Decree of the Politburo of the Central Committee of Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik)
ON THE POLICY OF THE PARTY IN THE SPHERE OF ARTISTIC LITERATURE
1 July 1925
1. The improvement in the material well-being of the masses in recent times, in connection with the transformation in the attitude of people that has been brought about by the revolution, the intensification of mass activity, the colossal broadening of the world view, etc., creates a tremendous growth of cultural needs and demands. Thus we have entered into the sphere of a cultural revolution, which forms the precondition for further movement toward a Communist society.
2. A part of this massive cultural growth is the growth in literature--proletarian and peasant in the first instance, beginning with its embryonic forms, which at the same time are unbelievably wide in scope (worker-correspondents, peasant-correspondents, wall newspapers, etc.), and ending with ideologically based literary-artistic production.
3. On the other hand, the complexity of the economic process; the simultaneous growth of contradictory and even blatantly inimical economic forms; the birth and strengthening of a new bourgeoisie brought about by the development of these processes; the inevitable, although not always immediately recognized attraction to it by part of the old and new intelligentsia; the chemical-like secretion from the social depths of new ideological agents of this bourgeoisie--all this must inevitably be revealed on the literary surface of social life.
4. Thus, as the class struggle has not ceased among us in general, so, too, it has not ceased on the literary front. In a class society there is not and cannot be neutral art, although the forms of the class significance of art in general and of literature in particular are endlessly more varied than, for example, the forms of the class significance of politics.
5. However, it would be completely incorrect to ignore the basic fact of our social life, namely, the fact of the conquest of power by the working class and the existence of a proletarian dictatorship in our country. While prior to the seizure of power the proletarian party whipped up the class struggle and carried on a policy aimed at the destruction of society as a whole, in the period of proletarian dictatorship, the party of the proletariat is faced with the question of how to get along with the peasantry while slowly transforming it; the question of how to allow a certain cooperation with the bourgeoisie while slowly squeezing it out; and the question of how to place the technical and other types of intelligentsia at the service of the revolution while winning it ideologically away from the bourgeoisie.
Thus, although the class struggle has not ceased, its form has changed, because for the proletariat, the goal of the struggle was one thing before the seizure of power and is another thing now, in the theoretical sense. In place of the goal of destruction, there is now a goal of affirmative construction into which--under the leadership of the proletariat--ever broader strata of society must be drawn.
6. While preserving, strengthening, and continually expanding its leadership, the proletariat must occupy an appropriate position on a whole series of new sectors of the ideological front. The process of dialectical materialism penetrating into totally new spheres (biology, psychology, and the natural sciences in general) has already begun. In the same way, the conquest of positions in the sphere of artistic literature must, sooner or later, become a fact.
7. It must be remembered, however, that this problem is infinitely more complex than the other problems being solved by the proletariat, for even within the limitations of capitalist society, the working class can prepare itself for a victorious revolution, creating cadres of fighters and leaders and developing for itself a magnificent ideological weapon for the political struggle. But it cannot work out questions of the natural sciences or technology; and so, too, the culturally repressed class cannot work out its own artistic literature, its own unique artistic form, or its own style. While the proletariat already has in its hands infallible criteria for the social-political content of any literary work, it does not yet have definite answers for all questions relating to artistic form.
8. What has been stated above should determine the policy of the leading party of the proletariat in the sphere of artistic literature. In this regard, first of all, we should consider the following questions: the relationship between proletarian and peasant writers with the so-called "fellow travelers" and others; the policy of the party in relation to proletarian writers themselves; questions of criticism; questions about the style and form of artistic works and the methods of working out new artistic forms; and, finally, questions of an organizational character.
9. The relationship between different groups of writers--in terms of their social-class or social-group substance--is determined by our general policy. However, we must keep in mind here that leadership in the sphere of literature belongs to the working class as a whole, with all its material and ideological resources. There is not yet a hegemony of proletarian writers, and the Party must help these writers win for themselves the historic right to this hegemony. Peasant writers should be met with friendly acceptance and be accorded our unconditional support. Our task lies in leading their growing cadres onto the tracks of proletarian ideology while at the same time making no attempt to destroy the peasant literary-artistic images in their creative work, images which are a necessary prerequisite for influencing the peasantry.
10. In regards to the "fellow-travelers", we must keep in mind: 1) their differentiation; 2) the significance of many of them as qualified "specialists" of literary technique; 3) the presence of vacillation in this stratum of writers. The general directive here should be one of a tactful and careful attitude toward them, i.e., an approach that would establish the conditions necessary for them to come over to side of Communist ideology as quickly as possible. While discouraging anti-proletarian and anti-revolutionary elements (which nowadays are quite insignificant) and struggling against the ideology of a new bourgeoisie that is forming among a segment of the "fellow-travelers" of the "Change of Landmarks"1 persuasion, the Party must deal tolerantly with interim ideological forms, patiently helping those unavoidably numerous forms to develop in a process of ever closer comradely cooperation with the cultural forces of Communism.
11. In dealing with proletarian writers, the Party must take this position: while helping their growth in all possible ways and taking all measures to support them, the Party must do all it can to prevent the emergence among them of Communist arrogance, a most pernicious phenomenon. The Party--precisely because it sees in these proletarian writers the future ideological leaders of Soviet literature--must fight in every way possible against a light-minded, scornful approach to the old cultural heritage as well as to specialists of the artistic word. Against capitulationism, on the one hand, and against Communist arrogance on the other--this must be the slogan of the Party. The Party must also struggle against attempts to establish a purely hothouse proletarian literature. A broad grasp of phenomena in all their complexity; not being limited to the borders of the factory only; to be a literature not of the workshop, but of a great, fighting class, leading millions of peasants--thus should be the scope of the content of proletarian literature.
12. Everything which has been mentioned above determines--in general and in particular--the tasks of criticism, which is one of the main educational weapons in the Party's hands. Not conceding, even for a minute, the position of Communism, not retreating by so much as an iota from proletarian ideology, uncovering the objective class meaning of various literary works, Communist criticism must fight mercilessly against counter-revolutionary manifestations in literature and expose "Change-of-Landmark" liberalism, etc., while, at the same time, displaying the greatest tact, caution, and tolerance to all those literary strata which can and will join the proletariat. Communist criticism must banish the tone of command from its approach. Only then will this criticism have a deep educational significance, when it relies upon its own ideological superiority. Marxist criticism should decisively banish from its midst any pretentious, semi-literate, and self-satisfied Communist arrogance. Marxist criticism should adopt "to learn" as its slogan and rebuff any hack-work and ad-libbing in its own milieu.
13. While infallibly identifying the social-class content of literary trends, the Party as a whole cannot prematurely tie itself to any one tendency in the area of literary form. Leading literature as a whole, the Party can hardly support any one literary faction (classifying these factions according to their differences on form and style), just as it can hardly issue resolutions to solve questions of the form of the family, even though, in general, the Party undoubtedly leads and should lead the construction of a new way of life. A style appropriate to the epoch will be created, but it will be created by other means, and the solution to this question has still not taken shape. In the current phase of cultural development, all attempts to tie the Party in this direction must be repulsed.
14. Therefore, the Party must declare itself in favor of the free competition among various groups and trends in this given sphere of activity. Any other solution to the question would be an official, bureaucratic pseudo-solution. In the same way, it is inadmissible to award by decree or Party resolution a legalized monopoly over literary publishing to any one group or literary organization. While giving material and moral support to proletarian and proletarian-peasant literature and assisting "fellow travelers", etc., the Party cannot offer a monopoly to any one group, even the most proletarian in its ideological content. To do so would signal the destruction of proletarian literature itself.
15. The Party must, in every way possible, root out attempts at haphazard and incompetent administrative interference in literary affairs. The Party must concern itself with a careful selection of personnel in those establishments which have authority over printing, so as to ensure a genuinely correct, useful, and tactful leadership of our literature.
16. The Party must point out to all workers of artistic literature the necessity for the correct separation of functions between critics and artistic writers. The latter must transfer the center of gravity of their work into literary production, in the exact sense of the term, making use of the vast array of material from contemporary society. Increased attention must be directed at the development of national literature in the numerous republics and oblasts of our Union.
The Party must stress the necessity of the creation of artistic literature intended for the mass readership of workers and peasants; we must more boldly and decisively break with the prejudices of gentility in literature, and, utilizing all the technical accomplishments of the old masters, choose an appropriate form that will be understandable to millions. Only when this great problem is solved will Soviet literature and its future proletarian avant-garde be able to complete its cultural-historical mission.
Source: Pravda, 1 July 1925.
1Change of Landmarks [Smena vekh]. Title of a collection of essays and a movement among certain emigre writers urging a cessation in their struggle against the Bolsheviks and the beginning of collaboration with them instead.
Of Related Interest:
Uncivil War: Fyodor Gladkov & The Smithy vs. RAPP
Account of an underhanded attempt by the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers (RAPP) to subvert the Party Decree of 1 July 1925 by liquidating all rival organizations and unilaterally declaring its own "hegemony" in literature.