Jesse F. Battan
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“What is the correct revolutionary proletarian attitude toward sex?”
Red love and the Americanization of Marx in the interwar years
in Marxism and America
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In a 1927 issue of New Masses, Floyd Dell raised a question that brought into focus a spectrum of views on the political uses of private life in American radical thought in the interwar years: what role would sexual relations play in the revolutionary struggle to create a new world? Following Marx, Engels, Bebel, and Lenin, political radicals assumed that after the revolution true love, untainted by material considerations, would be freed to create stable monogamous, heterosexual relations, and jealousy and possessiveness would disappear along with private property. In contrast, cultural radicals expanded the emotional and erotic options that would be available after the fall of capitalism. Further, rather than await the transformation of economic life, they insisted the re-education of desire would help to usher in the revolution. Following the lead of Alexandra Kollontai, V. F. Calverton, Samuel Schmalhausen, and others attempted to reconcile both positions. Melding Marx and Freud, they designed a blueprint for an emotional experience—what they termed red love or love-comradeship—which tied personal fulfillment to social commitment and created new forms of love and erotic relationships that would play an active role in the struggle to realize the ideal society.

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