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THE ROLE OF THE INTELLECTUAL UNDER TOTALITARIAN REGIMES

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LISBON, Sep 1 2008 (IPS) - The role of the writer in politics has been a subject of intense debate since French novelist Emile Zola published in 1898 \”J\’accuse\”, his indictment of the French army\’s wrongful conviction of Alfred Dreyfus for treason. The most recent chapter was related to the life and work of the renowned Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who died on August 4, writes Mario Soares, ex-President and ex-Prime Minister of Portugal. Between World War I and II numerous French as well as German, British, American, Latin American, and other writers had a considerable effect on the political opinions of the public. One of the most influential was Romain Rolland, author of \”Jean Christophe\” and \”L\’Ame Enchantee\”, a French pacifist and communist sympathiser who was read throughout Europe. In 1974 Solzhenitsyn was expelled from Russia and became the dissident most loathed by the world\’s communist parties. I remember clearly the polemic that erupted in Portugal after the 1974 Carnation Revolution freed us from the dictatorship and how Portuguese communists attacked us socialdemocrats for defending Solzhenitsyn in keeping with our creed.

Between World War I and II numerous French as well as German, British, American, Latin American, and other writers had a considerable effect on the political opinions of the public. One of the most influential was Romain Rolland, author of “Jean Christophe” and “L’Ame Enchantee”, a French pacifist and communist sympathiser who was read throughout Europe.

During the Spanish Civil War, which provoked a crisis of conscience in Europe, the Spanish were irrevocably divided between pro-fascists and anti-fascists. The anti-fascist writers, intellectuals, and artists were more numerous and more substantial. Some were victims of the war, like Federico Garcia Lorca. Others went into exile, like Jose Ortega y Gasset, Miguel de Unamuno – who died under house arrest in Salamanca- Dionisio Ridruejo, Salvador de Madariaga, Claudio Sanchez Albornoz, and Americo de Castro. Renowned painter Pablo Picasso became director of the Prado Museum in Madrid during the Republic but had to flee to exile in Paris two years later.

But it was not only Spanish intellectuals that joined this bloody and heroic struggle, which prepared the way for World War II – Britain’s George Orwell, Hungarian born Arthur Koestler, Andre Malraux of France, Ernest Hemingway of the US, and Portuguese writer, historian, and poet Jaime Cortesao were among the many foreigners who joined the anti-fascist cause in Spain.

In the first phase of the October Revolution, Russian writers like Maxim Gorky, author of “Mother”, played an extraordinary role. But with the subsequent onset of Stalinism and the exile of Leon Trotsky, also an excellent writer, intellectuals became more politically conformist.

Solzhenitsyn, who won the Nobel Prize in 1970, had to seek exile in the West and only returned to his country in 1994. A decorated veteran of World War II, he was an extraordinarily courageous man who refused to accept lies. In a society built on lies, this was particularly difficult. Solzhenitsyn was responsible for revealing to the world the horrors of the Soviet concentration camps with the publication of the “Gulag Archipelago” in France in 1973. His earlier books include “Cancer Ward” and “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich”, perhaps his greatest work, which was allowed to be published in 1962 while Nikita Khrushchev was Secretary-General of the Communist Party. It was Khrushchev who had the courage to present in 1956 the famous report to the 20th Party Congress denouncing the tyranny of Stalin and the system.

But in 1974 Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the country and became the dissident most loathed by the world’s communist parties. I remember clearly the polemic that erupted in Portugal after the 1974 Carnation Revolution freed us from the dictatorship and how Portuguese communists attacked us socialdemocrats for defending Solzhenitsyn in keeping with our creed.

Exiled to the West, Solzhenitsyn continued to write, in peace. But he did not allow himself to be seduced by the consumer delights of the decadent West. He returned to Russia under the government of Mikhail Gorbachev. In his final years he showed sympathy for ex-president and now prime minister Vladimir Putin for having restored Russia to the ranks of the great powers, where it undoubtably belongs.

Together with German philosopher Hanna Arendt, Solzhenitsyn revealed the true identities of the two forms of 20th century totalitarianism, one Nazi, the other Soviet. (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)

 
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