Rhetoric for Revolution


{ Workers of the World, Unite! You Have Nothing to Lose But Your Chains! }

In Mass Culture in Soviet Russia, von Geldern and Stites discuss ways “the Bolsheviks attempted to mobilize the masses through mythic versions of revolutionary history” (29). They continue that in Toward a World Commune “the Bolsheviks [make themselves] heirs to the world revolutionary movement” (30). The story begins with the Communist Manifesto because the Bolsheviks are trying to create a rhetoric that capitalism only provides for the bourgeoisie while the proletariats put in all the work. Next, the story turns to Paris and the failures of instituting communism in France due to the lack of support from “workers of other nations” because those workers are “still unconscious of their class interests” (30).

In Part II, Kerzhentsev details the triumph the bourgeoise believe they hold over the proletariat. However, World War I starts and the proletariats are looking for a leader through this crisis. The bourgeoise fail to deliver which only serves to embolden the communists further in their want for a revolution (31). In Part III, the revolution begins and “the Second Commune’s red banner with emblems of the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic” begins to fly with the slogan (among others) “Land to the People” (31). However, the bourgeoise are not going to give up their power, riches, and land easily. They “begin an embittered fight with the proletariat” because the bourgeoise want a continuation of the class structure and economic system they used before the war began. The communists continue this battle against capitalism in Russia, Hungary, and world wide (32).

Kerzhenstev’s story shows the revolutionary path the communists must take in order to achieve their goals. He outlines the setbacks in France, but the triumphs after World War I, in Russia, and in Hungary. He writes this to urge all workers to take up the battle and fight for their equality with the bourgeoise. He echoes Marx in his sense of urgency for this change to occur. Kerzhenstev wants the proletariat to realize their power and assert their economic interests. His last paragraph pressures “workers of the world [to] unite” to bring down the bourgeoise’s reign (32).



3 thoughts on “Rhetoric for Revolution

  1. I agree with you 100% about Kerzhentsev’s goals! And I’m curious as to why you chose to write about a mass spectacle in particular? Did reading the scenario make you wonder what it would have been like to see or participate in one of these? Would you call this an example of revolutionary romanticism?
    Great material here…do correct the title (“Toward a World Commune” – starts on p. 29).


    1. I wrote about mass spectacle because of the attention demonstrations receive, and the real impact protests/public resistance can have upon a revolution. It shows the change that people want and can capture worldwide attention. Yes, for sure it made me wonder, especially in the context of 1910’s Russia! It’s even more interesting to me because of the protests occurring here in the US after the 2016 election. Kerzhenstev definitely writes as a romantic revolutionary.. there’s so much emotion in this text! Whoops, thanks for the correction!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow. I think you’re right about some of the parallels between the demonstrations of the revolutionary era and the protests we’ve been seeing here since the 2016 elections. Also, check out Alex’s post on the mass spectacle: https://connors5.home.blog/2018/09/16/propaganda-at-its-finest/

        Liked by 1 person

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