Soviet Historians in Crisis, 1928-1932

Soviet Historians in Crisis, 1928-1932

Soviet Historians in Crisis, 1928-1932

Soviet Historians in Crisis, 1928-1932

Excerpt

Few aspects of Soviet life during the turbulent period of the first five‐ year plan are more striking than the way in which those who were transforming almost every sector of Soviet society continually laid emphasis on the fact that in so doing they were acting within a tradition. While the country plunged into a new and unprecedented epoch, ideologues toiled to demonstrate the essential continuity of current policies with the principles supposedly enunciated by the founder of Bolshevism. And nowhere was continuity more loudly proclaimed than on the theoretical front. As the practices of the past decade were reversed, the subordination of all branches of science and culture to the political interests of the Soviet state was demanded in the name of the Leninist theory of the partiinost' of intellectual work. It was held to be a fundamental Bolshevik principle that theoretical work must support and assist the policies of the party.

The historical basis for this claim was slight. There was, it is true, semantic reason for attributing the theory of partiinost' to Lenin. The term had been coined by him in 1895 during his polemic with Peter Struve. Criticising his opponent's supposed objectivity, he wrote that 'When demonstrating the necessity for a given series of facts, the objectivist always runs the risk of becoming an apologist for these facts.' By contrast, a consistent materialist, in describing the class contradictions in any situation, took up a definite position. Lenin drew two conclusions. First, the materialist gave 'profounder and fuller effect to his objectivism' than the objectivist. And second, materialism required the taking of sides: 'materialism includes partiinost', so to speak, enjoins the direct and open adaptation of the standpoint of a definite social group in any assessment of events'. Essentially, the theory was a restatement of the Marxist sociology of knowledge. Since consciousness was the product of social being, central to which was the class struggle, any intellectual work necessarily reflected the interests of a class, and was thus in itself a means of class struggle—consistent or inconsistent though its class content, conscious or unconscious though the intentions of its creator. From the theory. Lenin derived the Marxist's duty to actively adopt the standpoint of a 'definite social group'; that is, of the proletariat. What this might entail in particular spheres of intellectual work, however, or how it might be known, was not indicated. Lenin did not suggest that partiinost meant the knowledge of truth about cultural.

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