This book deals with Soviet attitudes to general issues of Soviet life; I should say it was concerned with Soviet ideologies, were that term not exposed to very current misunderstandings. The social relationships prevailing in every society are explained by groups whose professional function is to give such explanations. The political propagandist is one of a kind with artist, sociologist, priest, lawyer, etc., etc. To be sure, the picture they present of the basic assumptions of the society in which they live may be distorted by the need for self-assertion common to all social systems. It is possible to eliminate that element if the ideological statements, in the current sense of the word, are checked by those actions -- legislation for example -- by which the system expresses its real intentions, actions which are meaningless except as the expression of certain general attitudes. Such attitudes need not necessarily correspond to the actual facts and needs of a certain social system. They are 'ideological superstructures' in the Marxist sense, but they are not necessarily ideologies according to the current meaning of the word. We have to deal with them when attempting to interpret the spirit of a certain social system.
I wrote the first draft of this book in the summer of 1942 when the Anglo-Soviet Alliance had just been concluded, and I read the proofs four years later when it was undergoing a most serious crisis. The reader will find traces of the origin of this book not only in the fact that at many points I stopped at the pre-war stage of development in the U.S.S.R., but also by the attention devoted to such issues as the purges which naturally attracted a great deal of the observer's attention in pre-war years , but now seem almost settled through historical experience. However, I do not know to what lengths the trends at present prevailing in English literature on the U.S.S.R. will go, and whether the sort of nonsense, restricted at the moment to the more popular publications, will need a reply in a book of this kind which is intended to appeal to the serious-minded public. The reader may feel that I have followed Soviet developments during the war merely from books and periodicals. This, I submit, is no worse an observation point than could be gained by short visits in Soviet trains and hotels which appear to have inspired other books on the U.S.S.R. Wherever possible, however, I have spoken from my own observation in the U.S.S.R. before the war. This book was originally intended to deal with Russia's spirit on the eve of war, but I feel quite justified in altering the detail and calling it a book on the spirit of post-war Russia, because I believe that the trends observable in pre-war Russia have continued, and are . . .