Note — Dec 05, 2021

Bogdanov’s Secret History of Martian Socialism

Seen in → No.199

Source →

Fred Scharmen for Jacobin with an extract from his book Space Forces, which is about the radical history of space exploration from the Russian Cosmists to Elon Musk. Scharmen discusses how “Alexander Bogdanov used science fiction to hold up a mirror to our own world, depicting intelligent beings on Mars and the highly advanced socialist society they had created.” Aside: I’m going to need (maybe that’s his book) some kind of reader contrasting Bogdanov, Le Guin’s The Dispossessed (which feels Martianish to me and adjacent to Bogdanov), Robinson’s Martian trilogy, and Corey’s The Expanse.

This conceit allows Bogdanov to use his novel to serve one of the primary functions of science fiction and utopian literature in general. His Mars is an opportunity to create an outside from which to examine the givens that are taken for granted on Earth. […]

Firstly, there is no profit motive on Mars; in the second place, all consumer goods are free; and finally, participation in this statistically regulated workforce is entirely voluntary: The tables are meant to affect the distribution of labor. If they are to do that, everyone must be able to see where there is a labor shortage and just how big it is. […]

The Martians believe in a creed that equates the existence of each tiny part and particle with the existence of the totality. “The meaning of each individual life,” one says, “will vanish together with that faith, because the whole lives in each and every one of us, in each tiny cell of the great organism, and each of us lives through the whole.”