Discuss the social and political ideas of Alexander Herzen Often named “the founder of Russian Socialism” (Chubarov 1999, Page 64), Alexander Herzen was an important part of the early Russian revolutionary movement, and later an influence upon the revolutionaries of 1905 and 1917. He was a strong advocate of free speech as well as being critical of the European Bourgeoisie, the inequality of serfdom and the autocracy of the Tsar and the Romanovs‟. His beliefs began in the radical Westernisers who, unlike the classical Westernisers believed that industrialization and the inevitable rise in the bourgeoisie class would not be beneficial to Russia in the long term. Whilst serfdom would be abolished under the capitalist system, it seemed illogical in the eyes of socialism to undergo the capitalist phase of development when you can just skip it, avoid the exploitation and advance immediately to the socialism stage of development. Herzen believed that Europe was nearing collapse and could not “foresee an early downfall of the bourgeoisie and the reform of the old political order without a most frightful, bloody struggle” (Herzen 1857, page 1563), surely Russia should seek to avoid this future by avoiding capitalism and the bourgeoisie society itself. Why would Russia want to follow the same capitalist model as Europe? The same model which, according to socialism, will inevitably collapse in a horrific conflict. “What particularly attracted Herzen in socialism was the idea of a brotherhood of peoples – liberated individuals – united in a free community for the sake of lofty and noble goals of goodness and justice” (Chubarov 1999, page 65) something which capitalism could not bring due to competition. In socialism too you avoided “a political revolution [that] was not enough to alter radically the basis conditions of the life of society. [whereas] What was needed was a transformation of social conditions and, above all, of the relations of ownership” (Chubarov 1999,...
References: Chubarov A (1999) The Fragile Empire. A History of Imperial Russia. London: Continuum International Publishing Group Inc. Pages 64-69
Herzen A (1851) The Russian people and Socialism. A letter to J Michelet. In Gertsen AI (1956) Alexander Herzen: Selected Philosophical Works. Translated from the Russian by L Navrozov. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House. Pages 470-502
Herzen A (1857) Another Variation on an Old Theme. A letter to X (I.S Turgenev). In Higgins H (1968) My Past and Thoughts: The memoirs of Alexander Herzen vol IV. Translated from the Russian by C Garnett. London: Chatto & Windus. Pages 1560-1573
Hosking G (1997) Russia: People & Empire 1552-1917. London: Harper Collins Publishers. Pages 283
Lenin VI (1912) In Memory of Herzen. In Gertsen AI (1956) Alexander Herzen: Selected Philosophical Works. Translated from the Russian by L Navrozov. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House. Pages 6-12
Stoppard T (2002) The forgotten revolutionary. The Observer. [Online] Sunday 2nd June 2002. Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2002/jun/02/featuresreview.review3 [Accessed 14 February 2011]
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