Red Star: The First Bolshevik Utopia

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"[A] surprisingly moving story." -The New Yorker

"Bogdanov's novels reveal a great deal about their fascinating author, about his time and, ironically, ours, and about the genre of utopia as well as his contribution to it." -Slavic Review

"Bogdanov's imaginative predictions for his utopia are both technological and social... Even more farsighted are [his] anxious forebodings about the limits and costs of the utopian future." -Science Fiction Studies

"The contemporary reader will marvel at [Bogdanov's] foresight: nuclear fusion and propulsion, atomic weaponry and fallout, computers, blood transfusions, and (almost) unisexuality." -Choice

A communist society on Mars, the Russian revolution, and class struggle on two planets is the subject of this arresting science fiction novel by Alexander Bogdanov (1873-1928), one of the early organizers and prophets of the Russian Bolshevik party. The red star is Mars, but it is also the dream set to paper of the society that could emerge on earth after the dual victory of the socialist and scientific-technical revolutions. While portraying a harmonious and rational socialist society, Bogdanov sketches out the problems that will face industrialized nations, whether socialist or capitalist.

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Fantasy and Revolution: Alexander Bogdanov and the Origins of Bolshevik Science Fiction

ePub

Richard Stites

“Blood is being shed [down there] for the sake of a better future,” says the Martian to the hero of Red Star as they are ascending to Mars. “But in order to wage the struggle we must know that future.” The blood he speaks of was the blood of workers shot down in the streets of St. Petersburg, of revolutionaries put against the wall of prison courtyards, of insurgent sailors and soldiers, of Jewish victims of pogroms in the Russian Revolution of 1905. And by “that better future” he means not the immediate outcome of the revolution but the radiant future of socialism that will dawn on earth after revolution has triumphed everywhere. In order to inspect the coming socialist order, the hero—a Bolshevik activist named Leonid—has accepted the invitation of a Martian visitor to fly with him and his crew to Mars.

In this manner Alexander Bogdanov, a major prophet of the Bolshevik movement and one of its most versatile writers and thinkers, begins his Utopian science fiction novel Red Star, first published in 1908. The red star is Mars; but it is also the dream set to paper of the kind of society that could emerge on Earth after the dual victory of the scientific-technical revolution and the social revolution. Bogdanov, a professional revolutionary, was one of those people, peculiar to revolutionary societies of our century, who moved easily back and forth between the barricade and the study table, the prison cell and the laboratory. He was a physician and a man of science; and he was the first in Russian fiction to combine a technical utopia, grounded in the latest scientific theories of the time, with the ideas of revolutionary Marxism. This was the central theme of both Red Star and his other novel, Engineer Menni.

 

Red Star: A Utopia

ePub

Letter from Dr. Werner to Mirsky

Dear Comrade Mirsky,

I am sending you Leonid’s notes. He wanted them published, and you, as a man of letters, can arrange that matter better than I. He himself has gone into hiding. I am leaving the clinic to try and trace him. I think I shall probably find him in the mountains, where the situation has lately become critical. By exposing himself to the dangers there he is evidently indirectly trying to commit suicide. He is obviously still unstable mentally, although he impressed me as being near complete recovery. I shall inform you the moment I learn of anything.

My warmest regards,

N. Werner

24 July 190? (illegible: 8 or 9)

 

 

It was early in that great upheaval* which continues to shake our country and which, I think, is now approaching its inevitable, fateful conclusion.

The public consciousness was so deeply impressed by the events of the first bloody days that everyone expected a quick and victorious end to the struggle. It seemed as though the worst had already occurred, that nothing more terrible could possibly happen. No one had realized how tenacious were the bony hands of the corpse that had crushed and still crushes the living in its convulsive embrace.

 

Engineer Menni: A Novel of Fantasy

ePub

After the events which I described in the book Red Star, I am once again living among my Martian friends and working for the cherished cause of bringing our two worlds closer together. The Martians have decided for the immediate future to refrain from all direct or active interference in the affairs of Earth. For the time being they will restrict themselves to studying our humanity and gradually acquainting us with the more ancient civilization of Mars. I wholly agree with them that caution is of the essence, for if their discoveries on the structure of matter were at the present time to become known on Earth, the militaristic rulers of our mutually hostile nations would gain control over weapons of unprecedented might, and the entire planet would be devastated in a matter of months.

The Martians have established a special unit for the dissemination of the New Culture on Earth, affiliated with the Colonial Group. I have taken a position there as translator, that being the work for which I am best qualified; we hope in the near future to enlist other Earthlings of various nationalities for the same purpose. This is not at all as simple as it may appear at first glance. Translation from the single Martian language into those of Earth is much more difficult than translation from one Earthly language to another, and it is often even impossible to give a full and exact rendering of the content of the original.

 

A Martian Stranded on Earth: A Poem

ePub

 

 

Published as a supplement to the second (sixth) edition of Red Star in 1924, the poem outlines the content of a third novel which Bogdanov planned but never completed. A Martian has reached Earth but is unable to return to his native planet, where mankind has attained a superior level of communist civilization.

 

Bogdanov’s Inner Message

ePub

Loren R. Graham

 

Alexander Bogdanov’s novels Red Star and Engineer Menni were popular illustrations of his theories of politics and philosophy.1 Red Star portrayed developed socialism on the planet Mars and it opposed socialist humanity and cooperation to capitalist cruelty and individualism. The hero, Leonid, held out the hope that socialism could soon be created in Russia. Published almost ten years before the Russian Revolution of 1917, the book was popular among Russian radicals both before and after that date. Engineer Menni, published five years later, in 1913, was based on the success of the earlier work and portrayed the history of Mars during the period of capitalism that preceded the events narrated in Red Star. Let us look more closely at these novels, first Red Star and then Engineer Menni, in an attempt to understand more fully Bogdanov’s intentions.

The primary ideological goal of Red Star, the encouragement of revolution, is clear. However, the novel contains a secondary message which has not been noticed, yet which is striking and prescient. Indeed, the novel is an example of how the readers of a utopia may consider it a success yet not understand what the author meant when he wrote it.

 

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