Ideological Commitment

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Ideological Commitment


(ideinost’), adherence to a particular totality of ideas and to the corresponding social, moral, and aesthetic ideals; consistent loyalty to these in both theory and practice. Neither the mere knowledge of an idea, if it is not transformed into a conviction, nor the mere practical acceptance of certain life principles, requirements, and mottoes, if it is not based on a conscious assimilation of their ideological content, is true ideological commitment. The inner unity of both of these aspects, based on the unity between the theoretical meaning of an idea and its practical and concrete historical significance, is what constitutes ideological commitment. However, such unity is impossible in the case of ideologies and social forces opposed to historical progress. Therefore, in every epoch ideological commitment means progressive ideological commitment, referring to the intellectual orientation and meaningful-ness of the whole life of an individual who has consciously chosen to adhere to the progressive forces of the epoch, such as a progressive group, class, or party. Adherence to reactionary ideas and activity aimed at realizing them are the antipodes of true progressive ideological commitment.

Ideological commitment may be manifested in all spheres of social activity and intellectual life, for example, in philosophy, science, art, politics, and morality. It is the opposite of bezydei-nost’ (lack of ideological commitment), indifference to the higher meaning of social actions and events, and a refusal to take responsibility for the solution of the social and moral problems that permeate all authentic relations of one person with another. Ideological commitment is the opposite of enclosing oneself within a sphere of narrow interests, such as domestic, utilitarian, technical, local, or group interests, and of any justification for doing so by means of a petty-minded or philistine ideology. It is the opposite of a person’s individualistic self-isolation from real problems, the opposite of utilitarian activism masking itself under a formal ideological commitment while emasculating it in practice. Real ideological commitment is always opposed to the kind of ideological enslavement typical of antagonistic class societies that is expressed in blind faith and in uncritical acceptance of the ideas imposed by the ruling class. To be committed to ideas is to judge and evaluate each particular case on the basis of principles that are part of a total world view. It means to take an active and energetic attitude toward every situation and as a result to find new ways for the kind of activity that transforms reality. In the historic struggle by the forces of progress against reaction, of creation against destruction, of liberation against enslavement and exploitation, in the struggle for socialism and communism, ideological commitment is always inseparable from partiinost’ (party spirit).

Ideological commitment is a source of great energy and courage, of moral uplift and purification, of enthusiasm and heroism. It has always been a mark of creative revolutionary activity. The champions of democracy and independence in the ancient Greek city-states, the supporters of the republic in ancient Rome, the humanists in the Renaissance era, those figures of the bourgeois revolutions whose aspirations went far beyond the limited possibilities of capitalism, the Utopian socialists, the revolutionary democrats, the Parisian Communards of 1871, the Russian revolutionaries of 1905 and 1917 who created Great October, the defenders of the land of socialism in the Civil War and the Great Patriotic War, and the contemporary communist, workers’, and national liberation movements—all of these provide models of ideological commitment and depict the way in which the field of operations of ideological commitment widens and deepens with the deepening of social transformations and with increased demands upon the personal qualities of those who accomplish them. The deeper the social contradictions and the more complex their forms, the more imperative is the need for ideological commitment in order to accomplish the historical tasks that have come to the fore. For those who participate in the events, the theoretical content of ideological commitment always unfolds in the course of the historical action itself. It exists as an active process of testing, criticism, and creativity. For that reason, ideological commitment on the part of progressive forces is always opposed both to ideological dogmatism and doctrinairism and to the anti-intellectualism of reactionary and conservative classes and groups. Ideological commitment is alien to dogmatism, which places ready-made schemes and formulas above life and above the process by which truth becomes known, and regards reality itself as something subordinate to the observance of the letter of the law, thus transforming its theoretical propositions into invocations of magic, or ideological ritual. Anti-intellectualism is at odds with ideological commitment because it belittles and obscures reason and paralyzes independent and critical thinking, promotes emotional indoctrination, instills fanaticism, and arouses dark and destructive instincts and mass psychoses, as in religious crusades, racial conflicts, and fascism. On the contrary, the development of ideological commitment is inseparable from advancement in rational knowledge and moral culture.

Historically the highest form of ideological commitment is the communist one. It requires the strict unity of theoretical convictions with their practical realization, consistency between word and deed. It is inseparable from Communist Party commitment and the struggle for the communist ideal. It is an orientation based not on spontaneity and not on irrational will or hidden interests, but solely on the true understanding of the objective nature of things. In order to achieve the position of communist ideological commitment, a thorough conviction is necessary, arising from a reasoned attitude toward reality, in its completeness and its perspectives. A thorough knowledge of consistently scientific Marxist-Leninist theory and the courage of sober thinking are also necessary. This, in turn, presupposes a high level of aesthetic and moral culture. To be ideologically committed as a Communist means to have mastered the dialectics of real progress, to be devoted to solving its problems, and to be always creative and open to everything new. The knowledge of principles and consistent conviction enables one to develop the most clear and daring vistas of the specific paths and the driving forces of progress. Consequently, this is a living, active process in which not only do one’s practical relations with the world undergo transformation and perfection by being constantly measured against the criteria of theory, but also theory itself is constantly measured against the criterion of practice. “There can be no dogmatism where the supreme and sole criterion of a doctrine is its conformity to the actual process” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 1, p. 309). Adherence to ideological principle is maintained not in spite of the dialectics of life but as a result of mastering those dialectics and reproducing their principles in life itself. The only condition under which there are no grounds for skepticism or nihilism is where the rule prevails that one must constantly study the lessons of history, both positive and negative, and in so doing value, above all, truth as a creative process, the truth of life itself, which is the source of ideological commitment.

Communist ideological commitment is opposed to hidden bezydeinost’, which openly proclaims the renunciation of ideology and of the body of principles unified into a total world view (for example, technical scientism, and “deidealogization”). It is equally opposed to bezydeinost’, in which ideological commitment is “accepted” without its vital spirit or creative character. The attempt to hide from problems, the refusal to take responsibility for solving them, and the rejection of independent thought and action all lead to subjectivist and dogmatic false commitment; to the cult of the letter, which kills the spirit of the idea; and to the replacement of ideological commitment by one-track-mindedness, intolerance toward creativity, and fanaticism. One can overcome such attitudes only by struggling against them in all their forms. In criticizing bezydeinost’, Lenin criticized both the negation of the great moral power of revolutionary ideas by economic materialism (ibid., vol. 34, p. 332) and the subjectivism that speculates on “favorable situations.” “Adventurism is not concerned with consistency, but endeavors to grasp at the fleeting opportunity and make use of the battle of ideas in order to justify and preserve its ideological poverty” (ibid., vol. 7, p. 214).

Ideological commitment in science means going beyond the framework of narrow professionalism, organically uniting specialized knowledge with the problems of a world view, and maintaining control over the moral meaning of scientific knowledge. Commitment to the communist ideology orients the scientist toward consistency of principles and asserts one’s courage in seeking the truth and one’s civic consciousness and party commitment.

In art and literature ideological commitment is a criterion for evaluating a work of art. The social significance of its theme and artistic concept are the content of the commitment. At the same time, true ideological commitment is organically inherent in the works of socialist realism. It is opposed to the anti-ideological tendencies, formalism, decadence, the theory of “art for art’s sake,” and naturalism. To be ideologically committed in art is also to carry out its educative function actively.

Developing ideological commitment is one of the most important aspects of a communist education. A personality cannot be considered comprehensively and integrally developed without having ideological commitment inherent in it.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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