chapter  11
16 Pages

Ideology and authority

In the Soviet system power and ideology were explicitly linked. As Lenin put it in What Is To Be Done?, ‘Without theory there can be no revolutionary movement.’ In the pre-revolutionary and Soviet traditions not only did ideas matter, but intellectuals were listened to and respected, if not feared and imprisoned. Censorship can be seen as a back-handed compliment to the power of ideas, something the Old Bolsheviks (those of Lenin’s generation) very well understood since many of them were intellectuals themselves. Under Stalin ideas and ideology were gutted of any living content and reduced to mere instruments of power. While Khrushchev might have revived the party, his failure to revive a sphere for open policy debate and to legalise the limited intellectual openings of the thaw period condemned the system to the stagnation of his successors. Under Gorbachev glasnost was at first defined in instrumental terms but soon the intellectual ferment burst beyond any bounds that the authorities tried to impose. Lenin’s link between ideology and authority was broken, and the system collapsed.