CHAPTER 21 Socialist Realism

AS soon as the Communists were firmly in power in February 1948, they forced upon the Czechoslovak cultural world their own theory of art, literature, history and science. In each branch of cultural activity, they proceeded to purge and reorganize. Their object was not merely to change Czech literature, art, historical scholarship and science. This was just the beginning. They had set out to change the entire character of the Czech people, to break their thousand-year-old Western traditions, to create what they sometimes called "socialist man," actually an Eastern, Soviet Russian man.

The Communist Party "line" for all kinds of cultural activity is called socialist realism. It was expounded by Professor Ladislav Stoll, top Communist Party theoretician, at a Congress of National Culture on April 10 and 11, 1948.

In the future the one and only valid intellectual and artistic standard would be socialist realism. This was nothing new. Zhdanov and others in Moscow had discussed it aplenty. But it was very new in Czechoslovakia where almost everyone, even Communists, used, and had always used, standards common to the West.

Socialist realism is a theory that all artistic inspiration should come from "the people," especially from the workers and from their work, or from the material things with which the people work. The form of artistic expression may vary according to the artist's personality, so long as it is easily understandable by the people; what really matters is the ideological conception behind the form.

On this theme Stoll expanded at great length. He attacked the exponents of art for art's sake who, "posing aristocratically as princes of poetry, vaunt their loyalty in the service of pure beauty, unsoiled by life, people who are without the burning, creative inner soul of the artist."

He attacked poetic solitude, formalism and rationalism which are, he said, "the way of people who live remote from real life, who formally and

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