Publicist Writings

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Publicist Writings


works devoted to current social problems and events and containing factual material, subjective judgments based on social ideals, and proposals for achieving certain specified goals. Publicist writings help form public opinion and direct the interests and goals of individuals. They influence the work of public institutions and play an important political role. They are also an efficient ideological means of education, agitation, and propaganda and help organize and communicate public information. Publicist writings deal with all aspects of contemporary life: sociopolitical, economic, cultural, and ideological.

V. I. Lenin characterized the Bolsheviks’ publicist goals as follows: “We must make it the constant job of publicists to write the history of the present day, and to try to write it in such a way that our chronicles will give the greatest possible help to the direct participants in the movement and to the heroic proletarians there, on the scene of action—to write it in such a way as to promote the spread of the movement, the conscious selection of the means, ways, and methods of struggle that, with the least expenditure of effort, will yield the most substantial and permanent results” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 9, p. 208). Publicist writings must by their very nature “keep pace with events” and evaluate them on a basis of fundamental sociopolitical ideas. Such writings, as Lenin emphasized, are able “to sum [events] up, to draw conclusions, to draw from the experience of today’s happenings lessons that will be useful tomorrow, in another place” (ibid.) and thus influence the public’s world view.

How a publicist depicts and evaluates current events depends on his social and class ideological position as a representative of certain social forces. To an extent, he advocates, openly or not (depending on the political situation and conditions of censorship), social ideals and means for realizing them. Progressive publicist writings have always attempted to create a truthful vision of the world, to evaluate current events correctly, to arrive at fair conclusions, and to point out realistic prospects.

Publicist writings contain a great wealth of documentary material on the most varied manifestations of public life, thus constituting for future generations a chronicle of sociopolitical action and a historical source of factual information. They also contain material about various social forces; descriptions of events, personalities, and conditions of life; and information on science and culture.

Publicist writings present a unified and ideologically directed depiction of current affairs. Concrete data are gathered by empirical methods: observation, questionnaires, discussions, interviews, and analysis of documentary materials. Generalized conclusions and characterizations are arrived at through imaginative writing and sociological and historical research. This leads to works whose unique style combines various elements: description and evaluation of current events and processes expressed in a rational conceptual form; the advocacy of ideals, utilizing imaginative and realistic portrayal of life; portraits of contemporaries; and information about participants in various events. The publicist thus combines the qualities of a sociopolitical activist with those of a researcher and literary artist. Publicist works are also often written in a popularized manner.

Publicist writings may be classified according to ideological themes and narrative forms and genres. Important in the first group are political writings and economic, moral, ethical, and philosophic works. Many types of publicist writing exist: information on current events, factual and critical analysis, satire, polemics, and debates. Journalistic publicist writings include interviews, correspondence, commentaries, critical articles, editorials, appeals, reviews, travel notes, letters, essays, lampoons, and satire. Genres of publicist oratory include addresses, speeches, reports, and discussions. These are used on television and radio together with modified forms of journalistic publicism. The general traits of publicist writings cited above exist in varying degrees in different genres.

The author’s civic position and personal style are of great importance in publicist writings since they reflect his civic attitudes and ability to convince. He persuades his readers by defending his position with logical proofs and by addressing himself to the readers’ social experience and moral sentiments. Important here are oratory, literary style, and vivid language.

The traits of publicist writings are often encountered in literary, scholarly, and scientific works, endowing them with an unconcealed tendentiousness when the author is attempting to react spontaneously to sociopolitical events of his time.

Publicist writings have been most widespread at crucial moments of social development and during revolutionary periods, wars of independence, and movements for national independence.

Publicist writings originate in the orator’s art of antiquity, for example in the speeches of Demosthenes and the dialogues of Cicero. Important elements of publicist writings may be found in the satires of Aristophanes, Juvenal, and Lucian and in the works of historians (Herodotus) and biographers (Plutarch). The oratorical forms of publicism were developed in religious, ecclesiastical, and political oratory, particularly during the patristic period and the Reformation (Luther and Miinzer). During the Renaissance, when the invention of printing in the mid-15th century made it possible to reach a wide circle of readers, publicist writings became a powerful ideological and political weapon. The first revolutionary leaflets were produced during the Peasant War of 1524–26 in Germany. The publicist writings of progressive thinkers of the 16th century (Erasmus of Rotterdam’s In Praise of Folly and U. von Hutten’s Letters of Obscure Men) were aimed against ecclesiastical domination, obscurantism, and scholasticism. The English Civil War of the 17th century gave rise to brilliant publicist writings, including the lampoon (J. Lilburne, J. Milton). During the Renaissance, the militant publicist writings of J. Swift, D. Defoe, and H. Fielding (England) and of Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau, C. Helvetius, and P. Holbach (France) disseminated freedom-loving ideas that defended human individuality.

During the American Revolution (1775–83), the publicist writings of B. Franklin and T. Paine helped develop the American national consciousness. The fiery pronouncements of the leaders of the French Revolution (the speeches of G. J. Danton, M. Robespierre, and L. Saint-Just and the articles of J.-P. Marat and J. Hébert) inspired the people to action and educated them politically. The publicist writings of L. Borne and H. Heine helped develop the progressive Young Germany movement in the 1830’s. In the second half of the 19th century, the publicist pamphlets and civic lyrics of V. Hugo and E. Zola’s open letter “J’accuse,” written in connection with the Dreyfus affair, had a great social impact in France. The lofty fervor of the first proletarian revolution, the Paris Commune (1871), permeates the workers’ anthem the Internationale, by E. Pottier and P. Degeyter, as well as the articles of the Communards A. Vermorel and E. Tridon. The speeches and articles of J. Jaurès wrathfully accused the main instigators of war, the militarists and imperialistic bourgeoisie. During World War I, the passionate antiwar publicist articles of R. Rolland and H. Barbusse disclosed the true meaning of the imperialistic carnage.

The summit of historically objective and ideologically progressive publicist writings are those of Marxism. These works are marked by party and national spirit and by a scientific basis. The publicist writings of K. Marx and F. Engels and their followers in the West, including P. Lafargue, F. Mehring, K. Liebknecht, and R. Luxemburg, attacked the enemies of the working class and encouraged class consciousness among workers and the organization of the masses for the revolutionary transformation of society. Publicist writings were an important activity of the ideologists and political leaders of the communist and workers’ parties and of such leaders of the international communist movement as A. Gramsci, G. Dimitrov, M. Thotez, P. Togliatti, W. Foster, D. Ibarruri, and W. Pieck. The communist journalists J. Reed, A. Rhys Williams, G. Peri, and J. Fučik, the scientists and public figures J. F. Joliot-Curie, J. Bernal, P. Langevin, and W. Du Bois, and the writers H. Mann, T. Mann, T. Dreiser, B. Brecht, and J. Aldridge were all outstanding publicist writers.

Russian publicist writing originated with Ilarion’s Discourse on Law and Grace (11th century), the sermons of Kirill of Turov (12th century), and the polemical works of Maksim Grek (16th century). Ivan Peresvetov’s vivid publicist works (16th century) defended the centralization of the Russian state. The correspondence between Ivan IV and Andrei Kurbskii was highly publicist in nature. In the 18th century, the lofty civic tone of M. V. Lomonosov’s scientific works and poetry determined their educational and patriotic significance; the publicist writings of N. I. Novikov and A. N. Radishchev were notable for their antiserfdom ideology. Russian social thought and culture of the 19th century developed under the influence of publicist writings, which expressed the conflict between various social tendencies. Progressive publicist writings expressed the interests of the popular masses and in turn were influenced by the people’s aspirations. Using V. G. Belinskii as an example, Lenin showed that the works of the Russian democratic publicist writers were influenced by the attitudes of the enserfed peasants (ibid, vol. 19, p. 169).

The publicist writings of A. I. Herzen established the uncensored Russian democratic press and contributed to the increase of revolutionary activity in Russia. In the mid-19th century, the publicist writings of the revolutionary democrats V. G. Belinskii (Letter to Gogol’), N. G. Chernyshevskii (To the Manor Serfs; Letters Without Address), N. A. Dobroliubov, M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin (Abroad), and D. I. Pisarev furthered the ideological and political education of wide democratic circles. Publicist writings by F. M. Dostoevsky, L. N. Tolstoy, V. G. Korolenko, P. L. Lavrov, and N. K. Mikhailovskii influenced Russian intellectual life.

The publicist writings of such Russian Marxists as G. V. Plekhanov aided in the dissemination of Marxism in Russia and in the unification of revolutionary forces in the late 19th and early 20th century centuries. During the new proletarian stage of the revolutionary liberation movement in Russia, Lenin’s publicist writings were of immense importance in propagandizing Marxism, in politically educating the masses of workers, and in uniting the workers around the party of the Bolsheviks and mobilizing them for the preparation and carrying out of the socialist revolution. Lenin’s publicist works, notable for their Communist Party spirit, scientific content, polemical nature, and uncompromising attitude toward opponents and written in a clear, simple, and vivid language, are a perfect example of militant Bolshevik publicist writings. The Bolshevik press, created by Lenin and the Party, became a school for developing party spirit in publicist writings; examples are the works of such outstanding figures as V. V. Vorovskii, A. V. Lunacharskii, I. I. Skvortsov-Stepanov, J. V. Stalin, M. S. Ol’minskii, S. G. Shaumian and E. M. Iaroslavskii.

Soviet publicist writings continue and develop the traditions of progressive Russian and Bolshevik publicist writings. At all stages of the building of a communist society, Soviet publicist writings aid in the ideological education of the people, help combat propaganda hostile to socialism, and take part in socioeconomic processes. Vivid publicist works reflecting the most important events of our time have been written by M. Gorky, V. Mayakovsky, M. Sholokhov, A. Fadeev, A. N. Tolstoy, L. Leonov, I. Ehrenburg, V. Vishnevskii, B. Gorbatov, M. Shaginian, K. Simonov, and N. Gribachev. The Soviet journalists M. Kol’tsov, L. Reisner, D. Zaslavskii, Iu. Zhukov, V. Ovechkin, E. Dorosh, and V. Peskov have become well known as publicist writers.

The publicist writings of Soviet state, party, and public figures, scientists, and cultural leaders contribute significantly to the common cause of struggle for the building of a communist society and the strengthening of friendship and understanding among nations.

Publicist works appear in written and oral form, in the graphic arts, in photography and cinematography, in the theater, and in texts written to accompany music. The development of all forms of publicist writing in the mid-20th century reflects the growth of social consciousness and civic activity and each individual’s responsibility for peace and social progress.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The perceived contradictions in Dostoevskii's fictional and publicist writings have provoked controversy for over a century, but Henry Buchanan's short study is more ambitious than most of the myriad specialist books devoted to this writer's art and ideas.