• Intellectuals and Communism

    Michael David-Fox (see profile)
    Twentieth century, Soviet Union
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    intellectuals, communism, cultural policy, intelligentsia, 20th century
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    first para: Grappling with the relationship between intellectuals and communism after 1917 calls to mind two topics long treated as almost entirely distinct. The first concerns non-Soviet, generally noncommunist intellectuals around the world and, in particular, intense twentieth-century debates over the pro-Soviet “fellow travelers” in the decades after 1917. The second concerns the role and place of intellectuals living and working under communism itself as a new, postrevolutionary intelligentsia emerged. The two topics have been divorced from one another not only because they were studied by historians in separated fields, but because the differences between them seemed obvious. Foreign intellectuals, wooed as sympathizers or potential allies by the organs of Soviet cultural diplomacy, parts of the Comintern, and the party-state, were outsiders not infrequently distant from the workings of the secretive Soviet system. Under Stalinism, the most pro-Soviet of them – known as fellow travelers abroad and “friends of the Soviet Union” at home – were celebrated rather than repressed. “Domestic” intellectuals, by contrast, were directly enmeshed in the political, cultural, scientific, and ideological dimensions of Soviet power during a period when the intelligentsia and culture were drastically remade. In the most hackneyed, Cold War-era renditions of these two topics, foreign fellow travelers were naive dupes or “useful idiots” (an apocryphal phase attributed to Lenin), while the Soviet intellectuals were either dissident martyrs or “hacks.”
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    7 years ago
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