Russian Cultural Studies: An Introduction

By Catriona Kelly; David Shepherd | Go to book overview

10
The Media as Social Engineer FRANK ELLIS

FRANK ELLIS


The Creation of Homo Sovieticus, 1921-1953: Theoretical Background

Sensible workers who follow Leninshould realize that a pitiless experiment is being performed on the Russian working class, an experiment which will destroy the best forces of the workers and will arrest normal development of the Russian Revolution for a long time to come.

Maksim Gor'kii, 1917

Communication and the power of ideas are the engines of political change. Thus it could be argued that the most successful political parties are the most effective communicators. Yet this seemingly sensible argument is turned upside down by the success of Lenin's Bolsheviks. Political discourse in the liberal democracies concedes the possibility that a political party could fail to persuade the electorate, but in that case there can be no basis for power. Lenin, in marked contrast, saw political communication as a weapon for winning power, without the help of any electorate, and then retaining it in the face of opposition. Once in power with its rivals vanquished, the Party could then bring the full force of the mass media to bear on the population, in order to further its social and economic goals, launching, in effect, an unprecedented experiment in mass psychology.

Soviet media theory evolved from the principles of the revolutionary party prescribed by Leninin the seminal work, What is to be Done? ( Chto delat'? 1902). Not far behind in canonical importance are "Where to Begin?" ( "S chego nachat'", 1901)and "Party Organizationand Party Literature"

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