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  • Working-Class Literature and/or Proletarian Literature : Polemics of the Russian and Soviet Literary Left

    Katerina Clark

    Chapter from the book: Nilsson M. & Lennon J. 2017. Working-Class Literature(s): Historical and International Perspectives.


    This article follows “proletarian literature” from its beginnings in the 1890s through the demise of the Soviet Union a century later, and reviews successive trends in the representation of proletarians and proletarian writers as they are related to representations of intellectuals. The tension between the educated intellectual and the proletarian (whether a worker or a Party member) was already an important issue in the pre-revolutionary period but became an obsession of Soviet literature. Many questions associated with the issue were debated, directly or indirectly, in the literature and criticism of these years. The questions included: Should proletarians learn from the better educated professional intellectuals or were they too tainted by their bourgeois class identities? Could intellectuals, indeed, ever be integrated into, or play a positive role in, proletarian culture? Or rather, should the proletariat generate its own intelligentsia from within—as Gramsci in his Prison Notebooks advocated for with the development of an “organic intelligentsia” which might assume hegemony—and a penetration throughout society of their own system of values and beliefs that would counteract bourgeois intellectual hegemony? Did all men have the capacity to function as intellectuals and writers, and how could workers, especially the predominantly illiterate or semi-literate workers of imperial Russia, be enabled to create their own literature, to express themselves? In the Soviet period especially, the ultimate question was What was, or should be, the relationship to each other of workers, intellectuals and the Party?

    How to cite this chapter
    Clark, K. 2017. Working-Class Literature and/or Proletarian Literature : Polemics of the Russian and Soviet Literary Left. In: Nilsson M. & Lennon J (eds.), Working-Class Literature(s). Stockholm: Stockholm University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16993/bam.b

    This is an Open Access chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (unless stated otherwise), which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Copyright is retained by the author(s).

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    Additional Information

    Published on Dec. 13, 2017


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