Leon Trotsky on H. G. Wells as Philistine

“What a bourgeois he is! He is a Philistine!” he repeated, and raised both hands above the table, laughed and sighed, as was characteristic of him when he felt a kind of inner shame for another man.

SOURCE: Trotsky Leon. “The Philistine and the Revolutionary” (April 6, 1924), in Lenin (New York: Blue Ribbon Books, 1925.) From an account (disputed by Wells) of Wells’s meeting with Lenin in the winter of 1920-21.

We were all surprised when, not so long ago, Bernard Shaw—such a witty writer!—informed us that Marx had long ago been superseded by Wells’s great work on universal history. [1]

1. I must confess that until Bernard Shaw’s letter I had not even known of the existence of this book. Afterwards I acquainted myself with it—I cannot in good conscience say read it because an acquaintance with two or three chapters was quite enough to stop me wasting any more time. Imagine a complete absence of method, of historical perspective, of understanding of the interdependence of the different facets of social life, and of scientific discipline in general and then imagine a “historian” burdened with these qualities roaming far and wide over the history of a few millenia with the carefree air of a man taking his Sunday stroll. Then you will have Wells’s book, which is to replace the Marxist school. — L.D.T.

SOURCE: Trotsky Leon. Leon Trotsky’s Writings on Britain, Volume 2: Where is Britain Going?; based on (1975?) Collected Writings and Speeches on Britain: In Three Volumes by Leon Trotsky, edited by R. Chappell and Alan Clinton. London: New Park Publications; New York: distributed by Labor Publications, 1974. This excerpt from Chapter IV: The Fabian “Theory’ of Socialism.

11. V. I. Lenin

The high point of Wells’s visit to Russia in 1920 was his audience with Lenin; in his book on the Russian trip, he calls this chapter “The Dreamer in the Kremlin.” After Wells left, Lenin is supposed to have exclaimed “What a bourgeois he is! He is a Philistine!” And then, says Trotsky, he “raised both hands above the table, laughed and sighed, as was characteristic of him when he felt a kind of inner shame for another man.” *

* Leon Trotsky, Lenin (New York, 1925), p. 173.

SOURCE: Wells, H. G. Journalism and Prophecy, 1893-1946: An Anthology, compiled and edited by W. Warren Wagar (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1964), p. 329. Editor’s prefatory note to II: Portraits: 11. V. I. Lenin, pp. 329-336. The original source for this portrait is Wells’s Russia in the Shadows, pp. 145-50, 152-67. See also reference below.

See also:

Lenin, H. G. Wells, & Science Fiction

Chapter 2 of The Life and Thought of H.G. Wells: Between the Past and the Future: [On The Time Machine]
      by Julius Kagarlitski, translated from the Russian by Moura Budberg

Chapter 4 of The Life and Thought of H.G. Wells: Facing the Changes: 2: Religion instead of Revolution

Wells, H. G. (Herbert George), 1866-1946. Journalism and Prophecy, 1893-1946: An Anthology, compiled and edited by W. Warren Wagar. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1964. xxvi, 447 pp. London: Bodley Head, 1965 [1966]. xxi, 330 pp. Electronic copy can be borrowed from archive.org:. See:

Section C: The Age of the Dictators, 1920-1939
      3. Russia in the Shadows, 118
      7. V. I. Lenin, 225 [see also prefatory note above]
      8. J. V. Stalin, 233
      9. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 240

Wells, H. G. The Outline of History: Being a Plain History of Life and Mankind. Volume I  & Volume II. New York: Macmillan, 1920.

The Outline of History - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

H. G. Wells - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lenin, H. G. Wells, & Science Fiction

The Life and Thought of H.G. Wells by Julius Kagarlitski

Journalism and Prophecy, 1893-1946: An Anthology,
by H. G. Wells, compiled & edited by W. Warren Wagar

Chapter VII: The Conflict of Languages
from Anticipations by H. G. Wells

Mankind and the Year 2000 (1973) by V. Kosolapov:
Chapter 5, Labour Process in the Future (excerpts)

Midwifing the "World Brain":
SIG/AH & SIG/BSS Program, 50th ASIS Annual Meeting, Boston, 1987

Red Stars: Political Aspects of Soviet Science Fiction by Patrick McGuire

The Cyclical Night: Borges—Introductory by L. A. Murrilo

Stanislaw Lem on Alien Invasions

[Paradoxes of Time Travel] From “Without Prejudice”
by Israel Zangwill

The Definitive Time Machine: A Critical Edition of H.G. Wells’s Scientific Romance

H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine: Selected Bibliography

Science Fiction & Utopia Research Resources:
A Selective Work in Progress

Futurology, Science Fiction, Utopia, and Alienation
in the Work of Imre Madách, György Lukács, and Other Hungarian Writers:
Select Bibliography

Frigyes & Ferenc Karinthy in English

Frigyes (Frederiko) Karinthy (1887-1938) en Esperanto

Esperanto Literature: Notes and Impressions (1930) by K. R. C. Sturmer

Vizito al Julio Baghy de K. R. C. Sturmer

Sándor Szathmári (1897–1974): Bibliografio & Retgvidilo / Bibliography & Web Guide

Sciencfikcio & Utopia Literaturo en Esperanto /
Science Fiction & Utopian Literature in Esperanto: Gvidilo / A Guide

Salvaging Soviet Philosophy (1)

Marx and Marxism Web Guide

H. G. Wells Revisited (1)

H. G. Wells Revisited (2): Wells & Borges

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