Thursday, June 10, 2021

Maxim Gorky: The man who believed in social justice


When work is a pleasure, life is a joy! When work is a duty, life is slavery’ -Maxim Gorky

Maxim Gorky was a self-learned author, who had the undying curiosity to explore society and discover its hidden realities. His writings remarkably showed Gorky’s interest in social reform. He had an outstanding ability in the literature despite the interrupted education that he received. Gorky learnt from society. It was his University the institution of higher education where he gathered immense knowledge.

Orphaned at the age of 11, Gorky experienced the hardships of life. He did a number of odd jobs and while working he developed his reading skills. His grandmother Akulina was the most influential person in his life. Gorky later described her as the most loving and caring human being that he had met in his lifetime.

Gorky widely travelled in Russia. He became acquainted with the lowest members of society. He elegantly wrote about people describing their appearance, character and behaviour. His literary characters were based mostly on outcasts Gorky had met during his travels. Among these characters Smuri - a kind sailor, Matriona - a wicked old woman, Natalia Kazlova - a Prostitute, Nikiparich - a Police spy, Gogaleve – an Alcoholic, Guri Plethnikove - a young Revolutionary were incomparable and they made a profound impact on his Autobiography.

He analyzed all these characters without judging or criticizing them. Gorky was a Great Russian writer who emerged from the common people. He wrote a complex moral perspective on Pre Revolutionary Russia. He regarded literature as an essential food for the human spirit. The aim of literature as Gorky argued is to help man to understand himself, to strengthen the trust in himself, and to develop in him the striving toward truth; it is to fight meanness in people, to learn how to find the good in them, to awake in their souls shame, anger, courage; to do all in order that man should become nobly strong.

Gorky supported the Revolutionary movement in Russia, but he relinquished the moral right for revolutionaries to use violence. Even though the life has been built on cruelty and force in Tsar’s Russia he never believed a revolution or a social change, which needed human blood as fuel. Once he stated “I am capable of leading the masses, and not a weapon in the hands of shameless adventurers of fanatics gone mad.”

In 1906 Gorky wrote his most influential novel Mother narrating the life of a young revolutionary Pavel Vlasov and his mother Pelagea Nilovna. After writing this novel, he was hailed as a Revolutionary writer. Maxim Gorky was called the founder of the doctrine of socialist realism. Gorky supported for the overthrow of the Russian Autocracy. He openly protested against the persecution of the Jewish community in Russia.

He openly supported the Bolshevik movement and became a close friend of Lenin. He strongly opposed the World War 1 and had to face the heavy criticism by the Nationalists for being unpatriotic. But Gorky believed in human freedom and human will to thrive and stood by his principles.

When Maxim Gorky realized that the terror would follow after the October Revolution he was disappointed. When Stalin wrote “The Revolution neither pities nor buries its dead.” Gorky said that the Bolshevik leaders have been poisoned by the rotten venom of power.

All his life Maxim Gorky stood for the freedom of speech and of person and banished the Totalitarian ideology. Stalin once wanted Gorky to write a biography of him. But the great writer declined that offer even endangering his life. Stalin’s growing suspicion was projecting towards Gorky as well. He was kept under close surveillance by Stalin’s Secret Police. Gorky donated most of his income to the revolutionary movement and he had high anticipations. He believed and widely wrote about the social movement in Russia. But when the social movement which he believed became another instrument of terror he was utterly disappointed.

Struck by personal as well as social tragedies Gorky’s health deteriorated rapidly and he died on the 18th June 1936. Some believe that Maxim Gorky was poisoned to death on orders by Stalin.

Gorky’s work had an eternal passion for justice. It stimulated the revolutionary feelings in Russia. His protagonists were not Kings or Queens. They were ordinary people who experienced difficulties in day-to-day lives. He had a great sympathy for mankind. He described the human feelings in a wonderful romantic text. In the same time, he wrote about hunger, social prejudices and inequality that were strongly connected with the Human Society.

Ruwan M Jayatunge M.D. 

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