The artists along with the writers of any nation have always been and, as we can see through precedent, will continue to be greatly affected by the political structure that prevails. Therefore, in order to answer the given question, lots of aspects have to be taken into consideration, some of them being concepts like ‘ketman’, the true essence of the communist ideology, the ‘new faith’, Marxism and other interlinked concepts, with ‘The Captive Mind’ by Milosz being used as one of the primary sources. To start off, one needs to understand the ideology behind communism and its basic objectives.
In theory, Communism is a political arrangement and a socio-economic principle, which aims to promote an unrestricted and stateless civilization founded on ordinary tenure and control of the ways of production. Communism is therefore a solution to the problems of capitalism, imperialism and nationalism and according to Karl Marx, a socialist; the working class is the main means of wealth generation in a society and should therefore replace the capitalist class as the ruling class in order to avoid being exploited by them.
He believed that that an eventual people’s revolution would indicate the final stage of communism in any society and this would result in a society free of force where all decisions like what to produce and how much to produce would be taken democratically. With the obvious plus points of communism, the several negatives can simply not be ignored. Very bluntly put, communism is simply a utopian plan to enforce complete economic equality and achieve this by means of forced income redistribution and economic management. The practicality of this goal can be challenged without much difficulty.
It mail failure can be contributed to the failure of a centralized economy to function since it is mathematically and physically impossible to manage an economy from a centralized form Another far-fetched concept is that of having complete control over industries, and this means ALL the industries that may or may not be linked to one another. The workability of this is also doubtful. As for the theoretical failures of communism, absolute impartiality of all revenues is not possible to achieve since it has a negative effect on productivity. With equality, the incentive to work harder and do better simply disappears.
As far as writers are concerned, the ‘free will’ aspect under a communist regime is what matters the most to them, and it needs to be understood that no matter what, free will cannot be suppressed. This is precisely what Communism attempts to do. It aims to control human individualism by making a society completely uniform in spite of the fact that it consists of separate individuals. People cannot be forced to comply to a certain mindset since thought is free and independent and cannot be fully controlled under any circumstances, and this is just a simple clause of the human nature.
Therefore, as a continuation of this, it can safely be concluded that since communism may only achieve full compliance through force, it is not meant to last and this is precisely what led to the demise of communism throughout the world when opinions and ideologies different from the government were tried to put to an end. To curtail or limit the free will of humans means to challenge the human nature as created by God. Be it communism or socialism, it is simply not possible to have unopposed, uniform agreement to the will of the government because humans are not robots and cannot be programmed to think a certain way.
They are bound to ask questions and look for alternatives and this is why the success of a communist regime is short lived. With all of that said and explained, one wonders how then is survival possible under a communist regime, especially for writers. What is it that they are expected to do and how does that conflict with what they want to do? To answer all such questions, the communism in Central Europe in the 20the century can be taken as an example. From that, branches out Czeslaw Milosz, the poet who wrote of modern cruelties, and his book ‘The Captive Mind. His experience well explains the situation that writers faced in central Europe. Milosz survived the Nazi invasion of Poland and is famous for his book ‘The Captive Mind’ which he wrote immediately after he received political asylum in Paris after his break with Poland’s Communist government. Milosz learned from his experience as an underground writer during World War II and wrote critiques on the role that communism played in the lives of intellectuals. In his early years Milosz, along with many other writers got fascinated by ‘The New Faith’ or to some of the idealized aspects of Marxism which truly supports a communist system.
But even then, he was strictly against dictatorship of any sort. Later on, he chose to condemn the New Faith because of all the harm it caused to the intellectual ability of individuals and also how Communism crushed the spiritual values of people. He was disgusted by the way truth was manipulated to promote the political ideology of a communist party as it seemed unfair to the people. There was no freedom of criticism and no media was allowed to be published if it opposed the government or its leaders: in all, there was no freedom of speech.
Throughout World War II, Milosz witnessed the Holocaust and was a lively author in the Resistance Movement. Later on, after his defection, Milosz’s works were banned in Poland but he continued to publish his works in English. ‘The Captive Mind’ was amid the very influential books that denounced the communist beliefs. It centers around four gifted Polish men who have, in one way or the other; give in to the demands of the Communist state. Through their example, Milosz shows the effects that communism has on intellectuals, writers in particular who are expected to succumb to the wants of those.
This is where the concept of Ketman needs to be explained in order to thoroughly understand the circumstances in a communist state. By definition, Ketman would be the act of showing obedience to a man or a party in power, in spite of having personal views and opinions that conflict with theirs. Its main purpose is survival in a place where you cannot openly condemn the system that prevails. During a similar time period, the cold war, The Captive Mind was the analysis of the morally corrupting and the intellectually deprived character of the Soviet. The philosophy of history emanating from Moscow is not just an abstract theory; it is a material force that uses guns, yanks, planes and all the machines of war and oppression.
All the crushing might of an armed state is hurled against any man who refuses to accept the New Faith” (Milosz, 221) In this quote from the Captive Mind, Milosz clearly explains the situation and therefore the need to practice Ketman; an act practiced by parents and children alike in order to avoid trouble with the ruling communist party. However, in spite of this, Milosz added positivity by saying, Still, it is not hard to imagine the day when millions of obedient followers of The New Faith may suddenly turn against it. ” (Milosz, 221) As far as writers are concerned, there is a long list of those who were initially firm and dedicated believers of Communism but were later repelled by it. This occurrence is common and can be explained if the nature of a writer is understood. A writer is almost always a sensitive person, sensitive to the surroundings, sensitive to the environment, sensitive to the happenings.
During the 20th century, it was natural of them to be attracted to a system that promised equality, an equivalent allocation of wealth and resources held by the common man. It seemed fair. It seemed right. The picture painted my Karl Marx and other supporters of Communism seemed too perfect and this is why it had the tendency to gather immense support from initial followers and similarly, many writers got caught in the same net. However, as time elapsed and the Soviet reality came into play, the practicality of a Communist system got to all those who initially supported it.
This was a system that did not permit a writer to express his/ her opinions, to tell the truth, or to openly criticize what seemed wrong. Apart from all the state matters, power and supervision of arts, media, culture and literature was also a basic practice with new sets of rules for writers, publishers, and theaters. A single purpose of socialist-communist education was devised. The rest of the drawbacks and failures of Communism have already been mentioned above. The moral obligations of writers in a communist nation are therefore mainly individual.
They differ from person to person depending to the intellectual priorities of a particular writer. According to some, Communism is the best thing that can happen to man as it promises abundance and great respect for the human personality. In such a situation, this particular writer is obliged to bring to the forefront everything that contributes towards this cause. Others may have an entirely different view and may value the morals of an intellectual more. They would assume the responsibilities of inculcating human qualities in man through their writings.
In essence, even those who don’t believe in literature having an effect on the ethics of man would agree in the educating power of literature in a communist setup. Such writers would concentrate on promoting goodness, truth and beauty of man and they will only be able to do so if their own moral qualities have been perfected. To conclude, it can safely be said that the moral obligations of a writer under a communist regime remain simple if he can understand the educative rule of literature. Once he succeeds in doing this, he can later go on to establish himself by avoiding didacticism.
He will realize that it is his duty to remain truthful and not succumb to the pressures of any communist force since he has a moral responsibility towards the masses. In short, a writer’s moral obligation is to be fair; expose evil in all its forms and depict the goodness that is to be seen. Irrespective of what each writer takes his individual moral responsibility to be, at the end of the day, it is his duty to show a clear picture, both sides of the coin, and leave it up to the readers to make their judgments instead of his own judgment being forced upon them.