Lyubov Axelrod

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Lyubov Axelrod, 1887.

Lyubov Isaakovna Axelrod (born Esther Axelrod; Russian: Любо́вь (Эмтер) Исаа́ковна Аксельро́д, penname Orthodox Russian: Ортодо́кс; 1868–1946) was a Russian revolutionary, Marxist philosopher and an art theoretician.

Axelrod was born in the family of a rabbi in Vilenkovichi, a village in the Vilna gubernia of the Russian Empire, now in Pastavy Raion, Belarus. She became involved with the narodnik organization at age 16. She emigrated to Switzerland in 1887, with the assistance of Leo Jogiches (lover of Rosa Luxemburg when the Vitebsk organisation collapsed in the wake of an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Alexander III of Russia organised by Aleksandr Ulyanov, older brother of Vladimir Lenin.[1] In 1900, she received her Ph.D. in philosophy from Bern University.

Political Career[edit]

In 1892 she became a Marxist and joined the Geneva-based Emancipation of Labor group, becoming a close associate of its leader Georgi Plekhanov. In 1902, she worked with Plekhanov and Lenin on the newspaper Iskra, as a contributor and an organiser. When the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party split into Bolsheviks and Mensheviks at its Second Congress in 1903, she joined the Bolsheviks, but left split with them soon afterwards, at the same time as Plekhanov.

In 1906 Axelrod returned to Russia during an amnesty and became a leading Russian authority on Marxist philosophy, second only to Plekhanov, as well as working with the Mensheviks' illegal organisation. Her Philosophical Essays, published in 1906, were acknowledged by both the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks as the definitive rebuttal of the 'neo-Kantians' Nikolai Berdyaev and Pyotr Struve, former Marxists who had broekn with the revolutionaries. She was critical of both Alexander Bogdanov and Vladimir Lenin during their debate over Empiriocriticism in 1908-1909, branding their ideas anti-Marxist. In 1910, in St Petersburg, she joined the Central Trade Union Bureau, which was also illegal. After the outbreak of war in 1914, like Plekhanov, she argued that Germany was the aggressor and Russia had a right to defend itself. She teamed up with two other prominent Marxist 'defencists', Pyotr Maslov and Aleksandr Potresov to produce the fortnightly journal Delo ('Fact'). After the February Revolution of 1917, she joined the central committee of the Menshevik party, and following the Bolshevik, she was reunited with Plekhanov in the little anti-Bolshevik group Yedinstvo.[2] She abstained from party politics after the death of Plekhanov, and made it her life's work to defend his philosophy.[3]

Later Career[edit]

In the 1920s she first worked at the Institute of Red Professors and later at the Soviet Institute of Philosophy. Her appointment to lecture in philosophy at Sverdlov University, in 1921, was originally blocked by the Orgburo, but when Lenin was consulted he said that it should be allowed, on condition that she was kept under observation in case she started promoting Menshevism. In the 1930s her version of Marxism was officially denounced as a Mechanistic revision of Marxism and she faded into obscurity.

She died on 5 February 1946 in Moscow.


  1. ^ Schmidt, O.Yu., Bukharin N.I. et al eds (1926). Большая советская энциклопедия vol 2. Moscow. p. 29.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Schmidt, O.Yu., Bukharin N.I. et al eds (1926). Большая советская энциклопедия vol 2. Moscow. p. 29.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  3. ^ Wetter, Gustav (1959). Dialectical Materialism: A Historical and Systematic Survey of Philosophy in the Soviet Union. London: Routledge and Regan Paul Ltd.

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