"Long live, then, the proletariat as it goes forth to renew the whole world. Long live the working men of all lands who by the strength of their hands have built up the wealth of nations and are now labouring to create new life! Long live Socialism, the religion of the future. Greetings to the fighters, greetings to the workers of all lands, and may they ever have faith in the victory of truth, the victory of justice! Long live humanity fraternally united in the great ideals of equality and freedom!"
--from "Letter on the Russian Revolution", January 1, 1906.
Gorky, Maxim (1868-1936)
Maxim Gorky was a founder of Soviet literature and the author of world-famous works such as Mother, Childhood, My Apprenticeship, My Universities, The Life of Klim Samgin and many plays, stories and publicistic articles.
Destitute as a youth, became Russia's foremost writer; he joined the Bolshevik party in 1905 and helped organise their first legal newspaper, but drifted away during the first world war.
In 1905, the first meeting between Lenin, leader of the Russian Revolution, and the great proletarian writer took place in St. Petersburg. Maxim Gorky came to know Lenin more closely in 1907 at the London Party Congress, of which he has written a detailed description. These two men were linked by true friendship and profound mutual respect. Lenin highly appreciated Maxim Gorky's work. "There can be no doubt," he wrote in 1917, "that Maxim Gorky's is an enormous artistic talent which has been, and will be, of great benefit to the world proletarian movement.
collection arranged by Wolfgang Eggers
(with an introduction of Konstantin Fedin)
The Communist International, May 1919, no.1, p.146
The Communist International, June 1919, No. 2, pp. 175-178
Speech delivered in August 1934
First Congress of Soviet Writers. Moscow.
published by Hans Ostwald
27th January 1906
by Maxim Gorky
by Maxim Gorky
and other Stories
British Socialist, July, 1912, p.33-36
British Socialist, 1912, p.84-96, 140-142.
Song of the Stormy Petrel (1901)
By A. M. Gorky
Let it break with greater fury!
Song of the Stormy Petrel
Written: 1901 - Selected Short Stories Progress Publishers, 1955;
High above the silvery ocean winds are gathering the storm-clouds, and between the clouds and ocean proudly wheels the Stormy Petrel, like a streak of sable lightning.
Now his wing the wave caresses, now he rises like an arrow, cleaving clouds and crying fiercely, while the clouds detect a rapture in the bird's courageous crying.
In that crying sounds a craving for the tempest! Sounds the flaming of his passion, of his anger, of his confidence in triumph.
The gulls are moaning in their terror--moaning, darting o'er the waters, and would gladly hide their horror in the inky depths of ocean.
And the grebes are also moaning. Not for them the nameless rapture of the struggle. They are frightened by the crashing of the thunder.
And the foolish penguins cower in the crevices of rocks, while alone the Stormy Petrel proudly wheels above the ocean, o'er the silver-frothing waters.
Ever lower, ever blacker, sink the stormclouds to the sea, and the singing waves are mounting in their yearning toward the thunder.
Strikes the thunder. Now the waters fiercely battle with the winds. And the winds in fury seize them in unbreakable embrace, hurtling down the emerald masses to be shattered on the cliffs.
Like a streak of sable lightning wheels and cries the Stormy Petrel, piercing storm-clouds like an arrow, cutting swiftly through the waters.
He is coursing like a Demon, the black Demon of the tempest, ever laughing, ever sobbing--he is laughing at the storm-clouds, he is sobbing with his rapture.
In the crashing of the thunder the wise Demon hears a murmur of exhaustion. And he is knows the strom will die and the sun will be triumphant; the sun will always be triumphant!
The waters roar. The thunder crashes. Livid lightning flares in stormclouds high above the seething ocean, and the flaming darts are captured and extinguished by the waters, while the serpentine reflections writhe, expiring, in the deep.
It's the storm! The storm is breaking!
Still the valiant Stormy Petrel proudly wheels amond the lightning, o'er the roaring, raging ocean, and his cry resounds exultant, like a prophecy of triumph--
Let it break in all its fury!
A Wallachian Legend.
By Maxim Gorky.
Translated by Elbert Aidline.
A fairy once dwelt in a forest,
And bathed in its silvery streams;
One day she was caught by the fishers,
While morning was shedding its gleams.
The fishers all scattered, affrighted,
But Marco, a fisherman young;
He kissed her, embraced, and caressed her,
So vigorous, youthful, and strong.
The fairy entwined like a serpent,
Seductively tender and mild,
And gazing upon him intently,
She silently, silently smiled.
All day she embraced and caressed him,
But—happiness ever is brief—
With nightfall the fairy had vanished
And left him alone with his grief.
At daylight, at starlight he wanders,
And seeks her, and withers, and craves,
"Oh, where is my fairy?"—"We know not,"
Are laughing the treacherous waves.
"Be silent!" he cries to the wavelets.
"Yourselves with my fairy you play!"
And into the waters deceitful
He plunged, there to seek his sweet fay. . .
The fairy still dwells in the forest,
Still beautiful, charming, and young . . .
But Marco is dead . . . Yet forever
He'll live in the glory of Song.
While you, self-contented and dormant,
Like worms you will crawl on your way;
No tale shall relate of your doings,
No poet shall sing you a lay!
First appeared in Red Banner Magazine No. 4, 1906.
International Literature No. 10, October 1936
Proclamation to the French Workers (1906)
Translated by Selma Schwartz
To you, who work all your lives and allow your masters to make laws for the protection of property created by labor. To you, who never have enough bread to satisfy your hunger, and who are ruled by people glutted with all that you have created. To you, workers, the real owners of the earth, I address myself:
Before you, as well as before the workers of the world, is a path of struggle for freedom of mankind from economic and political slavery, from the bondage of capital and the state, the sterile agent which supports capital against you. This struggle will soon envelop the whole world and will be a struggle of two races: The race of the poor, who will battle under the banner of reason, truth, love and justice, and the race of the rich, who will defend themselves with all their means—greed and hypocrisy, cunning and cruelty.
This struggle is as inevitable as death—and it has begun. The Russian worker, in the first detachment of the universal 17 army, has marched into combat. His victories and his defeats are known to you. You know how much strength he has expended and what he will expend, you know how abundantly his blood flowed and will yet flow. He has already inflicted powerful blows upon the enemy, but the enemy is still strong and many combats face the Russians.
The sooner the coming combat breaks out, the sooner its thunder will resound throughout the whole world. And if Russian worker is victorious—the workers of Europe, of the whole world, will draw from this victory new inspiration and strength, and lessons for themselves...Understand that in speaking of the working people, one speaks of the whole world—one family.
Therefore, I confidently appeal to you to help your Russian comrades, your comrades who are going to battle under a common banner with you—under the red banner of Socialism—with one aim: the freedom of labor from, the oppression of capital. They advanced first, and you must help them for I repeat, in this struggle the victory of one is the victory of all.
The day of general revolt in Russia draws near. You will not really permit your comrades to go to battle with empty hands. Give them silver for iron and zinc. I know workers are poor in silver; only their hearts are rich. But we must show the old world of Pharisees and hypocrites that it is in the heart of the worker that the true fire of love for mankind burns, that in him blazes the flame of faith in the brotherhood of man. You must show this fire in your breast to the blind eyes of the greedy and sated...
Let them tremble at the foreboding of their helplessness. And let our militant, our sacred slogan, the slogan of the brotherhood of mankind, sound the death knell of the satiated and dying world of malice and greed, the world of lies and cruelty. Proletarians of all countries—unite!
Believing that the brotherhood of mankind is not a dream, that it will be realized on earth, I have faith in this great holiday of the future because I am a worker. I have worked and lived among the working people. I know their nature and I know that only they are capable of creating a new life, a life of brotherhood, a life of joy and reason.
Only they, because the interests of labor are the same everywhere, and sooner or later the workers of the world will clearly see their path to happiness, freedom, truth. This path is the same everywhere and for all. All peoples will meet on it, and it will leader to the celebration of the idea of universal brotherhood.
The world is ever more sharply dividing into two armies—the army of the rich and feted, and army of the poor who all their lives bend their spines under the heavy burden of labor. Gold, that Yellow Devil, coldly and cruelly mocking the world, corrupts people, sowing enmity and envy among them. Some it gathers around itself to pervert their natures with insatiable greed; other it pushes away into the embrace of hunger and labor. Disuniting, it unites. Making the rich avaricious and stupid, it sharpens the mind of the poor, and, dividing all people into two irreconcilable camps, 18 prepares them for battle, one against the other.
The workers of each country are united in a closely knit family and the day will come when the workers of the world will unite in one brotherly army of labor. Uniting, they will see clearly how few are their enemy, and how weak to be able to rule the lives of hundreds of millions. And they will see that the evil of life is god, property. And from that day there will reign on earth not lies but truth, not hypocrisy but sincerity, not greed and envy and evil, but reason, goodness and love. Those who hold this belief are bound to serve it with all their strength since it alone will restore the world, will free man from the bondage of sorrow and need, will cleanse the spirit of everything that debases man.
Each worker who sees a comrade in need and sorrow must help him since all workers are one family. And the workers of one country must help the workers of another country. This aid to remote and unknown people is truly humane and far-seeing.
Help your Russian comrades in their bitter struggle against the tsar and gang of hangmen, who have drowned all Russian in blood. Do this. In the name of solidarity of interests of all workers, you must hold out your hand to help the Russian workers. When your day of struggle arrives and you also will need help—then you will find friends who will respond to your cry:
Tribute to Maxim Gorky
Maxim Gorky 1868-1936: Eulogies from his funeral on the Red Square*
Translated from the German by S. D. Kogan
V. M. Molotov
On Behalf of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR and the Central Committee of the CPSU
Bidding farewell today to Maxim Gorky, we, his friends and countless admiring readers, feel as if some brilliant particle of our own life has departed forever into the past. Millions of persons are experiencing this feeling. From the very depth of his spirit, Gorky stood close to us, the people of his epoch, to whom he gave so much in the writings of a genius, in his boundless love for the toilers and his struggle for the freedom of man and by the example of his entire, splendidly unique life.
In order to become the great writer we know, Gorky had during the course of long years to fight a stubborn struggle to break away from heavy need and sorrow beginning in his early childhood. Not a few times was he thrown to the depths in
which many talented and gifted man has perished. For the sake of daily bread, he had to labor much for big and little capitalists—as painter, baker, clerk, stevedore, hired man.
None of the great writers of our country, ay! and of other countries, knew so closely the life of “the depths” of the people under capitalism. None of them personally experienced so much of the ferocity and infamy of the masters and exploiters. None of them had even seen with his own eyes so many people tortured by slave labor and broken under the yoke of capital as our Gorky, in whom all this suffering was forged into irreconcilable and revolutionary hatred towards the capitalist system, and boundless faith in the liberating power of Communism.
That is why the workers, all toilers see in Gorky themselves, their own man, their own life and fate, their future. That is why Gorky was loved, is loved and will be loved so much by the toilers of our own and other countries. Gorky created immortal characters—the people of his times.
His artistic figures of the capitalist, the rapacious profiteer, the fusty philistine of the provincial backwaters, the selfish, parasitic bourgeois intellectual and other gentlemen of old pre-revolutionary Russia are indelibly stamped in one’s memory. The proletarian writer Maxim Gorky looked into their very souls and revealed in his works their very nature as oppressors of the masses of the people.
* From International Literature, No. 8 August 1936. 3
He gave many vivid and forceful examples of the depths of nothingness to which the brutal capitalist system had reduced some “rolling stone” off-spring of bourgeois sections of society. At the same time Gorky, as a magnificent artist of the proletariat, drew remarkable portraits of freedom-loving and selfless people who would not accept oppression and the slime of life; he gave the best and most expressive pictures of proletarian revolutionaries, picture burning with the warmth of the sincere feel of an artist-genius. Maxim Gorky has millions of admiring readers. Their ranks will grow and grow for a long time to come.
In his powerful influence on Russian literature, Gorky stands with such giants as Pushkin, Gogol, Tolstoy, as the one who best carried on in our times their great traditions. The influence of Gorky’s artistic writings on the destinies of our Revolution is more direct and more forceful than the influence of any other of our writers. Therefore it is precisely Gorky who is the genuine begetter of proletarian, socialist literature in our land and in the eyes of the toilers of the whole world.
Maxim Gorky came in his own special way as a great artist into the ranks of warriors for Communism. He came into our ranks even before the revolutionary uplift of 1905, but he came with the already unfolded banners of a storm petrel of the Revolution. Gorky began his revolutionary literary life in an epoch of cumulative revolutionary outburst and soon stood completely and organically on the platform of the working class, became a close friend of the great Lenin in the struggle for Communism. It reflects the grandeur of Gorky that his shining mind, closeness to the people, self-sacrificing and gigantic labor upon the mastery of the cultural achievements of human culture made him a supreme friend of the toilers and majestic inspiration in the struggle for the cause of Communism.
To his last breath Gorky lived as one in thought and feeling with those who with such enthusiasm are now building the new socialist society under the leadership of the Party of Lenin and Stalin. To the last day of his life his eyes sparkled with the fire of unyielding struggle against enemies of the toilers, the fascists and all other oppressors, the assassins of culture and the instigators of war. Every success of the toilers in our country, the successes of the Stakhanovites, the new forms of activity among women, the increase of the harvest and of labor productivity, the exposure of sorties and plots on the part of the enemy, the strengthening of the defense of the country, and above all, the cultural growth of the masses, the growth of literature and art made him as happy as an ardent youth and a venerable sage. Gorky’s example teaches us much.
Gorky was a literary genius. Literary men, artists in words, may learn from this example the power which words have when they serve in the struggle for the happiness of man and of humanity, when these words reach the hearts of men and of peoples.
Gorky was a great son of a great people. For simple folk, for toilers, the example of Gorky shows that our people, like other peoples, is rich in glorious talents which formerly were able only in exceptional circumstances to rise from 4
the depths but for which there is now open a free path to full flowering, to victories and to glory. Gorky was a supreme friend of the toilers and an inspirer of the struggle for Communism. Is any further proof needed that humanity’s finest men, those who have reached the heights of culture and of deep comprehension of the secret dreams of the peoples about their happiness, give their energies supremely and without reserve to the cause of Communism, and in so doing find their highest satisfaction? This in itself shows that the cause of Communism is on the way to its full triumph. Since Lenin, the death of Gorky is the heaviest loss for our country and for humanity. Our strength is in this: the people of the Soviet land to whom Gorky devoted all his tremendous talent and his mighty heart has already risen up on powerful feet, has provided space for the development of its own immeasurable energies and talents, and by this very fact is triumphantly incarnating the hopes and dream of the best representatives of humanity.
For the Union of Soviet Writers
The artist who deeply and truly reflects revolutionary epochs of history—such was Gorky—the creator who leads humanity to the realization of a liberated world—such was Lenin— Great men do not have two dates of their existence in history—birth and death, but only one: their birth.
On this ancient square, where the people for thousands of years created for itself a government and where the higher forms of government were created for all, we have gathered to the place in its pantheon an urn with the ashes of a writer of our people and of the world.
The date of birth of Gorky the artist was in the nineties. The young Peshkov gathered in the magic focus of his soul all the explosive forces of the pre-revolutionary epoch; collected all the wrath of the humiliated and the exploited, all the wearied expectations, all the passions for which there was no vent.
He felt on his own shoulders the iron strength of the fists of the merchants, the philistines and the police. Not a few times did he fight, madly, alone, against the many, in
defense of the injured and insulted. And so, in the nineties—in those terrible years of oppression and tense silence— this tall, thin, stooping, blue-eyed youth with a fierce and fiery soul—raised the banner of revolt. Whoever has a living heart, he said, must shatter to bits the cursed torpor of the philistines, march out to the open spaces and light the bonfires of a free life! With broad strokes of the brush, with the precipitousness of genius, he drew the stupid brutal face of the exploiting class.
There you are—the Russian, insatiable mask besmirched with Lenten oil. Feast your eyes upon it!
I was still a boy but I remember the impression of a tremendous explosion echoing through the whole world. In the mould of bourgeois life, which had seemed so durable, a breach had been forced to which streamed all who had living hearts. In a year or so, the name of Gorky traveled throughout the world.
He became a forerunner of the Revolution, its storm petrel.
Nearness to Lenin crystallized his revolt, gave his art an impulse towards clearly marked and concrete aims.
Nearness to Stalin crystallized his work: apart from his own creative work he took upon himself the tremendous and weighty task of the leadership of Soviet Literature. With undying ardor he led Soviet literature to world heights.
He led Soviet literature along its only path—realism, culture, truth, with deep compensation of all the multiformity of our Soviet life. His guiding idea was Lenin’s formula: ”The very aspiration to comprehend all saves us from stagnation.” Such is the path of Soviet literature, the aspiraton to comprehend as much as possible, as deeply as
possible, as truthfully as possible, our complex, creative, flourishing, unprecedented life. On guard over this striving stood and stands Gorky, deathless.
Comrades, not with a funeral march but with the triumphant song of life let us greet the great artist who lives with us, and continues to help us with his unfading word to carry high and still higher the torch of Soviet art. Let Gorky live eternally in our hearts and in our works!
The Socialist Humanism of Maxim Gorky
By Eugenia Knipovich
From International Literature, No. 10-11, Oct.-Nov. 1937
In 1927 Gorky finished article on the Tenth Anniversary of the October Revolution with the words of brotherly greeting to “the new Russian man,” to “the builder of a truly new world,” to “the most necessary person on earth.”
These words were more than the congratulations of a comrade. They were the words of communion between he deputy and his electors. The Russian, and international, master of culture hailed those whose will, passion and hatred molded and reared his incomparable talent.
Gorky’s words embody revolutionary life, underground work, prison, exile, hard labor, the greatest revolution in history, civil war and the heroic and victorious struggle for the building of a “truly new world.” Gorky personifies the fearless mind of the “new Russian man,” who storms all heights of past and present culture. His works stir with that new and formerly unknown quality which distinguishes the conquests of our aviators, miners, cotton pickers, geologists,—all manifestations of the same Socialist culture, based on the free labor of free men. That is why Gorky stands in the world of letters not only as the bearer of the great traditions of Russian culture, but as the first representative of the universal Socialist culture, bringing with him a creative and liberating knowledge of ancient and contemporary culture. In the name of millions he can demand the fulfillment of all the promises made by the humanists of bourgeois revolutions.
Past culture has nurtured for mankind many wonderful conceptions, liberty, harmonious development of personality, the rule of reason, the brotherhood of peoples, equality, justice. However, in a world founded on private property, on wolfish egoism, on forced labor, they remained visions. Loyalty to the great ideals of the past, which penetrates the works of the “prodigal sons” of bourgeois culture, is accompanied with expressions of agony, bitterness, impotence and alarm.
Gorky, in the cultural world, is endowed with special privileges, as the “representative” of a many-millioned master, a master conscious of his rights, armed with revolutionary theory, disciplined and educated by free labor. In the possession of this master the great concepts, values, slogans of the past acquire for the first time actual, not abstract and hypocritical meanings. And in the name of this new master Gorky has a solution for every problem that had tormented the lone keepers of the great cultural treasures. Each reply had been brought with their life and blood. And Gorky also paid for them with his own blood.
This determines the specific nature of Gorky’s humanism.
Gorky was first known as a romanticist, but his romanticism was born not of disillusionment with the world, not denial or evasion, substituting for the living reality always accessible to the creative hand of a master, picture world, personal, invented and sterile. To such “individualistic” romanticism Gorky contrasts another kind, which “springs from man’s consciousness of his bond with the world and the confidence of creative powers which this consciousness evokes.” This type of romanticism Gorky called “social, or the romanticism of collectivism.” “It is only now being born,” wrote Gorky in the period of the “disgraceful and infamous decade, and its owner is the class which is entering life as the carrier of the Socialist idea of liberating mankind from the clutches of capitalism, as the carrier of the idea of free and brotherly labor—of the Socialist system.”
Yes, Gorky was both a realist and a romanticist. But his romanticism had the same qualities as the romanticism of the creative Soviet people today.
For our pilots and scientists, our statesmen and workers also dream. Their visions have created new lakes, have turned the course of rivers, have opened new airways as important historically as the routes traced by Columbus and Vasco da Gamma, have produced new flora and fauna; what is most important, their dream has remade the remaker of the earth—man himself. The dreams of a Bolshevik-Leninist, of a man of Stalin’s epoch, are creative. Tomorrow the dream becomes a plan, and the day after countless loving hands are carrying it out.
All of Gorky’s works from the romantic legend to the realistic would confirm this orientation to the future, this faith in collective labor.
To the humanism of the masters of Western culture Gorky contrasted proletarian revolutionary humanism of pity the humanism of truth, which is “above pity”; to gentle scorn—the severe demand to respect man; to the cult of “autonomous personality”—the glorification of the great mass of individuals, the real creators of cultural values. To the imagined superman Gorky contrasts the fighter, who has grown to the stature of a titan in the revolutionary battles of his class. Gorky, insisting upon the tie between the artist and the world, exposes the illusory nature of art isolated from reality.
At the same time—and here, again, the deeply proletarian nature of Gorky’s humanism declares itself —every genuine protest against bourgeois terror, every expression of discontent with the unjust world of private ownership, every act of devotion to the cultural heritage of the world is near and dear to him.
That testimony of “the death of a world” which the great modern humanitarian artists have left us, in one form or another, is consummately presented in Gorky’s works. Hatred of the capitalist system, which in the work of the best Western writers is often feeble and unfocused, has, in Gorky’s writings, a creative function, merges with active love of the new society being built. Lastly, the charges of the murder of man, which the humanists of the West bring against the old world—in Gorky’s works these charges go deeper and further; they force a reckoning with the old world in the name of humanity, in the name of the emergent new world.
Wretches? Gorky saw and portrayed wretches more ghastly than any monster of the Russian and Western decadence.
Here is Igosha, the Nizhni-Novgorod half-wit beggar, hungrier, more hunted than an animal. Here is Panashkina, with blue blood rot in her veins, wall-eyed, dreaming of “an affair with an officer not lower in rank than a lieutenant.” Here is the “dog’s mother,” whom misfortune has crazed, whose companions are a pack of stray dogs. And finally—”mother Kemskikh”—mad-woman with a fit brood of seven children—cripples and idiots, for whom she sacrifices her life. A starved bitch who feeds her puppies on garbage is more dignified than this morsel of ridiculously suffering womanflesh.