Intelligentsia is one of those terms difficult to define, but easy to associate. It is logically blurred but emotionally vivid, surrounded with a halo, or rather several halos which overlap and vary according to period and place. One may list as examples the romantic salon; the professional middle classes; terroristic organizations of students and aristocracy in the second half of nineteenth-century Russia; patriotic University Corps in post-Napoleonic Germany; the Bohemians of Montmartre, and so on. There are also evocative geographical names like Bloomsbury, Montparnasse, and Cagnes; and certain typical attitudes to life including clothing, hair-fashion, drink and food. The aura of the intelligentsia changes all the time; its temporary representatives are subdivided into classes and groups, and even its limits are blurred by a host of camp followers and hangers-on: members of the aristocracy, maecenases, tarts, fools, admirers and Earnest Young Men. Hence we won’t get far with impressionistic judgements, and had better look up the Oxford dictionary for a solid definition.
There we find:
Intelligentzia, -sia, The part of a nation (esp. the Russian) that aspires to independent thinking. (The Concise Oxford Dictionary, 3rd edition, 1934.)
By 1936, in the climate of the pink decade and the popular front, the definition has undergone a significant change :
The class consisting of the educated portion of the population regarded as capable of forming public opinion. (The Shorter Oxford Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1936).
This second version has since obviously been proved too optimistic, and we had better fall back on the first which is excellent. Historically, it is indeed the ‘aspiration to independent thinking’ which provides the only valid group-characteristic of the intelligentsia.
But how does it happen that an ‘aspiration towards independent thinking’ arises in a part of a nation? In our class-ridden world this is obviously not a matter of spontaneous association of the gifted—enlightened dukes, plus miners’ sons plus General Practitioners. The intelligentsia of a given period and place is of a fairly homogeneous social texture: loose threads only appear on the fringes. Intelligence alone is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition to become a member of the Intelligentsia. Instead, we have to regard the formation of this particular group as a social process which, as far as modern society is concerned, begins with the French Revolution.
The Intelligentsia and the Third Estate
Among the upper strata of the Third Estate the aspiration to independent thinking was not a luxury but a dire necessity of survival. The young bourgeoisie, hemmed in by the stultifying feudal structure had to conquer its historic lebensraum, and this conquest was only possible by blowing up the feudal totems and taboos with the dynamite of ‘independent thought’. The first modern intellectuals were the Encyclopaedists, and they enter the historical stage as the great debunkers and iconoclasts. Goethe resurrected is unimaginable in our time, but Voltaire would be within a fortnight acclimatized in Bloomsbury, winning all weekend competitions of the New Statesman. For Goethe was the last Renaissance genius, a direct descendant of Leonardo, and his attitude to Society that of a courtier of some enlightened Florentine prince; whereas with Voltaire, the great debunking of feudal values begins.
The intelligentsia in the modern sense thus first appears as that part of a nation which by its social situation not so much ‘aspires’ but is driven to independent thought, that is to a type of group behaviour which debunks the existing hierarchy of values (from which it is excluded) and at the same time tries to replace it with new values of its own. This constructive tendency of the intelligentsia is its second basic feature. The true iconoclasts always had a prophetic streak, and all debunkers have a bashfully hidden pedagogic vein.
But where had these new values of their own come from ? This is the point where Marxist analysis ends in over-simplified schemata :
The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part. Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen, relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life and his relations with his kind…
And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures there arises a world literature.—(Manifesto of the Communist Party 1848)
The first paragraph quoted shows Marx and Engels at their best; in the second they take the fatal short cut from Economy to ‘Superstructure’: that is culture, art, mass psychology. Marxian society has a basement—production, and an attic—intellectual productian; the staircase and the lifts are missing.
For it is not as simple as that: the triumphant class creating its own philosophic superstructure to fit its mode of production like a tailored suit. The Encyclopaedia was not commissioned by the National Assembly. Whenever a class or group emerged victorious from its struggles, it found the befitting ideology already waiting for it like a ready made suit in a department store. Thus Marx found Hegel, Feuerbach, and Ricardo, Mussolini had only to pick Sorel and Parcto; Hitler discovered Gobineau, Houston Stuart Chamberlain and Jung; Stalin revived Machiavelli and Peter the Great.
This of course, is a mixed bag of examples of progressive and regressive movements which, strictly speaking, should be kept apart. For regressive movements need simply to fall back on superannuated values—not on the last, but on the last-but-one or last-but-two, to perform a romantic revival, and derive a lot of pseudo-revolutionary gusto out of this ‘revolution a rebours.’ And there is always a part of the intelligentsia which, abandoning its aspiration to independent thought and detaching itself from the main body, lends itself to such romantic revivals. They are the tired and the cynics, the hedonists, the romantic capitulators, who transform their dynamite into Bengal lights, the Juengers, Montherlants, Ezra Pounds.
Discarding these, there still remains the problem of how and why the true, emergent, progressive movements in history, those which led to the Rights of Man and to the founding of the First Workers International, those who have no last-but-one precepts to fall back on, invariably find the right ideology waiting for them at the right moment. I repeat that I do not believe any more that the economic process by itself creates its own superstructure. Orthodox Marxism has never produced the historical evidence for this postulate. Nor, of course, is it a matter of coincidence. It seems rather that political economy and cultural development are merely two aspects of the same basic process, which we are as yet far from being able to define.
Two examples from other spheres may help to bring this vague sounding assertion into relief. The first is the old mind-body problem where the antithesis between materialistic and idealistic schools was much the same as between historical materialism and historical idealism, until the double-aspect theory brought the quarrel about which is the cause and which the effect, which is the hen and which is the egg, to an at least temporary close. Thus your gastric acid is neither the cause nor the effect of your nervous state, but both are aspects, consequences of your total mode of living. The second example is the relation between physics and mathematics. When Einstein was faced with the contradictory evidence of two perfectly sound physical experiment (Michelson-Morley and Fizeau) he was able to develop the theory of Relativity only because the apparently abstract and useless non-Euclidian mathematical fantasies of Bolyai, Riemann and others were waiting for him just at the right moment, ready-made around the corner. The mathematical and the physical elements of Relativity were developed quite independently, and their coincidence would appear miraculous, without the recognition of a fundamental trend of evolution in scientific thought, of which the various faculties are merely isolated aspects.
The rise of the Third Estate and of the progressive middle classes was thus neither the cause nor the effect of humanistic liberal philosophy. The two phenomena sprang from the same root, they were entwined and correlated like colour and shape in the same object. The basic function of the Encyclopaedists and of all later intelligentsias was this correlating of social and intellectual evolution ; they were the self-interpreting, introspective organs of the social body; and this function automatically includes both the iconoclastic and the pedagogic, the destructive and the constructive element.
The Decay Of The Third Estate
This function gives a clue to the always peculiar structure of the intelligentsia.
Social behaviour has a much greater inertia than thought. There is always an enormous discrepancy between our collective ways of living and the accumulated data of science, art, technique. We wage wars, go to church, worship kings, eat murderous diets, conform to sexual taboos, make neurotics of our children, miseries of our marriages, oppress and let ourselves be oppressed—whereas in our textbooks and art galleries there is embodied the objective knowledge of a way of living which we shall only put into practice in decades or centuries. In everyday life we all behave like creatures in a period piece, anachronistic caricatures of ourselves. The distance between the library and the bedroom is astronomical. However, the body of theoretical knowledge and independent thought is there, only waiting to be picked up, as the Jacobins picked up the Encyclopaedists.
This picking up, however, is the function of a special type of people; the liaison agents between the way we live and the way we could live according to the contemporary level of objective knowledge. Those who are snugly tucked into the social hierarchy have obviously no strong impulse towards independent thought. Where should it come from? They have no reason to destroy their accepted values nor any desires to build new ones. The thirst for knowledge is mainly confined to situations where the unknown is disquieting; the happy are rarely curious. On the other hand the great majority of the oppressed, the underdogs, lack the opportunity or the objectivity or both, for the pursuit of independent thought. They accept or reject the existing values; both attitudes are inarticulate and unobjective. Thus the function of co-ordination between the two concepts Homo and Sapiens falls to those sandwiched in between two layers, and exposed to the pressure of both. The intelligentsia is a kind of sensitive, porous membrane stretched between media of different properties.
One should not however confound them with the middle classes as such. Sensitivity, searching and groping are attitudes which presuppose a certain amount of frustration—not too much and not too little; a kind of moderate unhappiness, a harmonious disequilibrium. The upper strata which accept the traditional values, lack this frustration; the bottom strata have too much of it—to the degree of being either paralysed or discharging it in convulsive fits. Further, it must be a specific frustration—the discontent of the professional man, writer, artist, who rebel not because society has deprived them of every chance, crushed and buried them in pit or workshop, but because they have been given a margin large enough to develop their gifts, but too narrow to make them feel smug and accept the given order of things. For the smug, thinking is a luxury, for the frustrated a necessity. And as long as the chasm between thought and tradition, theoretical insight and practical routine prevails,. thinking must necessarily be directed by the two poses of debunking and Utopianism.
All this does not apply any more to the bulk of the middle class. It did as long as their climate was ‘Commonwealth’ and jacobinism. Meanwhile the once revolutionary urgan bourgeoisie has become a conservative force. No more a sensitive membrane, but an inert sticky glue which holds the social body together. Their frustrations are repressed, their aspirations are not towards new hierarchies of values, but towards climbing to the top of the existing hierarchy. Thus the intelligentsia, once the vanguard of the ascending bourgeoisie, becomes the Lumpen-Bourgeoisie in the age of its decay.
The Intelligentsia and the Forth Estate
As the Third Estate gradually loses its progressive character to become first stagnant then regressive, the intelligentsia becomes more and more detached from it and driven to the quest for more vigorous allies, capable of fulfilling its task of demolition and construction.
The most fascinating example for this quest is nineteenth-century Russia. `…Whether they (the revolutionary intelligentsia) spoke of the necessity of political liberty, of the plight of the peasant or of the socialist future of society, it was always their own plight which really moved them. And their plight was not primarily due to material need: it was spiritual.’ (Borkenau, `The Communist International’).
This spiritual plight of the Russian intelligentsia was yet another form of the duality I mentioned: the contradiction between the inert, stagnant, habit-conditioned form of everyday life on the one hand, and the accumulated data of objective knowledge lying fallow as `theory’ and ‘ideology’ on the other. For the nineteenth-century Russians this latter principle was embodied in Western European civilization: in British Parliamentarism, French literature, German philosophy. For them, the Western was the incarnation of homo sapiens as opposed to the Barbarians of the steppes; just as, by an ironical turn of history, the Western intelligentsia of the two post-war decades became spell-bound by Russian Communism which seemed to incorporate the truly human Utopia, as opposed to the decay of Capitalism. .
There is, however, a fundamental difference between the early Russian revolutionary intelligentsia—the Shelyabows, Sonja Petrovskajas, Bakunins, Nechaews, Kropotkins, and the Bloomsbury of the Pink Decade. It is easy to sneer at the comparison and to contrast the futility of the latter with the heroism of the assassins of Alexander II, the martyrdom of the Siberian exiles and the prisoners of Schluesselburg. Racial comparisons between the undeniably greater endurance and fatalism of the semi-asiatic Russians and the highly strung Westerners provide one differential factor, but not the basic one. The basic point is that people grow under the burden of their responsibilities and shrink if the burden is taken from them. Nechaew lived for a number of years chained to the wall of a humid cell and when his comrades succeeded in establishing contact and offered to liberate him, refused because he preferred them to concentrate on more important tasks. But later, in the emigre’ atmosphere of Geneva, he became involved in the most squalid quarrels and died an obscure nobody.
The venerable and justly venerated Russian student heroines and martyrs were not less hysterical than any character of Huxley’s or Evelyn Waugh’s; Lassalle was a snob who got himself killed in a quixotic duel, Marx a pathologically quarrelsome old sponger, Bakunin had an incestuous fixation to a sister, was impotent and died a virgin; Trotsky at a certain period spent all his afternoons and evenings playing chess in the Café Central in Vienna—a typical figure from an Osbert Lancaster Café Royal Landscape; Lenin suffered a traumatic shock when his brother Alexander was hanged—hence his fanatical hatred of the Bourgeoisie of which, in analytical terms, the Russian revolution was merely a ‘projection’. Neurosis is inherent in the structure of intelligentsias (I shall come back to this point in a moment): history, however, is not interested in a person’s motives, only in his achievements. But why is it that the burden and bliss of responsibility is given to the intelligentsia in certain periods and in others not, condemning the latter to barrenness and futility? This is the question to which the comparison between the early Russians and Bloomsbury boils down ; more precisely to the question of the historical constellation which accounts for the sharing-out of responsibilities.
The answer becomes at once obvious by a comparison of the two countries’ sociological structure. Nineteenth-century Russia had no Trade Unions, no Labor movement or Co-operatives. Serfdom was only abolished in i862 ; in that drowsy, inert giant-country there was no gradual transition from patriarchal feudalism to modern Capitalism;I have spoken to peasants who took aeroplanes for granted, watching them each day fly over their heads but had never seen a railway or motor-car; others who had travelled in a car but wouldn’t believe that such a thing as a bicycle existed.
What a paradise for intellectuals with pedagogical yearnings. When the first of them, the martyrs of Narodnaya Volya, started what they called ‘going among the people’ dressed as peasants, preaching the new gospel, they trod on virgin soil, they found no competition in the shape of Trade Unions and Labor politicians telling them to cast off their masquerade and go back to the Bloomsbury of Petrograd or Moscow. The mushik proved apathetic and did not respond to their appeal; but the crusading intelligentsia was not discouraged because they had no rivals; they changed their tactics from mass-appeal to terrorism, from terrorism to work among the industrial proletariat, the landless peasants, among the soldiers. They quarrelled, they split, they ramified; but all the time they could work in the untouched raw material of History, could project their spiritual plight, their desire to destroy and rebuild on to a gigantic historical plane. Their faith moved rocks because there still were unhewn rocks to move.
In contrast to them, the Western intelligentsia found no virgin fields to plough, no natural allies to realize their aspirations to independent thought. According to Marxist theory the intelligentsia was to join the ranks of the working class and to become their strategists and tacticians. There is no evidence that the intelligentsia lacked the courage or the ability to do-so. In 1848 students and workers fought together on the barricades; in the French Commune and in the revolutionary movements after the last war in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, and even in the International Brigades of Spain, they gave an excellent account of themselves. But from the middle of the nineteenth century onward, the workers of Central and Western Europe had rapidly developed their own organizations, parties, trade unions, produced their own leaders and, above all, their own bureaucracy—men with iron wills and wooden heads.
In an age of accelerated developments, the organized Fourth Estate had become stagnant much quicker than the Third in its time, and without even ascending to power. The crumbs of material improvements and the shadow of political influence which various Sections of the Second International had wrung from the rulers, were enough to paralyse their impetus. Members of the Western Intelligentsia could become Labor members of Parliaments, editors of Left papers, lecturers in dreary evening classes; but there were no rocks to move with the lever of ‘independent thought.’ Towards the end of the century the Western intelligentsia had only the choice to be either bourgeois decadents or proletarian schoolmasters. Their groups and cliques developed according to these alternative poles, with a spectrum ranging from the French Symbolists through the ‘George-Kreis’ to the Fabians. Compare Shaw with Voltaire, Leon Blum with St. Just, and you get the difference—not so much in stature as in historical opportunity,
The shake-up of the First World War seemed to create a new opportunity for a general debunking and rebuilding. The whole body of ideas had undergone a radical transformation: Relativity and Quantum mechanics, Hormonology and Psycho-analysis, Leninism and Behaviourism, Aviation and Wireless, Expressionism and Surrealism—a completely new universe had taken shape in the library; and the dazzling light it radiated drove the intelligentsia half crazy by its contrast to the anachronistic, dusty-musty traditions still governing everyday conduct and beliefs. What a historical opportunity for de-bunking and re-building; but’ where were the allies to carry it out ? The sensitive membrane vibrated wildly; but there was no resonance-body attached to it.
Utopian striving during those two decades was monopolized by the Third International, whose blueprint for the European revolution was shaped on the conditions of a country with 8o per cent illiterates and a ratio of rural to urban population of ten to one. During the two decades of its existence the revolutionary movement was focussed on and governed by that semiasiatic dictatorship. Its European extension needed not intellectuals, but a ruthless and uncritically obedient bureaucracy. The few members of the Western intelligentsia who were accepted into its ranks lost first the right, and soon even the desire for ‘independent thought’; they became fanatic sectarians and Party-hacks, while the best among them met a tragic end. Particularly tragic was the fate of the revolutionary intelligentsia in the country where revolution seemed almost within reach, Germany. Liebknecht and Luxembourg were murdered in ’18, Paul Levy committed suicide after his expulsion from the C.P., Ruth Fischer, also expelled, vanished into obscurity, Toiler hanged himself in New York, Muehsam committed suicide in a Nazi concentration camp, Max Hoelz was drowned under dubious circumstances in Russia, Heinz Neumann, the last surviving C.P. leader who came from the intelligentsia was liquidated.
But the bulk of the Western intelligentsia were never admitted to this bloody Olympus. They were not wanted, had to remain fellow-travellers, the fifth wheel to the cart. The intelligentsia of the Pink Decade was irresponsible, because it was deprived of the privilege of responsibility. Left in the cold, suspended in a vacuum, they became decadents of the bourgeoisie. It was nobody’s fault ; for they were the mirror, not the light.
I am neither trying to whitewash, nor to accuse. The intelligentsia is part of the social body, its most sensitive part ; when the body is ill, the skin develops a rash. The deterioration of the intelligentsia is as much a symptom of disease as t11,e corruption of the ruling class or the sleeping sickness of the proletariat. They are symptoms of the same, fundamental process. To sneer at the intelligentsia and, while depriving it of the responsibility of action, shove on to it the responsibility of failure, is either thoughtless stupidity or a manoeuvre with obvious motives. Nazism knew exactly what it was doing when it exterminated the intelligentsia of the European Continent.
The Intelligenstia and Neurosis
This sensitive membrane not only stretches between heterogeneous social classes, but between the social body as a whole and its environment. It is tempting, and perhaps not entirely futile, to follow up this metaphor for a while. It is the surface, the ectoderm, philogenetically the rind of the plasmatic bubble, which provides the tissues for the nerves, the spinal cord and the brain in the embryo. The central nervous system is derived not, as one would expect, from the inside, the sheltered parts, the core; but from the exposed surface, permanently submitted to the bombardment of external stimuli, to irritation and excitement, some lust and much pain. Under the influence of this permanent buzzing shower-bath of stimuli the surface-tissue gradually loses its obtuseness and undergoes that strange transformation, that ‘burning-through’ process which finally gives rise to the elusive, first faint glow of consciousness. The grey matter of the brain-rind was originally skin-tissue, exposed and brow-beaten, transformed by a unique organic metamorphosis. Even Freud, that giant of profanity, became almost lyrical where (in Beyond the Pleasure Principle) he dealt with this aspect of the biology of the mind.
However, man developed a skull, in which his precious grey matter is safely packed like caviar in a box. No such casing is provided by society for its nervous tissues. They are rather treated like corns on the toes, a nuisance permanently trampled on and permanently hitting back with mean little stabs.
To return from metaphor to fact: the relation between intelligentsia and neurosis is not accidental, but functional. To think and behave independently puts one automatically into opposition against the majority whose thinking and behaviour is dependent on traditional patterns : and to belong to a minority is in itself a neurosis-forming situation. From the nonconformist to the crank there is only one step ; and the hostile pressure of society provides the push.
When a man in a concert hall coughs, everybody will cough, and one feels the physical itching in one’s throat. Group-mimicry is a real force; to resist it means getting out of tune with one’s social environment, creates neurotic tensions. and feelings of guilt. One might in theory be a thousand times in the right, and yet feel guilty for butting against the accepted wrong, sanctioned by a tradition whose roots have sprouted in one’s own unconscious self. To quarrel with society means to quarrel with its projections in one’s self, and produces the classical neurotic split patterns. Oedipus situation and inferiority complex, timidity and arrogance, over-compensation and introversion are merely descriptive metaphors for deformations which spring from basically the same root. An intelligentsia deprived of the prop of an alliance with an ascending class must turn against itself and develop that hot-house atmosphere, that climate of intellectual masturbation and incest, which characterized it during the last decade.
And it must further develop that morbid attraction for the pseudo-intellectual hangers-on whose primary motive is not the ‘aspiration to independent thought’ but neurosis pure and simple, and who crowd around the hot-house because the world outside is too cold for them. They infiltrate, and gradually outnumber the legitimate inhabitants, adding to their disrepute, until, in periods of decadence, the camp-followers gradually swallow up the army. It is a sad transformation when social protest dissolves into a-social morbidity.
But even for the ‘real’ intelligentsia, neurosis is an almost inevitable correlate. Take sex for example. On the one hand we know all about the anachronistic nature of our sex-regulating institutions, their thwarting influence and the constant barrage of unhappiness they shower on society. On the other hand, individual experiments of ‘free companionship’, marriages with mutual freedom, etc. etc., all end in pitiful failure; the very term of ”free love’ has already an embarrassingly Edwardian taint. Reasonable arrangements in an unreasonable society cannot succeed. The pressure of the environment (both from outside and from inside our conditioned selves) is enormous ; under its distorting influence the natural becomes cramped, even in writing. You feel it even in such accomplished craftsmen as D. H. Lawrence and Hemingway. You hear, when the critical situation approaches, the author saying to himself ‘Damn it, it is an act of nature and I am going to put it as easily and naturally as if the two of them were having a meal.’ And then you watch him, the author, putting his sleeves up and setting himself to the task; sweat pours down his brow, his eyes pop out of his head, the nib of his pen breaks under the pressure of his desperate efforts to be ‘easy and natural about it’. The trouble is, of course, that while he writes, his environment (i.e. the potential readers) have closed in around him; he feels their stare and breathless expectancy, and feels paralysed by it. Hence the cramped dialect of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and that preposterous rabbit in the bag for which no bell would ever toll, in an otherwise masterly novel.
The pressure of the environment cramps art as it cramps behaviour. One may challenge this environment, but one has to pay for it, and the price is neurotic guilt. There never was an intelligentsia without a guilt-complex; it is the income tax one has to pay for wanting to make others richer. An armament manufacturer may have a perfectly clean conscience ; but I have never met a pacifist without a guilty look in his eyes.
Those who attack the intelligentsia for its neurotic dispositions might as well attack the miners for their susceptibility to T.B. It is a professional disease and should be recognisied as such, without scorn or shame.
The Intelligentsia And The Future
The old, liberal and socialist intelligentsia of the Continent is no more; though we still fail to realize how thoroughly Nazism implemented its poet laureate’s programme, ‘When I hear the word culture I fire my pistol.’ A new intelligentsia may be growing underground, a new seed beneath the snow; but in spite of newspaper articles, intelligence-digests, radio, etc., we know at present as little about the mental climate of the people beyond the Channel, about how the past, present and future looks, smells, tastes to them, as we know about the planet Mars. Samples of literature which reach us from France do not seem to me very encouraging; but then, I am perhaps prejudiced against what I believe to be the growing French intellectual predilection for melodious bombast. Yet in Italy and the Balkans, in Austria and Norway, a process might already have started which one day will come into the open as a brand-new movement, a fresh attitude to life which will make all of us appear like old Victorian dodderers; and any of us who earn a patronizing pat will have got all the credit which historically they deserve.
This is all speculation; it is easier to prophesy in terms of decades than in terms of years. One may have some ideas as to the historical curve along which we move ; but the oscillations and ripples of the curve are completely unpredictable. If, in the long run, Burnham’s diagnosis comes to be true (as I believe it well may), and if, after some intermediary oscillations, we are in for an era of managerial super-states, the intelligentsia is bound to become a special sector in the Civil Service. This is less farfetched and fantastic than it sounds; in Russia during the past twenty years this state of affairs has been realized to a very large extent, and Germany during the last ten years was on the way to imitate it. Russian publishing houses, theatres, building trusts, research laboratories, universities and medical services are all owned by the State ; the author, actor, architect, scientist, etc., is in fact a civil servant, though the atmosphere is not exactly that of Whitehall. But even the literary movements in Russia (‘Revolutionary Romanticism’, ‘Socialist Realism’, ‘Operative Literature’, `New Patriotism’) have not spontaneously, organically grown, but were decreed at Party-Congresses and by utterances of government spokesmen; and the same applies, in varying degree, to poetry, drama, architecture, films, not to mention historical’ research and philosophy. The successive philospphical and artistic movements in the Soviet State look as if they were performed to the pattern ‘Left turn—Right turn—As you were.’ In the German Reichskulturkammern the transformation of Parnassus into a barrack-square was equally thorough.
In the Anglo-Saxon countries a similar development is difficult, but not altogether impossible to visualize. Above all, a number of different roads may lead to the same goal. Total mobilization during the present war was a kind of dress-rehearsal for the Western version of the bureaucratized state, and during the last two years the intelligentsia has to a large extent been absorbed as temporary civil servants in the M. of I., as P.R.O.s, in the B.B.C., etc. For the time being `job’ and ‘private production’ are still kept in separate compartments (with the result of the latter becoming more and more atrophied); but it is imaginable that a situation may arise in which the two merge; when, instead of regarding the former as a kind of patriotic hacking and the latter as the real thing, the energies become suddenly canalized into, one stream. A few may start the new mode, and the rest follow suit; the individuals concerned may believe that they are following a personal impulse, whereas in reality it would be a process of adaptation to the changed social situation of the managerial state. The danger of this happening is all the greater as conformism is often a form of betrayal which can be carried out with a perfectly clear conscience ; and the temptation to exchange the miseries which intellectual honesty entails for the heart-warming satisfactions of managerial efficiency is great. The collapse of the revolutionary movement has put the intelligentsia into a defensive -position; the alternative for the next few years is no more ‘capitalism or revolution’ but to save some of the values of democracy and humanism or to lose them all; and to prevent this happening one has to cling more than ever to the ragged banner of ‘independent thinking’.
It is, at present, a very popular banner; and unique in this respect, that on its cloth the spittle of derision has clotted together with the blood of our dead.