The Dialogue of Negation: Debates on Hegemony in Russia and by JEREMY LESTER

By JEREMY LESTER

Debates on Hegemony in Russia and the West

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By JEREMY LESTER

Debates on Hegemony in Russia and the West

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Additional resources for The Dialogue of Negation: Debates on Hegemony in Russia and the West

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Writing now in ever more orthodox Marxist tones, Plekhanov was adamant that it was impossible to ‘create, by decrees, conditions alien to the very character of existing economic relations’. Everything, he went on, would combine to defeat a movement prematurely interfering in a process of capitalist development that was already well under way. 10 As for the leader of such an attempt, he necessarily would find himself in an insoluble dilemma. Citing a passage from Engels’ The Peasant War in Germany, Plekhanov asserted: What he can do contradicts all his previous actions, principles and immediate interests of his party, and what he ought to do cannot be done.

Again, citing a wealth of statistical information, Plekhanov was adamant that by means of the development of a money economy and commodity production, the old system of communal land tenure had been effectively undermined from within, and in its place a new form of private ownership was beginning to emerge. In what was seen as a final coup de grâce to the radical exceptionalist forces, Plekhanov also turned his attention to the likely effects a sudden curtailment of this process of development would have, both on society as a whole and on those who might envisage leading a revolutionary coup d’état, either in the name of a socialism that artificially speeded up Russia’s modernisation, or, in the name of a socialism that prevented that very process of modernisation.

Fyodor Tyutchev might well have over-exaggerated the situation when he claimed in his most celebrated poem that there was absolutely no capacity to fathom Russia with the mind, and that one was therefore only left with an irrepressible ‘belief’ in her uniqueness. Where he was accurate, however, was in the conviction that none of the yardsticks ever quite squared up to the reality of Russia. To understand Russia always meant changing the yardsticks in some shape or form. This essential belief in an exceptional Russia was designated in a whole spectrum of different areas, ranging from structures of one kind or another, to broad and expansive developmental patterns.

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