The New Man

An Individual without Individualism To a new society – a new man. Naturally, one would not fancy a communist world inhabited by middle-class people in disguise.That was the most delicate problem raised by "transformist" mythology. One could not rebuild the economy and society without breaking up the old structures. But what was one supposed to do in order to break up the human spirit and substitute another? What would the recipe of a different human being consist of?The recipe mixed, like all communist projects, social determinism and voluntarism. A new society would produce a new man, but at the same time it was the new man, or at least the first specimens of that species, who were to build the new society. There was no time to wait: evolution had to be forced through an adequate scientific methodology.The result (at least the expected one): a living antithesis of ancient man. The metamorphosis presupposed the extirpation of individualism to begin with. According to communist psychology, individualism is not inherent to individuality, and constitutes merely the symptom of a state of conflict between the individual and society. Not only did its annihilation not damage human personality, on the contrary, it was a prerequisite of its progress. A man devoid of individualism enjoyed a stronger and richer personality than ancient man. The human being could only fulfill its potentiality within the community, and through it. An unthinkable consensus in any pre-communist system, but a logical outcome of the premises supporting the new society – a perfectly tuned up machinery, with each part of the contraption placed in the ideal position.In the new context, some notions completely lost their meanings. The spirit of ownership became a laughable anachronism, once property belonged to all on even terms. Free will was left without an object, once truth, scientifically defined, was one and indivisible – in line with property.The paradox of an individual deprived of individualism, but with a strong personality, was still to be proven, like all the other symbols of communist mythology. The operation was performed, without anesthetics, on society itself.The applied methodology aimed at the total "socialization" of man. A powerful social intrusion in all the details of life, which favored, amplified and treasured, more than anything else, the quintessential social activity: labor. Labor Created Man: Labor Will Create the New Man Labor: a magic word, one of the key words of communist mythology. Let us look to Engels, and the origins of humankind as he saw it, to remember that the "ancient man" was the product of labor. Labor endowed him with the attributes of humans: before working, he was all but an ape. The mechanism applied by Engels to the dawn of humanity suggested what ought to be done to achieve another mutation of the human species.To the "ancient man", labor meant pain; whether a slave, a serf or a blue-collar worker, he was compelled to work to satisfy his own needs, but mostly to augment other people's wealth – those who were stealing his work. Communist society would thoroughly reform the core of that servitude, by transforming it into a free activity for the benefit of all – which implicitly altered both the workingman's motivation and attitude. Formerly an arduous obligation, labor became a moral necessity – moreover, a kind of second nature. The communist is a laborer, the laborer par excellence. He loves labor, his raison d'être – his supreme pleasure, one may say. In the countries of real communism, the new man became capable of unprecedented prowess: he rested by working, thus making happen the famous concept of "active repose", destined to bedeck Sundays and other holy days. Celebrating through work such and such political event or historical anniversary became the most convincing way of expressing people's solidarity and their joie de vivre.There is an interesting observation to make as to the type of labor proposed. We have noticed that the new society implies scientific, technological and cultural development without precedent in the history of mankind. One would expect a similar mutation of productive activities: highly-qualified labor, less and less "physical" and increasingly "intellectual". This mutation seems quite logical, but when discussing mythologies, one has to fear too much logic. In fact, the "superior" conception of labor ran into two obstacles.The first is a vulgar, purely material obstacle: the countries that took the path toward communism proved capable of renewing man, but less so the technologies. With very few exceptions, their starting point (and even finishing line) was rather shabby (if not utterly primitive). They had to make do with what they had: fashion the new man in a technological environment that reminded of the 19th rather than 21st century.Over and above, there was a mental obstacle, a deep-rooted prejudice favoring non-intellectual labor, brute labor. Apparently, we witness a blatant contradiction: on the one hand, the supremacy of science in communist mythology; on the other hand, exactly the opposite: the eulogy of manual labor. It can be easily explained.The communist man worships science, sure thing, but science as he conceives it does not purify in the ethereal realms of the spirit; it is rooted in the ground, in matter, in the concrete.One rule must be noted: in the communist mythological system, everything runs from bottom to top, from the economy towards society, and from there on to mental representations, from matter to spirit, from hand to head. Now let us return to Engels's ape. No one could possibly force the poor animal to master advanced technology, but one could at least ask it to depend on its brain as much as, or even more than, on its hand. Why the hand, and not the brain, in a commanding position? Because science on the whole, knowledge, arise from the process of work. It is "practice" that rules, not theory. The direct, physical contact with matter. A proletarian science, or one striving to be that, communism stayed hooked to the coordinates of labor specific to the 19th century, in both its theoretical analyses and operative strategies. In the end, steel was preferred to microchips, for reasons pertaining to ideology rather than technology.With science all but an extension of material labor, yesterday's or today's proletarians are required to become tomorrow's scientists and engineers, whereas traditionally educated intellectuals, deluding themselves with the autonomy of their activity, have few chances of gaining access to authentic knowledge; the gist of nature will elude them. Historical precedents were not in short supply. The self-taught worker Polzunov, a consummate scientist and genius of invention, and his contemporary, Lomonosov, son of serfs, the greatest scholar ever, offered a weighty argument in favor of the theory that said science arose from the spirit of the working people.Regardless, first on the list was the pedagogic significance of labor, before even its productive and scientific virtues. After all, the sieve of the Danaides was bad business, but an excellent means of shaping reflexes and routines. The Dzerzhinsky Camp Experience A new pedagogy was born. Strictly scientific, like all the rest. A symptomatic detail: its principles were devised in a labor camp destined to reeducate juvenile delinquents. One man took upon himself to transform those youngsters into "new men". If the experiment succeeded, the system of reeducation could be applied on a national scale and breed new men in a chain.The man in charge of this compartment of communist scientific mythology was the schoolteacher Anton S. Makarenko (1888-1939). Beginning with 1920, he organized and was the head of a colony for juvenile offenders, located near Poltava, in the Ukraine; spread over a 40-hectares estate, it was named after the well-known writer – Gorky. In 1926, the 450 children and their commandant-teacher relocated on the outskirts of Kharkov. Frictions with the Ukrainian authorities forced Makarenko to abandon his first laboratory in 1928. But he was offered the chance to improve his system – which he did, between 1927 and 1935, also in the vicinity of Kharkov, as the head of a "labor commune" that grouped about 600 abandoned children and teenagers. The name of that new enterprise added a charming touch to the spot: the Dzerzhinsky Labor Commune. A strange appellation for a pedagogic project; but let us not forget that, far from symbolizing state terrorism and programmed extermination, the founder and first head of the famous Cheka was then identified with fidelity to principles and revolutionary intransigence (because of his death in 1926, he missed being subjected to Stalinist purges and becoming, in his turn, a counter-revolutionary).In fact, it was more than just another name. As the Dzerzhinsky camp belonged to the above-mentioned institution, Makarenko had the chance to get in touch with the members of the fraternity. It was his road to Damascus, the revelation of his life. From then on, he knew his work had not been in vain. The new man, to whom he had dedicated his life, was neither a chimera, nor an unstable lab product; that man existed in flesh and blood: it was the Chekist!Let Makarenko himself give vent to his enthusiasm: "To me, the particularly novel and unexpected thing was the Chekists' society. The Chekists are basically a community, a term that could never be applied to people of public education… The Chekist community possessed the very qualities I had been trying to instill into the members of the colony. I was suddenly finding, right before my eyes, the type contrived only by my imagination heretofore… That circumstance became the point of departure to my new pedagogic thinking… From then on, I had the possibility of representing to myself the minutest details of territories that had been a mystery to me before. With a Chekist, very sharp intelligence, mingled with education and culture, never assumed the shape I loathed with the Russian intellectual… Ever since that moment, I was able to study a new language, another type of reasoning, a new form of intellectual emotion, new patterns of taste, new nervous structures and, most important of all, a new way of putting the ideal in service."The experimenter was thinking, like another Michurin, of some sort of hybridization that would transfer onto the prisoners the exquisite qualities of their guardians.In 1935, satisfied with his results, Makarenko retired from practical activities in labor camps, dedicating himself to pedagogic theory and the vulgarization of his experiments. His notable works were the Pedagogic Poem (1933 to 1935), a literary rendition of the Gorky camp story, and The Flags on the Towers (1938), an account of the Dzerzhinsky experience. He became a public figure, and soon a myth. His pedagogy was adopted and institutionalized. From the labor camp, it moved to schools, families, and all the compartments of education. This system remained in force, in its essentials if not in all its fine points, until the last days of communism.Two axioms upheld the framework of the new pedagogic science:First axiom: heredity does not matter. According to Makarenko, there is no such thing as deficient people, but only deficient methods. He "was not interested in the children's past, but in their future." Their personality (and man's personality in general) was looked upon as a piece of soft wax that could be molded in conformity with a definite project. That concept concurred, of course, with the central idea of communist mythology, which cleaned the slate of the past in order to better build up the future. On a more particular level, there is an obvious analogy with Lysenko's biology: the same contempt of heredity and faith in the virtues of guided transformist therapy animated the two projects alike – biological and pedagogic.The second axiom asserted the exclusively community-oriented purpose of all pedagogy. "Open education" had to be rejected together with heredity, the modeling of the human personality being a collective, not an individual affair. The front seat was taken henceforth by the social assemblage, along with the watchword: education in the collectivity, by the collectivity and for the collectivity. Obviously, this was being achieved through labor…The "colonists" subjected to this pedagogic experiment were organized into labor brigades; actually, they were not allowed any other occupation. Strict discipline was the rule. The young people did not work for today, but for tomorrow, following a miniature copy of the global communist project, focused on the final goal: "the radiant future". "Man," wrote Makarenko, "cannot live in this world without a radiant objective in mind. The true motive of human life is the joy of tomorrow" (which apparently canceled "the joy of today"). On that account, he formulated a new concept of discipline, considered "the discipline of victorious struggle and effort."According to Makarenko himself, his biographers, and his exegetes, the results were spectacular, guaranteeing the future of communism and the new man. He had educated "about three thousand citizens, disciplined and devoted to their socialist motherland." Three thousand new men! (There are no profession-based statistics; it would be interesting to know how many of them were put on Cheka's payroll).Labor methods were continuously improved upon. The Gorky camp was only an agricultural holding. In the Dzerzhinsky commune, industry was first and foremost, and not just any industry. The children, promptly transformed into highly skilled workers, ended by setting up a camera factory and an electric appliances factory, both at the highest existing international standards. The Soviet economy had little to do except wait for the multiplication of Dzerzhinsky communes (which seemingly never happened).And there is the final tableau, the apotheosis: the Dzerzhinsky commune became (quote Makarenko again) "a community of amazing seductiveness, real productive opulence, elevated socialist culture." It was a scaled-down reflection of the coming communist society.The Russian historians Michael Heller and Alexander Nekrish (Utopia in Office. A History of the USSR from 1917 to our Days, 1982) claim that Makarenko's pedagogic project had been inspired by two models: the (penitentiary) colony and the army, and based on three principles: collectivity, militarization, authority. The family itself made no exception. The outcome was the following circuit: "The child is brought up in an authoritarian family that represents the State in miniature, then educated in an authoritarian school, also representing the State in miniature, and finally enters life in the authoritarian State."A tedious life, sure thing. But no sacrifice is too great with the preparation for tomorrow's immense joy in mind.     How Make a Proletarian out of an Emperor? An interesting scientific debate concerned the fate of the enemies of the people. Were they convertible, emendable as well? Eliminating or isolating them was not a problem, and became the preferred solution in most cases. But the experience of their reeducation was worth an effort. The "remodeling" of an adversary, his total metamorphosis, what a triumph for the transformist methodology! The living proof that the brain is malleable, and a new man can be made out of any person.The operation involved long-term exertion, which explains why, this time, it was not the Russians (less patient with their adversaries) who masterminded it, but the Chinese. The system they practiced, also known as brainwashing, put together a complex array of methods. Criticism and self-criticism were its two pillars. Aggressive and permanent criticism (accompanied or not by physical violence) asserted the force of the collectivity and the insignificance of the "patient" – defenseless among his accusers. At the same time, the "patient" himself abjured his past, his beliefs, his feelings. Once the spirit laid bare, any intimacy was destroyed. Under this double pressure – external and internal –, the old reference points faded, the system of values gave in, it crumbled.In the long run, the human guinea pig could have recovered, from one day to the next, from a gathering to another. But what he lacked altogether was time. He had no moment for himself whatsoever. He was never alone. He had no time to think any longer. His time was entirely dedicated to the study of true science, collective labor, collective accusations, collective confessions…Eventually, he became a new man. The Chinese fabricated legions of them. The finest gem in their collection was their last emperor himself! The Bolsheviks slaughtered the whole Russian imperial family, paying no attention to nuances. The Chinese scored a big success by converting an emperor (and criminal of war at that) into a proletarian! He lived in peace and honor, as a new man, till the end of his days. (In The Last Emperor, a film produced by Bernardo Bertolucci in 1988, Western spectators were privileged to witness a case of "reeducation with a human face", a proof that brainwashing acts even at a distance!).The pure and stern utilization of this system aimed at the "annihilation of personality" is helpful in better understanding a more general phenomenon. In a gentler and subtler, but no less persisting manner (and spreading over several generations too), brainwashing was the lot of every inhabitant of the communist world. As an "ancient man", each of them was a potential adversary, which had to be reeducated and outfitted with the qualities of a new man. The techniques were the same (albeit less rigorously applied on a large scale than in experimental cases): strong social integration, transparency of one's private life, frequent gatherings destined for criticism and self-criticism, permanent study of propaganda and Marxist works. Those were points on which communism never made any concessions.It would be difficult to calculate the success rate. Sometimes, it nears or even reaches 100% (there will always be those who regret Stalin!); some other times, one can talk about a few percents, and in that case healing does not raise any problem. I wish I knew the percentage – the real one! – of the last emperor! One thing is certain: few have been totally spared. The new man does not exist in a pure state: he dwells, in variable proportions, in the spiritual chemistry of most inhabitants of the former communist bloc. Portrait of the New Man as a Young Man What will happen when the Dzerzhinsky commune or the reeducation center will expand to global scale?One would need a scientist doubled by a poet to give the image of man developing under the sun of a radiant future a convenient polish. Let us resort to Trotsky: he largely possessed both required qualities.In 1924, Lenin's former companion (and future victim of Stalin) published Literature and Revolution, which contained a few exalting (and exalted) pages about the communist man, his life and activities.This man would be liberated from all kinds of servitude, his children included: "Master of his economy, man will upset the torpid daily life. The family will be released from the fastidious chore of feeding and raising children by social initiative."Once discharged from the miseries of a mediocre life, his sharpened spirit would be able to concentrate upon the achievement of grand projects: the communist edifice, with all its ornaments. "The communist way of life will be built consciously. It will be controlled by critical thinking. Man, who will know how to dislocate rivers and mountains, who will learn to erect people's palaces on the heights of the Mont Blanc or in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, will endow his existence with the loftiest richness, color, dramatic suspense, and dynamism."There will be no more mediocrity. It will be a world of heroes and geniuses. "The average man will reach the stature of Aristotle, Goethe, Marx. And, above these heights, new peaks will rise."Well, it was not meant for tomorrow, but maybe for the day after tomorrow. For now, at the beginning of the communist revolution, the hero category was rather sparse, but the first samples of the new humanity were already making themselves conspicuous through no ordinary feats.On the night of August 30 to 31, 1935, a sort of miracle occurred in a coal mine from the Donets Basin: the miner Aleksei Stakhanov managed to extract 102 tons of coal. An impressive figure, for it was fourteen times the production quota! In other words, Stakhanov was worth fourteen average workers. He had his emulators: the Stakhanovites. Thanks to their enthusiasm and skill, Stakhanovism became the vanguard of Soviet economy and society. Building up communism and the communist man was hence reduced to a self-evident equation: elevate the others to the level of Stakhanov and his companions. Communism will be achieved when everybody becomes a Stakhanovite.Labor, real labor, was bearing its first fruit. Everything confirmed the theory: the new science, the high technology emerged from labor. Shame on the intellectuals who had not understood a thing! Stalin lashed out at them, in a speech delivered at the first Stakhanovite congress (November 17, 1935). Those who saw a contradiction between Stakhanovism and the accomplishments of science had to understand once and for all that it was science that needed to comply with the demands of practice, not the other way round. The engineers had to learn from the laborers and organize their work in a really scientific, that is "Stakhanovite", manner.How could that leap forward be explained? By a fusion of working-class spirit and new technology. The Stakhanovites were cultivated people, innovators who combined physical and intellectual work. The new Polzunovs had been expected – there they are!The first beams of the radiant future were already being felt. "Life has grown better, comrades!" Stalin trumpeted. "It has become merrier." Indeed. It is 1935, a peaceful interval. Right midway between the 1933 great famine and the 1937 great purges.Thus, the definition of the new man becomes more accurate. It is a cultivated – very cultivated! – worker. A worker turned intellectual, engineer, scientist, without ever ceasing to be a worker. It was the only conceivable course, since a traditional intellectual would never be able to think like a real worker.On the Ancient Man and the New Man is the title of an essay by Maxim Gorky, written in 1932. Under the pen of the author, a healthy, optimistic youngster advances on the stage of history, sweeping away decrepit characters from another era. The young worker – he is our hero – makes a first impression through his refined culture: "He frequents the finest, best-known theaters in Europe; he reads the European and old Russian classics; he goes to concerts, visits museums." Architect of a new, luminous world, "he is young not only biologically, but also historically. He deems Spengler's sighs and laments ludicrous."This is the marching vanguard of tomorrow's world. "The aim of the new men is to free the working masses from old prejudices and superstitions about race, nation, class, religion, to create universal brotherhood." A united, uniform humankind, burgeoning under the sign of Reason.    A World of Engineers In the hodgepodge of the distinctive myths merged into communist mythology, none enjoyed greater prestige than the myth of the engineer. It concentrated within itself the ideal image of the new intellectual – in brief, the new man, who had to be an intellectual as well. There are two main reasons behind this.In the first place, an engineer's occupation seemed to be the coupling that brought together physical and intellectual labor. The engineer is a worker and a scientist at the same time, a worker who can perform complicated calculations, and a scientist who can make a machine work. Had this profession not existed, communism would have surely invented it. A worker who had gained access to culture was bound to become an engineer. One of the fixations of communism – the contrast between physical and intellectual labor and its imperative abolition – was thus reaching a final settlement. The worker climbed upward without betraying his class, without distancing himself from production and practice, the only criteria of truth.Secondly, on a more general level, the omnipresence of the engineer (a both effective and symbolic presence) was imposed by the transformist program lying at the heart of communist mythology. It is the engineer who transforms, who builds a new reality. The megalomaniac projects, specific to the regime, the heavy industry, which was meant to ensure its triumph, the alterations inflicted upon the environment and habitat, the miracles expected from agriculture – everything, absolutely everything, was related to engineering. Including, at least symbolically, the manufacture of all the components of the new man and society.It is interesting to notice that, in communist societies, the command offices were usually occupied by engineers (oftentimes by former workers turned engineers), the responsibilities which had nothing to do with technical training included. Nearly all communist party and government leaders, arisen from the working class ranks as a rule, but holding diplomas as new men, were engineers (most of them never had the occasion to practice their profession). Many go in couples too: engineer political leaders with engineer wives! It somehow resembled the status of jurists in the political life of "bourgeois" countries. One must be aware that the communist outlook placed the lawyer and the engineer on adverse positions. A lawyer does not inspire any confidence, his versatility being in contrast with the "solidity" of the man who produces. The scientific building of the future could only be entrusted to scientific spirits, more exactly to those who knew, from their own experience, the value of labor.Not only were they highly regarded, they were also, and above all, very numerous. All the families strove to see their sons (and, why not, their daughters) become engineers. A young man adequately gifted who perversely opted for belles-lettres, or even "pure science", risked rousing a storm in the family. It was all but disgraceful.Thus, communism began churning out engineers who, in their turn, had to produce everything else. The Soviet Union set the pace; the fraternal countries came into play.September 1959: the American trip of Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev (1894-1971), first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and chair of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union. An interesting personage: promoted to intellectual by the Party, a former peasant, a former worker. It was an extraordinary journey, almost surrealist, a perfect dialogue of the deaf: Khrushchev understood nothing of the American system (even at Hollywood, instead of relaxing, he was appalled at the indecency of a French cancan), while the Americans understood even less (and for good reason) the arguments of their guest. On this occasion, he launched his famous challenge: ten years from then, the American economy would be overtaken by the Soviets. His statement was scientifically endorsed by the weight of science in communist society ("Communism means science"), translated especially into a massive promotion of engineers. A humiliation for the United States: in 1959, 106,000 engineers had graduated from Soviet higher education institutions, three times more than from American universities. The number one at the Kremlin did not miss the chance to repeat again and again that hard fact. It meant that the communist model was three times as good as the capitalist system (and even better if one took into account the industrial growth rate which, in the Soviet Union, was 3 to 5 times higher than in the U.S.).In 1933, engineers came up to 34% of higher education graduates in the Soviet Union. In 1938, they already constituted 42%. In 1988, on the eve of the country's (and system's) collapse, future engineers made up 52% of university students. At the time, the percentage was 42% in China, 50% in East Germany, while Romania (country of all records during the Ceauşescu regime) could boast a breathtaking 68%!By the statistics of the same years, the most miserable countries were France and the United States, where engineering licentiates tottered around an embarrassing 7%. Not even the capitalist countries best ranked in this regard – West Germany, Japan, Britain – managed to break through the 25% roof. Accordingly, as a general rule without the slightest exception, the communist countries at the bottom of the ladder vaunted an incomparably higher level than the most proficient Western nations.One could feel tempted to venture one step farther, and imagine a surrealistic world peopled with engineers alone. A philosophical novel might be written on the subject. Men, women and children, engineers and would-be engineers, sweat and produce all day long. At night, their dreams are replete with building sites and factories. Day after day, the look of the country changes, a new reality takes shape. The bridges crumble. Weeds overrun the roads. Nuclear plants explode periodically. Skeletal cows no longer produce milk. The machines run idle. Happy amid the ruins, the engineers carry on with their business, undisturbed. A New Science: Literature Certainly, in a society in which all was to be changed, each of its members had to be an engineer. The concept of engineering was extended in all directions. Remember that, first of all, man had to be recreated, his soul changed profoundly. A special category of engineers was assigned to this task: soul engineers.The equivalent of this occupation in bourgeois countries (as far as equivalencies still make any sense) is the more traditional vocation of writer. The new phrase, coined by Stalin in 1932, became the watchword beginning with the 1934 first congress of Soviet writers, which proclaimed literature's veering onto the path of "socialist realism". A major breakthrough had been made: literature became, in its turn, scientific and transforming. From then on, nothing would escape the influence of science.Literature in front, as well as painting, cinema and music, were all affixed to the scientific complex through both their object and function. Object: reflect the world in its essence and dynamics, not its appearance. Function: teach real human beings how to live as novel heroes.The new "realism" did not signify transposition, but revelation, even transfiguration. Working as a scientist, the writer browsed the existing reality in order to grasp the seeds of a future reality. He attempted to detect, in the multitude of human prototypes, the new man being formed. He undertook the task of rendering the surge of the future perceivable. The world emerging from his discourse was more real than the existing one, because it complied better with the vital trends of historical evolution. Consummate communism existed all right, if not in facts, then in its visionary libraries and museums. Similar to an engineer's blueprint, the literary model was the outline of the ultimate construction. It was with soul engineers, rather than "production" engineers, that the responsibility of the future lay."Scientific" did not mean "sophisticated". Science is simple, only art is complicated. The recommended language was straightforward and crystal-clear, even didactic. Narrative in literature, figurative and anecdotal in the visual arts. The message had to be easily understood. And, most important, the imaginary world had to provide all the guarantees of authenticity, precisely because it was far from authentic. Art endeavored to give life to allegories and tableaux vivants, making them truer than nature.Artistic realism (in fact, surrealism, because of the realistic representation of a staged arrangement) is an old gimmick used by creators of new worlds. Phantasms are being clothed to provide a semblance of materiality. Madame Reason, perching on her throne, whom Parisians could admire during the Jacobin Reign of Terror, was a nice young lady in flesh and blood. This almost made one believe in the concrete existence of Reason! The revolutionary fiesta, with its pageant of allegories, together with the historical and symbolical canvases signed David were circumscribed in the same logic of representation in trompe l'oeil.The ingratitude of Italian fascism toward the futurist movement, its artistic harbinger, pertains to a similar historical mechanism. How could a non-conforming, largely demolishing art be reconverted just as, on the contrary, construction was called for? The dissolution of forms, or their uncontrollable movement, not being to the fascist regime's liking, a monumental, neoclassical brand of realism was preferred instead: an imperial art, petrified in its massiveness, matching the new Roman empire which Mussolini dreamt of founding.The Russian artistic avant-garde was also mistaken, being so naïve as to believe that the revolution of artistic forms had found a perfect match in the social revolution (whereas the two terms were completely opposed!). Some had to leave the country. Those who remained did their best (sometimes with interesting results – Maiakovsky's poetry and drama, Eisenstein's films, the revolutionary graphic arts…) to adapt their means of expression to the political message that had to be delivered. But this was not enough. Neoclassicism filled the gap, keeping innovative and eccentric tendencies on the fringes when not chasing them away outright. A comprehensible process: as long as there is a message, it should be at least devoid of any ambiguity; why seek decryption, if it can be transmitted plainly?Neatness and the lack of equivocation are scientific virtues which "socialist realism" struggled to embed in literature and art. Creation of new species by "hybridization" was not confined to Lysenkian biology.It would be useful to hear an expert in the field – to avoid over-citing the Russians, this time it will be a Frenchman. A relevant booklet entitled Towards Socialist Realism was published in Paris in 1952. Its author, André Stil (born in 1921), enjoyed impressive references, which only confer more weight to his words. Awarded the Stalin Prize for Literature, he was the editor-in-chief of L'Humanité and member of the central committee of the French communist party.In fact, it was Louis Aragon (1897-1982), with his novel The Communists (1949-1950) who sparked the theoretic zeal of the young author. The latter manifested his enthusiasm in an article with a vague title: A Few Issues of our Literature, published in 1951 in Communist Papers (Cahiers du communisme), and reproduced in the above-mentioned volume. The unusual frequency of the adjective scientific is striking (we didn't have the courage to carry out a statistic)."In the fashion of what Stalin called an engineer of souls," André Stil says, "the writer desires to be a scientist. The novel hero is no longer an abstract creation, a billow of smoke quivering by the writer's fantasy; he is firmly grounded in a scientific understanding of the real catalysts of human action, an understanding that even the greatest writers of the past did not possess, since they were not armed with the Marxist-Leninist method." "Likewise, the novelist's behavior is scientific," as he distinguishes himself through his "exactness" and "descriptive profoundness". The essential qualities of a literary work would be "the scientific conception about the world" and "scientific rigor".To all appearances, the conception and the method counted a lot more than talent. Being no Marxists, Shakespeare and Balzac ran the risk of being surpassed (they had to be) by the young graduates of party schools. Who said "Perfectionism is proper to science, and not proper to art. A scholar may cast another scholar into oblivion; a poet does not cast another poet into oblivion"? Victor Hugo – but he was not a Marxist. He may have been right, but solely with respect to pre-scientific literature. Once converted into science, literature too entered the domain of perfectibility.The superiority of socialist realism over bourgeois literature no longer required demonstration. It was inscribed in the superiority of communism over capitalism, automatically resulting from the objective laws of history. Not even the actual presence of the promised masterpieces was crucial. They would come out, there was no doubt about that. For the time being, one could contemplate and enjoy the collapse of bourgeois literature. Quote Andrei Zhdanov, at the 1934 writers' congress: "The present situation of bourgeois literature is such that it is no longer able to create masterpieces." Twenty years later, André Stil berated, in his turn, "the writers who, adopting the attitude of the rotting bourgeoisie, are thus incapable of writing a novel worth the name."The only novel worth its name was the socialist-realistic novel… but its masterpieces kept postponing their advent. And for a good reason, since socialist realism had sprouted as a theoretic formula. Its real chef d'oeuvre, the only one it produced, was the literary theory itself! The creative application of the theory seemed to be less easy. First of all, it involved a strong schematization, destined to identify the characters and situations with the abstract principles (which, in the end, conduced again to the methodology of science).The answer was there. It took scientific literature a long time to crystallize, because it requested much greater effort (scientific, philosophical and political culture, documentation, analysis) than the traditional literary fiction. One had to probe deeper into the essence of things.In December 1948, Alexander Fadeyev (1901-1956) had a significant intervention at the congress of the Ukrainian writers (published under the title The Mission of Literature Is to Reveal Man in the Process of Work). The author of the famous novel The Young Guard (1945) had been severely criticized. The Cold War and Zhdanov's ideological dictatorship were dawning. It was then or never – the time to go the whole log, down to the last consequences of socialist realism. Fadeyev had done his best to schematize the characters and situations, but seemingly there was a lot more to do. As required by the established liturgy, he began with self-criticism, then submitted his proposals for the improvement of literary methods.The solution was simple: man had to be shown at work, in his particular productive and social activity. Writers incapable of that performance resort to obsolete plots: love, the family… It is unacceptable, because what counts in the first place is the attitude towards labor. Innovating workers must be observed during their specific activity. A schoolchildren story must focus on their ways of studying and doing their homework. Exciting, but difficult, which explained the relative standstill of the new literature, especially drama, where an irksome problem arose – how to fill a whole act intelligently, with a workshop or a classroom scene.Even in the absence of literary excellency, socialist realist works played their role of moral lessons and pedagogic tools. Do you want to become a new man? Nothing is simpler: imitate the noble heroes of The Young Guard or Nikolai Ostrovsky's (1904-1936) novel, so eloquently entitled This Is How Steel Was Tempered (1934), where one can see how the human soul fortifies itself through the same technological process as the metal. Children were recommended the highly edifying story by V. Gubarev, Pavlik Morozov (1950), which described a thirteen-year old boy turning in his "counter-revolutionary" father to the secret police, starting thus his career of a new man. It was the harshest attack ever on the traditional family ties and sentiments.The new man no longer listens to the call of blood: the call of history suffices him. Wells and Aragon In order to better define the original traits of the communist new man and of his fabrication, let us put face to face two writers, experts in futurology: H. G. Wells and Louis Aragon. The former: inventor of fantastic scenarios extrapolated from late-19th century "bourgeois" science and from the contradictions of capitalist society: "a vulgar materialist", "self-confident writer and prattler", that is how Louis Aragon defined him. As regards Aragon, his formula of the future was the scientific one issued from communist science and its unshakable predictions. Like Saint Paul on his road to Damascus, he had seen a