Stalinism and Intellectual Order

  • A. Kemp-Welch


The conventional wisdom that the source of policy in the Stalin era was Stalin, aided at most by nicely calculated combinations of secretarial subordinates, corresponds quite closely to what we know about the later Stalinism, and most precisely to the phase into which its cultural policies were frozen after the war. Then the attack on Aleksandrov (1948) did take the philosophical establishment unawares, and seemed to illustrate the method of both ‘cult of personality’ and ‘totalitarian leadership’ in acting without regard for precedent or established orthodoxy, apparently by caprice. In further cases, arbitrariness was combined with ambiguity, intended to cause fear or isolation amongst the intelligentsia. Thus the posthumous attack on Marr (1950) was calculated to bring confusion, provoke faction-fighting and dispute over the ‘party line’ which extended far beyond the chosen field, linguistics, into all the social sciences, where scholars vied with one another in the ‘decoding’ of and ‘drawing of conclusions’ from Stalin’s statements. But was this always so? Does the conventional wisdom not stem principally from the memory of these last years, ones of policy stagnation and intellectual decline, which is then projected back in explanation of the pre-war period?


Central Committee Dialectical Materialism Soviet Scholar Slavic Review Soviet Communist Party 
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© A. Kemp-Welch 1980

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