“A leading twentieth-century Marxist and Soviet founding father, Bukharin naturally remained loyal, even in Lubyanka, to Marxism and to the Soviet Union. In addition, Stalin’s modernizing goals, however brutally pursued, were his as well. But Bukharin knew, as he had made clear before his arrest, that the Stalinist regime, much like Hitler’s, was growing into an “omnipotent ‘total state’ that de-humanizes everything except leaders and ‘superleaders'”. «Socialism and Its Culture» tried to overcome that nightmarish paradox. It argued effusively for the “humanist” potential of the Soviet system while pleading with the despot for its humanization, even “transition to democracy”, so that the nation could play its essential antifascist role. Bukharin believed deeply in those historic Soviet missions, even while knowing they were being terribly deformed under Stalin, and a final opportunity to testify on their behalf was another reason he agree to stand trial. Though he hoped «Socialism and Its Culture» would reach a world “at the crossroads of history”, it was, in effect, a book-length policy memorandum to Stalin. (…) By the seventh month in prison, September 1937, Bukharin had largely completed a second manuscript, a collection of poems of “universal scope” entitled ‘The Transformation of the World’. Though outwardly “chaotic”, he explained in his letter to his wife, the collection was based on a “plan”. Most of the nearly 200 poems were reflections on previous centuries – particularly their great thinkers, cultural figures, and rebels – and a epic telling of Soviet history from 1917 to the 1930s, culminating in the ongoing “struggle of two worlds”, socialist humanism and fascism. In that respect, the second manuscript was an expansive poetic rendition of the first. Whatever the literary quality of the poems – expert Russian opinion is mixed – they are of compelling interest. (…) This third prison manuscript mattered greatly to Bukharin for at least two reason. In 1921 he had published a philosophical work, ‘Historical Materialism’, that immediately became a canon of international communism. Translated into many languages, it established him as a major Marxist thinker and the Party’s “biggest theorist”. Stalin could not really obliterate that reputation, but serious intellectual and political challenges to Marxism, in addition to the theory and practice of fascism, had arisen since 1921. The still proud and intellectually ambitious Lubyanka inmate wanted to respond to those challenges and complete his long-standing project of bringing nineteenth-century Marxism fully into the twentieth century. Something else equally personal was on Bukharin’s mind. In 1922, while exalting him as the movement’s best theorist, Lenin had added a biting caveat, as only a father figure can: Bukharin “has never studied, and I think, never fully understood dialectics”. Since dialectical understanding was thought to be at the center of Marxist theorizing, Lenin’s paradoxical qualification rankled and lingered. (Most of all, it reflected generational differences between the two men: Lenin’s Marxism was imbued with nineteenth-century German philosophy, particularly Hegel, and Bukharin’s with early-twentieth-century sociological theory). Now on the eve of his own death, in a last discourse with his dead leader and revered friend, Bukharin undertook, as “Ilich [Lenin] recommended”, a book the would be “‘dialectical’ from beginning to end”. Whether or not Lenin would have approved, the result was anything but conformist. When ‘Philosophical Arabesques’ was published in post-Communist Russia, an eminent Moscow philosopher noted the “illusions Bukharin shared with many Communists of that time” but emphasised his “secret polemic with Stalinism”” [Stephen F. Cohen, ‘Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives. From Stalinism to the New Cold War’, New York, 2009] [Lenin-Bibliographical-Materials] [LBM*]