Faculty Writing: The Anti-Colonial Lenin and Wagnermania

For Jacobin, Barnaby Raine examines Lenin’s fundamentally anti-colonial conception of socialism—as a necessarily transnational system of freedom. Noting the tension between Lenin’s anti-colonial socialism and the reality of Bolshevik government, Raine writes: “Positioned uneasily between the hope of socialism as freedom and a twentieth-century norm of socialism as government, amid a nascent and awful bureaucracy he had built while trying to destroy another, Lenin’s very last works are, in turn, frantic and despairing. Isolation, war, scarcity, and chaos made the realm of freedom feel very distant; if capital left no room but desperate, unrelenting force for its opposition, he asked, how could people possibly build a new community of equals? Why did Lenin fail? That is the tragedy that should still draw us back into early twentieth-century Russia. It is the noble and the sad dialectic of popular power and its opposite that recurs, and that requires explanation if we are to author a properly emancipatory politics capable of pronouncing the word victory.” 

For The Baffler, Nathan Shields reviews Alex Ross’s new book, Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music. Ross, writes Shields, wants to make Wagner acceptable; instead, he makes him merely anodyne. “Limitation and contradiction are the substance of all power. Why should music be any different? If Wagner, like Napoleon, was greeted as a liberator and a tyrant, maybe that’s because he was something of both. In claiming he was neither, Ross denies the music’s power, and ours as well. ‘The behemoth,’ he writes, ‘whispers a different secret in each listener’s ear.’ We can make Wagner our own, but only because we hear nothing in common. There is no collective experience, only individual men and women, listening to music alone.”

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