Front Page Titles (by Subject) Soviet Intellectual Orthodoxy - Literature of Liberty, Winter 1980, vol. 3, No. 4
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Soviet Intellectual Orthodoxy - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Winter 1980, vol. 3, No. 4 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Soviet Intellectual Orthodoxy
“The Establishment of Intellectual Orthodoxy in the U.S.S.R. 1928–1934.” Past and Present 83(May 1979):141–164.
At the end of the 1920s and beginning of the 1930s, intellectual life in the Soviet Union underwent a transformation no less sudden and extensive than those which occurred in the economic and political spheres. The launching of the First Five-Year Plan in 1928 inaugurated a period in which the relatively relaxed and pluralist atmosphere of the New Economic Policy gave way to compulsory consensus and dogmatic orthodoxy.
The dramatic change occurring between 1928–1934 has generally been explained by Stalin's “revolution from above.” According to this view, Stalin's decisions to accelerate industrialization and agricultural collectivization led quite naturally to efforts at controlling intellectual expression.
Close examination of the period, however, yields little evidence that the leadership pursued a consistent policy of intervention in intellectual affairs. At the same time, considerable evidence may be advanced to show that these were years of real controversy and militancy, albeit within narrower ideological limits.
The Soviet intelligentsia of the period consisted of three generally antagonistic groups: liberal “bourgeois intellectuals,” who could work as badly needed teachers, bureaucrats, and technicians as long as they made no overt protest against the new system; older Marxists (also of bourgeois origin) educated before the Revolution; and the ever more numerous products of the new “proletarianized” Soviet educational system. Graduates in the third category acquired majority status by 1931. With their growing numerical strength and the increased centralization effected under the Five-Year Plan, a wave of Purist militancy swept across the Soviet academic world between 1928–1932.
One of the earliest and most widespread forms of this “cultural revolution” involved the total and violent rejection of all non-Marxist scholarship. In addition, all intellectuals (even Marxists) who received their education in Czarist days fell under suspicion and were commonly labeled with charges of “liberalism,” “apoliticism,” “lack of militancy,” “compromise with the bourgeosie,” etc. Now the communist party commitment of intellectuals was to be gauged by whether their work contributed to the implementation of party policies.
Throughout this militant period, party and government officials played a surprisingly small role. Preoccupied by pressing economic problems, they did not have the opportunity to formulate a clearly defined policy concerning the content of intellectual work. As a result, far from being a revolution from above, the militant movement arose among intellectuals themselves.
By late 1931, however, a turning point occurred. Apparently alarmed by the tumultuous accusations of ideological impurity among scholars, Stalin himself stepped in to settle a historical controversy then hotly debated. In laying down the party line on a point of scholarly interest, Stalin set the stage for a radical transformation of Soviet intellectual life. Soon, brigades of young graduates were organized to review existing academic literature and to replace works found unacceptable by new collectively written text-books produced under supervision of the Central Committee.
Intellectuals who had thundered demands for uniformity were now taken at their word and forced to tow the party line. The revolution which had begun at the grassroots was now coopted by top officials.