The poetical structure of the student autobiography tells us something about the principles that guided the Communist interpretation of the growth of the proletarian self. But the conceptual underpinning of the Communist hermeneuitic were considerably more complex than that. Much more than a set of enlightenment cliches, the metaphors the Party used referring to mental states rested against a sophisticated body of sociological and psychological theory. The lexicon that described human interiority and the art of their decipherment formed a multilayered system of signs, a system that has been periodically reconstituted in the Communist official discourse.
The basic theme animating the Communist discourse – the good\evil contrarity – governed the scholarly writings just as much as it did the Party protocols. Yet, what makes the Bolshevik moralists literature important in our context is that it has made a great attempt to account for the vocabulary it was using: after all, scientific language usually does not tolerate vague metaphors. Thus the Bolsheviks moralists invested a mighty efford in defining and explaining the vocabulary the Party was using doing precisely the work of translation from religious metaphors into the language of hard science which lay at the core of the secularization process the new regime presided over.
Attempting to unpack the Communist psychological vocabulary I will ask below the following questions: How Communists understood the mechanism through which class origins influenced the autobiographers' tender selves? Were they advancing an embryonic theory of developmental psychology, and if so, was this psychology in any way different than the contemporary European psychological wisdom? What could the referent have been when notions like "physiognomy," "character" and "consciousness" were deployed? Only scratching the surface, these questions bring additional quarries to mind. Thus we need to know what was the psychological reality Communist autobiographers tried to capture when they described somebody's enlightenment. Was "ascent toward the light" a matter of assimilation in a healthy social milieu, adoption of a right kind of a body regime, or maybe, a matter of ideological growth?
The flip aspect of this process -- illness of the mind – will occupy central stage. The issues raised in the pages below are of interest to the study of the Communist Self in so far that they map out the forces that, according to the Bolsheviks, challenged this Self in the 1920s. Full consciousness was pronounced a delicate and precious state of being, easily susceptible to breakdowns. The Bolshevik scholarly literature bequeathed to us a picturesque catalogue of Communist weaknesses coupled with their proper remedies. Experts’ deliberations usually took the form of an attempt to arrive at a sort of a map of the Communist Self – a catalogue of the paths to degeneration and the paths that could return one to the main road.
We have already seen how the Party treated students whose consciousness was found lacking. Now we shall see how the various treatments employed were scientifically justified. What is important in the “scientificity” (nauchnost’) of these studies is not so much their objective validity by today’s standards but their source of legitimization during the period under study. Obscure allusions to backwardness, temporary insanity, or personal crisis we have encountered in Party protocols will emerge not as vague metaphors but as more or less concrete references to a rich and established body of modern scholarly literature.
Indeed, science was a crucial tool at the hand of the Communist hermeneuticists of the soul: it was in the name of this body of theory and practice that heremeneuts of the soul pronounced who was injurious to the brotherhood of the elect and who was not, what defense pleas had to be rejected as groundless and what defense pleas (negative influence of the environment, weak body, infected brain, overexcited sexual glands and so on) were considered solid justification or, at least, extenuating circumstances.
What follows does not pretend to be a comprehensive history of the Bolshevik sociology and psychology or an inquiry into the interplay between the Bolshevik science and society. Rather, the object of the present investigation is the place where Marxist theory and Party practice have met. While some attention will be paid to sets of theoretical concepts, their origins and interdependence, it is even more pertinent to examine here their patent incompatibility, mutual alteration and displacement. We need to know according to what criteria the manifestly contradictory statements produced in the Soviet scientific community and in the Party circles were linked to one another and made somehow to cohere. Without clarifying why statements about comrades' "health," "consciousness" and "degeneration" recurred in what seems at first sight as highly heterogeneous discourses, and how these concepts, firmly dissociated from their original, "idealist" conceptual architecture, were recomposed, given a new semantic contents, and taken up into new, "materialist" theoretical structures, we will find it hard to understand how Communist hermeneutic deployed them.
Unless we broaden our view of how the Party conceptualized the human soul it is impossible to make sense of the notion of a "counterrevolutionary" -- a description of a mental state beyond anything else. The psychological origins of Oppositionism -- in the context of the next two chapters a theoretical problem -- is our underlying theme. The imperative of explaining the etiology of heterodox political thinking engendered a whole series of systems of knowledge pathologizing errant behavior. In order to understand the process by which Communist hermeneutic reached a spiritual diagnosis, a subtle exchange that took place between ideological doctrine, the discourse of the Soviet legal and penal systems, and the contemporary psychological theories has to be carefully investigated. While determining to what extent an Oppositionist was responsible for his actions much had to be said about his "character dispositions," acquired or hereditary. Looking into the question whether the Communist science lean toward nature or nurture in the psychological controversy raging across the Soviet medico-psychological community it is possible to outline the panorama of the possible breakdowns in the student psyche familiar to the Communist hermeneutics of the self. Informing much of the Communist therapeutics, the Bolshevik transcription of the body\mind problem is also worth our attention. Those wrongheaded actions that Communist hermeneutics associated with bodily breakdowns were, in principle, treatable. In this rosy scenario, the corporeal forces that beclouded consciousness could be forced to set the mind free and the eschatological journey could be resumed. By contrast, if it was the mind itself that was guilty, if one simply refused to embrace the Communist message, the grim scenario was the one that materialized and the individual in question was pronounced incorrigible.
These questions will keep retunring to the relationship between the ethical and scientific registers in the Communist discourse. While the theory of degeneration, which was in vogue in the 1920s, paralleled the medicalization of the Communist view of the self, allowing the possibility of a remedy, the later resurgent emphasis on consciousness made healing impossible. Now understood as expressions of evil nature, ill intentions could not be reformed, only punished. We will see that, in the last account, culpability – degree of responsibility a subject could bear for his actions – depended on how pure and "self-transparent," in other words, how autonomous the self was percieved to be.
The ensuing study of the Bolshevik discourse the Self adopts a synchronic perspective. The preoccupations with purity, consciousness and self-control did not change over the decade and a half under investigation. This was also the case with the agencies that enforced these values, the Party and Komsomol, the scholarly community, and student organizations. Though it never threatened the supremacy of the Communist ideology the scientific discourse was not altogether immutable, however. The relative weight of the various components in the complex relations between institutions, practices, and signs that constituted this discourse evolved over time. I shall identify two changes in the discursive configuration. The first occurred in the late 1920s, when the Party directed its demands toward an active, assertive subject capable of implementing the First Five Year Plan. The second change took place in the mid-to-late 1930s, when Stalin demanded that the Soviet subject be declared perfect.
The story of the genesis and effect of these alterations is a complex one. Not all the components of the Bolshevik discourse could evolve with the same speed. In revolutionary Russia the pace of political development was exceptionally fast, much faster that the pace at which the scientific practice could transform itself (and the Bolshevik science was no exception in this regard). The stock of scientific notions Soviet scientists were armed with in the decade and a half under investigation remained more or less constant. Thus it will be wrong to say that a totally new view of the Self was articulated by Soviet scholars around 1927 and again around 1936, although the Communist Self did undergo important modifications at this junctures. Rather, various conceptions of the Self coexisted and competed with each other, sometimes vying for supremacy within the corpus of the same scholar. What made the difference was the fact that the Party required a certain emphasis in the Self at one time and another emphasis few years later thereby urging scholars to reacentuate certain aspects of their theorizing while playing down others. Consequently, theoretical positions were stretched and made compatible with the political demands of the hour. Hence the numerous “self-criticisms” during which scholars were abrogating much of what they previously held sacred, as well as the occasions where one article by a scholar was pitted against another article by the same scholar written at a different time.
Clearly, the Communist scholarly debate was not open ended; rather, it was a debate with a predetermined political direction. Participants had to be attentive to the Party demands taking into account important political decisions. Such primacy of politics, however, does not undermine the description of the Soviet science as a discourse. Rather, it points at one of the most important characteristics of this discourse: salvational in their orientation, Soviet scientists saw no meaning in their work outside the revolutionary project. For most Soviet scholars, politics connoted meaning, not coercion. First, it will be simplistic to say that powerful but ignorant Party men dictated to conscientious but emasculated non-Party scientists what is true and what is false. Most Party leaders, good Marxists as they were, considered themselves scientists and strongly identified with the scholarly endeavor. Second, many Soviet scientists were politically involved, a good number of them being Party members. And third, the Party did not possess the will or the ability to take full control over scholarly research. Instead, it was perfectly happy to limit itself to supervision, delivering important arbitrations when scientists, deadlocked in their furious debates, approached it for arbitration. Much as the Party liked to pronounce on various subjects, it never went against the entire scholarly community. Issues had to be marked as problematic by the scientific community itself before the Party took intervened and made a judgement.
The Bolshevik Notion of Degeneration When the Bolshevik leadership spoke of troublesome students who rallied against the Party line, they were describing an illness, a malady tainting the lifeblood of Russian Communism. The Party was deeply concerned about Opposition throughout the NEP period. What is at issue for us here is not the general phenomenon of student Opposition as such -- the contestation of Party policy in the university cells was, in itself, a familiar phenomenon -- but the ways in which the Bolshevik discourse framed Oppositionism. The Party diagnosis of student-led interventions has a fascinating history of its own and it is this history, a medico-psychological history of sorts, rather than the institutional-political history of the Opposition, that will occupy us below.
The Party diagnosis of the nature and mainsprings of student deviance developed gradually over the 1920s. In the early years of the decade, the Party leadership had attributed the students' deviant political orientation to the lamentable persistence of non-proletarian attitudes. The remedy to the supposed resurgence of White, bourgeois element within the universities was an intensive proletarianization of the student body. But the success of the Opposition in the universities during the New Course Discussion in the winter of 1923-1924 (a series of events which I describe in part three) shattered the premises of the earlier diagnosis. It had become evident that it was the Bolshevik Party cells themselves, not a scattering of retrograde non-Party student organizations, that stood in open defiance of the Party line. That many wayward Communist students were offspring of the working class -- a contingent expected to follow the Party line religiously -- rendered their support of an allegedly petit-bourgeois Trotskyism all the more anomalous.
A widespread explanation of how it could obtain that Communist students slid into heterodoxy was the claim that they suffered from a unique condition -- "degeneration." The notion of degeneration had historically been employed to explain human propensity to contract not only physical but also moral diseases -- and the official discourse, we must bear in mind, understood Oppositionism as a moral collapse. The Latin root of "degeneration" means "a fall from the genus of the stock," and often refers to the debasement of some person of "good or noble stock." This non-Russian etymology comes quite close to the general sense of what the Bolshevik moralists sought to convey -- that the consciousness of those Party members who supported the Opposition was in decline. Ultimately, the "degeneration" diagnosis had the marvelous quality of explaining the treason of proletarian-born students by arguing for a "lapse" -- a deterioration in the proletarian qualities of students which had rendered them incapable of recognizing the light of the Party truth.
The sources of the Bolshevik ideas on degeneration lie in late nineteenth-century European scientific thought. In its original usage, "degeneration" denoted a physical decline, the gradual deterioration of a species. The term owed its wide circulation to the writings of Benedict-Augustin Morel, a nineteenth-century French psychologist, who transcribed the Christian notion of the Fall into modern, scientific language. According to Morel, the social problems of our modern age were the outcome of "hereditary degeneracy."1 The idea that humans can degenerate went hand in hand with racial theories. The inferior races were defined as the degenerated ones. What had all that to do with Marxism? Were not race and class contradictory notions, the former stressing "nature" and seeking explanations of human behavior in the animal kingdom, the latter emphasizing instead "nurture" and pointing to culture as the key? It soon became clear that these methodological differences could be reconciled. As the natural sciences became the dominant scientific paradigm, the concept of degeneration took on a wide metaphorical sense and was commonly applied to the social domain.
Darwinism was principally responsible for the adoption of the theory of degeneration by the theorists of society. In his venture into social science, Darwin drew on the example of the decline of the Greek and Spanish civilizations to urge his readers "to remember that progress is no invariable rule. [Degeneration] has too often occurred in the history of the world."2 With a bit of stretching, class theory yielded similar notions of decline. Marx himself showed the way when, toward the end of his life, he attempted to assimilate social and biological processes. "My standpoint," Marx wrote in 1867, is that "from which the evolution of the economic formation of society is viewed as a process of natural history. [. . .] Society is no solid crystal but an organism capable of change, and is constantly changing." From here the road to a full deployment of the concept of degeneration, a peculiar kind of development that goes back in time, was short: "When society is undergoing a silent revolution," he had written a few years earlier, "the classes and the races, too weak to master the new conditions of life, must give way." When Marx had to account for the economic backwardness of the African continent, he stated that "the common Negro type is only a degenerate from of a much higher one." According to Engels, Darwin's concepts were eminently useful to Marxist theory precisely because Darwinism was not confined to the animal kingdom alone; it provided an "explanatory paradigm through which all scientific theories -- including scientific socialism -- could be understood." Speaking at Marx's funeral, Engels drew an analogy between Darwin's discovery of "the law of the development of organic nature," and Marx's own discovery of "the law of development of human history."3
This analogy inspired Engels to widen the meaning of degeneration so that it "no longer occurred at the racial level, but at the level of societal analysis."4 This somewhat cleaned-up notion of degeneration was the one later utilized in the Soviet Union. It may have appealed to Bolshevik moralists because of their dislike of the specifically racist connotations buried in older notions of "degeneration." Reserving the physiological term proper (degeneratsiia) to clinical analysis, they deployed milder terms -- "decay" (razlozhenie) or "decadence" (upadochnichestvo) -- when referring to Party members' ideological decline. Still, it did not always prove possible to resist brooding over the consequences of Oppositionism in the language of the clinic. When the official Party press likened Oppositionist students to Communist perverts (vyrodki, pererozhdentsy) -- its resort to the racial-physiological connotations of degeneration was as all too evident.5 More than one institutional center in the Soviet Union produced discourses on degeneration. Thus we can mention medical establishment, with its talk about "nervous disorders;" next psychology and psychiatry who set themselves the goal of discovering the etiology of masturbation and "loss of personality;" and finally criminal justice and the Party's courts of honor, long concerned with the bodily obstacles to political consciousness.
Engels deepened the Marxist theory of degeneration by making it more specific and applying it to the decaying European social order. In his view, degeneration was an important component of a paradigm through which the crisis of capitalism could be described. Originally, Engels argued, capitalism had been progressive. Having exhausted itself toward the end of the nineteenth century, however, this social order had entered a "retrogressive state" and had become degenerated. One economic crisis had succeeded another until, during an era of unbridled struggle for existence, capitalism had forced humanity back into a primitive, animalistic state. Engels admitted that it had been Darwin who had convinced him "that nothing discredits modern bourgeois development so much as the fact that it has not yet got beyond the economic forms of the animal world."6 He pronounced capitalism irredeemable and its perpetuation extremely dangerous. Humanity had to rediscover itself, to find a way to reemerge from its savage predicament. Engels's allies in the Social Democratic camp unanimously declared that only conscious organization of labor could overcome degeneration: "At every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature -- but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly."7
August Babel stated that only under socialism would every individual have an opportunity for an "untrammeled development." Guaranteeing such progress, something like Darwinian social engineering was to be "consciously and expediently applied to all human beings." Enrico Ferri likewise highlighted the importance of Social Darwinism -- "a natural continuation and completion of biological Darwinism." Ferri saw Social Darwinism as destined to correct the ill effects of capitalist social selection, which was, in his view, too natural: "[Under socialism] in truth the result of the struggle for existence will be the survival of the best and this for the very reason that in a wholesome environment the victory is won by the healthiest individuals."8
The Bolsheviks adapted these arguments to the conditions of NEP Russia.9 Capitalism, they claimed, had indeed been superseded in 1917. A full proletarian consciousness had been achieved for the first time in History and for a moment the proletariat had appeared in its grandeur, self-aware and self-transparent. Alas, the exhaustion of their vital energies during the bloody battles and the deprivations of the Civil War had thrown many proletarians back into the state of nature. At the XI Party Conference (1920) Lenin noted that “some comrades suffer from so much fatigue that they had become hysterical.”10 Tomskii concurred: “the atmosphere in which we work today is indeed nervous, unhealthy. [. . .] The cream of our human material exhausted itself in endless activity and became something like a sponge (triapka) [. . .] – a human being cannot withstand an extreme nervous tension.11
Fear of decline in workers' mental capacities was especially visible in the writings of Soviet eugenicists.12 The eugenics movement, which was concerned with engineering a biologically superior human being, was one of the main avenues through which the notion of degeneration was assimilated into Bolshevism. The paragon of Soviet eugenics (evgenika), Kol'tsov, contended in the early 1920s that the Revolution had exhausted the proletariat's vital capacities and brought about a decline in the revolutionary genetic pool. Most workers died at a young age, leaving no progeny and the next generation was consequently replete with "inert individuals." The workers' race degenerated, losing its creative powers, and found itself far removed from the progress of humanity.13 Filipchenko suggested in 1922 that "mental laborers gave eugenics a thought if they wished to avoid quick degeneration thus inflicting on our country a major blow." This expert on eugenics went on to interrogate scholars about "possible anomalies in matters of complexion, physical power, temperament."14 According to the Soviet eugenicists, the Bolsheviks had to be on the alert to prevent the total degeneration of the Revolution, particularly in the face of NEP which regrettably encouraged men to return to a condition of bestial, unthinking economic competition.15
The eugenicists' frequent employment of the notion of "race" did not stand in the way of its intellectual exchange with Bolshevism, since the concepts of race and class could be used as synonyms. The head of the Soviet culture, Lunacharskii suggested that the terms "class" and "species" (vid) might be interchangeable, and went on to draw a parallel between social progress and biological progress.16 "Race," in the language of Soviet eugenics, was a universalist notion, denoting humanity in general and its symbol, the proletariat. No mention was made, for example, of the Russian race. The goals of the eugenics movement and of the Bolsheviks were likewise complementary. Much like the Bolsheviks, the proponents of eugenics set out to create, by means of conscious action, a New Man, a higher type of a human, a creative king of nature. Taking the notion of degeneration from Engels's scientific naturalism and from the eugenics movement, the Bolsheviks spoke of a "decline in consciousness." It is this Bolshevik rendition of the concept of degeneration which I shall focus on. Though it grew out of formidable intellectual sources, the Bolshevik idea of degeneration developed unique components. It had a specific patient -- the proletariat; it was applicable only in a specific time and for a specific time period -- for the duration of NEP; and, as we shall see, it proposed specific remedies.
The diagnosis of student Oppositionism as a sort of degeneration may be seen as a scientific rendering of the metaphor of the solar eclipse which, the reader will recall, Communists had been using to explain their political lapses. It was argued that if the acquisition of consciousness had elevated humanity, the fall from full, proletarian consciousness signified the degeneration of humanity. According to the Bolsheviks, the exhaustion of the proletariat in the Revolution, coupled with the reinstatement of capitalism, induced just such a fall and degeneration. The climb of many able workers into the ranks of the state's bureaucracy was construed as a "hybridization" of the proletariat. "Severance from the bench corrupts the advancing worker (vydvizhenets)," posited the psychologist Reisner: this was his version of the process of degeneration.17 Within such a conceptual framework, a student-led Opposition might readily be construed as the first evidence of degeneration within the Bolshevik ranks.
The mid-1920s Party diagnosis of Oppositionist students as degenerates prompted a thorough-going inquiry into the subject of student psychology. A scientific elaboration of "degeneration" was demanded. Two types of enunciation about that notion were joined in the official discourse -- one spoken in the scientific idiom the other in the moral-political one -- despite patent difficulties to enter, under pain of manifest conceptual contradiction, the same series of statements. On the basis of each of this analogous and yet incompatible elements of psychological theory and practice the Bolshevik regime derived a coherent series of what we called the Communist hermenuitic of the soul. The medical notion of degeneration was reinterpreted along the lines of Marxist class theory: The Bolsheviks retained the sense of degeneration as hereditary transmission, but they conceived of the class milieu, not of the biological race, as the carrier of degenerative features.
The generality of degeneration theory, and its tendency to collapse biological and social causes, allowed the official discourse to pass freely from cases of individual degeneracy to degeneration as a collective problem. Positing a malleable human nature, Marxist experts concluded that proletarian degeneration resulted from interaction with an unhealthy class environment. Exposure to the life-style and the beliefs of the petit-bourgeois university milieu supposedly caused students' "embourgeoisement" and their return to pre-revolutionary habits and attitudes. A pernicious old-regime academic culture imprinted itself on the proletariat, allegedly inducing "hypertrophy of the mind" and concomitant "physical decline," "individualism," "philistinism," "sexual excess" and "political deviationism." These inexorably produced proletarian despair, disillusionment with the Revolution and, finally, suicide.18 Though each pathology of student life invited the intervention of Party and medical specialists who brought a specific field of knowledge to bear on it, the official discourse made regular connections between them. The various expressions of the students' decline turned out to be so hopelessly confounded with one another and with the issue of Oppositionism and Party degeneration itself, that their treatments were in practice virtually interchangeable.
Many specialists related degeneration to urbanism, hypothesizing that student pathologies had resulted from an "aborted transition to city life." To be sure, Communism was normally associated with enthusiasm for the urban environment. Indeed, class theorists usually described the city as a "healthy place" since it was identified with the spread of factories and mills and the increase in proletarian consciousness. The city was the vehicle that turned obtuse peasants into conscious proletarians. "We love the city," wrote the worker-poet Bessal'ko, because it united us, because it teaches us to rebel, because it beats the parochialism of the peasant out of us."19 Yet there was an anti-urbanist current in the Bolshevik discourse as well. Outside the industrial sphere the city presented many dangers. In this regard Bolshevism was consistent with a widespread Rousseauian paradigm which presented the city as the site of the contamination of "idyllic" life through the imposition of artificial, unnatural institutions. The widespread contrast between the city and the garden, not entirely alien to early twentieth-century Marxism, evoked something like the image of the Fall, and transformed the city into the "icon of the rejection of redemption, of Abram's failure in Sodom and Gomorrah, of the Jerusalem of Herod."20
In the encounter with the city, the young had the most to lose. Publicists repeatedly made the argument that the young students (the so-called "molodniak"), especially those among them who came from the countryside, were deeply susceptible to the adverse influence of the decadent urban milieu. The fact that students were separated from the rejuvenating and relatively healthy environment of the factories at a young age, before their proletarian consciousness had been fully forged and tested, increased the likelihood of degeneration.
The Bolsheviks identified the city with perverse sexuality -- doubtless the clearest and the gravest expression of student degeneration. The city streets conveyed the message that urban sexual mores lost their mooring in the "natural" realm of procreative activity.21 Liashko, a Civil War proletarian writer, described the city thus: "The cleanliness of streets in many cities conceals backyards where in heaps of filth every second are born millions of germs, spreading disease. High collars, hats, newspapers, books, concerts, and everything that is worn rather that lived to which many residents of cities dedicated their leisure also conceal darkness and spiritual narrow-mindedness."22 In the Communist rendition of the phobia from the bourgeois city, student sexual excess was a channeling of precious energies away from social work. It led to irreparable exhaustion among students and, inevitably, impotence, both sexual and political. Many Communists believed that normal sexual behavior ought to be defined in accordance with Darwinian truths about species survival and adaptation. Procreation was made the sole defensible aim of sexual activity. According to doctor Sigal, "sexual instinct has the goal of uniting the man and the woman for reproduction."23
All pleasurable activity beyond the basic act of intercourse was deprived of any "biological justification" and qualified as obsessive, or perverse, and therefore bourgeois and decadent.24 Not that Soviet sexologists objected to sexuality as such. Doctor Lass, for example, argued that, "the social-biological function of sexual instincts should not be destroyed." Rather, sexuality was to aim at class reproduction only. In the words of Gel'man, a prominent Soviet sexologist, "Sexuality has to be directed toward the same goals social life directs itself toward, pending psychical and physical degeneration."25 Echoing the Christian condemnation of carnal sexuality, the Communists conceived of "naked sexuality" as the animalistic and antisocial in man, an obstacle on the path to a collective class consciousness.
Two different formulations of the university as a site of degeneration were offered, depending on whether the emphasis was sociological or physiological. According to the one, the university was dangerous because it immersed proletarians in a petit-bourgeois environment. According to the other, the main problem with the university was that it artificially separated mental and manual labor, both firmly united at the factory, and induced a "hypertrophy of the mind" with the concomitant "bodily exhaustion." Communist sexology, which was enjoying a real boom, provided the link between the social and the physiological sets of phenomena -- sex was regarded as both a cultural and a natural behavior, an environmentally determined activity and a bodily function at one and the same time.
The link between sex and reproduction brought the issue of the sexual behavior of young proletarians under a spotlight. Marxist theory was corrected to include not only social but also biological factors. Already in 1884, Engels claimed that the "determining factor in history" was of a "twofold character," the "production of the means of existence" on the one hand, and on the other "the propagation of the species."26 By relating questions of the proletarian "means of production" (sredstva proizvodstva) to questions of the proletarian "means of reproduction" (sredstva vozproizvodstva), Communist social sciences united the eugenicist's interest in sexuality and the Marxist's interest in class struggle.
Within the framework of this new synthesis, the squandering of sexual resources by the proletarian weakened its productive capacity and ultimately reduced the proletariat's chances to prevail against its enemies. To cite Lass again: "Since sexuality manages reserves of potential energy, it constitutes one of the variables in determining the overall richness of the life of a given class. An unproductive expenditure of sexual energy is therefore a waste of class wealth."27 Lass's Bolshevik colleague, Professor Gel'man, described sex as "a perennial creative element," and contended that sexuality could manifest itself either positively or negatively: "In periods of decay, social classes degenerate and become parasites, culture becomes decadent, ideals break down and individual concerns usurp the place of society." Gel'man treated the ensuing "flourishing of individualism" as a sexual disorder: "An individualist is absorbed by his flesh and its desires. Swollen and sharpened, sexuality takes the place of social instincts in his psyche."28
Sexuality had become a key arena for class struggle in the Bolshevik moralistic discourse. If it was to be victorious, the proletariat had to remain united. But the sexual drive often operated in the opposite direction, emphasizing antisocial, individualistic drives. According to one definition, "a good revolutionary of the transitional period" was a proletarian who put "loyalty to his class" before the "satisfaction of his instincts." Only such a figure was "courageous, vibrant, optimistic, persistent, able to concentrate an superhuman energy on the tasks ahead. Only he could ensure the final victory of Communism."29
Under normal conditions, bourgeois sexuality was no match for proletarian sexuality. The former was individualistic and morbid, the latter collectivist and healthy. Zalkind, a professor from Sverdlovsk, eulogized the bourgeoisie in the language of a sexologist: "The psycho-social stability of this declining class has been undermined. We see that the socio-economic demise of the bourgeois classes finds a biological and a psychophysiological expression." By contrast, the rising, revolutionary class was marked by a "powerful physiological purposefulness. Individual proletarians' unity of aims renders the new class vibrant, joyful and well organized."30 Unfortunately, claimed Zalkind, the conditions of the transitional period complicated this equation. Many of the workers sent to universities degenerated and no longer matched the ideal, proletarian sexual type: "Degenerating biologically and creatively, they became reflexologically depraved. Individualist worker-students placed themselves outside of the socialist construction, outside of the course or the Revolution, outside of life itself."31