Monday, December 03, 2007

N.F. Fedorov--the plot thickens

Here's today's 'Theater of the Obscure'. I first found Fedorov, a 19th century mystic/scientific visionary/socialist justice advocate/ bat shit crazy person because a strange post-modernist libertarian website run by a Soviet exile who used to be a playwright there mentioned him. Actually, and entertainingly, he mentioned that the people in charge of approving plays regularly prohibited him from having his performed by saying that he was advocating Fedorov's ideas---but he hadn't ever read him, the author being banned in the USSR, and when he asked just what were Fedorov's ideas so that he could avoid them in the future they refused to outline them....

Fedorov combined a passion for the fusion of regular and intellectual work with plans for space colonization and the harnessing of solar power so that coal wouldn't have to be harnessed from the ground. At least that's what the first couple of pages of "What was man created for?: the philosophy of the common task" which I'm reading outlines. And he was writing this in the 19th century, before airplanes. His ideas were on the mark enough and influential enough that one of the people inspired by him became known as the father of modern rocketry: Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, who in 1903 outlined a construction of a multistage rocket using liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The space shuttle's main booster uses liquid hydrogen.

Federov's ideas on the brotherhood of man, which he referred to as the feeling of kinship, which was related to his idea of social justice, and his ideas for the all around development of people influenced Anatoly Lunacharsky, who became the first Secretary of Education in the Soviet Union after the Revolution, who essentially redesigned the entire Russian educational bureaucracy, and on Alexander Bogdanov. Bogdanov was a devotee, with Lunacharsky, of workers' education and the creation of an intellectual working class culture established by the workers themselves evaluating the cultural creations of the past and fusing them into new wholes. Bogdanov was also one of Lenin's prime competitors for leadership of the Bolshevik party, being active in the "underground organization" of the party inside of Russia while Lenin was in Europe. He split from the Bolshevik party, with others, over the issue of whether or not the Bolsheviks should continue to run people in the state elections after anti-radical laws were passed. As did Lunacharsky.

Both participated in a workers' education experimental colony in Italy when they were in exile.

Bogdanov has the added intrigue of being the main theoretical source that Nikolai Bukharin drew on for his conception of Marxism and Communism. Bukharin, as you may recall, was with Trotsky the only serious contender for power against Stalin in the wake of Lenin's death. After Trotsky was exiled, Bukharin and Stalin for a short time worked together, which was strange considering that Bukharin was far to the right of Stalin on economic matters. He had opposed Trotsky as being too radically left, but then Bukharin was then falsely accused of conspiracy and of being a "Right deviationist", against the Soviet Union, imprisoned, and later executed. Traditionally, people date the start of Stalinism, when Stalinist policies actually began to be implemented, to the fall of Bukharin, because with him out of the way there was no figure to stop Stalin from implementing his vision of socialism.

Fedorov-->Bogdanov-->Bukharin, Fedorov--->Tsiolkovsky--->Modern space technology

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