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Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Valentine's Day Reflection on Love

Christopher Caudwell was a young Communist poet and scholar whose commitment to humanity and liberty drew him to Spain and the struggle against fascism and for Spanish freedom. He joined the International Brigades and was killed fighting on February 12, 1937 at the age of thirty.

He wrote about "Love" in his posthumously published Studies in a Dying Culture:

Christopher Caudwell

To-day love could prepare an appalling indictment of the wrongs and privations that bourgeois social relations have inflicted upon it. The misery of world is economic, but that does not mean that it is cash. That is a bourgeois error. Just because they are economic, they involve the tenderest and most valued feelings of social man. For the satisfaction of all rich emotional capabilities and social tenderness which bourgeois relations have deprived him, he turns vainly to religion, hate, patriotism, fascism, the sentimentality of films and novels, which paint in imagination loves he cannot experience in life. Because of this he is neurotic, unhappy, sick, liable to the mass-hatreds of war and anti-semitism, to absurd and yet pathetic Royal Jubilee or Funeral enthusiasms to mad impossible loyalties to Hitlers and to mad Aryan grandmothers. Because of this life seems to him empty, stale, and unprofitable. Man delights him not, nor woman neither.

Bourgeois social relations, by transforming in this way all tender relations between men to relations to commodities, prepare their own doom. The threads that bind feudal lord to liege, chief to tribe, patriarch to household slave, father to son, because they are tender are strong. But those that bind shareholder to wage-employee, civil servant to taxpayer, and all men to the impersonal market, because they are merely cash and devoid of tender relations, cannot hold. The chief’s laws are understandable. The fiat of a man god is still a personal and affectionate command. But the laws of supply and demand (their substitute in bourgeois culture) are without any power save blind compulsion. To-day it is as if love and economic relations have gathered at two opposite poles. All the unused tenderness of man’s instincts gather at one pole and at the other are economic relations, reduced to bare coercive rights to commodities. This polar segregation is the source of a terrific tension, and will give rise to a vast transformation of bourgeois society. They must, in a revolutionary destruction and construction, return in on each other and fuse in a new synthesis. This is communism.

Caudwell's ideas on bourgeois love were shared by film maker Joseph Losey in several of his early films made in England after his exile from the anti-Communist blacklist.
While they were commercially boycotted in the US, they are available in DVD format.

Zoltan Zigedy

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