The demise of the Soviet Union has for the past twenty-five years stood as effective “proof” of the error of utopia. This article returns to an ambivalent source of Soviet utopianism, Lenin's State and Revolution (1917), in order to show how the contradictions inherent in the theory of the state developed there programs no less than the dialectical transformation of Lenin's principled anti-utopianism into a particular form of utopia. This prepares the argument that Soviet ideology and the ostensibly practical politics through which it was mediated are grounded not in Marxism-Leninism or so-called dialectical materialism but rather in a neutralization of the inevitable contradictions of the “actually achieved” spatial utopia by projecting them onto the temporal axis. The essence of Soviet ideology thus lies in the absolute and enduring future projection of present contradictions onto the utopia yet to come. The cult of Lenin disguises the manner in which the “true” utopia of the “withered state” was supplanted by the “false” utopia of the projected “radiant future.” In the process both Lenin and the Soviet utopia become maximally productive experiment fields for all forms of ideologized future projection, rather than one-dimensional “proofs” of the untenability and undesirability of utopian thinking as such.
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Alastair Renfrew; Lenin and Utopia. Poetics Today 1 June 2016; 37 (2): 269–294. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-3481943
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