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So what sort of dissent was permitted?

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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 24 Jun 2011, 08:37
Party Bureaucrat
Post 18 Jan 2012, 22:13
We know that people weren't locked up immediately for saying the wrong thing, and we also know there were limits and consequences for being seen as actively opposing the state.

My question is.. what sort of thing was okay? Obviously informal speech is, if nothing else, hard to control but as far as printing opinions, writing letters to news papers, publishing articles etc, are there any concrete examples of dissenting opinions that people published without consequences?
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 29 Jun 2010, 16:09
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Komsomol
Post 20 Jan 2012, 01:35
I always figured the claims that you were simply taken away and never seen again because you said one wrong thing were just spook stories for the most part. Personally, I believe things could be criticized but only in a certain way. If there was some sort of economical problem, or just some problem going on at work, how things are being run, it could only be criticized in Communist principles. You couldn't say that it was because of Socialism that everything is wrong. Which would be silly, but of course that's what the West does. Despite it having things wrong in its society, they'll take a problem that one socialist country may have and just associate that as an inherent problem of Communism. But anyway, that's what I think about dissent in the USSR.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Oct 2004, 22:04
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Resident Soviet
Post 20 Jan 2012, 07:28
What sort was permitted? Hmmm....

Thinking about the post-Stalin and especially the Brezhnev period, exposing corruption and inefficiency were common accepted criticisms, mostly in newspapers and journals. Complaints to newspapers and journals about all kinds of local and regional problems, whether man-made or systemic, were also encouraged, both as a method of fixing problems, and as a way to gauge public opinion. Even regional Party big wigs were fair game, though the editors of papers first needed permission from Moscow. Pravda and Izvestia received tens of thousands of letters each day, and actually took the time to reply to each of them (obviously mainly not in the pages of the paper itself, but through a staff that wrote responses and/or forwarded the letters to those who might be responsible for taking action). The more obscure or specialist a newspaper or journal was, the more liberal and open the opinions could be. Vigorous and even outright counterrevolutionary opinions could be found in certain literary journals, artists union papers, etc., though usually in somewhat muted or convoluted language. The 'enlightened' audience knew what the critics were saying, even if they unconvincingly inserted a Lenin or Brezhnev quote somewhere in their attack.

Informal speech was probably even more open, though I suppose context matters. It's a well known fact that Brezhnev knew for instance that the USSR Writer's Union was consistently joking about him (sometimes mean-spiritedly) and even spreading a significant portion of the Brezhnev jokes that were floating around Moscow and the rest of the country. Yakovlev and others of the future proteges of liberal communism or outright anti-communism were able to develop and argue out their theories and ideas through informal discussion in the universities, academic centres and institutes (this is documented by historian and journalist Sergei Kara-Murza, who had the opportunity to participate in these debates during his time in Moscow). So what can be said about the limits to criticism when it comes to the so-called ordinary people? There really was a dark time during the Stalin period when people could denounce their neighbours or coworkers and after a brief and superficial investigation the NKVD could lay serious charges. In the 1970s though, the charge of 'anti-Soviet agitation' would take a lot more evidence to prove, and would require some real 'counterrevolutionary' actions by the accused, usually doing something that might have the potential to reach or convince many people.

Man in Grey is correct to say that to explicitly reject socialism was virtually impossible in a medium that reached many readers, viewers, or listeners. Among individuals or small groups though, it certainly was possible. It's true to say that the nationalists, liberal democrats, monarchists and other anti-Soviet elements didn't come out of nowhere in the late 1980s.

Art, literature, and cinema are interesting mediums by which to observe the tolerance for criticism and its limits. In the 1970s there was a Russian nationalist revival of sorts in the field of literary fiction, which saw a lament for the decline of the Russian village and certain old Russian values with it. In cinema too the conflicts could definitely be set up with protagonists fighting against some person in a position of power that's abusing it, or portraying some negative aspect of life under socialism. Even some children's cartoons (like Cheburashka for instance) give hints of systemic flaws. Comedians definitely took up opportunities to discuss politically charged material, though the biggest part of the fun both for the comedian and the audience was often the dance around things that could not be explicitly said and implied meanings. This is one of the reasons that the political style criticism basically collapsed in the 1990s. There was even a long and diverse series of short sketches played in theatres before films and occasionally on television called 'Fitil' or 'Wick' that regularly discussed problems of socialism in a humorous way.

Overall I'd say that the agit prop system in the USSR, and the measures taken to counter anti-socialist attitudes, were pretty primitive in the late USSR. Obviously when the system was taken over by anti-communists, only bad things would come. But even if intelligent conservatives came to power, something definitely would have had to change for the country to move on into the Information Age. As I've said many times before, I think that ideally the USSR would have to set up a system like that in the West where real freedom of information generally exists where it matters little and suave manipulation and control occurs where it matters a lot. The same with the use of criticism, especially in the media, the arts, and academia. Definitely expanded, but not to the point of generating mass cynicism and anti-socialist outlook. We have to remember that despite its size and power, the USSR and its allies still comprised a minority of countries, and that US and European media and especially cultural influence still far outweighed that of the socialist bloc throughout the period of the USSR's existence.
"The thing about capitalism is that it sounds awful on paper and is horrendous in practice. Communism sounds wonderful on paper and when it was put into practice it was done pretty well for what they had to work with." -MiG
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 24 Jun 2011, 08:37
Party Bureaucrat
Post 30 Jan 2012, 14:58
Thank you for that post. Do you happen to know if there were significant differences between Kruschev and Brezhnev in this regard? I've heard it mentioned before that things were more liberal under Kruschev but haven't been able to find anything concrete.
Soviet America is Free America!

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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Oct 2004, 22:04
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Resident Soviet
Post 04 Feb 2012, 23:51
runequester wrote:
Thank you for that post. Do you happen to know if there were significant differences between Kruschev and Brezhnev in this regard? I've heard it mentioned before that things were more liberal under Kruschev but haven't been able to find anything concrete.


I think that for a time, resulting from the Daniel/Sinyavsky trial and Solzhenitsyn's repression, the Brezhnev era was considered more closed and conservative. However, I believe that as time went on, the Suslov-inspired socio-cultural conservatism thawed. The issue with the Khrushchev thaw is that the leadership itself initially didn't know how far it would go. Given the subsequent radicalization of elements of the Moscow intelligentsia, even Khrushchev would eventually have been forced to carry out a crackdown, had he hung on to power. It's also important to remember that Khrushchev's giving voice to liberals was an element of his anti-Stalin campaign. Hence some of the worst excesses of the Stalin period were encouraged to be exaggerated, and this was called openness. It took cultural production the next two decades to paint a more balanced portrait of Stalin, though most of it focused on wartime activity and little attention was given to violations of socialist legality, probably out of fear on the part of the state. Of course the 60s liberals would get a second chance to defame Stalin beginning in 1987 -this time as part of a wider campaign to dismantle socialism itself, and with nearly complete control of the media and culture. Stalin and Stalinism were major weapons for the counterrevolutionaries, the Stalin era's injustices being used to claim that the entirety of the Soviet project was monstrous and illegitimate. Hence it could be argued that Brezhnev and Suslov were correct to end the Khrushchev thaw, since even in the 1960s liberals had the theoretical opportunity to bridge the Stalin-socialism gap and to work to discredit the entirety of the Soviet project.
"The thing about capitalism is that it sounds awful on paper and is horrendous in practice. Communism sounds wonderful on paper and when it was put into practice it was done pretty well for what they had to work with." -MiG
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 26 Aug 2012, 01:06
Pioneer
Post 01 Oct 2012, 07:34
Quote:
As I've said many times before, I think that ideally the USSR would have to set up a system like that in the West where real freedom of information generally exists where it matters little and suave manipulation and control occurs where it matters a lot. The same with the use of criticism, especially in the media, the arts, and academia. Definitely expanded, but not to the point of generating mass cynicism and anti-socialist outlook.


This sounds very akin to Bob Avakian's idea of "solid core with a lot of elasticity". It is also akin in a way to Noam Chomsky's analysis of Western media, where a lot of apparent freedom is policed through manufacturing the boundaries of consent and dissent.

It does seem like two things are needed to keep the drive towards communism going, and those are : results (including both social goods as well as just stuff in the stores), and debate. People need to be drawn more and more into politics, so they can administer the society. That means being informed about issues and being able to engage the subtleties of two-line struggle.
Soviet cogitations: 236
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Jul 2012, 03:04
Ideology: None
Pioneer
Post 08 Oct 2012, 16:55
Criticisms were pretty open, especially in Stalin's era. The Soviets had some 20,000 secretaries around the country who would try to get a grapple on public opinion.

Stalin was of the idea that ideas that had been questioned were more likely to succeed than ideas that went unchecked. He, and other high ranking officials, also received a lot of mail in which they were criticized. If there were good criticisms, a relevant minister, and sometimes Stalin himself, would reply in Pravda- the party newspaper. He held such beliefs because when he was a revolutionary, he came to realize that although he was more well read than people he worked with, that they were the ones who suffered the hardships of exploitation.


Here is a good article about it.

http://www.marxists.org/reference/archi ... stalin.htm

The author talks about her experiences in the USSR and even talks about an interview she had with Stalin(someone she commented on being very open and transparent.)
Soviet cogitations: 14
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Jan 2013, 13:38
Unperson
Post 28 Jan 2013, 10:05
Even capitalist countries lock up people with dissenting views. As long as the criticism is constructive there is nothing to be afraid of. Put yourselves in the place of the communist in power. I am sure you will lock up anybody with slanderous or libelous comments.
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