The Soviet Union and the Challenge of the Future - Vol. 1

By Alexander Shromas; Morton A. Kaplan | Go to book overview

8
Communism as a Cultural Phenomenon

LESZEK KOLAKOWSKI

There is a Polish anecdote about a little girl who was assigned a school essay entitled, "Why We Love the Soviet Union." Unsure of the answer, she asked her mother, "Mummy, tell me, why do I love the Soviet Union?" "What a thing to say," her mother cried. "They're criminals, no one loves them, everybody hates them!" She then asked her father. "Don't be so silly," her father cried angrily, "they're our oppressors, invaders, the whole world hates them!" The little girl was at a loss. She asked a few more adults the same question, but they all answered in a similar vein. Finally she wrote: "I love the Soviet Union because nobody loves it."

I would like to proceed rather like that little girl. I would like, namely, to consider a question which has seldom, if we disregard communist propaganda (although even its authors do not take the matter seriously), received serious treatment -- the issue of communism as a source of cultural inspiration in our century. Admittedly, anthropologists try to avoid using the word culture in a value-laden sense, using it instead to refer to all the means of communication peculiar to a given community, such as its customs, laws, and educational institutions, its mechanisms of power and religious beliefs,

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