A. V. Lunacharsky 1931
Translator: Y. Ganuskin;
Source: A. Lunacharsky: On Literature and Art Progress Publishers, 1973;
Transcribed: Harrison Fluss for marxists.org, February 2008.
It has been said many times that Mayakovsky’s espousal of the proletarian cause was not a chance occurrence. This means that the prerequisites for taking him in this direction existed within him, for in our times there are many people and not a few poets, but not all people, not all poets follow this road. However, this inner voice would never have led him as it did, if not for our times, for no one determines his own way, but the way of any man is determined, to a great extent, by his times and surroundings. In speaking of Mayakovsky’s work and life, we speak of his encounter as an individual with the proletarian revolution as a colossal social phenomenon.
The proletariat and its revolution existed in a latent form long before October 1917, and even before 1905. Mayakovsky knew of the existence of this great force and at times he came quite close to it in his everyday life, yet, during his early period, he was still quite removed from it. One can say that when Mayakovsky embarked upon his career, he was still beyond the sphere of influence of this gigantic social body, the revolutionary proletariat. The first step Mayakovsky took on the road to revolution, understood in the broad sense of the word as the rejection of and attempt to destroy that which exists for something else, better and nobler, he did as an individual.
Mayakovsky often provides definitions and self-portraits in which he says that he, Mayakovsky, is too large for the surroundings in which he must live. He puts a double meaning into the word “large.” On the one hand, he is simply stating the fact that he, Mayakovsky, is a very tall, big man; on the other hand, there is a corresponding largeness of spirit, the scope of his ideas, his passions, his demands up life, his creative powers; they, too, are out of proportion with his surroundings.
It is characteristic that in this respect the words “greatness” and “largeness” merge. As far as he is concerned, these passions, these thoughts, this dissatisfaction, these hopes and this despair of his are not something born of his mind, they do not revolve in some “empyrean consciousness”; all this is of his body, it is all taking place within his Herculean frame. Mayakovsky was a materialist (I will later discuss whether or not he became a dialectician): he experienced intensely everything that was of the earth, of the flesh, washed with hot blood, full of a natural thirst for life, and he experienced it as Mayakovsky, the corporeal being and as Mayakovsky, the psyche corresponding to this being.
Well, this Mayakovsky found that he was cramped in the world. This does not mean he was cramped in the universe. He liked the universe, the universe was very big, and he wanted to be on very close terms with it: he invited the Sun to come down and visit him and the Sun came down and talked to him. But the Sun came to him in his dreams, whereas those who were truly close to him and those with whom he tried to come in close contact were none of them as large as he. This is why Mayakovsky felt so melancholy and so terribly lonely. He found it difficult to find true friends. And only towards the end of his life did he begin finding them in a cross between the great vastness of the forces of Nature and individual persons, among whom he still found very few true friends. He never succeeded in closely approaching the greatest men of our epoch, men concerned with other matters in another sphere, the political leaders of our revolution. And yet, he finally found the entities, towards which he lunged with the great force of his desire to end his loneliness. These were social entities: the Proletariat and the revolution.
The proletariat and the revolution were close to his heart, firstly, in their Herculean, vast scope, the great battles which they unleashed in the spheres of direct political struggle and labour and, secondly, because they were the key to the future. He obviously did not have a very clear concept of what the future would be like. But he knew that it would be the sort of future in which he, a big man, would finally be able to breathe freely, in which he would be able to draw himself up to his full height, in which his heart would find in heaven. That is why, while all but foreseeing his fateful end, he says, in the introduction to his poem At the Top of My Voice, that he, this big man, should be revived in the future.
comrade heirs and descendants, to an agitator,
poetic deluge, I stride to you
through lyrical volumes, as the live with the living speaks.
When freedom is won, when great, erect people come to live on earth, then one can love and sing as one wishes But now –
in our lexicons,
look up the flotsam that floats down from Lethe,
odd remnant-words like “prostitution"
“blockades.” For you,
who’re so healthy and nimble, a poet
consumptive spittle with the crude rough tongue of placards.
Mayakovsky did all he could to pave the way for the man of the future. This was the starting-point from which Mayakovsky began his fight for the big man in pre revolutionary times. There was no road to the future in the bourgeois world, there were no entities of social order, of the collective which he could come to love, there was only a petty-bourgeois void, and it was against this petty-bourgeois void that he protested.
There were some social notes in Mayakovsky’s protest from the very start. However, the essence of this protest was the world is too shallow to accept a great individual, and the great individual rejects with indignation and disgust this shallow world, this mercenary world, degraded as it is to a bourgeois level to a bourgeois level. This was Mayakovsky’s first revolt
Mayakovsky’s second revolt resulted from his youth. It not a matter of a man being young and, therefore, loving to behave defiantly, like a king-of-the-castle, towards others. No, youth meant something else to Mayakovsky: he felt that the world he had been born into, and of which he id become an integral part, was old and decrepit. It had its own famous personages and museums, revered by all, but these famous personages and museums served only to sanctify and bless the worthless, decrepit world in which he lived.
Mayakovsky realised full well that there were priceless treasures in mankind’s past, but he feared that if these treasures were acknowledged, all the rest must be acknowledged, too. Therefore, it was better to revolt against everything and say: We are our own ancestors! May our youth proclaim its own young words, such as will make it possible to rejuvenate society and the world!
Youth usually wants to stress the fact that it will say things that have never been said before. This desire produces in Mayakovsky’s revolutionary writings the contrasts which many critics have noted and which, undoubtedly, are often paradoxical, are often an unexpected trick, are often rudeness, are often a young boy’s prank. And those who, like Shengeli and all the other “old maids,” said: “Oh, dear! This is terrible! This is hooliganism!” were horrified because they had no youth left in their blood. One can even be young at an advanced age or be dog-old at an early age, it is not a matter of years, but of creative power. And those who lack it could not understand how the wine fermented in Mayakovsky, how it blew out the cork and even blasted the bottle, how a young, impetuous talent was fermenting. These pranks of the young Mayakovsky were signs of his future growth, just as a pure-bred puppy has large and clumsy paws, true signs of his future great size.
His third revolutionary step was born of his skill and, first and foremost, of his skill in the formal sense of the word. He felt in himself a great love for words, he felt that words obeyed him, that they formed into battalions at his command. He was carried away by this power he had over words. He felt that if a person did not know how to command words, but merely repeated what others had said before, he was like a conductor who comes to a well-rehearsed orchestra and waves his baton after the musicians have already played a particular phrase, while the listeners think he is conducting. Such a state of affairs is similar to one in which an epigonus thinks he is writing new poems, while he is actually possessed by old words and thoughts. Mayakovsky was always exasperated by formal impotency, and he said that one should write in an entirely new way. He did not yet know what this new way would be, in form and content, but, above all, it had to be new. And he who would write according to the old tenets should be castigated as a servant of the decrepit world.
Mayakovsky’s next revolt (similar to his castigation of his surrounding’s which was born of his skill) was a revolt which resulted from production. Here, to a great extent, we have approached the very essence of his works. Who, Mayakovsky asked himself, are those poets whom I renounced for being imitators, for continuing the process of the world’s growing decrepitude, regurgitating, as they do, songs that have already been sung? What is the content of their songs? Is there any usefulness in what these poets are producing? Perhaps, then, poets cannot produce anything of use at all?
Mayakovsky was incensed by poets who proudly stated: “A poet does not produce useful things, a poet produces useless things. Herein lies my charm as a poet, this is the exalted nature of things poetic.” If one were to listen attentively to the useless things these poets sing about, one would discover they were nothing more than a soulful rigmarole. Historical themes, genres, and what-have-you are put through the so-called subject, pulled through the stomach and intestines, and then only are they presented to you. If a person is a poet, he must be a “lyricist” first, he must know how to be very musically nauseous in front of the whole world.
Mayakovsky himself was revolted by all this lyricism, by all this musical chirping, by all saccharine melodies, and by the desire to adorn life with artificial flowers. Mayakovsky did not want life to be adorned, because, in his opinion, adorning life, and such a horrible one at that, was a treacherous undertaking; they would camouflage reality’s hideous mug with cheap artificial flowers instead of changing it. This, undoubtedly, was the product of his dormant Marxist feelings, although it was only gradually (as Jourdain only in his maturity discovered that he spoke in prose) that Mayakovsky realised he was a revolutionary in mind, that he realised whose ally he was.
Thus, Mayakovsky asserted quite definitely that one must produce useful things: Poet, prove that your songs are useful!
But in what case can they be useful?
Mayakovsky jested: What does “poetry must light the way” mean? After all, it’s not a lamp! Or, “poetry must warm us"? But it’s not a stove!
Naturally, this does not mean that Mayakovsky thought poetry could neither light the way nor warm one, for did not the Sun itself advise him to “Shine on-for all your blooming worth"? But he knew that poetry shone and warmed one somehow differently. The question was: how? Not to light the way for a near-sighted person returning home from an unpleasant, unsuccessful rendezvous, or to warm a person in his cosy home. The light and warmth which a poet must disperse should be the rays, the energy which can be transformed into a living cause. He must take part in the production of new things, i.e., though his works are not in themselves utilitarian, they should provide the stimuli or methods or instructions for producing these utilitarian things. All this will bring about a change in environment and, therefore, a change in society itself.
This then is the origin of Mayakovsky’s great passion for the slogan “productional” or productive and producing poems which are “a product of production,” but in no way born “of the soul” as a pale flower.
Mayakovsky became a revolutionary per se at a very early age. He often visualised the revolution as a desired but vague, tremendous blessing. He could as yet not define it more clearly, but he knew that it was a gigantic process of the destruction of the hated present and the creative birth of the magnificent and desired future. And the faster, the more turbulently and more mercilessly this process advanced, the happier the big man Mayakovsky would be. And then he came face to face with the proletariat, the October Revolution and Lenin; he came upon these tremendous phenomena on his life’s path and, taking a close look at them, though keeping aloof at first, he saw that this was his place in life, that this was what he had been yearning for, a direct realisation of the gigantic process of reconstruction! And he advanced, as well as he could, to meet this movement; he decided to become, as far as possible, a true proletarian poet. And all that was best in him, all that was great in him, all that was social, all that produced three-quarters of his poetry and which constituted the essence of his work, all this was truly heading towards the proletariat and would have completely won over all the other elements of his nature and would have perhaps given us, as a result, a true proletarian poet.
Mayakovsky felt that everything about the old poetry was flabby, was made of cotton wool, and he yearned for the heavy sledge-hammer which “crushing glass, forges swords.” One finds this striving for courage, skill, ringing sounds and pure metal in all of Mayakovsky’s works. Symbolically speaking his call was for metallic art.
What method did he follow? Some say: “His method was that of ‘pulling down poetry’.” In other words, they contend that poetry was elevated, that it could at least fly as high as a paper kite on its not-too-strong wings, but now this man had suddenly made poetry heavy and had pulled it down completely.
But if we take a closer look at what Mayakovsky’s “pulling down” meant, we shall see that he actually raised it higher, because Mayakovsky pulled poetry down from the point of view of idealism, which is a thoroughly inaccurate evaluation of things and an inaccurate measure of these heights, but he raised it from the point of view of materialism, which is a correct evaluation of things and their proper correlation.
First of all, as to lowering the theme. The say that Mayakovsky chose themes that were vulgar, too common, shallow, light in style, etc.
True, he did not always choose shallow, common themes. Sometimes (quite often, in fact) he chose monumental themes. But even his monumental themes are original, they make you feel that they are still in contact with the earth and that their great iron feet are marching to the rhythm of: “Left! Left! Left!” And all his abstractions are the same, all march on heavy feet: “Left!” Why is this so? Because he considered it a poet’s goal to change the world and he wanted to tackle only these themes which were part of the very core of this change. He considered it to be beneath a poet’s dignity to fly about the heavens in a dream, gazing upon eternity, infinity and similar haziness. That would have meant being a sybarite, a parasite, a superficial skimmer, but Mayakovsky wanted to be a builder. That is why he chose themes pertaining to work, to construction-truly earthly themes.
Lowering of lexicon. They say he used a great many vulgar words and feared words which had been worn smooth with time, which were covered with this interesting slime accumulated through the ages.
Some say: “Oh, what a lovely word! The poet so-and-so used it!” Lomonosov thought the more Slavic words used, the higher the style. If there were no Slavic words, it was a “low style.” Well, Mayakovsky did not want to write in “high style,” he wanted to write in “low style.” “High style” has been overhandled. The first poets had formed these words with gentle, inspired hands. There followed others with rougher hands who smudged them, so to speak, and then came those with heavy paws who, perhaps, had never thought of any words themselves, nor even moulded any, but, using the old available words, could even pass for musicians with their heavy paws. Mayakovsky unearthed an entirely new lexicon, words which either lay deep in the earth but which had not yet been turned up as virgin soil by the poetic plough, or those which were just being born, which, like a coral reef, were being covered with live polyps, they had yet to be made the language of poetry. Mayakovsky did this. And there were those who said this was “pulling down” poetry. Why? Because those were words carters used or that was how people spoke at meetings...Indeed, this is how they speak, because these are living words! Mayakovsky never uses dead words.
Sentence construction. They say that his constructions are often vulgar and common, and that they are sometimes quite unexpected, not at all according to the rules of syntax, and thus create an impression of phraseological tricks.
That was done because Mayakovsky captured living phrases. It is undoubtedly more difficult to create new words than to use accepted ones, but Mayakovsky created a great many new words. He had the gift of creating words which had never been uttered before, yet after he had set them down they were accepted by all. Sentence construction is a different matter, however. Here each person is a virtuoso and creator. A person who creates forms of speech which have never been used before and which are extremely convincing is, naturally, a person who is truly creating in the sphere of language. And it must be said that – with the possible, exception of such a poet as Pushkin or, at another stage, Nekrasov, and between them at yet another stage, Lermontov – hardly anyone who wrote poetry or even prose has gained such creative victories in rejuvenating and enriching the Russian language as Mayakovsky. This is undeniable.
Lowering of rhythm. We are talking about the rhythm of song, understood as “harmonious melody,” “jangling strings,” or ‘’the singing of a golden harp,” as limp romanticism in which the poet describes his weariness, his exquisite grief for the world, his uncommonly gentle love, or some such thing. But why does this rhythm, so homely and ordinary, appear to be so exalted? Because these people think that they have a soul, that it is immortal, that it is kindred to all the Seraphim and Cherubim, and, through the Cherubim, to God Himself and, therefore, everything that goes on in the soul is sacred and majestic. Actually, as Saltykov-Shchedrin said, one finds in place of this soul “something small and uncomely,” and this “something small and uncomely,” this crusted essence of such an individual, is not kindred to anything except the selfsame petty individuals around it. And this exaltation is again an exalted state only in the eyes of the idealist; in the eyes of the materialist it is simply “decay and ashes.”
What are Mayakovsky’s rhythms? Mayakovsky’s rhythm is the rhythm of argument, the rhythm of an orator’s appeal, the rhythm of industrial sounds, industrial production metres, and the rhythm of a march.
Obviously, from the point of view of an exalted individual who imagines that he lives in a divine world (but who actually never leaves his W.C.) such rhythms seem to destroy the feeling of intimacy, aloofness, warmth and concentration. “What is this? Where have they taken us? Why, this is a market-place!” he says and does not understand that this is no market-place at all, but a magnificent human, creative world, a true and active society, that this is the revolution, that these are its sounds. One can hear them in these new rhythms, in this new roll of drums.
Lowering of rhyme. They say, “What is this, what sort of rhyme is this? It’s just a joke. He sets two words in opposition to a third, he takes fantastic liberties with a word, there are too many absurdities there.”
Certainly, as Mayakovsky himself said, “dears, fears and tears” cause much less panic than Mayakovsky’s rhymes. But Mayakovsky used the rhymes he did, because it made his poems easier to remember. It is a well-known mnemonic formula: in order that a poem be remembered, it is important to have not only a rhyme in general, but a new rhyme, not one that makes you older than you are, for as it is you have already swallowed several centuries and carry them about within you, but one that would complement you, a truly new exchange of words, so original and amazing as to make it memorable. Actually, every part of a poem by Mayakovsky is an aphorism, a saying which should be remembered. He knew most of his own poetry by heart. Valery Bryusov once said to me: “A poet who has forgotten his own poems is either a poor poet or else he has written poor poetry. A good poet remembers all his good poetry.” I believe Bryusov was quite right. Mayakovsky remembered his own poems.
They say that Mayakovsky kept pulling everything farther and farther down in poetry, yet Mayakovsky’s poetry is refined.
But in what sense is it “refined”? There is the salon type of refinement; if one’s trousers have been made by the best-known tailor it is considered comme il faut. And yet, refine-nient and comme il faut are in opposition to each other. Comme il faut is the proper way, as accepted by others, “while refinement is something expressed in a new way, something that has been found individually, as a pioneer blazing a new trail.
See what Mayakovsky himself said of his method of writing poetry. He recalls where and when he found each rhyme: “I was passing Arbat Gates and recalled this rhyme; spent 7-8 days thinking of a way to say it in a few words.” Mayakovsky was a hard worker; no improviser, but a determined, conscientious searcher. Indeed, he has no empty, blank lines, not only during the years when Shengeli recognised his talent, but during the years when Shengeli ceased to recognise his talent as well. Each line is worth its weight in gold, because each has been discovered, each has been created. Mayakovsky said he was ashamed of those lines which added nothing new. Mayakovsky is poetry’s labourer. Obviously, in the simple production process or in industry one can design models and then go on to make innumerable copies. The question here may be of typographical reproduction: when each line has been found, when an article has been written it can be printed in millions of copies, and this is industrial multiplication. But that which the poet creates is always a new model, is always a new sample. Thus did Mayakovsky work.
We can rightfully state that Mayakovsky’s coming to the revolution was an extremely organic arrival, an extremely remarkable arrival. The successes which resulted from Mayakovsky’s joining our forces were extremely important to us. But Mayakovsky had a double, and this was his misfortune. Why, in Mayakovsky’s metallic lines and social poems, do we notice a seeming lack of concreteness, as if he is afraid of the concrete, afraid of the individual and is seeking very great and resounding symbols?
In a way, this can be explained by the fact that Mayakovsky did not approach all this closely enough in general. Just as a city seen from afar appears as a colossus in a blue haze or a great electric glow, but you cannot make out the streets, the houses or, especially, the people, so did Mayakovsky approach the city of socialism, the city of revolution in his own way, seeing it, welcoming it and describing it, but never walking its streets. This is one of the correct explanations. Besides, most of all Mayakovsky was afraid of letting his double, who followed him everywhere, into this city. Mayakovsky sensed his presence, he was afraid of him, he disliked him, but he could not get rid of him. The worst part of it all was that he had a rather charming double. His charm was what frightened Mayakovsky most, since, if you had a repugnant double, it would be easy enough to get rid of him. The fact that he is charming only proves that he is real and that he has absorbed some of your own traits: you banish them from your consciousness, but the very fact that you banish them from your conscious personality makes them condense nearby into another, phantom-like personality, which does not actually follow you about, but lives within you in your subconscious, semiconscious, supplementary personality.
What was this double made of? He was made of everything petty that still lived in Mayakovsky. However, Mayakovsky’s petty-bourgeois traits were not disgusting. If this had been a greed for money, if this had been intriguing, if this had been slander, gloating, or pettiness in relations with others, in a word, everything that comprises the usual background of a trivial individual’s life, Mayakovsky would simply have carted it all off to the nearest dump. But this was a great desire for love and gentleness, a great desire for truly intimate sympathy, a great compassion for all living creatures, such overwhelming compassion that Mayakovsky was ready to throw his arms around the neck of a tired old hag.
I came, glimpsed
in the horse’s eye:
the street, up-turned,
swam in all its reality.
I came and saw
huge drop after drop
roll down the nostrils, hide in the growth....
And an animal anguish
I couldn’t stop
spilled out of me, rippling,
and flooded us both.
“Now, don’t, please, horsie!
You know what remorse is?
But why do you suppose you’re worse?
we’re all of us a little bit horses,
each of us in his own way’s a horse.”
He was just as ready to embrace a violin, for it sang to him of suffering, and he saw in it a symbol of life’s burdens.
Staggered over the notes,
The stands bending under me, aghast
with the violence. “Goodness!"
burst from my throat as I hugged the wooden neck.
“Listen, violin, Don’t you think we’re alike? I too, keep wailing,
yet nothing doing!” The musicians yelled,
“For the love of Mike, Who does he think he’s wooing?” But I – the devil I care
what they say! “You know what, violin, Let’s live together, Eh?”
Was this good or bad, likeable or not? How could it not be likeable, if a person yearned for love, “at least a tiny bit of love,” if a person wanted sympathy, if he wanted to be surrounded by people who loved him? All this, which Mayakovsky had not entirely killed within himself, appeared in the best light, as his ability to really understand people and his terrible need to be understood, sometimes consoled and caressed. And is it not commendable that Mayakovsky felt there was such grief everywhere?
Shengeli says: See how often he uses the word “nerves"’, he himself says he is not well. Why, certainly, Shengeli thinks that since Mayakovsky said: “I am made of metal,” it means he must have a cast-iron head. But this is not at all one and the same thing. Beneath this metal armour in which the whole world was reflected there beat a heart that was not only passionate, not only gentle, but fragile and very sensitive to pain. And perhaps if Mayakovsky was not possessed of such great sensitivity, of shy compassion, his monumental works would not have the warmth they do. This tenderness sometimes made its way quite successfully into the cast iron of Mayakovsky’s bell which later rang out his triumph. It is all for the good when a bell is cast and a little soft metal such as tin is added. But no good is to be gained if there is too much tin, too much of this soft substance in a person, for then it turns into a lump, into a double.
In his poetry, Mayakovsky was afraid of this double, this soft, exceedingly intimate and unusually sensitive, painfully sensitive Mayakovsky. He felt: an age of iron has come, a great time has come-and I am the same myself, I have powerful muscles, my heart beats as a great hammer, and truly I am capable of speaking to great crowds in my great voice. And I want to do this. Why is this ulcer inside me, this deep, bleeding ulcer? Mayakovsky tried his best to rid his poetry of this softness, but he did not always succeed, and his double would sometimes chime in, interrupting him, singing Of This, of that-at any rate, of that which the true Mayakovsky, the forceful Mayakovsky, did not wish to sing. This broke through in the sentimental, heart-rending love songs that Mayakovsky would sing on various pretexts and in his laments from time to time, speaking of how discontented he was, of how he had never found understanding or compassion, of how everyone was so terribly stern, perhaps even his closest friends with whom he shared his meals in the same battle-scarred pot, with whom he was fighting on the same common front.
Not all of us are like Marx, who said that poets experience a great need for kindness. Not all of us understand this, and not all of us understood that Mayakovsky was in need of great kindness, that often he needed nothing as much as a kind word, perhaps even the simplest of words; it would have reached the heart of this double, it would have balanced the deep sadness of this double.
By breaking into the song, this double created Mayakovsky’s second melody: Mayakovsky would grab his double by the neck most forcefully, passionately and triumphantly and bend him in two, saving: “You do not dare speak in the name of Mayakovsky!” and then go on in that magnificent, booming voice of his. But from time to time he would let this double go and the double would begin to sing like a violin, he would sing melancholy songs, and then one could no longer distinguish one Mayakovsky from the other.
This divided personality means that Mayakovsky is amazingly characteristic of our transitional times. It would have really been a miracle if he had not advanced battling on the way, if he had been able to kill this inner soft petty bourgeois, this sentimental lyric without any difficulty at all and immediately become a poet-tribune. Perhaps a true proletarian poet, coming from the ranks of the proletariat, a true social revolutionary of the Leninist type, a Lenin in poetry, will follow this road. But Mayakovsky was not such a poet. That is why the battles he fought, the obstacles he overcame, the struggle he waged to overcome himself were so significant.
Did he succeed? Yes, in poetry he did, and he stepped on his double’s throat. When he said that he stepped “on the throat of my own song,” he had stepped on the throat of the songs which his double wanted to sing. Mayakovsky felt the urgent need to do so especially after joining the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers.
Despite the fact that he liked his double, despite the fact that Mayakovsky at times wondered: Am I not the double? – despite all this he stepped on his double’s throat. And his double killed him for this. He succeeded in killing Mayakovsky because, though he had only managed to mix in a certain amount of slag in Mayakovsky’s works, in his private life he was apparently much more powerful.
Many people ask: “Why did Mayakovsky take his life?” I won’t explain, for I do not know. Mayakovsky said: “I would ask you not to rummage about in my life.” (The late poet did not like gossip.)
We can approach this death in a very general way only. We do not know the circumstances. All we know is that Mayakovsky said: “I did not fear this double in politics, nor in poetry, nor out there on the high seas, where I spoke, megaphone in hand, to the ship Nette, but at a little sentimental lake where the nightingale sings, the moon shines down and the boat of love sails, that is where I was shipwrecked. Do not ask me anything else about it. There my double was stronger than I, there he overcame me and did me in, and I felt that if I did not kill the metal Mayakovsky he would probably go on living as a broken man,” His double had chewed a chunk out of him, he had made big dents in him and Mayakovsky did not want to sail the oceans full of holes, it was better to end his life in his prime.
This explanation should suffice, for it is correct, and there is no reason to seek further, nor would it be proper.
We consider the following to be important. The philistines who surrounded Mayakovsky made a pact with his double. They wanted to prove that the double had conquered Mayakovsky, not the fragile boat of his emotions, but that he had won in open battle, that Mayakovsky the politician had been vanquished, that Mayakovsky the poetic innovator had been vanquished. Now Trotsky is the comrade of these philistines. He is no longer the comrade, as we are, of the metal Mayakovsky, but is the comrade of Mayakovsky’s double. Trotsky writes that Mayakovsky’s drama lies in the fact that he came to love the revolution as best he could and advanced towards it as best he could, but since thev revolution was not a true one, his love, was not true, and the road he traversed was not a true road either. Naturally, how could the revolution be a true one if Trotsky had no part in it! This alone is enough to prove it is a “false” revolution! Trotsky says that Mayakovsky took his life because the revolution did not proceed according to Trotsky; now, had it gone according to Trotsky, it would have blossomed out in such dazzling fireworks that Mayakovsky would never have dreamed of grieving.
So you see that in the interests of his little political shop, so squalid and bankrupt, Trotsky embraces everything that is hostile to the progressive elements of the socialist world we are creating.
But the immortal Mayakovsky lives on. The immortal Mayakovsky is not afraid of his double. The double died, because it was of such a very personal nature. And even if the best works written by the double will sometimes be read with interest, they will be of historical interest, while those written by “metal” Mayakovsky, by Mayakovsky the revolutionary, will mark the greatest era in human history.
Long after the revolution has done its work, when there is full socialism and full communism, people will speak of the era in which we live as a most amazing era. That is why all of us who are living in this era should remember that we cannot disgrace this era by weakness, for it is truly an amazing era and one must work very hard towards self-improvement to have the right to say that one is, in a small way, its worthy contemporary. In his main writings and social work Mayakovsky can be just such a worthy contemporary, and he has many allies. First, these allies are his books, his works. They sing loudly, they light our way and warm us, and their light is so strong that all the various owls and bats must hide in far corners, as from the rising sun, until the light picks them out there as well. Secondly, we are his allies. When I say “we” I do not mean myself and my friends, not the Communist Academy or the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers, but the “we” which now comprises the creative revolutionary vanguard of humanity, becoming ever more its numerically superior basis. This is the “we,” the “we” of our times, of the twenties, thirties and forties of our century, this is the “we” that is now fighting, creating, living, here in the U.S.S.R. and spreading to all the world. It proclaims itself to be an ally of Mayakovsky, not an ally of Mayakovsky’s double, but an ally of the Mayakovsky in whom his socio-political personality became crystallised. Perhaps this personality was not brought to perfection to give us the poet we dream of, but it has covered a tremendous distance towards such a one. That is why we consider ourselves to be his allies and have the right to say so without shame, as perhaps we could not have done if we had forced our brotherhood and union upon a great person individually, and not on behalf of this collective, this creative “we,” since, as concerns each individual, no matter how great, the warmth of comradeship is a great happiness when it is the lot of the living, and even when it is the lot of the deceased.