Scribes (Used to be USA/USSR)

joanna bujes joanna.bujes at
Thu May 17 11:55:42 PDT 2001

Wojtek wrote:
>Ditto! Without the media, this "union" would not survive to the next
>A related thought: the production of propaganda hinges on the cooptation of
>the scribbling class.
>Stalin and Co. made a grave mistake by antagonizing the scribbling class,
>and they paid for it dearly - by having a significant segment of opinion
>makers against them. The US ruling class made no such mistake, and with
>the brief interlude of the McCarthy era, they coopted the scribling class
>to their propaganda project. That may explain not only the enormous
>success of the US propaganda machine - after all it employs the best minds
>money can buy - but the unusual hostility of the US intellectual
>establishment to the x-Block or China (as compared to much more brutal
>fascist regimes in S. America and Asia). It was a genuine expression of
>the scribbling class international solidarity with the "oppressed"
>breathern in E. Europe, or now in China and Tibet. At the same time, the
>US Brahmin class did not show proportional concern about slaughtered
>workers or peasants in S. America or Indonesia.

Hmmm. Co-optation of intellectuals: my very favorite subject.

I'm not sure, though, how far I go with you as to Stalin and Co. The conditions I remember in Romania is that any intellectual who was willing to play the game had a pretty great life: in particular, they got better housing, almost free meals, nice vacations, and, best of all, the chance to ply their craft/art/discipline full time. The cost: no complaints about the system; no solidarity with the working class; support for the party hacks.

My mother was a writer (children's books, screenplays, novels). Most of what I remember about her and her equally privileged friends is that while they wrote poems, stories, performed plays, wrote lit crit, etc., professed at the university, they constantly carped about their "repression"--this, literally, from villas and castles that had been expropriated from the former ruling class and reserved expressly for the use of artists/intellectuals. They gathered in the evenings to play bridge or listen to illegal tapes of Charles Asnavour and other West European artists, and fantasized about the fame and riches that were denied to them because they were prevented from travelling to or moving to the West. They talked a lot about freedom of expression, but what they wanted to express mostly was their solidarity with the fashionable artists and thinkers of the west. Some of them were able to obtain special grants from Western institutions and universities and were able to travel and teach/perform abroad. This was almost always a limited stay: just long enough to give them a taste of life in the west, the life, they inferred, which would be waiting for them if they could manage to emigrate. The reality, of course, was otherwise: for when they got here, became citizens, and were no longer representatives of oppressed intellectuals, they got to line up for the jobs/grants same as everyone else. A rude shock to be sure.

And, as Doug mentions, a carrot was thrown on this side of the curtain as well. No need for it any more though. What WAS accomplished on both sides of the curtain was that intellectuals were persuaded that their interests were opposed to those of the working class. It was like those ninteenth century novels, where the tutor sometimes gets join the aristocracts for dinner, but the gardner never does. In this regard, I don't know that the hostility of western intellectuals toward ex-communist countries was about solidarity with their oppressed intellectual counterparts. I think it was more a question of the safety the anti-communist position and their innate fear of the kind of revolution that might potentially dissolve the boundary between the work of the mind and the work of the body.

Though I was brought up to worship intellectuals and to believe that no status in life could be higher than that, I still fail to see why the work of the mind is superior to the work of the body--why one must always suffer at the expense of the other and why we are never allowed to imagine them joined in their work. For some reason the conditioning did not take.

Joanna Bujes

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