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Lenin's gOwn Wordsh
(Part Two: On the Issues of Sex, Women, Youth, Education, and Morality)

4. Sex and Love

Absorption in the Problem of Sex

gThe mention of Freudfs hypothesis is designed to give the pamphlet a scientific veneer, but it is so much bungling by an amateur. Freudfs theory has now become a fad. I mistrust sex theories expounded in articles, treatises, pamphlets, etc. -- in short, the theories dealt with in that specific literature which sprouts so luxuriantly on the dung heap of bourgeois society. I mistrust those who are always absorbed in the sex problems, the way an Indian saint is absorbed in the contemplation of his navel. It seems to me that this superabundance of sex theories, which for the most part are mere hypotheses, and often quite arbitrary ones, stems from a personal need. It springs from the desire to justify onefs own abnormal or excessive sex life before bourgeois morality and to plead for tolerance towards oneself. This veiled respect for bourgeois morality is as repugnant to me as rooting about in all that bears on sex. No matter how rebellious and revolutionary it may be made to appear, it is in the final analysis thoroughly bourgeois.h (Clara Zetkin, Reminiscences of Lenin, p. 101)

Lenin was not interested in the approach of the method whereby Freudfs gtheoryh was used to explain everything, as well as grooting about in all that bears on sex.h This was based simply on a hypothesis -- and moreover a nonsensical one. Lenin ridiculed people gwho are always absorbed in the sex problemsh and the gsuperabundance of sex theories.h

In bourgeois society the question of sex is one-dimensionally exaggerated in the name of gsexual liberation,h meaning that instead of sex being dealt with in a truly healthy manner, it becomes increasingly mystified and aggrandized, and what is worse, by sex being turned into a business and treated vulgarly, this especially distorts and eats away at the healthy spirit of youth, turning it into something abnormal and lopsided -- and this is something that we can see occurring every day. Lenin recognized that a one-dimensional exaggeration of sex in this distorted form is connected to the rule of the bourgeoisie and serves the interests of bourgeois society. Therefore, Lenin took an attitude of extreme cautious towards attempts to place the psychological concern with sex at the center of things. 

gGlass-of-water theoryh

gYou must be aware of the famous theory that in communist society the satisfaction of sexual desire, of love, will be as simple and unimportant as drinking a glass of water. The glass of water theory has made our young people mad, quite madcI think this glass of water theory is completely un-Marxist, and moreover, anti-social. In sexual life there is not only simple nature to be considered, but also cultural characteristics, whether they are of a high or low ordercOf course, thirst must be satisfied. But will the normal man in normal circumstances lie down in the gutter and drink out of a puddle, or out of a glass with a rim greasy from many lips? But the social aspect is the most important of all. Drinking water is of course an individual affair. But in love two lives are concerned, and a third, a new life, arises. It is that which gives it its social interest, which gives rise to a duty towards the community.h (Clara Zetkin, Reminiscences of Lenin, p. 49)

In periods of turmoil, it is easy for sexual relations to be overturned. The French Revolution is a classic example of this. During the 1917 Russian Revolution, and the subsequent civil war, the past order, authority, and morality were completely rejected, collapsed, and were overturned, and a new order and morality emerged. In such an age, it was inevitable that sexual relations among young people would also be very confused and tend towards being impulsive.

A gcommunisth theory that encouraged this also emerged, and the gglass-of-water theoryh criticized here is one example. There was much talk at the time of a new sexual lifestyle, and Kollontaifs history of women sang the praises of absolute free love.

Lenin opposed this tendency, and sought gself-control and self-disciplineh even in affairs of love, warning that gdissoluteness in sexual life is bourgeois [and] a phenomenon of decayh and that this should not be imitated. He asked how this gglass-of-water theoryh was any different from bourgeois decadent thought.

Lenin, in particular, pointed out that the gglass-of-water theoryh completely ignored the social aspect of love. Certainly the drinking of a cup of water is merely an individual thing. But love, although seen as something gprivate,h in fact has another aspect. Love is first of all a relationship and connection between two people. Therefore, it is already a social relation. Moreover, through the connection of two people, a gthird new lifeh can be born. Seen from the perspective of humanity, the birth of a child through the relationship between a man and a woman is of decisive social importance. Thus, the social significance of love must be noted, rather than viewing it as purely individual problem. Young people tend to view this as a purely individual problem, and there is no lack of theories that appeal to this tendency. However, according to Lenin this is a mistake and he says that, gas a communist I have not the least sympathy for the glass of water theory, although it bears the fine title esatisfaction of love.fh

On gFree Loveh

gI feel bound to make one point right away. I suggest you delete altogether paragraph 3 dealing with ethe demand (on the part of women) for free love.f This is, in fact, a bourgeois, not a proletarian demand. What do you really mean by it?h (Jan. 17, 1915 letter to Inessa Armand, Collected Works vol. 34)

This is one part of Leninfs reply to Inessa Armandfs plan to publish a pamphlet for women workers. Lenin says that the section on womenfsf gdemand for free loveh should be eliminated because it is a gbourgeois, not a proletarian demand.h In other words, gwhat matters is the objective logic of class relations in affairs of love,h not subjective hopes.

Does the term gfree loveh really express the interests of the proletarian in gfreedom from material (financial) considerations in love,h and freedom gfrom material caresh? The answer is no. What, then, does this term express? Lenin points out that gin modern society the most talkative and noisy etop strataf mean by efree lovefh such things as gfreedom from earnestness in love,h gfreedom from childbirth,h and gfreedom to commit adultery.h Therefore, he finds the slogan of gfree loveh to be a demand of bourgeois women.

Pure and Impure Kisses

gEven fleeting passion, a passion liaisonh is emore poetic and puref than the eloveless kissesf exchanged as a matter of habit between husband and wife. That is what you write. And you propose writing this in your pamphlet. Excellent. Is this counterposing logical?  Loveless kisses which a husband and wife exchange as a matter of habit are impure. Agreed. What do you want to make the contrary? A loving kiss, it would appear. No. You make the contrary a epassingf (why passing?) epassionf (why not love?). It follows logically that these loveless kisses (since they are passing) are the contrary of loveless kisses exchanged between husband and wife... strange!h (Jan. 24, 1915 letter to Inessa Armand, Collected Works vol. 34)

Inessa Armand raised the idea of gfree love,h or geven a short-lived passion and love affair,h in opposition to a vulgar, loveless marriage. But Lenin found this a strange opposition. He felt that a loveless connection between a man and a woman should be contrasted instead with a loving relationship. And so Armand was being inconsistent by contrasting a loveless relationship with another unloving relationship of fleeting passion. For this reason, Lenin gave her the following advice: gWould it not be better in a popular pamphlet to contrast the petty-bourgeois, intellectual or peasant vulgar and dirty marriage without love to the proletarian civic marriage with love (and add, if you must have it in, that a short-lived passionate affair can be pure and can be dirty).h (Ibid.)

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