Khrushchev on Art and Life

Nikita Khrushchev, For a Close Tie between Literature and Art and the Life of the People. August 1957

 

Following the “thaw” or relaxation of ideological controls in 1956, Khrushchev reaffirmed the primacy of the party in cultural life.

…Why does the party pay so much attention to questions of literature and the arts? Because literature and the arts have an exceptionally important role in our party’s ideological work, in the communist education of the working people …

The main line of development is that literature and the arts must always be inseparably linked with the people’s life, must truthfully portray the wealth and variety of our socialist reality and vividly and convincingly show the Soviet people’s great work of transformation, the nobility of their aims and aspirations and their lofty moral qualities. The highest social purpose of literature and the arts is to arouse the people to a struggle for new victories in the building of communism.

It must be admitted, comrades, that some of our writers and workers in the arts continue to lose their foothold and to stray from the right road. These people treat the tasks of literature and the arts erroneously and in a distorted way. They try to present matters as if the duty of literature and the arts were to find only the faults, to speak primarily of life’s negative aspects, of lack of harmony, and to keep silent about all that is favorable. Yet it is the positive, the new and the progressive in life that is most important in the tempestuously developing reality of a socialist society …

Unfortunately, there are among our workers in literature and the arts advocates of “creative freedom” who desire us to pass by, not to notice, not to subject to principled appraisal and not to criticize works that portray the life of Soviet society in a distorted fashion. It appears to these people that the guidance of literature and the arts by the party and the state is oppressive. They sometimes oppose this guidance openly; more often, however, they conceal their feelings and desires behind talk of excessive tutelage, the fettering of initiative, etc.

We assert openly that such views run counter to the Leninist principles of the party’s and state’s attitude to questions of literature and the arts …

The whole history of the development of Soviet society is convincing proof that guidance by the party and the state, their attention to artistic creation and their concern for writers, artists, sculptors and composers, has ensured outstanding successes of literature and the arts, the flowering of the socialist culture of all the peoples of the USSR The party’s decisions on ideological questions have defined the major tasks and the basic principles of the Party’s policy in the sphere of art and literature, and they retain their force to this day. One of the primary principles is that Soviet literature and art must be indissolubly linked with the policy of the Communist Party, which constitutes the vital foundations of the Soviet system …

The party has resolutely condemned the errors that were committed in all spheres of life, including ideological work, during the period of the cult of the individual, and it is consistently rectifying them. However, at the same time the party vigorously opposes those who try to make use of these past errors to resist the guidance of literature and the arts by the Party and the state …

The development of literature and art is proceeding in conditions of ideological battle against the influence of bourgeois culture, which is alien to us-against obsolete concepts and views and for the affirmation of our Communist ideology.

We would not be Marxist-Leninists if we held aloof, if we remained passive and indifferent to attempts to insinuate into our literature and art bourgeois views that are alien to the spirit of the Soviet people. We must look at things soberly and take cognizance of the fact that enemies exist, and that they are trying to utilize the ideological front to weaken the forces of socialism. In such a situation our ideological weapons must be in good order and must operate unfailingly. The lesson of the Hungarian events in which the counterrevolution used certain writers for its dirty ends reminds us what political complacency, lack of principle and weakness of will in regard to the machinations of forces hostile to socialism may lead to. It must be clear to everyone that in the present conditions, when a sharp conflict between the forces of socialism and the forces of imperialist reaction is under way, we must keep our powder dry.

Source: Current Digest of the Soviet Press, Vol. IX, No. 35 (October 9, 1957).

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