Revenants and Revolutionaries: Ideology and Physiology on the Red Star

Douglas Greenfield, Columbia University

In this paper I describe a fantasy of the revolutionary body and society in Aleksandr Bogdanov’s Martian fictions Red Star (1908) and Engineer Menni (1913). Images of blood transfusion and vampirism in Bogdanov are my departure point for a discussion of utopian consumption in Russia. Capitalist critique and notions of life-creation coincide in a dream of consumption without waste, of a cycle of exchange without death. In the social utopia, economic equilibrium is paralleled by equilibrium of bodily energy flows. On the Mars of Red Star, where socialist and scientific-technical revolutions have already taken place, self-correcting systems and moving equilibria solve all problems of supply and demand, and everyone’s life is perpetually renewed by mutual blood transfusions. Bogdanov's Martian revolutionaries are building a world in which vampiric cycles of increase and decrease no longer apply.

I trace the idea of "ambrosian" aliment to the writings of Nikolai Fedorov, and frame later Soviet images of bodily control and regulation as a wish for perfect digestion. I compare the vampire tropes in Bogdanov's Martian fiction to those in the writings of Bolsheviks such as Leonid Krasin and Anatoly Lunacharsky, and place the vampire in the bigger picture of the dietary reform movement in Russia and the West.