SOLZHENITZYN AND THE “INTELLIGENTSIA”
FROM BEHIND THE NEWS DECEMBER 1977
EDITOR IVOR BENSON
Throughout the two volumes of Solzhenitsyn’s THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO there are frequent references to the “intellectuals” or “intelligentsia”, their role in preparing the political soil for the Bolshevik Revolution and what happened to them afterwards.
But what is an “intellectual”? Who are the “intelligentsia”?
From information which Solzhenitsyn supplies, most of it drawn from Soviet sources, conclusions can be drawn which provide us with a deeper insight into the real nature of a revolutionary conspiracy which culminated in the civil war and the imposition of a socialist tyranny on the unhappy people of the former Russia empire.
“Over the years” writes Solzhenitsyn, “I have had much occasion to ponder this world, the intelligentsia. We are all very fond of including ourselves in it – but, you see, not all of us belong. In the Soviet Union this world has acquired a completely distorted meaning. They began to classify among the intelligentsia all those who don’t work (and are afraid to) with their hands. All the Party government, military and the trade union bureaucrats have to be included. All bookkeepers and accountants – the mechanical slaves of Debit. All office employees. And with even greater ease we include here all teachers (even those who are no more than talking textbooks and have neither independent knowledge nor an independent view of education). All physicians including those capable only of making doodles on the patients’ case histories. And, without the slightest hesitation all those who are only in the vicinity of editorial offices, publishing houses, cinema studios and philharmonic orchestras are included here not even to mention those who actually get published, make films or pull a fiddle bow.”
In the West too, “intellectual” and its collective plural “intelligentsia”, have acquired a completely distorted meaning.
The CONCISE OXFORD DICTIONARY gives the definition of the noun “intellectual”.
“(Person) possessing a good understanding, enlightened person.”
That is undoubtedly what the word once meant to every educated person who used it. Words, the currency of communication are liable to be debased and, like Gresham’s “bad money” drive out the good. Indeed, word like “intellectual” and “intelligentsia” just like “bad money” have been afflicted with a form of inflation, acquiring so many additional meanings that they mean little or nothing – unless carefully qualified every time they are used.
So, today in the West, as in the Soviet Union, just about anyone who can read a newspaper and count without using his fingers claim to be an “intellectual” and to belong to the class of the “intelligentsia”.
Although we are clear in our own minds about what the word ought to mean, we find ourselves, like Solzhenitsyn, compelled to include as “intellectual” all those who work with their minds rather than with their hands, the educated class as a whole.
Regardless of occupation, however, they can be separated into two main groups – a separation most important for any examination of the role of the misnamed “intellectuals” in helping to bring about the Bolshevik revolution. These are:
Class 1: Those who live and work under a severe discipline of consequences. These include most of the persons described by Solzhenitsyn as “technical intellectuals” – the engineers, architects, chemists, managers, etc. If an engineer gets his facts wrong, if his conceptual thinking is at fault, the bridge he designs is liable to collapse – with prompt and painful consequences for himself.
All the people in this class understand that they are going to be judged – and that quite soon – not by the grandiosity and beauty of their ideas but only by what happens when their ideas are put in practice and tested against a merciless reality. This makes them, as a class, modest, ever willing to explore the slightest hint of possible error, therefore willing to listen patiently and attentively to advice and criticism. In brief, their lives are rooted in reality.
It is important to remember that such people, as a class, played no significant part in promoting revolution in the Russian empire, but they suffered afterwards along with the other “intellectuals”.
Class 2: Those persons, many of them highly educated and talented, who do not live and work under a discipline of consequences. They can get their facts wrong and they can make a mess of interpreting the true facts when these are available, without ever being made to suffer personally for their mistakes. These include the whole class of ideologists, world-improvers and, more particularly sociologists and political scientists in the universities, students, journalists and minister of religion.
These can also be described as “rootless intellectuals”, because they are no longer rooted in reality, and especially that reality represented by the accumulated experience of their race. The Jews abominate people of this kind if found in their own community and the TALMUD roundly condemns them as dangerous “dreamers”.
Indeed, it may well be found that the most important single feature of the Jewish mind is that it has learned, through an accumulation of experience, to draw the clearest possible distinction between mind pictures of external reality extracted from reality and mind pictures of the kind which human beings are always tempted to project onto the external reality. In brief the Jews recognize “idealism” as a danger to their own community and an exploitable weakness in others.
Idealists and agitators
As in Czarist Russia before the Revolution, so in the Western world today it is the “intellectuals” belonging to this second group who provide all the “idealists”, agitators, revolutionaries and other politically and culturally undermining elements, “dangerous dreamers”, nowhere more active than in parliaments and political parties, newspapers, universities and trade unions.
These were the “intellectuals” who played a most significant part in preparing the political soil for the Bolshevik Revolution, the driving force for political change, the agents of agitation and public disorder. They were the “brain trust” inside movements like the Constitutional Democratic Party (known in those days as the Cadets), the Revolutionary Socialist Party (S.R.’s), Mensheviks and the Anarchists, to name only a few of them.
What part these “intellectuals” played in Czarist days and what happened to them after the Revolution provides an object lesson to members of the same class now so busy undermining the political and cultural foundations of what remains of Western civilization.
In THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO, however, we are told only what happened to them after they had served their purpose in destroying the existing system of law and order in their own country.
“One of the first blows of the dictatorship was directed against the Cadets – members of the Constitutional Democratic Party (Under the Czar they had constituted the most dangerous ranks of revolution). At the end of November 1917, on the occasion of the first scheduled convening of the Constituent Assembly, which did not take place, the Cadet party was outlawed and arrests of its members began. At about the same time people associated with the Alliance of the Constituent Assembly and the students enrolled in the ‘soldiers’ universities’ were being thrown in the jug….”
And they didn’t have to wait! They did not have to show any signs of reaction or start dabbling in counter-revolution before being “thrown in the jug”. Solzhenitsyn goes on:
“But even restricting ourselves to ordinary arrests, we can note that by spring of 1918 a torrent of socialist traitors had already begun what was to continue without slacking for many years. All these parties – the SR’s, the Mensheviks, the Anarchists, the Popular Socialists – had for decades only pretended to be revolutionaries, they had worn socialism only as a mask, and for that they went to hard labor, still pretending. Only during the violent course of the Revolution was the bourgeois essence of these socialist traitors discovered. What could be more natural than to begin arresting them! Soon, after the outlawing of the Cadets, the dispersal of the Constituent Assembly the disarming of the Preobrazhensky and other regiments, they began a small way to arrest, quietly at first, both the S.R.’s and the Mensheviks. After June 14, 1918, the day members of these parties were excluded from all the soviets, the arrest proceeded, in a more intensive and coordinated fashion.”
When Maxim Gorky, one of the leading intellectuals working for revolutionary change, complained about some of these arrests, Lenin replied that no doubt there had been some mistakes, but he advised Gorky “not to waste his energy whimpering over rotten intellectuals.”
Lenin in his essay How to Organize the Competition, published in January 1918, called for the purging of the Russian land “of all kinds of harmful insects”, asking: “In what block of a big city, in what factory, in what village…are there not saboteurs who call themselves intellectuals.”
Solzhenitsyn goes on: “There were not a few insects among the teachers in the gymnasiums. The church parish councils were made up almost exclusively of insects, and it was insects, of course, who sang in the church choirs. All priests were insects – and monks and nuns even more so. And all of those Tolstyans who, when they undertook to serve the Soviet Government on, for example, the railroads, refused to sign the required oath to defend the Soviet Government with gun in hand, showed themselves to be insects too.”
New Kind of “Trial”
By an ironical twist of fate, those “intellectuals”, always furiously critical of the Czarist regime, now found themselves at the receiving end of judicial procedures which totally abandoned the old much-despised legal processes which had prevailed to the end under the Czar. An entirely new form was adopted, cosmetically described as extra-judicial reprisals, giving the Ceka the power and the duty to investigate, arrest, interrogate, prosecute, try, and even execute their own verdicts.
Nor were arrests confined to those who had done something or said something to offend the new rules – it was crime enough to belong to a class of educated persons from whom criticism and opposition might conceivably be expected.
As Lazar Kogan, one of the bosses of the White Sea Canal slave camps, explained to one of his prisoners: “I believe that you personally were not guilty of anything. But as an educated person you have to understand that social prophylaxis was being widely applied.”
In other words, it was felt to be necessary to scoop in vast numbers of educated persons simply to reduce the risk of intelligent opposition to the revolutionary regime. Any excuse was used, or none at all. Solzhenitsyn mentions “a certain lecturer in a higher educational institution” who was denounced by one of his students because, although he frequently cited Marx and Lenin, he did not quote from the speeches and writings of Stalin.
We may be sure that all these “intellectuals” who were swept into the prisons, slave labor camps or put before firing squads, correspond exactly with that whole class of leftist, rootless, “intellectuals” who have contributed much to what James Burnham has described as “the suicide of the West” from the pink pale liberals and progressives at one end of the spectrum to the strident red Communists and anarchists – and beyond!
The Real Bosses
Which brings us to the 64-dollar questions. If all the leftist “intellectuals” who so ostentatiously helped to bring civil war to Russia were the first to be rounded up for imprisonment or execution then who precisely who were the people destined to do all the arresting and shooting? Who were the ones who needed the “social prophylaxis” against the very people who had played a major part in making the Revolution possible?
Have we forgotten that what the Russian people got in exchange for an oppressive Czarist regime was a “dictatorship of the proletariat”?
Surely, then, it was the representatives of the working class who now found it necessary to shed their former “intellectual” allies?
But wait! What sort of “worker” was Vladimir Lenin? What sort of “worker” was Leon Trotsky? And Gulag bosses like Lazar Kogan, Nafthaly Frenkel and Genrikh Yagoda? Indeed, what sort of Russians were they?
Sure, they were Russians, but of a special kind, most of them descendants of the former Khazars of South Russia, whom Arthur Koestler has described as “the thirteenth tribe”.
More important still, what happened to all those elected workers’ representatives who had agitated so long and so incessantly against Czarist regime?
Solzhenitsyn tells us: “One of the first operations of the Cheka was to arrest the entire committee of the All-Russian Union of Employees.” He writes elsewhere: “Nor could you say a good word about VIKZHEL, the All-Russian Committee of Railroad Workers, nor about the other trade unions, which were full of insects, harmful to the working class.”
There can be no doubt that all power after the Revolution was quickly concentrated in the hands of a tiny segment of the revolutionary movement which overthrew the Czarist regime – the rest all being proved activists, had to be eliminated as soon as possible.
Solzhenitsyn goes on: “Not one citizen of the former Russian state who had ever belonged to a party other than the Bolshevik Party could avoid his fate. He might not be arrested in the first group. He might live on, depending on how dangerous he was believed to be, until 1922, 1932 or even 1937, but the lists were kept; his time would and did come; he was arrested or politely invited to an interrogation when he was asked just one question: Had he been a member of such and such from then till then? From there on his fate might vary. Some of them were out immediately in one of the former Czarist central prisons….and some socialists even ended up in the very cells and with the very same jailers they had had before.”
In other words, the very people who had suffered most in promoting revolutionary activity under the Czarist regime (thereby demonstrating that they were capable of being motivated by political ideas), all the “dangerous dreamers”, were among the first to be purged as “harmful insects” after the Bolshevik Revolution.
So who were the real bosses who mercilessly hunted down their former allies of the Russian “intelligentsia”?
Oswald Spengler, the great historian, provided an answer to that question in the early 1920’s when he wrote THE DECLINE OF THE WEST: “There is no proletarian movement, not even a Communist one, which does not operate in the interest of money, in the direction indicated by money and for the time permitted by money, all this without the idealist among its leaders having the faintest suspicion of the fact (Emphasis added).
Everything that happened in Russia before the Revolution and everything that has happened afterwards, right up to this day, confirms the correctness of that interpretation of history. It was money that made the Revolution and it was the “idealist” the “dangerous dreamer”, who woke up too late and went to the wall when money had achieved its objective.