Bourgeois Cosmopolitanism and its Reactionary Role, Part I

Bolshevik writer F. Chernov’s March 15th, 1949 article attacking unpatriotic elements in Soviet society and the arts


The following article on “rootless cosmopolitanism” was originally published during the period of the Zhdanov Doctrine, the post-War cultural policy pursued by Agitprop Director Andrei Zhdanov from 1946 until Stalin’s death in 1953. Zhdanov, one of the chief theoreticians of the Stalinist regime, initiated the Soviet Union’s new cultural doctrine with a number of speeches attacking Soviet literary journals, musicians, film-makers, artists, and novelists for their modernist and experimentalist tendencies. Zhdanov’s intention was to root out and excise all vestiges of Western and foreign influences (“cosmopolitanism”); in their place a new Soviet culture was championed, one based on folk culture and classical arts and merging Great-Russian nationalism with Bolshevik tradition. The article below was not written by Zhdanov, but by a mysterious and possibly pseudonymous ‘F. Chernov’. Nonetheless, its publication in a Central Committee theoretical journal during this period attests to its official nature, and with its attacks on anti-patriotic “cosmopolitans” and its veneration of a culture “national in form, socialist in content” it provides a seminal example of attitudes during this period of Stalinist nationalism. It should also be noted that ‘rootless cosmopolitan’ is often regarded as a euphemism for ‘Jew’; many of the artists and intellectuals hounded for their alleged anti-patriotic or pro-Western sentiment in this period were Jewish, and the Zhdanov Doctrine provided much of the groundwork for the later anti-Semitic ‘Doctor’s Plot’ pogrom which Stalin was preparing before his death.

Due to the length of the article, it has been broken into two segments. The article’s first two sections are reproduced below, and its final two have been posted here.

I: COSMOPOLITANISM infiltrates Soviet arts, sciences, history.

The lead editorials in the Pravda and Kultura i Zhizn [“Culture and Life”] newspapers unmasked an unpatriotic group of theatre critics, of rootless cosmopolitans, who came out against Soviet patriotism, against the great cultural achievements of the Russian people and of other peoples in our country.

Appearing as messengers and propagandists for bourgeois ideology, the rootless-cosmopolitans fawned over and groveled before decadent bourgeois culture. Defaming Soviet socialist culture, they praised to the heavens that which was found in the emaciated and decayed conditions of bourgeois culture. In the great culture of the Russian people they saw echos and rehashings of Western bourgeois culture.

Harmful and corrupting petty ideas of bourgeois cosmopolitanism were also carried over into the realms of Soviet literature, Soviet film, graphic arts, in the area of philosophy, history, economic and juridical law and so forth.

The rootless-cosmopolitan Subotsky tried with all his might to exterminate all nationality from Soviet literature. Foaming at the mouth this cosmopolitan propagandist hurls epithets towards those Soviet writers, who want “on the outside, in language, in details of character a positive hero” to express his belonging to this or that nationality.

These cosmopolitan goals of Subotsky are directed against Soviet patriotism and against Party policy, which always has attached great significance to the national qualities and national traditions of peoples. Lenin spoke out at the 8th Party Congress against the Trotskyite Pyatakov, who had suggested (as a provocation) to eliminate the point about national self-determination from the Party programme, saying, “This could be done, if there were people without national characteristics. But there are no such people, and we cannot build a socialist society any other way.” [see Lenin’s Collected Works, Vol. 24, ‘Speech on the National Question’].

In mockery of literary works showing the superior qualities of Soviet people, Subotsky competed with the notorious cosmopolitan Yuzovsky. Yuzovsky venomously sneered that “across the lips of ‘positive heroes’ in these works,” there “inevitably plays such a ‘Marxist smile,’ that the positive hero of Soviet dramatic art knows all, sees all. For to him, everything is simple, everything is clear.” Thus under the flag of struggle against a supposed “primitivism” in the portrayal of the positive hero, the rootless-cosmopolitan Yuzovsky tried to discredit the new traits distinctive to Soviet people. For Yuzovsky is sickened by this fact, that Soviet dramatic art, reflecting the truth of life, shows that the Soviet people is a victorious people, that the Soviet man, overcoming hardships with fortitude, can gain victory over the enemy, is able to guarantee the victory of the new over the old.

By these antipatriotic exertions Yuzovsky sought to slander the Soviet people, to belittle their national dignity, to sow lack of faith in the ability of Soviet people to overcome any difficulties and achieve an intended goal, shown by the entire thirty year practice of Communist construction.

It is well known to Soviet people what a high valuation Comrade Stalin gave to the Russian people, pointing out that inherent to the Great-Russian [velikorusskiy] people are such remarkable qualities as a lucid mind, a firm character, an absence of haste, and a wise patience. The rootless-cosmopolitan Gurvich, echoing long-discredited hostile slanders against the Great-Russian people, shamelessly libeled them, and ascribed to the Russian people the most repulsive qualities.

An antipatriotic group of rootless-cosmopolitans in theatre criticism aspired to spread national nihilism, alien to Marxism-Leninism and deeply inimical to the Soviet people.

National nihilism is a manifestation of the antipatriotic ideology of bourgeois cosmopolitanism, disrespect for the national pride and the national dignity of peoples. Comrade Stalin said: “National nihilism only injures the cause of socialism, acting as a tool for bourgeois nationalists.” [see Stalin’s Collected Works, Vol. 4, ‘Speeches Delivered at a Conference on the Convening of a Constituent Congress of Soviets of the Tatar Bashkir Soviet Republic’]. Comrade Stalin strongly spoke out against those who suggested that “in fighting nationalism everything that is national must be thrown overboard.” [See Stalin’s Collected Works, Vol. 5, ‘Practical Measures for Implementing the Resolution on the National Question Adopted by the 12th Party Congress’]. National nihilism in our conditions is a form of struggle chosen by rootless-cosmopolitans against Soviet patriotism, against Soviet culture (national in form, socialist in content); it is a display of their cringing before bourgeois culture. In this way, national nihilism with its attitude towards the Great Russian people and the other peoples of our nation, time and again was linked [in the minds of] rootless cosmopolitans with bourgeois nationalism, which today is inseparably tied with the cosmopolitan ideology of the imperialist bourgeoisie.

In the area of philosophy, advocates of paltry cosmopolitan ideas led a campaign against the great traditions of the Russian people in science and philosophy; they advocated national nihilism. In the creations of the great exemplars of Russian materialistic philosophy – Lomonosov, Radishchev, Hertzen, Belinsky, Chernyshevsky, Dobrolyubov – they merely saw imitations of Western European philosophy, borrowings from it.

National nihilism in philosophy became apparent first of all in its scornful attitude towards the legacy of Great-Russian culture. An article by Z. Kamensky “On the question of tradition in Russian materialist philosophy of the 18th and 19th centuries,” published in Voprosy Filosofii [“Questions of Philosophy”] magazine, was a slander of the luminaries of Russian materialist-philosophical thought, and depicted it as only a more or less fortunate follower of Western European philosophies.

Professor B. Kedrov allowed into his works on philosophy and the history of science an array of serious errors and distortions of the anti-Marxist cosmopolitan type. B. Kedrov “proved” and defended the anti-Marxist thesis according to which questions of priority in science were meaningless, and rejected the significance of priority by Russian scientists.

The question about the priority of leading Russian science, literature, and art, about the primacy of Soviet socialist culture is one of the most acute questions of the struggle of socialism against capitalism. Socialist culture represents a superior type of culture, a superior civilization, confirming its superiority over bourgeois culture. The enemies of socialism, nourishing malicious hatred towards the Soviet Union which comes in the advance guard of the forces of democracy and socialism in the whole world, are bent on weakening by every means the day to day growth of the international authority of the USSR, and of its great moral and political prestige. Hence the efforts of enemies of socialism to defame the Soviet Union, to suppress its great economic and cultural achievements, to suppress or dishonestly deny the primacy of Soviet science and engineering, and the immense superiority of Soviet literature and art. Hence their spiteful maltreatment of the culture of the Great Russian people, being the most distinguished nation of all the nations of the USSR, the leading force in the Soviet multinational state. The enemies of the USSR set in motion the basest machinations, so as to appropriate for themselves the achievements of the scientific figures of the Russian people and other peoples of the USSR, lying in order to ascribe primacy in the line of major scientific discoveries to foreign bourgeois scientists to the detriment of the indisputable primacy of the scientists of our country.

The question about the primacy of progressive Russian science, of Soviet science is crucial, a vitally important question for the Soviet people and the socialist state. Therefore, the statement of Kedrov about the immateriality of the question about priority in science plays into the hands of the enemies of the Soviet government.

In his cosmopolitan denial of any significance whatsoever of national aspect in the development of philosophy, Kedrov went so far as the assertion that “To construct a history of world philosophy, it follows first of all that it is not done by countries, nor by basing it on national distinctions and features, but instead by major historical epochs…” [see “Questions of Philosophy” magazine, No. 1, p. 43 (1947)].

Here, Kedrov’s cosmopolitan orientation is obvious, advocating a scornful attitude toward the character of nations, towards their distinctive qualities, making up the contribution of nations to world culture. Denying the role of national aspect and national distinctive features in the development of science and philosophy, Kedrov spoke out for “solidarity” with reactionary representatives of so-called stateless and classless “universal” science. Meanwhile, the slogan “united world science” is profitable only to our class enemies.

In his writings, I. Kryvelyov dragged into Voprosy Filosofii magazine harmful antipatriotic, cosmopolitan petty ideas. In articles on military matters, he found fault with Russian military strategy and Russian military skill. In Kryvelyov’s deeply flawed article “Towards the Description of German Military Ideology,” he offers an outrageous example of bourgeois objectivism and servility before things foreign. Consisting almost entirely of quotations plucked out of writings by German racists and militarists, this article is an antipatriotic, objectivist account of predatory German-fascist military ideology. Discussing the victory of the Soviet Army over German fascism, Kryvelyov did not devote a single word to Soviet patriotism – the source of the heroism of Soviet people.

The forms in which bourgeois-cosmopolitan petty ideas are dragged into the area of ideology are multifarious: from concealment of better products of socialist culture to direct denigration of it; from denial of the world-historical significance of Great Russian culture and elimination of respect for its traditions to the frank propagation of servility before decadent bourgeois culture; from the spreading of national nihilism and negation of the significance of the question of priority in science to the slogan about “international solidarity” with bourgeois science and so forth and so on. But the essence of all these forms is this antipatriotism, this propaganda of bourgeois-cosmopolitan ideology setting its goal of spiritual disarmament of the Soviet people in the face of aggressive bourgeois ideology, the revival of remnants of capitalism in peoples’ consciousness.

II: THE PARTY Counterattacks.

With the liquidation of the exploiter classes, Soviet society achieved unprecedented moral-political unity which found its most brilliant expression in the strong flowering of Soviet patriotism. But one must not forget that the imperialistic camp in every way possible strives to revive and renew the remnants of capitalism in the consciousness of Soviet people.

At the 17th Party Congress, Comrade Stalin pointed out that “one should not say that we have overcome all vestiges of capitalism in the consciousness of the people. One should not say this, not only because the development of the consciousness of the people lags behind their economic situation, but also because there still exists a capitalist encirclement which seeks to revive and support the remnants of capitalism in the economy and in the consciousness of the people of the USSR and against which we, Bolsheviks, must at all times keep our powder dry.” [see Stalin’s Collected Works, Vol. 13, ‘Report to the 17th Party Congress on the Work of the Central Committee of the AUCP(b)’].

Comrade G. M. Malenkov said in his report to an Informational Meeting of representatives of some Communist Parties:

“Since the crushing defeat and liquidation of the remnants of the exploiter classes in our country, the international bourgeoisie lost all support within the Soviet Union for its struggle against the Soviet state. However it aims to use for its purposes the remnants of capitalism in the consciousness of the Soviet people – remnants of the mentality of private ownership, vestiges of bourgeois morals, reverence of individuals for the bourgeois culture of the West, display of nationalism etc.”

In the calculation of our foreign enemies they should divert Soviet literature and culture and Soviet science from the service of the Socialist cause. They try to infect Soviet literature, science, and art with all kinds of putrid influences, to weaken in such a way these powerful linchpins of the political training of the people, the education of the Soviet people in the spirit of active service to the socialist fatherland, to communist construction.

The Party of Lenin and Stalin leads a decisive attack against bourgeois ideology, inflicting blow after blow on all displays of bourgeois influence on the various sectors on the ideological front.

The Central Committee of the AUCP(b) revealed the danger of empty ideological content and indifference to politics in art, which had cleared channels for penetration of the bourgeois worldview into the environment of Soviet people. The well known decree of the CC-AUCP(b) regarding Zvezda [“Star”] and Leningrad magazines mobilized the Party and leaders of Soviet literature and art in the decisive struggle against apolitical attitudes and ideological emptiness, in the making of literature of a high ideological content, able to instill into the builders of communism a courageous spirit and confidence in the triumph of their great cause. On the foundation of the decisions of the CC-AUCP(b), Soviet literature and art achieved great successes, enriched by works which, as Comrade V. M. Molotov pointed out: “In their ways they show the ideological meaning of the events and work of people of the Soviet era.”

The Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) firmly criticized the developing among independent Soviet scientific workers of bourgeois-objectivist concepts. Comrade A.A. Zhdanov in his statement on the discussion of Comrade G.F. Alexandrov’s book “The History of Western Philosophy,” noting the flaws of that book and its objectivist concepts, pointed out that such concepts, had they influenced our development, would have necessarily led to servility before bourgeois philosophy and to exaggeration of its merit, to the detriment of our philosophy of the aggressive, fighting spirit, which would have implied a retreat from basic materialism, from its directions, and from its Party spirit. In his statement in the discussion, criticizing Comrade Alexandrov’s book, Comrade A.A. Zhdanov noted the failure to include in it the history of Russian philosophy is in no way justified, and that this omission is of a fundamental character.

The debate on G.F. Alexandrov’s book centered on the workers on the philosophy front in the struggle against decadent bourgeois philosophy, in overcoming disparaging attitudes towards Russian philosophy, in further elaboration of Marxist-Leninist philosophy and in strengthening its bonds with the practical work of building communism.

The decision of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) about the opera by V. Muradeli, “The Great Friendship”, struck a blow against formalists and other putrid influences of bourgeois art on individual figures in Soviet music that were leading to a division between Soviet music on one hand, and the people, and their needs and demands, on the other. In this resolution, the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) subjected to a scathing denunciation the direction of some composers who had neglected the great musical legacy of the brilliant Russian composers. The above-mentioned decision of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) revealed broad areas for uplifting Soviet musical culture, embodying in all work the socialist life of the Soviet people and the deep national traditions of music of the Russian people and of other peoples of the USSR.

Achieved under the direction of our Party, the destruction of Weisman-Morgan school of biology, and the historic August session of VASKhNIL [the “Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences”] were shattering blows against the attempts of our foreign enemies to drag into Soviet science reactionary ideology and metaphysical theory, causing damage to science, making it sterile and useless, and separating it from the needs of the people. Thus were assured the triumph of Michurinist materialistic biology in our country, the well-being of Soviet biological science, transforming nature.

The Central Committee of the AUCP(b) unmasked attempts of the imperialist bourgeoisie to use such vestiges of the old regime, still found among individual representatives of our intelligentsia, as groveling before bourgeois culture. The Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) mobilized the party and Soviet intelligentsia in the struggle against each and every remnant cringing before the Western bourgeoisie, against every attempt to hide the priority of Russian scientists in many areas of science and technology, against the bare-faced attempts by bourgeois scientists to appropriate to themselves the priority belonging to Soviet scientists. The Party called upon the Soviet intelligentsia and the whole Soviet people to carry high the banner of Soviet national pride, raised still higher by the Soviet intelligentsia’s patriotic consciousness of the great Soviet culture and its superiority over bourgeois culture.

The Party struck a blow against all manifestations of the influence of bourgeois ideology in the area of literature, art, science, and smashed the attempts of the imperialist bourgeoisie to shake the morale and mental firmness of Soviet people and, in such a way, to disturb the successful progress of our country towards communism, the growth and strengthening of devotion of the Soviet people to their socialist Motherland.

The most poisonous ideological weapon of the hostile capitalist encirclement is bourgeois cosmopolitanism. Consisting in part of cringing before foreign things and servility before bourgeois culture, rootless-cosmopolitanism produces special dangers, because cosmopolitanism is the ideological banner of militant international reaction, the ideal weapon in its hands for the struggle against socialism and democracy. Therefore the struggle with the ideology of cosmopolitanism, its total and definitive unmasking and overcoming acquires in the present time particular acuity and urgency.


Article sourced from F. Chernov’s Bourgeois Cosmopolitanism and its Reactionary Role, (15 March, 1949), Bol’shevik: Theoretical and Political Magazine of the Central Committee of the AUCP(b), Issue #5

Leave a Reply