The Periodic Table: Bolsheviks Among Us, Their "Socialist Realism"

I am always amazed by those who demand the freedom to say anything damned thing they want---and who arrogate to themselves the assertion that even the most ineptly constructed, verbally unskilled prose (which is merely pose) is Poetry, simply because they want it to be, they hope it to be, they desperately pray for it to be;

 

and yet, having reserved to themselves the right to say anything, they deny to anyone else---especially those with whom they disagree---the same right of expression that they expect to have and to use without limitation.

 

The Russian wannabe artist, Maxim Gorky, was an artistic "have not" whose lack of verbal skill, artistic ability, and knowledge of precedents and traditions of Russian literature, prevented him from ever having any hope of obtaining a part in the great pantheon of real Poets.  The silver age of Russian Symbolism was thriving, in full force around him, a symbolism which both ackowledged the salvific and salutary influence of the Orthodox Faith and of the liberal politics beginning to gather impetus.  Gorky denied the value of these components---whether used in the Symbolist movement, or any other form of Russian literature.  So he constructed what he hoped would become an art---an inchoate, clumsy, shrill, and self-centered expression of the cult of envy and jealousy; the repetitious, tiresomely repetitious, expression of his personal discontent and psychological insecurity and instablity---his intense hatred for anyone who could write better than he could (which did not narrow the field very much).  He ennobled his innate lack of verbal skill and poetic artistry with a sense of mission:  that his loserness (I cannot think of a better word for it) somehow had acquired a value, and that value was a wisdom that would help others negotiate their way through what Gorky perceived was the chaos of their lives.  In this way, Gorky was able to delude himself into believing---and it became an obsession---that he was not uniquely alone in all that which he lacked, and that his inferiorities---spiritual, artistic, social (although he was able to get laid from time to time)---were, actually, superiorities.  

 

And this is the delusion of every have-not, a perverse and spiteful twisting of something T. S. Eliot stated so much more eloquently (and with Christian spirituality) in his great poem, Ash Wednesday:  "Consequently I rejoice / having to construct something on which to rejoice."  

 

Unfortunately, the ruse constructed by Maxim Gorky to give value to his artistic disabilities and discontents became useful to Lenin and the Bolshevik Party; and was even more attractive to that supreme loser and madman, "Uncle" Joe Stalin.  Gorky needed a tagline for this literary idol he had constructed of himself---one that would challenge and hopefully displace---such things as Formalism, Symbolism, and beyond them, the Russian Canon and its literary precedents which bore relentless witness against Gorky's lack of talent.  So Gorky created the label of "Socialist Realism"---the new "style" which would exist without reference to the Orthodox Faith and the liberal politics of the second wave Symbolists; and would give expression and, Gorky hope, lasting codification to the cult of Have-Not and Wannabe.

 

Under Lenin's guidance, the Bolshevik Party adopted Socialist Realism and imposed it on Russia with the establishment of the Revolutionary government.  Even though the Soviet Constitution established freedom of expression for "all," that really meant only for the Have-Nots and Wannabe who had raised Lenin to supreme power.  The Orthodox Faith and the liberal political views of the Silver Age poets were denied parity in Soviet society and were stripped of any right to free expression.  Under Lenin, this was enforced with disestablishment, internal exile or external deportation, and a denial of full participation in the life of the so-called "Workers' Paradise."

 

Even Lenin feared the mental, emotional, and envious chaos that swirled and stormed within Joe Stalin.  And, despite Lenin's efforts to the contrary, Joe Stalin converted his position as General Secretary of the Party (which was designed to be a strictly clerical and archival role) to a unilateral dictatorship through which he controlled both the Party and the bureaucracy that governed the entire land.  He began to impose socialist realism upon all the arts.  I only learned, recently, that Joe Stalin was, himself, a failed poet, a poet who, like Gorky, would have despised the Formalists, the Symbolists, and the other established artists of Russian culture.  And Stalin was not content with Lenin's measures against those artists and poets who were officially "despised."  He began to subject them to torture and to capital punishment through the methods of the so-called Moscow Show Trials in the mid-thirties of the twentieth century.  His cronies began to make false accusations which were prosecuted despite any lack of cited evidence.  Artists were singled out, subjected to false accusations (all of which were realistically petty and wholly unfounded), and found guilty of being accused; and the penalty of being guilty of being accused (accused, but not confrontred with any factual evidence), they were declared enemies of "the People" and, in the name of "the People," were executed, usually in dark chambers, at midnight, with a bullet in the back of the head.  This was the extreme effect of Socialist Realism---the great idol of Havenot and Wannabe.  Some scholars believe that Gorky's sudden death during the time of the Show Trials was not coincidence of random chance; that he was murdered, having reached the end of his usefulness, and that the murder was directly ordered by Joe Stalin.

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