26 Feb 1896 - 31 Aug 1948

Andrei Zhdanov

 

The Duty of a Soviet Writer

August 21, 1946


Original Source: Literaturnaia gazeta, 21 September 1946.


 

 

Comrades,

our Soviet literature lives and should live only in the interests of the people, the interests of our country. Literature is a matter that is near and dear to the people. That is why the people consider each of our successes, each important work of literature as their own victory. That is why every successful work may be compared with a battle won or with a great victory on the economic front. Conversely, every failure of Soviet literature deeply pains and injures the people, the Party, the state. It is this that the Central Committee had in mind in adopting its decision, for the Central Committee is solicitous of the interests of the people, of the interests of their literature, and extremely concerned over the present state of affairs among the writers of Leningrad.

Although people who have taken no ideological stand wish to deprive the Leningrad detachment of Soviet literary workers of its foundations, wish to undermine the ideological aspect of their work, to deprive the work of the writers of Leningrad of its significance as a means of bringing about social reform, the Central Committee trusts that the literary men of Leningrad will find themselves possessed of the strength to put an end to all attempts to turn the literary detachment of Leningrad and is (sic!) journals aside into the channel of emptiness, lack of principle and lack of political- mindedness. You have been placed on the forward line of the ideological front, you are faced with tremendous tasks of international significance, and this should enhance every genuine Soviet writer's sense of responsibility to his people, his state and his party, should enhance his sense of importance of the duty he is performing.

The bourgeois world does not like our successes, whether these are won within our country or on the international arena.

The position of socialism was strengthened as a result of World War II. The question of socialism has been entered into the agenda of many countries of Europe. This displeases the imperialists of all shades; they fear socialism, fear our socialist country which is an example for the whole of progressive mankind. The imperialists, their ideological henchmen, their writers and journalists, their politicians and diplomats, are trying to slander our country in every way they can, to represent it in a wrong light, to slander socialism. Under these conditions the task of Soviet literature is not only to return blow for blow against all this vile slander and these attacks upon our Soviet culture, upon socialism, but also boldly to attack bourgeois culture which is in a state of degeneration and decay.

However beautiful the external presentation of the work of fashionable modern bourgeois writers of Western Europe and America, as well as of film and stage directors, they shall not be able to save or improve their bourgeois culture, for its moral foundation is rotten and decaying. This culture has been put at the service of private capitalist ownership, at the service of the egoistic, selfish interests of the bourgeois top circle of society. A multitude of bourgeois writers, film directors and state directors is trying to distract the attention of the bourgeois top circle of society. A multitude of bourgeois writers, film directors and stage directors is trying to distract the attention of the progressive strata of society from the acute problems of political and social struggle and turn their attention aside into the channel of vulgar, empty literature and art, which treats of gangsters and showgirls and glorifies the adulterer, the adventures of gamblers and rogues.

Does playing the part of admirers or pupils of bourgeois culture befit us, Soviet patriots, representatives of advanced Soviet culture? It goes without saying that our literature, which reflects an order that stands higher than any bourgeois democratic order, a culture that is many times superior to bourgeois culture, has the right to teach others the new universal morals. Where can you find another people or another country such as ours? Where can you find such splendid human qualities as our Soviet people displayed in the Great Patriotic War and as they display every day in the labor of converting our economy to peaceful development and material and cultural rehabilitation? Every day our people climb higher and higher. Today we are not what we were yesterday, and tomorrow we shall not be what we are today. We are no longer the Russians we were until 1917; our Russia is no longer the same and our character is no longer the same. We have changed and grown, together with the great changes which have fundamentally transfigured our country.

To show these great new qualities of the Soviet people, to show our people not only as they are today but to glance into their future, to help light the road ahead -- such is the task of every conscientious Soviet writer. The writer cannot jog along behind events; he is obliged to march in the front ranks of the people, to point out to the people the path of their development. Guiding himself by the method of socialist realism, conscientiously and attentively studying our life, trying to gain a deeper understanding of the processes of our development, the writer must educate the people and arm them ideologically. While selecting the finest feelings and qualities of the Soviet man, while disclosing his future to him, we must at the same time show our people what they should not be like, we must scourge the survivals of yesterday, survivals which hinder the progress of Soviet people. Soviet writers must help the people, the state, and the Party to educate our young people so that they will be optimistic, have confidence in their strength, and fear no difficulties.

As hard as bourgeois politicians and writers may try to conceal the truth about the achievements of the Soviet order and Soviet culture, as hard as they may try to erect an iron curtain beyond which the truth may strive to belittle the real growth and scope of Soviet culture--all their attempts are doomed to failure. We know the strength and advantages of our culture very well. It suffices to recall the stupendous successes of our cultural delegations abroad, our physical culture parades, etc. It is not for us to bow to all things foreign or to take a passive position of defense!

If the feudal order and then the bourgeoisie, in the period of their flowering, could create art and literature that asserted the establishment of the new order and sang its praises, we, who form a new, socialist order that represents the embodiment of all that is best in the history of human civilization and culture, are all the more fit to create the most advanced literature in the world, a literature which will far surpass the finest literary examples of former times.

Comrades, what does the Central Committee ask and want? The Central Committee of the Party wants the Party members of Leningrad and the writers of Leningrad to understand well that the time has come when it is necessary to raise our ideological work to a high level. The young Soviet generation will be called upon to consolidate the strength and might of the socialist, Soviet order, to make full use of the moving forces of Soviet society in order to promote our material and cultural progress. To carry out these great tasks the young generation must be brought up to be staunch and cheerful, not to balk at difficulties, to meet these difficulties and be able to surmount them. Our people must be highly educated people of lofty ideals, possessed of high cultural and moral demands and tastes. To this end it is necessary that our literature, our journals should not stand aloof from the tasks of the day, but should help the party and the people to educate our youth in the spirit of supreme devotion to the Soviet order, in the spirit of supreme service of the interests of the people.

Soviet writers and all our ideological workers now stand on the forward fighting line, for the tasks of the ideological front, and of literature in the first place, are not removed, but, on the contrary, grow more important under conditions of peaceful development. The people, the state and the Party do not want the removal of literature from modern problems, but the active invasion of literature into all aspects of Soviet life. The Bolsheviks value literature highly, have a clear perception of its great historical mission of strengthening the moral and political unity of the people, consolidating their ranks and educating them. The Central Committee wants us to abundantly feed the human spirit, for it looks upon the attainment of cultural wealth as one of the main tasks of socialism.

The Central Committee of the Party is certain that the Leningrad detachment of Soviet literature is morally and politically healthy, will quickly correct its mistakes and will take a fitting place in the ranks of Soviet literature.

The Central Committee is certain that the shortcomings in the work of Leningrad writers will be overcome and that the ideological work of the Leningrad Party organization will very shortly be raised to the level that is required at present in the interest of the Party, the people and the state.