in a definite framework. Love between man and wife was not valued, for the family that lived in the knightly castle and in the Russian boyar’s terem was not held together by emotional ties. The social factor of chivalrous love operated where the knight loved a woman outside the family and was inspired to military and other heroic feats by this emotion. The more inaccessible the woman, the greater the knight’s determination to win her favor : id the greater his need to develop in himself the virtues and qualities which were valued by his social class. Usually the knight chose a his lady the woman least accessible, the wife of his suzerain, or often the queen. Only such a “platonic” love could spur the knight to perform miracles of bravery and was considered virtuous and worthy. The knight rarely chose an unmarried woman as the object of his love, for no matter how far above him in station and apparently inaccesible the girl might be, the possibility of marriage and the consequent removal of the psychological lever could not be ruled out. Hence feudal morality combined recognition of the ideal of asceticism (sexual restraint) with recognition of love as a moral virtue. In his desire to free love from all that was carnal and sinful and to transform it into an abstract emotion completely divorced from its biological base the knight was prepared to go to great lengths, choosing as his lady a woman he had never seen or joining the ranks of the lovers of the Virgin Mary. Further he could not go.
Feudal ideology saw love as a stimulus, as a quality assisting in social cohesion: spiritual love and the knight’s adoration of his lady served the interests of the noble class. The knight who would have thought nothing of sending his wife to a monastery or of slaying her for unfaithfulness would have been flattered if she had been chosen by another knight as his lady, and would have made no objections to her platonic friendships. But while placing so much emphasis on spiritual love, feudal morality in no way demanded that love should determine legal marriage relationships. Love and marriage were kept separate by feudal ideology, and were only united by the bourgeois class that emerged in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The exalted sophistication of feudal love existed. therefore, alongside indescribably crude norms of relations between the sexes. Sexual intercourse both within and outside marriage lacked the softening and inspiring element of love and remained an undisguisedly physiological act.
The church pretended to wage war on depravity, but by encouraging “spiritual love” it encouraged crude animal relations between the sexes. The knight who would not be parted from the emblem of the lady of his heart, who composed poetry in her honor and risked his life to win her smile, would rape a girl of the urban classes without a second thought or order his steward to bring him a beautiful peasant for his pleasure. The wives of the knights, for their part, did not let slip the opportunity to enjoy the delights of the flesh with the troubadours and pages of the feudal household.
With the weakening of feudalism and the growth of new conditions of life dictated by the interests of the rising bourgeoisie, a new moral ideal of relations between the sexes developed. Rejecting platonic love, the bourgeoisie defended the violated rights of the body and injected the combination of the spiritual and physical into the very conception of love. Bourgeois morality did not separate love and marriage; marriage was the expression of the mutual attraction of the couple. In practice of course the bourgeoisie itself, in the name of convenience, continually sinned against this moral teaching, but the recognition of love as the pillar of marriage had a profound class basis.
Under the feudal system the family was held together firmly by the traditions of nobility and birth. The married couple was held in place by the power of the church, the unlimited authority of the head of the family, the strength of family tradition and the will of the suzerain; marriage was indissoluble. The bourgeois family evolved in different conditions; its basis was not the co-ownership of family wealth but the accumulation of capital. The family was the guardian of this capital; in order that accumulation might take place as rapidly as possible, it was important that a man’s savings should be handled with care and skill: in other words, that the woman should not only be a good housewife but also the helper and friend of her husband. With the establishment of capitalist relations and of the bourgeois social system, the family. in order to remain stable, had to be based not only on economic considera tions but also on the cooperation of all its members, who had a joint interest in the accumulation of wealth. And cooperation could serve as a more powerful factor when husband and wife and parents and children were held together by strong emotional and psychological bonds.
At the end of the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries, the new economic way of life gave rise to a new ideology. The conceptions of love and marriage gradually changed. The religious reformer, Luther, and the other thinkers and public figures of the Renaissance and the Reformation, understood the social force of love perfectly. Aware that the stability of the family – the economic unit on which the bourgeois system rests – required that its members be linked by more than economic ties alone, the revolutionary ideologists of the rising bourgeoisie propagated the new moral ideal of a love that em braced both the flesh and the soul. The reformers of the period challenged the celibacy of the clergy and made merciless fun of the “spiritual love” of chivalry that kept the knight in a continual state of aspiration but denied him the hope of satisfying his sensual needs. The ideologists of the bourgeoisie and the reformation recognized the legitimacy of the body’s needs. Thus, while the feudal world had divided love into the sexual act (relations within marriage or with concubines) on the one hand, and spiritual, platonic love (the relations between the knight and the lady of his heart) on the other, the bourgeois class included both the physical attraction between the sexes and emotional attachments in its concept of love. The feudal ideal had separated love from marriage; the bourgeoisie linked the two. The bourgeoisie made love and marriage inseparable. In practice, of course, this class has always retreated from its ideal; but while the question of mutual inclination was never raised under feudalism, bourgeois morality requires that even in marriages of convenience, the partners should practice hypocrisy and pretend affection.
Traces of feudal tradition and feudal attitudes to marriage and love have come down to us, surviving the centuries and accommodating themselves to the morality of the bourgeois class. Royal families and the higher ranks of the aristocracy still live according to these old norms. In these circles it is considered “amusing” but rather “awkward” when a marriage is concluded on the basis of love. The princes and princesses of this world still have to bow to the demands of birth and politics, joining themselves for life to people they do not care for.
In peasant families one also finds that family and economic considerations play a big part in marriage arrangements. The peasant family differs from that of the urban industrial bourgeoisie chiefly in that it is an economic labor unit; its members are so firmly held together by economic circumstances that inner bonds are of secondary importance. For the medieval artisan, love likewise had no role in marriage, for in the context of the guild system the family was a productive unit, and this economic rationale provided stability. The ideal of love in marriage only begins to appear when, with the emergence of the bourgeoisie, the family loses its productive functions and remains a consumer unit also serving as a vehicle for the preservation of accumulated capital.
But though bourgeois morality defended the rights of two “loving hearts” to conclude a union even in defiance of tradition, and though it criticized spiritual love” and asceticism, proclaiming love as the basis of marriage, it nevertheless defined love in a very narrow way. Love is permissible only when it is within marriage. Love outside legal marriage is considered immoral. Such ideas were often dictated, of course, by economic considerations, by the desire to prevent the distribution of capital among illegitimate children. The entire morality of the bourgeoisie was directed towards the concentration of capital. The ideal was the married couple, working together to improve their welfare and to increase the wealth of their particular family unit. divorced as it was from society. Where the interests of the family and society were in conflict, bourgeois morality decided in the interests of the family (cf. the sympathetic attitude of bourgeois morality - though not the law – to deserters and to those who, for the sake of their families, cause the bankruptcy of their fellow shareholders). This morality, with a utilitarianism typical of the bourgeoisie, tried to use love to its advantage, making it the main ingredient of marriage, and thereby strengthening the family.
Love, of course, could not be contained within the limits set down by bourgeois ideologists. Emotional conflicts grew and multiplied, and found their expression in the new form of literature – the novel – which the bourgeois class developed. Love constantly escaped from the narrow framework of legal marriage relations set for it, into free relationships and adultery, which were condemned but which were practiced. The bourgeois ideal of love does not correspond to the needs of the largest section of the population – the working class. Nor is it relevant to the life-style of the working intelligentsia. This is why in highly
developed capitalist countries one finds such an interest in the problems of sex and love and in the search for the key to its mysteries. How, it is asked, can relations between the sexes be developed in order to increase the sum of both individual and social happiness?
The working youth of Soviet Russia is confronting this question at this very moment. This brief survey of the evolution of the ideal of love marriage relationships will help you, my young friend, to realize and understand that love is not the private matter it might seem to be at a first glance. Love is an important psychological and social factor, which society has always instinctively organized in its interests. Work ing men and women, armed with the science of Marxism and using the experience of the past, must seek to discover the place love ought to occupy in the new social order and determine the ideal of love that corresponds to their class interests.
The new, communist society is being built on the principle of comradeship and solidarity. Solidarity is not only an awareness of common interests: it depends also on the intellectual and emotional ties linking the members of the collective. For a social system to be built on solidarity and cooperation it is essential that people should be capable of love and warm emotions. The proletarian ideology, therefore, attempts to educate and encourage every member of the working class to be capable of responding to the distress and needs of other members of the class, of a sensitive understanding of others and a penetrating consciousness of the individual’s relationship to the collective. All these “warm emotions” – sensitivity, compassion, sympathy and responsiveness – derive from one source: they are aspects of love, not in the narrow, sexual sense but in the broad meaning of the word. Love is an emotion that unites and is consequently of an organizing character. The bourgeoisie was well aware of this, and in the attempt to create a stable family bourgeois ideology erected “married love” as a moral virtue; to be a “good family man” was, in the eyes of the bourgeoisie, an important and valuable quality. The proletariat should also take into account the psychological and social role that love, both in the broad sense and in the sense of relationships between the sexes, can and must play, not in strengthening family-marriage ties, but in the development of collective solidarity
What is the proletariat’s ideal of love? We have already seen that each epoch has its ideal; each class strives to fill the conception of love with a moral content that suits its own interests. Each stage of cultural development, with its richer intellectual and emotional experiences, redefines the image of Eros. With the successive stages in the development of the economy and social life, ideas of love have changed: shades of emotion have assumed greater significance or, on the other hand, have ceased to exist.
In the course of the thousand-year history of human society. love has developed from the simple biological instinct – the urge to reproduce which is inherent in all creatures from the highest to the lowest – into a most complex emotion that is constantly acquiring new intellectual and emotional aspects. Love has become a psychological and social factor. Under the impact of economic and social forces, the bio logical instinct for reproduction has been transformed in two diametric ally opposed directions. On the one hand the healthy sexual instinct has been turned by monstrous social and economic relations, particularly those of capitalism, into unhealthy carnality. The sexual act has become an aim in itself - just another way of obtaining pleasure, through lust sharpened with excesses and through distorted, harmful titillations of the flesh. A man does not have sex in response to healthy instincts which have drawn him to a particular woman: a man approaches any woman, though he feels no sexual need for her in particular, with the aim of gaining his sexual satisfaction and pleasure through her. Prostitution is the organized expression of this distortion of the sex drive. If intercourse with a woman does not prompt the expected excitement, the man will turn to every kind of perversion.
This deviation towards unhealthy carnality takes relationships far from their source in the biological Instinct. On the other hand, over the centuries and with the changes in human social life and culture, a web of emotional and intellectual experiences has come to surround the physical attraction of the sexes. Love in its present form is a complex state of mind and body: it has long been separated from its primary source, the biological instinct for reproduction, and in fact it is frequently in sharp contradiction with it. Love is intricately woven from friendship. passion, maternal tenderness, infatuation, mutual compatibility, sympathy, admiration, familiarity and many other shades of emotion. With such a range of emotions involved, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish direct connection between the natural drive of “wingless Eros” and “winged Eros,” where physical attraction and emotional warmth are fuzed. The existence of love friendship where the element of physical attraction is absent, of love for one’s work or for a cause, and of love for the collective, testify to the extent to which love has become “spiritualized” and separated from its biological base.
In modern society. sharp contradictions frequently arise and battles are waged between the various manifestations of emotion. A deep intellectual and emotional involvement in one’s work may not be compatible with love for a particular man or woman, love for the collective might conflict with love for husband, wife or children. It may be difficult for love-friendship in one person to coexist with passion in another; in the one case love is predominantly based on intellectual compatibility, and in the other case on physical harmony. “Love” has many faces and aspects. The various shades of feeling that have developed over the ages and which are experienced by contemporary men and women cannot be covered by such a general and inexact term.
Under the rule of bourgeois ideology and the capitalist way of life, the complexity of love creates a series of complex and insoluble problems. By the end of the nineteenth century the many-sidedness of love had become a favorite theme for writers with a psychological bent Love for two or even three has interested and perplexed many of the more thoughtful representatives of bourgeois culture. In the sixties of the last century our Russian thinker and writer Alexander Herzen tried to uncover this complexity of the inner world and the duality of emotion in his novel Who Is Guilty?, and Cheryshevsky tackled the same questions in his novel What is to be Done?, Poetic geniuses such as Goethe and Byron, and bold pioneers in the sphere of relations between the sexes such as George Sand, have tried to come to terms with these issues in their own lives; the author of Who Is Guilty? also knew of the problems from his own experience, as did many other great thinkers, poets and public figures. And at this present moment many “small” people are weighed down by the difficulties of love and vainly seek for solutions within the framework of bourgeois thought. But the key to the solution is in the hands of the proletariat. Only the ideology and the life-style of the new, laboring humanity can unravel this complex problem of emotion.
We are talking here of the duality of love, of the complexities of “winged Eros”; this should not be confused with sexual relations “with out Eros,” where one man goes with many women or one woman with a number of men. Relations where no personal feelings are involved can have unfortunate and harmful consequences (the early exhaustion of the organism, venereal diseases etc.), but however entangled they are, they do not give rise to “emotional dramas.” These “dramas” and conflicts begin only where the various shades and manifestations of love are present. A woman feels close to a man whose ideas, hopes and aspirations match her own; she is attracted physically to another. For one woman a man might feel sympathy and a protective tenderness, and in another he might find support and understanding for the strivings of his intellect. To which of the two must he give his love? And why must he tear himself apart and cripple his inner self, if only the possession of both types of inner bond affords the fullness of living?
Under the bourgeois system such a division of the inner emotional world involves inevitable suffering. For thousands of years human culture, which is based on the institution of property, has been teaching people that love is linked with the principles of property. Bourgeois ideology has insisted that love, mutual love, gives the right to the absolute and indivisible possession of the beloved person. Such exclusiveness was the natural consequence of the established form of pair marriage and of the ideal of “all-embracing love” between husband and wife. But can such an ideal correspond to the interests of the working class? Surely it is important and desirable from the proletariat’s point of view that people’s emotions should develop a wider and richer range? And surely the complexity of the human psyche and the many-sidedness of emotional experience should assist in the growth of the emotional and intellectual bonds between people which make the collective stronger? The more numerous these inner threads drawing people together, the firmer the sense of solidarity and the simpler the realization of the working-class ideal of comradeship and unity.
Proletarian ideology cannot accept exclusiveness and “all embracing love.” The proletariat is not filled with horror and moral indignation at the many forms and facets of “winged Eros” in the way that the hypocritical bourgeoisie is; on the contrary, it tries to direct these emotions, which it sees as the result of complex social circuin stances, into channels which are advantageous to the class during the struggle for and the construction of communist society. The complexity of love is not in conflict with the interests of the proletariat. On the contrary, it facilitates the triumph of the ideal of love-comradeship which is already developing.
At the tribal stage love was seen as a kinship attachment (love between sisters and brothers, love for parents). The ancient culture of the pre-christian period placed love-friendship above all else. The feudal world idealized platonic courtly love between members of the opposite sex outside marriage. The bourgeoisie took monogamous marital love as its ideal. The working class derives its ideal from the labor cooperation and inner solidarity that binds the men and women of the proletariat together; the form and content of this ideal naturally differs from the conception of love that existed in other cultural epochs. The advocacy of love-comradeship in no way implies that in the militant atmosphere of its struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat the working class has adopted a strait-jacket ideology and is mercilessly trying to remove all traces of tender emotion from relations between the sexes. The ideology of the working class does not seek to destroy “winged Eros” but, on the contrary, to clear the way for the recognition of the value of love as a psychological and social force.
The hypocritical morality of bourgeois culture resolutely restricted the freedom of Eros, obliging him to visit only the “legally married couple.” Outside marriage there was room only for the “wing less Eros” of momentary and joyless sexual relations which were bought (in the case of prostitution) or stolen (in the case of adultery). The morality of the working class, on the other hand, in so far as it has already been formulated, definitely rejects the external forms of sexual relations. The social aims of the working class are not affected one bit by whether love takes the form of a long and official union or is expressed in a temporary relationship. The ideology of the working class does not place any formal limits on love. But at the same time the ideology of the working class is already beginning to take a thoughtful attitude to the content of love and shades of emotional experience. In this sense the proletarian ideology will persecute “wingless Eros” in a much more strict and severe way than bourgeois morality. “Wingless Eros” contradicts the interests of the working class. In the first place it inevitably involves excesses and therefore physical exhaustion, which lower the resources of labor energy available to society. In the second place it impoverishes the soul, hindering the development and strengthening of inner bonds and positive emotions. And in the third place it usually rests on an inequality of rights in relationships between the sexes, on the dependence of the woman on the man and on male complacency and insensitivity, which undoubtedly hinder the development of comradely feelings. “"Winged Eros” is quite different.
Obviously sexual attraction lies at the base of “winged Eros” too, but the difference is that the person experiencing love acquires the inner qualities necessary to the builders of a new culture - sensitivity, responsiveness and the desire to help others. Bourgeois ideology demanded that a person should only display such qualities in their relationship with one partner. The aim of proletarian ideology is that men and women should develop these qualities not only in relation to the chosen one but in relation to all the members of the collective. The proletarian class is not concerned as to which shades and nuances of feeling predominate in winged Eros. The only stipulation is that these emotions facilitate the development and strengthening of comradeship. The ideal of love-comradeship, which is being forged by proletarian ideology to replace the all-embracing and exclusive marital love of bourgeois culture, involves the recognition of the rights and integrity of the other’s personality, a steadfast mutual support and sensitive sympathy, and responsiveness to the other’s needs.
The ideal of love-comradeship is necessary to the proletariat in the important and difficult period of the struggle for and the consolidation of the dictatorship. But there is no doubt that with the realization of communist society love will acquire a transformed and unprecedented aspect. By that time the “sympathetic ties” between all the members of the new society will have grown and strengthened. Love potential will have increased, and love-solidarity will become the lever that competition and self-love were in the bourgeois system. Collectivism of spirit can then defeat individualist self-sufficiency, and the “cold of inner loneliness,” from which people in bourgeois culture have attempted to escape through love and marriage, will disappear. The many threads bringing men and women into close emotional and intellectual contact will develop. and feelings will emerge from the private into the public sphere. In. equality between the sexes and the dependence of women on men will disappear without trace, leaving only a fading memory of past ages.
In the new and collective society, where interpersonal relations develop against a background of joyful unity and comradeship, Eros will occupy an honorable place as an emotional experience multiplying human happiness. What will be the nature of this transformed Eros? Not even the boldest fantasy is capable of providing the answer to this question. But one thing is clear: the stronger the intellectual and emotional bonds of the new humanity, the less the room for love in the present sense of the word. Modern love always sins, because it absorbs the thoughts and feelings of “loving hearts” and isolates the loving pair from the collective. In the future society, such a separation will not only become superfluous but also psychologically inconceivable. In the new world the accepted norm of sexual relations will probably be baser’ on free, healthy and natural attraction (without distortions and excesses) and on “transformed Eros.”
But at the present moment we stand between two cultures. And at this turning-point, with the attendant struggles of the two worlds on all fronts, including the ideological one, the proletariat’s interest is to do its best to ensure the quickest possible accumulation of “sympathetic feelings.” In this period the moral ideal defining relationships is not the unadorned sexual instinct but the many-faceted love experience of love-comradeship. In order to answer the demands formulated by the new proletarian morality. these experiences must conform to three basic principles: 1. Equality in relationships an end to masculine egoism and the slavish suppression of the female personality). 2. Mutual recognition of the rights of the other, of the fact that one does not own the heart and soul of the other (the sense of property, encouraged by bourgeois culture). 3. Comradely sensitivity, the ability to listen and understand the inner workings of the loved person (bourgeois culture demanded this only from the woman). But in proclaiming the rights of “winged Eros,” the ideal of the working class at the same time subordinates this love to the more powerful emotion of love-duty to the collective. However great the love between two members of the collective, the ties binding the two persons to the collective will always take precedence, will be firmer, more complex and organic. Bourgeois morality demanded all for the loved one. The morality of the proletariat demands all for the collective.
But I can hear you objecting, my young friend, that though it may be true that love-comradeship will become the ideal of the working class, will this new “moral measurement” of emotions not place new constraints on sexual relationships? Are we not liberating love from the fetters of bourgeois morality only to enthralled it again? Yes, my young friend, you are right. The ideology of the proletariat rejects bourgeois “morality” in the sphere of love-marriage relations. Nevertheless, it inevitably develops its own class morality, its own rules of behavior, which correspond more closely to the tasks of the working class and educate the emotions in a certain direction. In this way it could be said that feelings are again in chains. The proletariat will undoubtedly clip the wings of bourgeois culture. But it would be short-sighted to regret this process, since the new class is capable of developing new facets of emotion which possess unprecedented beauty, strength and radiance. As the cultural and economic base of humanity changes, so will love be transformed.
The blind, all-embracing. demanding passions will weaken; the sense of property. the egoistical desire to bind the partner to one “forever,” the complacency of the man and the self-renunciation of the woman will disappear. At the same time, the valuable aspects and elements of love will develop. Respect for the right of the other’s personality will increase, and a mutual sensitivity will be learned; men and women will strive to express their love not only in kisses and embraces but in joint creativity and activity. The task of proletarian ideology is not to drive Eros from social life but to rearm him according to the new social formation, and to educate sexual relationships in the spirit of the great new psychological force of comradely solidarity.
I hope it is now clear to you that the interest among young workers in the question of love is not a symptom of decline.” I hope that you can now grasp the place love must occupy in the relationships between young workers.
From : Marxists.org
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