Literature and Red Ideology Romanian Plays on Religious Themes in the 1950s and 1960s

Article excerpt

This study analyses several aspects of the relationship between communist censorship and literature, from the vantage point of literary sociology. Focusing on the issue of religious drama, the author intends to examine the transformations undergone by Romanian literature in the 1950s and 1960s, considering the impact of totalitarian communist ideology had upon it. What the study highlights is the game between prohibition and subversiveness, between misappropriation and reappropriation, which shaped the literary climate of that period. One of the conclusions envisaged here is that despite unrelenting and excessive pressures exerted by censorship, literature resisted being turned into an ally of the Romanian Communist Party.

Key Words:

Ideology, religion, myth, propaganda, Romanian playwriting, Communism, censorship.

At the vital core of the communist system lies censorship. Launched concurrently with the communist regime, censorship was the latter's staple ingredient from its (promising) beginnings to the very end, when the certitudes of communism collapsed into dissolution.

Censorship was responsible for safeguarding the ideological purity of public discourse and carrying out acts of political cleansing. This is why it represented the main instrument of political and cultural control over information, as well as over scientific and artistic production. At first, censorship would target art and literature only in so far as they were perceived as means of propaganda. Later, however, art became suspect, in the eyes of the communist party and of censorship, for its humanist values, which revealed and denounced the oppressive character of the communist regime, prone as it was to dissolve any sense of community cohesion and to mutilate the individual.

In order to understand the role and importance of censorship under communism, several things should be remembered. To its supporters, communist ideology was infallible. (It is not by mere chance that analysts have defined it as a gnosis.1) There could be only one good and that was the good promoted by the communist party. Its doctrine, comprised in party documents and speeches delivered by high-ranking party officials, which were thereafter largely reproduced in the press, set forth the party's direction, general line, principles and "orientation" as regards all the areas of social life, including literature and the arts, public information, science and communication. They were imposed as dogmas upon the entire society. Any alternative thought was prohibited, since it could sow the seeds of doubt and foster a critical spirit. In a society governed by a unique party's totalitarian ideology, it was impossible to think other than in a uniform and reductionist manner. Failing to conform to the official ideology meant taking the foreseeable risk of becoming an outcast.

Censorship had no doctrine, just like it had no goal of its own. It ensured that the party dogmas were faithfully abided by, as it was one of the instruments used to consolidate the system and to solve certain specific problems. Censorship aspired to be as efficient as possible. Hence, its ultrapragmatic character: it would accept any means it could put to such use.

It should be mentioned that communist censorship was not substantially different from that practised by right-wing dictatorial regimes, except, perhaps, as regards its totalitarian character.2 The two types of censorship also differed in that they displayed, in various degrees, the will to conceal their true character. If we are to admit, however, that communist censorship had its own peculiarity, it would be its paradoxical association with the idea of democracy, which granted its twofold character: censorship was both prohibitive and predictive.

The main role of censorship was to forbid and exclude from the public space anything that might be considered dangerous to the regime, or merely incongruous with the official doctrine and with the goals and practices of the communist party. …