Proletkult

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Proletkul’t

 

(Proletarian Cultural and Educational Organization), a literary, artistic, cultural, and educational organization that arose on the eve of the Great October Socialist Revolution and was active from 1917 to 1920. It proclaimed as its task the formation of a proletarian culture by developing the proletariat’s creative abilities. Proletkul’t brought together workers interested in artistic creativity and culture. By 1920 its organizations had about 400,000 members, with 80,000 participating in art studios and clubs. It published about 20 journals, including Gorn (The Forge) in Moscow, Griadushchee (The Future) in Petrograd, and Zarevo zavodov (The Glow of Factories) in Samara. Similar organizations arose in the early 1920’s in Great Britain, Germany, and elsewhere but proved to be impracticable.

Poets associated with Proletkul’t included M. P. Gerasimov, V. D. Aleksandrovskii, V. T. Kirillov, S. A. Obradovich, A. Mashirov-Samobytnik, N. G. Poletaev, and V. V. Kazin. Their works, imbued with revolutionary and romantic fervor, were influenced by symbolist and Narodnik (Populist) poetry. In 1920, Aleksandrovskii, Kazin, Obradovich, and Poletaev left Proletkul’t and formed the Smithy (Kuznitsa) group.

Proletkul’t’s work was marked by profound contradictions. Its theorists advocated aesthetic principles alien to Leninism. These principles were most fully expounded in the works of A. A. Bogdanov, who published in thejournal Proletarskaia kul’tura (Proletarian Culture). His prerevolutionary concept of a “pure” proletarian culture created by the proletarians led in practice to a denial of the link between socialist and past culture and to the proletariat’s isolation from the peasantry and the intelligentsia in the building of a new culture. To a certain degree, Bogdanov’s views were shared by the other Proletkul’t leaders, including P. I. Lebedev-Polianskii, P. M. Kerzhentsev, V. F. Pletnev, F. I. Kalinin, and P. K. Bessal’ko.

Proletkul’t’s tendencies toward separatism and autonomy contradicted Leninist principles concerning the building of a socialist society. The question of the organization’s independence from the state and party was the subject of serious discussion in the press. On Oct. 8, 1920, in connection with the Proletkul’t congress, at which the organization’s need for autonomy was again emphasized, Lenin drafted the resolution “On Proletarian Culture.” At the suggestion of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the RCP(B), the Proletkul’t congress adopted a resolution making Proletkul’t a department of the People’s Commissariat for Education; it was to follow guidelines developed by the RCP(B) for the commissariat.

In the letter of the Central Committee of the RCP(B) “On Proletkul’ty,” published in the Dec. 1, 1920, edition of Pravda, the party’s attitude toward Proletkul’t was explained and the theoretical views of the organization’s leaders were criticized. However, the Proletkul’t leadership maintained its earlier position, as evidenced by V. Pletnev’s article “On the Ideological Front” (Pravda, Sept. 27, 1922); this article was sharply criticized by Lenin (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 54, p. 291). The Communist Party resolutely condemned and rejected Proletkul’t’s nihilistic attitude toward past progressive culture, which was of great importance in forming a new socialist culture.

In the 1920’s, Proletkul’t engaged chiefly in theater and club work. Its most outstanding achievement was the First Worker’s Theater; among those working in it were S. M. Eisenstein, V. S. Smyshliaev, I. A. Pyr’ev, M. M. Shtraukh, E. P. Garin, and Iu. S. Glizer. In 1925, Proletkul’t was absorbed by the trade unions. It was abolished in 1932.

REFERENCES

Lenin, V. I. O literature i iskusstve: Sb. st. Moscow, 1969.
Bugaenko, P. A. A. V. Lunacharskii i literaturnoe dvizhenie 20-kh gg. Saratov, 1967.
Smirnov, I. “Leninskaia kontseptsiia kul’turnoi revoliutsii i kritika Proletkul’ta.” In the collection Istoricheskaia nauka i nekotorye problemy sovremennosti. Moscow, 1969.
Gorbunov, V. Lenin i sotsialisticheskaia kul’tura. Moscow, 1972.
Gorbunov, V. V. I. Lenin i Proletkul’t. Moscow, 1974.
Margolin, S. Pervyi rabochii teatr Proletkul’ta. Moscow, 1930.

N. I. DIKUSHINA and L. K. SHVETSOVA

References in periodicals archive ?
John Hatch, "The Politics of Mass Culture: Workers, Communists and Proletcult in the Development of Workers' Clubs, 1921-25," Russian History, forthcoming.