E. Belfort Bax, George Plekhanoff, Justice, 27th June 1918, p.3. (obituary)
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Proofread by Chris Clayton (May 2007).
The news that our esteemed comrade George Plechanoff had died recently will have come as a surprise to no one. We all knew that ever since his return to Russia, shortly after the Revolution of March 1917, Plechanoff had been in a hopeless state of health. His sufferings from the persecution of the Bolsheviks must have told heavily on the stricken man. Plechanoff’s long residence in Western Europe, notably Geneva and San Remo, has made him known to many of us to whom he had become a personal friend. The interesting account of our friend Hyndman as to the conversations he had with him when in London for a few days last year, prior to his journey to Petrograd, will be remembered by all readers of Justice.
Plechanoff played a considerable part in the Internationalist Socialist for more than a generation past. His familiarity with the French language was perfect. He could also read German, though he spoke it with difficulty. I do not think he knew much English. As a speaker, though fluent, Plechanoff was apt to adopt too querulous a tone. His influence and his reputation rested on his journalistic and literary work generally. He wrote in Russian, French and German periodicals.
Plechanoff was an orthodox Marxian of the purest water. All his writings were more or less popular expositions or applications of the Marxian doctrine in various connections. He was a stout upholder of the materialist theory of history in its extremest form. For Plechanoff, every development, intellectual, artistic or moral could be fully explained by purely economic causes without remainder over. His attitude on this subject was indeed substantially that of Karl Kautsky, only perhaps “more so”. It was on this point that the present writer, in conjunction with our friend Hyndman, joined issue with Plechanoff. A notice of a discussion Hyndman had with him on this question, on the last occasion they met, will be found in the article in Justice above referred to.
Of Plechanoff s life-long devotion to Socialism it is unnecessary to speak as it is well known. The later developments of the Russian Revolution must have been a bitter disappointment to him. His views on the war and current political views generally were in entire accord with those of the national Socialist party. It is intensely to be regretted that Russia and the Socialist party of the world should have lost a man like Plechanoff with his powers of organisation and of incisive popular writing, at a time such as the present, when Socialism is coming to be recognised, even by its enemies, as the leading force of the modern world.
E. Belfort Bax
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