The Spark that became a Flame: the Bolsheviks, Propaganda and the Cinema

  • Richard Taylor


Long before 1917 the distinction between agitation and propaganda had become a commonplace of Russian socialist theory and practice. Indeed, these concepts had their origins in an earlier generation that preceded the emergence of Russian Marxism, with men such as Herzen, Bakunin, Chernyshevsky and Lavrov, and more particularly with the publication of journals such as Herzen’s Kolokol (The Bell) or Lavrov’s Vperyod (Forward). The immense significance of these activities for the revolutionary movement as a whole reflected both its complete exclusion from political power and the absence in Russia of the open political debate through which that power might have been modified or even gradually acquired. Having nowhere else to go, the revolutionaries went underground, and an underground movement, even more than a conventional political party, needs a forum for its theoretical debates and a focal point for its political activities. These were two of the functions performed by the underground press during these years, but the third function, which in the longer term was perhaps to prove the most important, was to attract first the support and later the active participation of ever broader circles of the population.


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© John R. Presley 1978

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  • Richard Taylor

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