By Eric Laursen (Regular Contributor)
A Bolshevik Utopia
A decade before the Bolshevik revolution, Aleksandr Bogdanov published Red Star: Novel-utopia (1908). Known as the “first Bolshevik utopia,” it chronicles an Earth-man’s journey to the planet Mars, where he is treated to a wondrous vision of a communist future, complete with flying cars and 3D color movies. As the Bolsheviks predicted, archaic institutions such as government and family have withered away, and the Earth-man is confronted with all his fondly held principles of equality and community come to life. Children are raised communally, all important decisions are made by a large council, and people are directed to fulfilling and creative work by a central economic agency that measures planet-wide needs. Men and women have become full equals, and they have evolved so that the Earthling cannot distinguish the sex of his large-eyed comrades, causing him to become increasingly anxious about his attraction to one of them. The Earthling is greatly relieved upon learning that he is a she.
The Martians have one world-wide society and one language. All dialect variation has faded, allowing instant communication between any two citizens. Moreover, since the Martians have achieved equality, the hierarchy implicit in language etiquette is missing, and, therefore, titles, greetings, and expressions of gratitude are noticeably absent. Gender is also absent from the Martian language. Most important, since the Martians have gained a conscious understanding of all of history—past, present, and future—their nouns are declined “temporally.” Bogdanov was a proponent of adopting a universal language, and suitably Red Star was published in Esperanto in 1929.
Trouble in (Communist) Paradise
Despite the many achievements of the Martians, there is trouble in communist paradise. Mars is a dying planet whose resources are too meager to continue to support life. The Martians are running out of fuel and must choose between Earth and Venus to find more. Both planets are closer to the sun’s life-giving energy and therefore more vigorous than aging Mars, a cold, dying desert planet. Yet each planet has its unique challenges. Though Venus has vicious dinosaurs and active volcanos, Earth has something even more dangerous: capitalism! In the end they choose Venus, bowing to the argument that Earth offers something that Mars lacks. The Martian men have grown cold along with their planet, and the two main Martian men that we meet cannot satisfy their wives sexually or provide them with the children they so desperately want. Moreover, they have developed their intellects at the expense of emotion and compassion, an imbalance that allows them to consider liquidating Earth’s population in order to get the resources Mars needs. The hot-blooded Earthling’s love affair with one of the frustrated Martian women signals a happy medium, a fusion of Earth’s revolutionary heat and Mars’s intellectual and physical cold that gives hope for the upward progress of life in the universe.
New Iterations for Red Star
After the 1917 revolution, Red Star came out in multiple editions and was adapted for the stage. Bogdanov was the founder of Proletkult, the Proletarian Cultural Organization that trained workers to become artists, writers, and scientists. He published multiple volumes of philosophy, and his “tectology” is often put forth as a precursor for systems theory. Although Bogdanov was an early contender for Party leadership, he soon lost political power after the revolution and returned to his scientific research on blood transfusion full-time. In Red Star, the Martians maintain youthful vitality through frequent exchange of blood. In 1926 Bogdanov attained his dream of founding an institute dedicated to the study of blood transfusion and died two years later while conducting a blood transfusion experiment on himself.