Red Star vs. Hammer and Sickle: The Fall and Rise of Alexander Bogdanov

As it is well known, the Hammer and Sickle symbolise Lenin’s strategy for the Revolution, which Lenin thought achievable if the alliance between the industrial proletariat and proletarian peasantry is maintained. The symbol came about as a product of an official competition held after the October Revolution. Originally it was aimed for the upcoming May Day celebrations, but it has become the symbol of Marxist-Leninist socialist and communist movements, parties and states globally. On the other hand, the Red Star symbol refers to a future communist society that is yet to come about. Although its history has not yet been established by research, Red Star symbolism overlaps with the sharp image Alexander Bogdanov masterfully portrayed in his 1908 novel, which bears the same name. Bogdanov’s Red Star was published many times, especially after the October Revolution, when Bogdanov was one of the leaders of the Proletkult movement and later on, and accepted as the starting point of the genre of Bolshevik sci-fi / utopian novel. My talk will be about the fall and rise of Alexander Bogdanov and the importance of his ‘lost paradigm’. I will present an overview of his scientific, utopian, and revolutionary politics, the decay of his contribution, as well as its re-discovery and renewal. Contrasting the anti-authoritarian line of his politics to Lenin’s – which Bogdanov explicitly dubbed as an authoritarian one well before the Revolution – I will be using the metaphor of clashing symbols: Red Star vs Hammer and Sickle.

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