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The birth of the mummy from the spirit of ideology.

The task of this paper is to trace the process, begun in Eastern Europe at the turn of the century, that led to a translation of the concept of ideology from the Western critical tradition to the language of the Eastern revolutionary endeavor, a translation that entirely converted its axiological sign. I will confine my inquiry to the shift in the understanding and conceptualization of ideology accomplished in the radical theoretical context built by the scholarly circle of Bakhtin, Medvedev, and Volosinov. I will not consider later theorists of ideology such as Althusser, even though his name may automatically occur to Western students of ideology. Althusser belongs to a completely different time and development in the institutions and structures of power, to a differently-oriented milieu, and represents, therefore, an entirely different perspective of political critique. This retracing of a different cycle of development in the concept of ideology bespeaks its own specific interest, even though it may appear incommensurate with current Western intuitions. From a Western perspective the "progress" of ideology through the so-called Marxist-Leninist doctrine established in the 1920s in Soviet Russia may appear as an extreme deviation, a sharp turn in a different direction. From an Eastern perspective, Leninism is the only forthright connection between Marx and the implementation of communism. In what follows I use the term communism mostly as the name of an ideological entity that kept its identity and secondary effects constant and immutable, in spite of changes in the power machinery, of economic reforms, or of any efforts to reconstruct or amend the system. By ideology I mean a strategically organized and self-authorized consciousness that builds a doctrine and designs tools for its implementation. It is precisely the main structure and key metaphors of this consciousness that I consider the intransitive core of communism. Towards the end of this investigation I will address some of the conflicting implications in the current post-communist stage of ideology undergone by Eastern Europe. Let us begin now with the radical times of a Revolution.


The State of the Soviets, in the Nineteen-twenties--this is the place and the time when the concept of Ideology merged with the intuition of the Real. The Real was claimed to be a materialized ideology. At that time four books appeared written by three famous authors belonging to the same intellectual circle. Mikhail Bakhtin is the actual author of one of them and the putative author of several other books written in this circle. I will not investigate the controversy concerning the authorship of these books because from the perspective of this analysis this controversy makes little difference. The books of the Bakhtin circle built collectively a new context and strategy for the Soviet critical endeavor. They speculated on the principle of ideology in its various forms--from its macro-politics to the microstructures of everyday life. The four books elaborated on a crucial issue at that time--ideology viewed as interest realized through the sphere of consciousness. They reflected on the ideologies of three major forms of life--fiction, language, psyche: 1. The protagonist in Dostoevsky's fiction is an ideologist obsessed with an idee fixe who plots against other ideologists in order to realize and enforce it. This was Bakhtin's argument in Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics.

2. Language is an ideological phenomenon, a system of strategically organized sign-units. The sign is a meaningful unit that makes a dominant interest manifest. Reality is a set of meaningful units and must be recognized as a total ideological entity--this was Volosinov's argument in Marxism and the Philosophy of Language.

3. Bourgeois public life and the bourgeois moral surface of consciousness disguise rather than reveal the existence of an underground desire, interest, or drive surging in social life. Every verbal act (utterance) is a small ideological construction that demonstrates the actual relation between the official and unofficial level of everyday-life consciousness--this is what Volosinov argued in Freudianism.

Ideology testifies to the existence of something invisible--a basic interest that is economically generated, figuratively staged or disguised by morality. Ideology is a linguistic symptom of the basic interest. It makes the interest present in the sphere of consciousness.

4. Ideology exists entirely in the external world and, by its origin, is completely accessible to an essentially objective method of cognition. Human consciousness does not come into contact with existence directly but through the medium of the present ideological world. The ideological environment is materialized social consciousness. The work of art is a part of the materialized ideological horizon that surrounds man. Social beings are posed among ideological phenomena (words and objects). Ideology in its totality forms a solid ring around man--this is what Medvedev argued in The Formal Method. I want to focus more closely on one of these works in particular, because it performed the radical shift in the concept of ideology that is the object of this investigation--Volosinov's Marxism and the Philosophy of Language. This book starts as radically as a manifesto. Three propositions are important here: (1) The sphere of ideology coincides with the sphere of signs; (2) the Word is an ideological phenomenon par excellence; (3) ideology cannot be divorced from the material reality of the sign.

Volosinov's book begins with axiomatic statements. It is significant and symptomatic that the focal term "ideology" is not elaborated theoretically. Ideology was a self-evident metaphor at that time, proliferating over the entire verbal territory of the Russian revolution. It was borrowed from the realm of party literature and press, from the radical discourse of political manifestos, from the rhetoric of the grand political debate that was going on at that time. "Ideology" was a self-explanatory term taken from the agitprop arsenal of revolutionary language.

Volosinov's book openly claims to represent the first general attempt to establish a Marxist philosophy of language. It keeps inviolate the main concepts of Marxist teaching, but not the basic one--the axiological significance of "ideology." According to Marx, ideology was twisted, incorrect, untrue--a false consciousness (see Seliger 31) alienated from the process of social reproduction and its foundations. Ideology was a pernicious consciousness, in Marx's view. But the use of the word "ideology" in Volosinov's book has a definite positive implication. A certain revision, a reversal of meaning, had taken place in the meantime. This revision--the axiological shift with which I am concerned--was accomplished by Lenin. He related ideology to the campaigns of political power and defined it not as "false consciousness" but as a "strategic" one aiming at a certain social end (see Seliger, esp. chapt. 5). 2. THE HANGING GARDENS OF CONSCIOUSNESS

The real world . . . has always been the apparent world once again. (Nietzsche # 566)

Marx: Alienation and Falsification.

. . . ideology is a process accomplished by the thinker consciously, indeed, but with a false consciousness. The real motives impelling him remain unknown to him, otherwise it would not be an ideological process at all. (Engels, qtd. in Seliger 30)

In the theories of Marx and Engels ideology is critiqued as a false consciousness that comes to reinforce the dominant illusion of society. Such ideology is speculative philosophy, the queen of fabrications. According to Marx ideology screens the real struggle of antagonistic interests, enacting a visionary topos of social and political oblivion, where the real constitution of life is replaced by a replica. Ideology manufactures ersatz interests.

Scholastics was blamed by Marx for having glorified the detached, selfsame state of Mind for centuries. The thinking subject was blamed for being uninvolved in the immediate bustle of social life. Philosophy was attacked for actually suspending the Mind as it assigns to it artificial logical ends, fragile moral props, and elusive foundations.(1) Ideology is a false consciousness turned into a dominant discourse, which has captured minds and has authorized through power its own phantom-like products. It is a manufactured system of illusions and prejudices that blocks the efforts of sound reason to get to the real source of life.

Freud: The Shattered Surface of the Psyche

Freud's teaching does something similar. It terms the "secondary rationalizations" and idees fixes a false consciousness, which conceals the "underground" conflicts of the psyche. Consciousness fabricates the official face of basic desire and makes it publicly appropriate. The psyche is regarded as a twisted mirror of sexual endeavors that are ruled by the economy of libido. Consciousness is the surface of psyche whereupon the figures of its lower depths are engraved. If you do not know how to read the figures of consciousness and thus to expose the depths of the psyche, you will be confined to the world of surface appearances masquerading as genuine. According to Freud, consciousness censors and screens the obnoxious urges of the psyche, thus making it comply with the public habit. In spite of its faults, it is precisely consciousness that is specified as the great physician who reads the ciphers of life, gives the diagnosis, and carries out the treatment. Both Marx and Freud counted on the analytical capabilities of consciousness to provide a healthy critique. They launched severe critiques against "false consciousness" by exposing the deceiving mechanism that masks the surface of life. Ideology is a suggestive epiphenomenal complex of visions and motivations that enciphers in itself the real foundation of life. They have to be deciphered and thus dispelled. Ideology is a grand fabrication. Its stages are alienation of the consciousness from the reproductive principle of social life, and reification of its false products as true values of life, blocking the access of reason to the real source--the basic interest. Ideology can be dethroned either by revolutionary action or through a scientific critique and (psycho)analytical procedures. The critical mode of reason is a clinic for the ideologically spoiled consciousness. Nietzsche: The Value System as a Strategic Fabrication

"Truth": this, according to my way of thinking, does not necessarily denote the antithesis of error, but in the most fundamental cases only the posture of various errors in relation to one another. (Nietzsche # 535)

Nietzsche's critical approach was more radical. According to him the very constitution of consciousness makes it falsify. Consciousness is the most vehement agent of the Will to Vision (der Wille zum Schein). It incites the initial vision of the "as if" world (als ob).(2) Nietzsche was drawn to a radical critique of values (see Kauffman, esp. bk. 2). Values are nuclei that generate the motivations of life and that have accumulated huge power. They are fortified and guarded by different historically changing sets of metaphors, symbolic devices, and social disciplines. Values minister the flux of life and give it a ceremonial shape. The ministry of values represses life as an end in itself. Values, those victorious prejudices and representations of good and evil, false and true, bond the ecstatic source of life. Values are not the intrinsic matter and eternal essence of life. A value is a sheer instruction that disciplines the outbursts of the mind and body. It is only later in the course of history that values acquire the status of essence of life. People forget that values were initially metaphors built into the living tissue of society. Values are fabrications charged with maximum power and thus made real. The value system is a metaphorical composition, resting on imagined figures that have been taken out of their original poetic order and later installed in the world as a doctrine. Morals are poesis transformed into doctrine. At the source of every system of values is der Wille zum Schein. The transformation of this Will's product (das Scheinbild) into a doctrine determines it as the "Will to Power." Such a consideration of the value system puts its creator, the Will to Power, into a position of absolute authority. It constantly returns to its ecstatic source, recovers as an artful forger of Scheinbilds and invents unprecedented figures and metaphors, building thus a new value doctrine or repairing an old one.

Enter Lenin

For Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud everything revolved around a major social and psychological resource agitated by the interest to increase--capital, will to power, libido. For Freud and Marx ideology obscured the basic social or psychological interest through the sphere of consciousness. Conversely, Nietzsche considered any endeavor of the consciousness as a strategic falsification that does not cover up but rather stimulates and agitates the reproduction of the resource and reinforces the basic interest. The common formula is: consciousness plus power equals ideology. Bold consciousness forges ideologies through which a particular drive, stimulation, or excitement rushes in to take over life.

Then Lenin entered the stage. He easily corrected Marx's concept of ideology (false consciousness), because he, like Nietzsche, posed the issue through the perspective of power. Lenin considered ideology as a strategic claim to power. Ideology is defined by him as a major weapon in the struggle for power and a major vehicle for reinforcing power. The end of ideology is in its final reification as a power system. Ideology is a deliberately created system of visions and "bold metaphors" aimed at defeating or promoting the basic interest. Whether consciousness is posited as "false" or as "falsifying," it is the major vehicle that plots basic interests that strive to penetrate the realm of official power.

The ideological mode of consciousness is composed of values (Nietzsche), of speculations (Marx), and of misleading rationalizations (Freud). Hence, it was the goal of consciousness to abolish its metaphysical fabrications, to destroy the detrimental idols, fetishes, and simulacra it had forged in the course of history, and to return to the vital source of life. Thus the original integrity between the principle of consciousness and the reproductive principle of life must be restored. Before Lenin ideology was treated as a deviation of consciousness, something that could be overcome by the critical faculties of consciousness itself.

What is Ideology?

Ideology appears when a strategic Will or interest penetrates and impregnates consciousness. It launches a consciousness-raising campaign and instructs consciousness to claim power. The consciousness granted power implements its projects in reality.

Ideology comes to demonstrate and empower a strategic human faculty that has been traumatized by rigid politics and morals. It sets in to enable an arrested difference, to replace the sclerotic vessels and conductors of the Will and to fortify the world with new metaphors and symbolic devices. Ideology puts together a world of appearance (Schein) by manufacturing and assembling "bold metaphors." Ideology is a constellation of visions that comes to enforce or to defeat a particular endeavor. The source of this strategic fabrication is the Will to Power, Capital, or the Libido.

A structure built of metaphors (appearances) and loaded with maximum resource acquires the status of a value doctrine. Any doctrine puts forth a system of values and completely obliterates the traces of its arbitrary artistic origin. The victorious implementation of "bold metaphors" and visions in reality depends on the amount of Power invested in them. The communist doctrine ultimately consolidated der Wille zur Macht in a Party, der Wille zum Schein in a Teaching, Capital in a grand construction of industrial visions, the Libido in a sublime communal jubilation and feats of labor on the building sites. Temporary Conclusions

1. Ideology neither can be verified nor falsified. Ideology cannot be true or false for it creates by itself what justifies it. Hence it is either "sound" or "sick."

2. Ideology is a self-propelled device. The operative principle is the following: the device itself creates the matter that propels it. This is the operative principle of the rocket in outer space. The ship itself creates the sea it sails.

3. Ideology, as a self-sufficient and self-propelled entity, can act in a void. Ideology and Signification

Any ideological product is not only itself part of a reality (natural or social) just as is any physical body, any instrument of production or any product for consumption; in contradistinction to the latter, it also reflects and refracts another reality lying outside itself. Everything ideological possesses meaning: it represents, depicts, or stands for something lying outside itself, i. e., it is a sign. Where there is no sign, there is no ideology. (Volosinov, Marxism 13) Lenin's concern was how to reorganize the sphere of consciousness for it to start generating proper proletarian images that directly manifested the labor-force interest. Communist ideology externalized the interest it stood for, objectifying it directly into the public space. This ideology became the proper vehicle the party interest operated by, manifesting immediately its availability and claims. The crown was replaced by the cogwheel. Hammer and sickle replaced the bow and arrow. The very means of production and manufacturing goods, which the workers had been alienated from, now became the heraldry of the non-alienated class consciousness of communism.

Leninism is the ideology of a Revolution. From its perspective, ideology is a strategically organized consciousness claiming to express and represent completely the basic class interest, that of the labor force. Revolutionary ideology mobilizes this interest through the sphere of consciousness. Revolutionary ideology does not disguise but, on the contrary, articulates the interest. According to Lenin, Revolutionary ideology is not an alienated consciousness; quite the contrary, it is a politically imposed interest through the "vehicles" of consciousness. The Red party represents the supreme stage of a strategically organized consciousness, the final achievement of the political self-consciousness of the working class. The Party is the political vanguard of the class, implementing class interest straight into Power. Only in this way can the underground class consciousness of the workers become official, i.e., un-suppressed.

By seizing political power, class interest, class self-consciousness, and the super-organized party ideology grew into a national interest, national consciousness, and national ideology. Communist Power emerged as the supreme stage of class consciousness. After the Revolution, the sphere of Power and the sphere of Consciousness coincided, and this marked the end of Red ideology. Nadezhda Krupskaia states: "There is no doubt that the ideology of the proletariat is different from the ideology of the other classes. . . . Each class has its own ideology. . . . . The concept of ideology includes also morality, arts and science. Nobody would deny that the bourgeois morality radically differs from the proletarian one" (122). What differentiates revolutionary from reactionary ideology is the following: the ideology that disguises the class interest it virtually represents is a reactionary one. The ideology which frames the basic interest, handles it, and directs it towards a final victory of the working class interest is a revolutionary one.

Communism continually changed its ideological course, key metaphors, and names with the sole purpose of staying in power by generating ever-changing knowledge for the system. This was in fact a permanent usurpation of power by new words. Every single moment communist power was reconfirmed through newer and newer names: at one time to modernize society, at another to smash the enemy, at another still to collectivize the population, then to expose the conspiracy of the traitors, later to build the first "stage of socialism," then to build another stage that denied the previous one, then to revise the way and the means, then to change the leader, etc. Somewhere in the conspiratorial spaces of party power the ideology was worked out together with the plot for the next seizure of power. A new party plenum comes, the course is changed, a new ideological strategy is formulated, the worn-out metaphors are replaced by recently fabricated ones. Communism is in action. The political dimension of ideology and its party emanation are its most suggestive forms. The Odysseus Effect: The Constant Return of the Autocrat to Power

Lenin's problem was to develop the Marxist Teaching into an ideology according to which to construct a new world and establish a power of justice in it. Stalin's problem was to constantly improve ideology and thus keep holding power in his hands as the next author of the Teaching. Stalin had the chronic urge repeatedly to seize the power he already held. The delirious economy of his consciousness mass-produced enemies and phantom-like rivals. That made Stalin permanently reinstate his power and through terror disperse his own ghostly apparitions.

Stalin, like Odysseus, was in a state of everlasting return to Ithaca, permanently ready to exterminate the bridegrooms hanging about the powerful object of his desire--the bride who awaits her mate, weaving the sheet of their expected reunion. Stalin was never in power. He was returning to power all the time and constantly trying to disperse his paranoid visions of the competing "bridegrooms." At night he used to wander in his underwear, gun in hand, through the silent corridors of the Kremlin. Returning from the distant worlds of his own nightmares, he was ready to shoot all the "grooms" hiding in the dark. The fact that the Will to vision (der Wille zum Schein) degenerates from ideology into paranoia is a symptom of the increasing inability of the ideologist to survive in "this" system of power. Totalitarian power marks the merger of a super-generative ideology and a super-degenerative paranoia. Political paranoia is a historical degeneration of ideology. The repressed one is a historically degenerate revolutionary. Fear is a historically degenerate form of self-denial. What made you initially plunge bright-eyed into the battle for the Future, later forces you to step back in panic and dull-eyed.

The bright idea returns as a monstrous body. This historical eclipse or menopause of power coincides with the moment when grand ideology turns into an everyday world and visions turn into bodies. This is the moment when communism actually wins.

The Plot of the Revolutionary Unconscious

Not every motive that confronts the official ideology degenerates and dies in the turbulence of inner speech--it could also initiate a struggle against the official ideology. Such a motive, if it stems from the economic definitions of a whole group, and if it is not the motive of an isolated social degenerate, may have a social future and probably a victorious one. . . . In the beginning this motive develops in a small social area, then it goes underground, not in the psychic underground of displaced complexes, but in the sound political underground. And precisely thus a revolutionary ideology originates in all spheres of culture.(3)

Freud actually preached on behalf of the bourgeois superego. This is the general accusation levied against him by Volosinov, who follows the Marxist perspective in criticism. The point of his book on Freudianism is to correct the Freudian scheme and prove that the plot of the underground consciousness may have a healing effect if it succeeds in replacing the old bourgeois superego with a historically progressive one. Volosinov accomplished a radical reversal by transferring ideas from the sphere of the psyche into the sphere of the political struggle for power. That is how he replaced the opposition between the conscious/unconscious levels of the psyche with that between the official/unofficial political endeavor of a class-determined consciousness, which results in two ideological "complexes" claiming power. The underground ideology of the exploited class aims at removing the official one and replacing it by a new social organism and a new psyche. This is the only way the interest of the exploited can be legalized and not be considered criminal anymore. Instead of being subjected to psychoanalysis, the repressed and exploited life forces of the proletarian psyche must join the politically organized underground, must be channeled into a political conspiracy, exhausting themselves completely in a revolutionary movement the main object of which is to expose and to dethrone (castrate) the bourgeois superego. Revolution justifies the illegal character of the underground class forces, providing them with a political formula.

Volosinov's alternative program was explicitly articulated: in lieu of becoming sick, of suffering psychic disturbances, one had to join the conspiratorial underground movement. For Revolution was a grand psychoanalytical session wherein the physician (the party) led the exploited out of the social unconscious that imposed itself as the new superego. The alienated proletarianized social body generated its anti-official, underground ideological "complex" that represented its immediate economic interest and claims to power. Its jagged cutting edge became the communist party, the utterly organized proletarian self-consciousness.

The Red party organized itself and acted in perfect conspiracy, the ultimate manifestation of the underground class interest. This obtained on one side of the front a proletarian body dissociated from the social organism with a completely developed underground class consciousness represented by its conspiratorially acting vanguard; and on the other side, the bourgeois ideological machine assembled by the repressive organs of the state, religious code and morals, philosophy, and a social science that falsified the true situation in the social depths.

Ideology Wraps/Bandages the Void: The Invisible Man Effect

Everything is visible, everything is rendered in space, in physical material, but first and foremost in the material of the word. Volosinov (Marxism 23)

You all know the story of the Invisible Man.

The invisible man wraps himself in bandages so as to become visible. In fact he never becomes visible--only bandages mark his presence in space. The invisible man wraps himself in a visible material to make his transparent body distinct. Thus transparency becomes opaque, i.e. visible. The specter acquires dense reality only in the outfits.

Communist ideology performed a manipulation of the same kind. It turned itself into the virtual body of the otherwise invisible communist world. Its words, images, figures and monumental packaging became the body of the bright world. This world appeared only as an ideological visionary complex.

Ideology wraps up no real world that either precedes or follows it. This was rather a world that strapped people down. When the party doctrine was overthrown, the world of communism instantly disappeared. The strategic vision withered away and laid bare a ruined and drained out reality. Ideology generated no real world, but only the effect of a world. It projected a world and the moment the source of projection was completely erased, the population found itself lined up staring at the void. The genuine realities of communism are the figures of the Teaching, the monumental space that staged it, the bandages of the slogans, the hard cover of the symbols and the communist heraldry. The wrecked ideology opens up holes through which monsters of reality peep.


Lenin died on 21 January 1924. On January 26, the mourning conference of the Second Congress of the Soviets was opened, on which occasion Stalin gave a speech. In it, he made six pledges on behalf of the Party. His speech began, "We, communists, are people of a special make. We are created of a special material." Later on, a recurring rhetorical figure broke the progress of the speech six times. It is in this figure of speech that Lenin's six legacies are mentioned, followed by Stalin's six pledges. The figure reads as follows: "On leaving us, comrade Lenin bequeathed . . . We pledge to fulfill your bequest, comrade Lenin!"

The repetition of "On leaving us, comrade Lenin . . ." is significant. In fact Lenin left nowhere, because on January 27, the day following the pledges, he was laid in the Mausoleum. Thus he remained, forever bequeathing to us, and Stalin remained forever pledging to build and expand Party space. Lenin could not have left because his body remained to open the territory where Stalin's party imperialism was to expand.

Stalin's speech opened with the words: "We, the communists, are people of a special make. We are made of a special material." The communist body does not decay!

The Mummy is the greatest communist: the stem of the Party.

The Make of the Mummy

The Egyptian mummy is a dried-up body impregnated and fortified for eternity by a mask-shield. It is the sacred sign for a life present There-beyond, in the Other World. The mummy of the Pharaoh is a magic device that conjoins the corporal and the spiritual omnipotency of his political power.

Likewise, the mummy of the saint: long before the coming of death, the saint dries up his body applying special ascetic procedures and exercises. The fact that after his death the relics of the saint do not decay is a proof of their sacramental essence. The relics are a substance blessed by God, charged with enormous miraculous powers.

By contrast to this, Lenin as a mummy is much like himself. He isn't dried up, there is no mask, no days of sacred exposure and no days of taboo. The Mausoleum has working hours, not a holy calendar. Any religious suggestion that there may be something of Lenin There-beyond in addition to that which is Here is carefully eliminated. His perennial body is a sign of the omnipresent now of the party power.

In 1920s Russia there was a common belief that the impending feats of science would make miracles possible on Earth. Materialistic science as the cutting edge of class consciousness was expected to perform Lenin's resurrection, to animate his mummy, to give life to his temporally stuffed body.

The Lenin Mausoleum is a marvelous catapult constructed to launch Lenin back into the living world, as the Cross is a special bow nailed together to launch the Messiah beyond the world. The mummy is a marvelous pupa. Like a butterfly, Lenin will take off some day from his own mummy.

Determinator: The Ultimate Sign

Ideology can not be divorced from the material reality of the sign. (Volosinov, Marxism 25)

Communism produced a radical materialization of terror. The criminal unconscious of the masses was opened up and its figures released, exteriorized as a grand public space replete with macabre imagery, organized around the ultimate sign of the party conspiratorial consciousness--the mummy Lenin--the Grand Determinator of reality.

Mummified Lenin is the ultimate ideological sign. Its unique out-standing presence (une-nahodimost) is exposed in a sacred underground interior--a mausoleum. Lenin's body is intact and through embalming is eternalized and safeguarded against decomposition. It gathers the community together shaping it into two general forms: a mourning line and an exalting parade in front of its dwelling place.

The mummy is the point at which pure class self-consciousness acquires corporeality and reaches its virtual end. The virtual (corpo)reality appears when Real and the Visual coincide. Society is consolidated around the mummified carnal substance of the Leader's body. The ultimate sign is created of a special material and is an object of a special make. The ideology it testifies to cannot be divorced from its substance.

The mummy is the virtual end of communism. Without a mummy, communism has no-- End.


In the year 1834 a group of German refugees in Paris founded a secret society known as the League of the Proscribed. . . . During 1836 the most extreme,

most proletarian elements broke away and constituted themselves into a new secret League of the Just. . . . The new League, however, developed rather quickly. . . . The aims of the Just were the same as those of the other Parisian secret societies of the period. The League was thus about equally divided between propaganda and conspiratorial work. (F. Engels, qtd. in Struick 150) Communism could be regarded as the boldest conspiratorial action ever undertaken. It comprised two phases, an underground and a legal one, separated by the threshold situation of the Revolution, and followed by a peculiar post-conspiratorial condition of society. During each of its general conspiratorial campaigns communism changed the image and form of its public manifestations, as well as the substance of its opacity, its political disguise and symbolic codification.

Conspiracy as a Self-Sufficient Society

Communism, by its nature, is a political conspiracy based on strict rules and procedures of initiation, ritual communication, secret passwords, aliases, and call-signs. A clear-cut ideology becomes the motor of the political confederacy charged with the impetus of a belief and assembled through the formulas of a "science." The ideology is expressed at once as a moral duty, as a pattern for rationalizing the world, and as an object of desire. It is the institution that provides the conspiracy with moral, rational, and erotic motivation, and thereby provides the conspirator with strict socialization. Conspiratorial life is ostensibly ceremonial, fanatically amorous, heroically sacrificial, politically expedient, scientifically justified, ordered by its own extraordinary statutes, institutions, and executive bodies. Conspiracy is a complete society that creates by itself the ideological justifications of its own being. The communist conspiracy appropriates the whole power through revolution. The revolution is the Grand social action the extra-moral and extra-legal origin of which has been made sacramental and proclaimed inimitable through Red ideology. By means of its revolutionary campaign the Red Conspiracy removed the society within which it was born and imposed its own definitions, turning them into the legal system of the new society. In this sense communism, as a conspiratorial society, cannot be built, it can only be officially inaugurated or superimposed. The Plot of Symbols

Communism was based entirely on ideological rather than economic practices. The economic practices themselves had purely ideological objectives and meaning: industrialization had to mass-produce the missing or not fully developed party constituency, the working class, to elevate it to the status of a "national class" and thus secure the advent of a new Messiah. Factories were supposed to transform human bodies into workers' bodies. Not commodities but the mass-production of the "worker's body" was the political purpose of industry. All features of an economy-based society, such as market, money, commodities, practically disappeared. The State became the symbolic wrapping, a shield of the Party militant. With the progress of the conspiratorial society the State was supposed to wither away (Lenin) and eventually be reduced to an old costume left over from the theater of history.

Society was brought under control and disciplined within the framework of large-scale ideological campaigns notable for their grandiose symbolic content: Large-Scale Chemical Industry demolished the chemical industries, Large-Scale Construction demolished living space, Large-Scale Industrialization demolished industry, Large-Scale Parades rallied bodies around conspiratorial symbols. Party congresses turned into the joints of the "Historical Growth." Internal party machinations became the motor of history. The Party's supreme political body (Politburo), which remained conspiratorially concealed, invisible from below and unregulated by any State law, became the initiator, the inquisitor, and the supervisor of this sweeping ideological campaign. Viewed from the perspective of social legality, it remained impenetrable and untouchable. The State "coated" it and thus rendered it invisible. The communist State is a surface of the Party conspiratorial incognito. The Red doctrine was eminently suited for symbolic expression and that is why it created a vast, monumental public space dominated by "laboroid" imagery. The "worker" under communism was a thoroughly symbolic figure, not a class being at all. The Post-Conspiratorial State of Society

The collapse of communism was caused by the progressive rigidity of the conspiratorial power and its inability to fulfill the plots it designed. The conspiracy cannot be automatically demobilized after its historical failure. The "change" removes the heraldry of its identity but not the underground structures and channels of the conspiratorial society. They continue to exist, to operate and seek new effective justifications, a new sublime composition of words and bodies. This happens because conspiracy is a type of society that gets mobilized by means of conjuring language.

Thus the national argument has been revived in Eastern Europe. I do not mean to imply that there are no relevant national problems. The national problem does exist but it was criminalized under communism. The rehabilitation of the national idea during this transition period has inspired a nationalistic obsession based on the former conspiratorial practices for consolidation of the people. Conspiracy as a self-same system has been transformed into a nationalistic confederacy. The "national argument" has been blown out of proportion in post-communist societies because too many conspirators and former "conspiratorial cells" have set out to raise it.

The act of posing the national argument as a problem solvable outside or even against the State has great appeal. Precisely for that reason it can consolidate all kinds of former conspiratorial interests as forces that are by definition against any State. This is possible because Nationdom always goes beyond, it is always perceived as something more than Statehood. Instigating the national question can help create an ideologically determined confederacy that abuses the State. The rise of national heraldry amplified by professed national interest is a strategic endeavor meant to overcome the communist ideological symbolism, enabling conspiratorial society to evolve into a State of uni-national concord. Nationalism is a post-conspiratorial condition of society. It demobilizes communist ideology and rehabilitates the conspirators.

The National Affect

The postcommunist situation imperils social integrity. The entity of power, the economy, and the identity symbols disintegrate before society can be fragmented, stratified, and guaranteed by civil law. A new formula of togetherness has to be enforced. The only thing that can allegedly save the integrity of society is nationalism. Nationalism induces a new maximum of the collective affect and ecstasy. It stages the "genuine national interest" and thus holds society together by force of a naturalized element rather than legal contract. Nationalism consolidates society by virtue of new ideological devices. It enacts the natural excess of a national organism, its instinct for special expansion and geopolitical reconstitution rather than universal law, human rights, planetary humanism, and reason. The disenchantment with communist ideological integrity spawns nationalism as a residual phenomenon or relapse that holds society together prior to the establishment of any State, constitution, law, or economic interest.

The Intellect

During the hegemony of the Red Doctrine most of the intelligentsia was centralized and concentrated within the Power because this was the Author and Herald of the new World. Words were charged with ideological power. Whoever coined and guarded words was initiated into the secrets of Power. The Red Doctrine was characterized by a surplus-production of words and visions, not a production of commodities. The syntagmata of language created reality. Magic words manufactured communism. One could carry out only what one could utter in the presence of Power. And only what was enunciated by Authority could occur, nothing else. The appearance of anything that differed from the Party Word was repressed as subversive. Stalin's physicians could treat him only according to a diagnosis they dared pronounce in his presence.

The communist Ideology was a lurid Simulator that trained reality to exist correctly. Intellect was incessantly revising, arranging, and assembling anew the syntagmata of the Simulator, readjusting thereby the communist instruction of the population.

Writing as Claim to Power

The System of communism gave creative writing a huge ideological assignment. The System itself had the appearance of a Grand opus created by a political genius, which accommodated and disciplined the entire social life under the code of an all-embracing ideology. The radical concept that enacted State Authority as an Author of a Grand opus contaminated the image of the Artist, his/her public accomplishments and political commitment. Thus writing took on the appearance of an exceptional act resembling and testifying to the otherwise unfathomable process of System formation and elaboration. The writer created a figurative miniature of the State and thus the act of writing acquired the political determination of statesmanship. The principle of communist ideology was: aesthetics renders politics visible.

Creative writing performed the State principle and consequently writing became a performing art with its own particular assignment in the total performance carried out by the genius of the party Patron. Thus the party Patron Kim II Sung has good reason to endorse the Grand Korean operas as their ultimate author. Any other "name" with claims to authorship would in fact claim power and could only be his pseudonym or the name of an unmistakable enemy.

According to the totalitarian politics of writing authors who resisted inside the system were judged as people who claimed power. This demarcated them from those critics of the system who had escaped it. That is precisely why dissidents and not emigrants were able to represent the body of the new power after the Change. The totalitarian system inaugurated and canonized the sublime presence and visibility of those who did not desert it. This marked the great geopolitical difference between the resistance of an insider and that of an outsider in Eastern Europe. The geopolitical position of a writer determines his/her achievement and right to interfere in power. The Havel/Kundera juxtaposition exemplifies two different politics of writing that map the geopolitical difference in terms of the writer's presence. The virtual difference made by Kundera's writing is determined by the Western book market and not by the national body engaged in carrying out communism. An author who existed outside the Grand work of the System could be its critic, but nothing more radical. Conversely, a dissident writer claimed power by writing inside it. Writing legitimizes power--this principle of communism still operates in the transitional period. Writers shared in the power because communism made them claim power. This was the primal determination of writing. Writers have taken power during the transition period in order to reconfirm and reaffirm their crucial public relevance and thus to revalidate their mission in a changing society. A major intuition still works--writing outside the realm of power can only be a bourgeois occupation or a marginal extravagance.

Writers have become again the Statesmen of Change. For they can forge a State out of new words! Sociopolitical change made them instantaneously fit to lead people out of the "scene of the crime." Nevertheless, we must carefully acknowledge that Democracy demands different governing qualifications, and poets gradually get disqualified. The spell of Letters has been broken and the State that was doomed to "wither away" has been dismantled. Writers experience today a surge of nostalgia towards the lost spellbinding power of writing. Intelligentsia and Authorization

The messianic role of the East European intelligentsia was molded over the last two centuries. A special learned community was set up to bear and secure society's "true values" against changing political systems and forms of power. This community has had the mission to speak for the "speechless" people; however, it has always been split between its "conservative" and "revolutionary" wings, and its consolidation work has always failed.

This type of intelligentsia develops a strategic consciousness with a clearly formulated perspective. It professes a universal code and world-view, lives and dies for ideas. The community of the intelligentsia launches public campaigns and debates, defeating or promoting certain value systems. Thus, it continually attempts to raise and sustain a correct self-consciousness and political awareness of the nation. The justification of this community consists of three major, ever-debated claims to existence: Mission with a conceptual End; Vision of the ultimate Objective; and Manifestation of universal Intelligence. The Intellect erected upon these three sacred columns becomes a mighty public actor that claims ultimate political competence and responsibility. These three claims are publicly enforced through a categorical self-authorization of the intelligentsia as Prophet, Redeemer, and Scapegoat in one corpus. The intelligentsia is a collective body that endeavors to acquire and expand universal knowledge and decorum. This body testifies to the existence of truth. It is a self-authorized embodiment of Truth. Communism magnified the status of Intellectuals by centralizing them at the top of power. The intelligentsia was recruited to saturate the entire public space with visions, to enact the correct thinking, and to handle current public debates. The major problem of the intelligentsia under communism was that it ceased to be a self-authorized community, being granted authority by the party ruler. Under communism the party itself represents the only possible self-authorized power. We confront here a special problem. The communist party was originally established by the so-called revolutionary intelligentsia, which later gained the most real and ultimate self-authorization by expropriating the instrument of political power itself. The party took over society through ideologically self-authorized (revolutionary) appropriation of power and forceful replacement of State institutions during the notorious Proletarian Dictatorship--a violent form of political self-authorization whereby the party claimed the right to exterminate agents of the old world. Furthermore, the communist system was constantly tested and developed in the Central Laboratory of power wherein society's Intellect collaborated. We could call the activity of this Intellect collaborationism. The case of the communist intelligentsia is thus a special one. Communism was initially described as a scientifically proven and creatively determined society that mobilizes the entire intellect to its elaboration. The intelligentsia is no longer a self-authorized body endowed with an autonomous Mission, Vision, and Intelligence, administrated by no government, state apparatus, or procedures for legitimate public promotion. Communism itself proved to be a blatant self-authorization of the radical political and creative intellect brought to its fullness through the creation of a total party/state apparatus.

The post-communist intelligentsia has also been summoned to make a new commitment and to embody the new power. This resuscitates the same problem--a different social system is being established wherein intellectuals gain authorization mostly through the official institutions, and the entire Intelligentsia is still organized through the power structures.

The Messiah is not yet distinguished from the Procurator.

The Infinite Parable

Divine Intelligence plots so that the Messiah may encounter the Procurator and a sudden scene of recognition takes place: "Who are you?" asks Pilate.

"I have come into the world to testify to the truth," says Jesus.

"What is Truth?" asks Pilate, then exits and leaves the question demonstratively hanging. The Messiah remains unrecognized. His testimony is left radiating in the void.


1 Althusser describes Marx's treatment of philosophy in one of his major works as follows: "The German Ideology bases this suppression of philosophy on a theory of philosophy as a hallucination and mystification, or to go further as a dream, manufactured from what I shall call the day's residues of the real history of concrete men . . ." (37).

2 For a detailed description of Nietzsche's contribution to the philosophy of the World of Appearance and its significance for life perspectivism, see Vaihinger, esp. chapter 3, section D, "Nietzsche and His Doctrine of Conscious Illusion" (der Wille zum Schein). See also Grimm, esp. chapter two, section 7 and chapter four, section 1 and 3.

3 Here is a more extended quotation:

Let us call the inner and the outer speech that permeates through our behavior an everyday-life ideology. . . . Those spheres of it that correspond to the Freudian censored official consciousness manifest the most stable dominant elements of the class consciousness. . . . In the official layers of the everyday-life ideology, the inner speech is easily structured and transformed into outer speech, in any case it does not refrain from becoming outer speech. The other spheres that correspond to the Freudian unconscious stand very far from the stable system of the dominant ideology. They show the decomposition of the unity and integrity of this system . . . and they just testify to the social and class degradation of certain individuals. . . . In a sound community and in a socially healthy individual, the everyday-life ideology based on a social economic foundation is also sound and goal oriented: there is no discrepancy between the official and unofficial consciousness. The contents and constitution of the unofficial layers of everyday-life ideology (in Freudian terms--the unconscious) are determined by the historical time and class to the same degree as the censored layers are as well as the system of the expressed ideology (morality, law, weltanschauung). Not every motive that confronts the official ideology degenerates and dies in the turbulence of the inner speech--it could initiate a struggle against the official ideology. Such a motive, if it stems from the economic definitions of a whole group, and if it is not the motive of an isolated social degenerate, may have a social future and probably a victorious one. . . . In the beginning this motive develops in a small social area then it goes underground, not in the psychic underground of displaced complexes, but in the sound political underground. And precisely thus a revolutionary ideology originates in all spheres of culture. (Volosinov, Freidizm, chapter 9: "Soderzhanie soznaniia kak ideologiia" |The Content of Consciousness as Ideology~, sections 3, 4)


Althusser, Louis. Lenin and Philosophy. New York: Monthly Review, 1971.

Grimm, Ruediger. Nietzsche's Theory of Knowledge. Walter de Gruyter: New York, 1977.

Kaufman, Walter, ed. Friedrich Nietzsche: The Will to Power. New York: Vintage, 1967.

Krupskaia, Nadezhda. "Proletarskaia ideologiia i Proletkul't." Iz istorii Sovetskoi esteticheskoi mysli 1917-1932. Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1980.

Platonov, Andrei. The Foundation Pit--Kotlovan. Bilingual edition. Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1973.

Seliger, Martin. The Marxist Conception of Ideology. London: Cambridge UP, 1977. Struik, D., ed. Birth of the Communist Manifesto. New York: International, 1971. Vaihinger, Hans. The Philosophy of "As If." London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1924.

Volosinov, V. N. Freidizm: Kriticheskii ocherk. New York: Chalidze Publications, 1983.

-----. Marksizm i filosofiia iazyka. Vtoroe isdanie: Leningrad, 1930. Marxism and the Philosophy of Language. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1986.

Todorov (Department of Slavic Languages, University of Pennsylvania) holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Art from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. He is the author of The Adam Complex, published in Bulgaria, and articles on politics and aesthetics in English and French. His book Organon for Revolutionary Imagination is forthcoming from SUNY Press.
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Title Annotation:Special Section: Critical Theory and the Sociocultural Opening in Eastern Europe
Author:Todorov, Vladislav
Publication:College Literature
Date:Feb 1, 1994
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