Skip to main content
Read page text

Page Text


The Importance of Being Kuznetsov ; President Nixon Changes Trends ; KingMaking in Spain 777


Andrea Karman



Illtud Evans, O.P...................... 781


Peter Hebblethwaite, S.J. 782


A Special Correspondent . 785


A. II. N. Grecn-Armylagc . 780


Oscar Morland ; J. J. Dwyer ; Vincent Alan McClelland ; Gerard Meath, O.P. ; Robert Nowell ; J. F. McDonald ; Janet B ru c e ............................. 787


Mary Crozier; Maryvonne Butcher; John Bunting; Adrian Brookholding - Jones 791 LETTERS 792 THE LIVING SPIRIT 794


The Pope’s Visit to Africa ; Bishop Defregger Speaks on Television ; Priests Save Church in Brazil from a Split; Division in Rosario Persists . . ................ 794


The Pope’s Address to the African Bishops ................ 797


The Pope’s Address to the Uganda Parliament................ 798


G. F. Tull ............................. 790


“ SO LONG AS there remains in Germany any unpolitical, neutral or individualistic art, our task is not ended.” This sentence appeared in the official Nazi paper Völkischer Beobachter in the early days of the régime. It is the true voice of totalitarianism. This is not an uncommon historical phenomenon ; it has flourished in various political or religious régimes, European and non-European. But nowhere else, and in no previous age, has it been exercised with greater intensity, more deliberately and with greater brutality, than in Germany and the Soviet Union in the present century. These far outdistanced the Spanish Inquisition in its worst days.

In comparison with them Mussolini’s Fascism, while thoroughly totalitarian in its philosophy, and increasingly ruthless as Mussolini— who had originally inspired the young Hitler— came more and more under his disciple’s degrading influence, was, in practice, a mild affair. This was no doubt due to the influence of the Church, to the kindly Italian character and its absence of fanaticism.

The Individual and the State It was Mussolini’s policy that brought from Pius XI the classic declaration on the two varieties of totalitarianism. There was, the Pope said, “ subjective totalitarianism, which the State was entitled to claim, in the sense that the totality of citizens should be obedient to and depend on the State for all things that are within the competence of the State, having regard to its special end ” . Against this the Pope set “ objective totalitarianism ” , that which “ subordinates a citizen’s whole life, individual, domestic, spiritual and supernatural ” . This latter Pius XI declared to be “ a manifest absurdity in the theoretical order and a monstrosity if its realisation was attempted in practice ” .

The touchstone of totalitarianism in the second sense is the degree o f freedom which the State gives to religion, art, literature and the sciences. If these are repressed for political reasons or, worse still, distorted by being turned into tools of political power, then you have the repugnant type of totalitarianism. In the past week this has been dramatically illustrated by the decision of the well-known Soviet writer, Anatoli Kuznetsov, to come and live in this country, so as to be free to write and publish work which did not, he explained, run the risk of censorship and distortion so that it was turned into an “ ideological pot-boiler ” . This, he declared, is what had happened to his writings for the past ten years, during which he had lived in “ a state of constant, unavoidable and irresolvable contradiction ” .

The incident was more than usually sensational because of the great publicity it received and the unusual vehemence of the reaction to it o f the Soviet authorities. But there have, of course, been hundreds of similar cases in the past fifty years. The Bolshevik revolution, in its beginnings, came to so many people as a liberation on all fronts. As the Russian people recovered from the shock and the utter ruin of the foundations of their national life, hope came to many writers, artists and scientists. The campaign carried on by the régime against illiteracy in those early years was effective, and promised a brighter future for the Russian people as a whole. Liberal forces in art, music and science asserted themselves ; Russia seemed to be the paradise for the avant-garde. But her political masters soon brought about a strong retrograde movement.

The Desert of Socialist Realism The religion of the Russian people was the first to suffer ; it paid dearly for its identification with the Czarist State. Then there was a decree that Soviet artists must conform to “ Socialist realism Some years ago the Royal Academy held an exhibition of “ Russian and Soviet art ” . From the moving and truly beautiful icons the paintings went on to a few good pictures of the eighteenth century, and then straight to the dullest and most academic work imaginable. Then it may be recalled that Russian biologists were coerced into making their teaching conform to the Marxist-Leninist philosophy. There was also, in 1949, the notorious “ trial ” of the most famous living Russian composers, Shostakovitch and Prokofiev, by a fifth-rate musician, who ordered his betters to write “ for the people ” , make their works more in the style of Glinka or Tchaikovsky in his most jejune compositions. The Soviet régime, fortunately, failed in this attempt to override the artistic conscience of the two composers.

The Soviet attempt to dragoon religion, art and science was not of course unique. The Nazis, long before, had exiled or silenced many of their best writers and scientists. It became practically impossible for Germans to teach French and English literature without extolling the Nazi achievement ; German physiologists, even when attending scientific conferences abroad, had to expound “ racialist ” dogma. There was a marked likeness between Nazi and Soviet intolerance. Both, as Mr. Kuznetsov recalled

Skip to main content