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YOUTH AND SPIRITUAL VALUES OF SOCIALISM
 
YOUTH AND CULTURE
 

p In this age of scientific and technological revolution, and rising rates of development in science and engineering, the society puts increasingly greater demands on workers in all fields and branches of the economy. In the Central Committee’s Report to the 24th Congress of the CPSU Leonid Brezhnev said: "Modern production sets rapidly rising demands not only on machines, on technology, but also and primarily on the workers, on those who create these machines and control this technology. For ever larger segments of workers specialised knowledge and a high degree of professional training, man’s general cultural standard, are becoming an obligatory condition of successful work.”  [65•1 

p These demands are of prime concern to young people. Young people who start life today will still be working in the 1980s and in the 21st century. The Soviet Union’s rates of scientific, technological, economic and social progress greatly depend on the training which young people get and the degree to which they avail themselves of socialist culture. This is why the questions of culture and the propagation of socialist spiritual values are such urgent ones.

p The 24th Congress of the CPSU devoted much attention to this fact and discussed the matter in detail.

p The Leninist Young Communist League has always been concerned with the cultural level of Soviet youth. This care 66 was most vividly expressed in the resolution of the 16th Congress of the YCL in May 1970.

p What access to the spiritual values of the socialist society does Soviet youth have? What does it mean to be a man of culture today? What contribution does Soviet youth make to cultural development?

p Sometimes we use the word “culture” in a very narrow sense. It is often claimed that to be cultured is simply to know how to behave in society and to adhere to generally accepted norms of relations between people; others imagine that culture consists in knowledge. True, all these are essential features of a cultured man, but it would be utterly wrong to reduce culture to behaviour or a mere sum of knowledge.

p We often talk about culture in production, everyday life and behaviour, as well as physical culture and cultural interests in leisure. We also regard culture as the basis of man’s spiritual values and the all-round development of his personality. But what is the actual definitive meaning of this concept?

p The principal human characteristic which sets us apart from animals are our efforts to transform our world, and our ability to work towards a goal. It is labour that has made man and created all the material and spiritual values of society.

p Labour has created the whole of human culture. Culture means, first and foremost, activity; in all spheres of culture, whether material or spiritual, we find positive human activity. A. V. Lunacharsky pointed out that "man not only dresses, makes instruments, builds houses, towns, and so on, but also lays out parks and gardens around his towns, changes the direction of rivers and the boundaries of seas, creates straits and isthmuses where there were none before, and thus forges a life which is in harmony with all the spiritual demands of the self-made man".  [66•1 

p But does culture embrace all human activities? Certainly not. These activities can be directed towards the creation of material and spiritual values, but they can just as easily 67 be aimed at the destruction of these same values. Only such creative activity which produces socially significant values can be referred to as culture.

p In the words of the philosophers, human activity in the sphere of culture is materialised in the form of material and spiritual values. These values reflect both man’s spiritual interests and the social relations of his time. This is why even the relics of ancient civilisations are sufficient to give us an idea of what their social relations, customs, morals and traditions were like. Man, the creator of culture, is at the same time its principal object. The individual develops and enriches his spiritual life by absorbing cultural values and norms.

p “The concept ‘culture’,” wrote the prominent author Heinrich Mann, "means concern,—concern for people.”  [67•1  In the final count, all products of culture serve to coin a definite type of human personality. It is precisely in this sense that we talk about man as the subject (creator) and object of culture. Culture has many aspects. In the first place, it is subdivided into material culture and spiritual culture. A stone or a bronze sculpture, a painting or an ornamental vase are, naturally, material enough, but since they are designed to satisfy the spiritual demands of society, we classify them as spiritual values.

p In the case of material culture, its products go primarily towards satisfying the material requirements of society. Material culture encompasses not only the material results of man’s activity, but also the knowledge, skill and ability necessary to produce them.

p These differences between material and spiritual culture are, of course, relative. Let us take, for example, monuments of architecture: they are referred to as both the material and spiritual values of society because they satisfy housing needs while, at the same time, they are works of art.

p Thus science, which is the potent spiritual force behind production, increasingly turns into a direct material productive force.

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p In the future, it seems that the dividing line between material and spiritual culture will become more obscure, because a growing number of material values will serve to satisfy spiritual (aesthetic, for instance) demands.

p The following pages will be devoted to spiritual culture.

p Man, in the process of his activity, incarnates the treasures of his spiritual world in the form of cultural values. On the other hand, having acquired these values, people use them to enrich their inner world.

p However, we have not yet clarified the essence of culture. Culture is also a norm of life and behaviour, and includes norms of morality. A man of culture in socialist society not only possesses great knowledge; he also acts in conformity with the norms of this society.

p Thus, as we see, spiritual culture is a complicated thing. It encompasses not only man’s activity in creating spiritual values, but also the distribution and consumption of these values. To this end society establishes schools, theatres, clubs, philharmonic societies, libraries, cinemas.

p Proceeding then from what we have said, we believe that it is possible to regard spiritual culture as the human creative activity which is subject to the mode of material production and in the process of which people produce, accumulate, distribute and consume spiritual values; we can regard culture as the sum total of these values and norms which materialise people’s creative activities.

p In the society divided into antagonistic classes there can be only class spiritual cultures. In his Critical Remarks on the National Question Lenin brilliantly proved that the two cultures in capitalist society—reactionary and democratic— are irreconcilable. This is because spiritual culture is based on a definite world outlook, on a definite class ideology. Proceeding from its ideology, the bourgeoisie proclaims works, which are actually alien to the people’s interests, as spiritual values of society. Bourgeois culture is just as hostile to proletarian culture as the bourgeois ideology and morality, on which bourgeois culture rests, is hostile to proletarian ideology and morality.

p Bourgeois ideologists, from downright reactionaires to liberals, deny the class opposition of the two cultures in the modern world, and proclaim the unity of world or, at 69 least, European culture. All the latest theories—opposition of mass culture to culture for the elite, culture for youth and culture for adults—are calculated to gloss over the class struggle in the spiritual life of modern society and the confrontation of the two ideologies.

p The founders of Marxism-Leninism always approached culture from a class angle and showed what class this or that culture serves and what type of individual it moulds. The class approach is the basis, the living soul of the entire Marxist-Leninist teaching on culture.

p Soviet youth readily absorbs socialist culture. Youth is an essential segment of the Soviet society which is united politically and morally. This is not so in the capitalist countries. Young people there, like the whole of their society, are divided into antagonistic classes. Try as they may, the bourgeois sociologists will never succeed in glossing over the irreconcilable antagonism between the bourgeoisie and young workers; this antagonism will last as long as the capitalist system exists. Bourgeois sociologists usually reduce the specific character of young people to psychological and physiological peculiarities. The West German sociologist F. Tenbruck, for instance, claims that youth is simply "a definite age, characterised by certain biological and psychological relations and, consequently, by all the peculiarities of that age class".  [69•1  Other bourgeois sociologists even place the youth as a whole, irrespective of its social composition, into a class of its own which is supposed to be confronting the whole adult society.  [69•2  Bourgeois sociologists accordingly refer to a youth “subculture” which they regard as international, non-class and applicable to all young people irrespective of the social system in their countries or the class and national affiliations of the various sections of which they are made up.

p In any antagonistic class society the real struggle is waged between the confronting cultures of the combating classes and not between age “subcultures”.

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p Though the dominating bourgeois culture doubtlessly influences young working people in bourgeois society, the conditions of capitalist production and the bourgeois way of life bring conscientious young people into irreconcilable conflict with the bourgeois culture rather than with the imaginary culture of their adults. Young working people absorb the fine traditions of their fathers and join the struggle against the bourgeois system and its culture.

p It is precisely this preparation for independent activity that differentiates youth from other groups in society. Young people first absorb the spiritual values created by the preceding generations, and on the basis of these they mature. Their social and spiritual make-up depends on the kind of culture they absorb. Bourgeois sociologists ignore this and depict the young person as someone “free” of society, who fashions his own culture.

p In opposing the bourgeois theories of "youth subculture" we do not deny that there are salient peculiarities in the cultural development of the rising generation. Rather than talking about a special youth culture different from the culture of the given class, the real point is the specific means of access for young people to this culture, the particular way in which young people absorb its values and norms.

p Socialism, which is the first stage of communism, still retains class distinctions and this is why in analysing Soviet youth, we single out different segments and groups of it— young working people, urban and rural, young collective farmers, young intellectuals, young workers in the sphere of services and students. However, the principal and decisive factors are the features which all these groups and segments have in common, while the differences are relative and not so consequential. The reason for this lies in the political and moral unity of the socialist society. Socialist culture, too, is common to the entire nation and constitutes an integral whole. In origin and content this culture is the culture of the working class and as such it has been adopted by all the social groups of the socialist society. Thus it has provided, for the first time in mankind’s history, a common culture for society as a whole. From the very first years of conscious life all segments of Soviet youth adopt this culture. Soviet 71 youth is multinational; young people are educated in their native tongue, they read their own national literature, and so on, and thus they absorb a socialist culture which is unified in content.

p In socialist society the different cultural levels of youth groups are expressed not in terms of the content of culture, but merely in terms of the degree to which they have absorbed it and the intensity of their independent creative activity in this cultural sphere.

p Man draws on the riches of culture all his life. There is always room for developing his intellect and knowledge. A man who stops in his development inevitably falls back, because culture is not a ready stock of knowledge and skill, but a continuous process of human activity. In the Central Committee’s Report to the 24th Congress of the CPSU Leonid Brezhnev said: "Today progress is so swift in all fields that the education received by young people is only a foundation that requires the constant acquisition of knowledge."  [71•1  However, the foundations of a man’s cultural progress are laid in his youth. It is then that he develops his character and acquires knowledge and definite norms of behaviour.

p On the one hand, the young man absorbs the existing values in the socialist society and the benefits and norms of its culture, as well as imbibing the experience of the preceding generations. On the other, by embarking upon life and participating in creative work, he begins himself to create spiritual values and contribute to the development of culture.

p Such bilateral participation of youth in cultural activities is pregnant with complications and contradictions. Today young people are better educated and technically qualified than the preceding generations. Their living standards are also much higher.

p As a result of better living standards, medical services and other factors, young people today mature on the average two or three years sooner than 15 or 20 years ago. But their social maturity is somewhat retarded, partly owing to the longer time needed for education. This gap, of course, is 72 not the main reason for the basic contradictions in the spiritual formation of young people, but it cannot be wholly discarded.

p Meanwhile public life over the past few decades has become extremely complicated. The rates of social progress are very high, there is intense class struggle in the world arena, and a stream of today’s political, scientific, artistic and other information has acquired new quality. All this goes to underline how important it is that young people be educated and imbibe the experience of the preceding generations.

p The task facing Soviet youth today is to absorb not only the great cultural values created in the past, but also (and this is the main thing) the culture of socialism. It would be wrong to assume that only schools and other educational establishments help them to absorb these values; the process goes on in the course of their public activities—at work, in the family, at the club and within the confines of the numerous youth and other public organisations.

p The spiritual wealth of the young man’s personality can be developed only in the course of practical routine participation in all spheres of social life. This spiritual wealth cannot be reduced merely to the scope of his knowledge, but is assessed on the basis of his diverse social activity. A spiritually rich man not only accumulates spiritual values, he generously shares them with others and employs his knowledge in practical work in some field of communist construction.

p The deciding role in helping Soviet young people to acquire the wealth of spiritual culture is played by the Leninist Komsomol, which is implementing Lenin’s behests to help them to acquire "all modern knowledge".  [72•1  Even while the Civil War was still raging in the country, the Komsomol cells opened schools and literacy courses, sent their best functionaries to conduct cultural work in villages, and founded young workers’ clubs and theatres. Komsomol organisations played a decisive role in recruiting students for workers’ secondary schools and 73 training young intellectuals from among workers and peasants.

p It is moving to read the yellowing newspapers and documents from the archives about the great role of the YCL in the Soviet Union’s cultural revolution. In April 1921 Uralsky Rabochiy, for instance, reported that the YCLers of the Yekaterinburg (now Sverdlovsk) district No. 1 were the first in the Urals to completely eliminate illiteracy in their area.  [73•1  In 1929 the Perm district YCL Committee mobilised one thousand young workers and as many students to eliminate illiteracy. In the same year the YCLers taught more than 25,000 people in the Urals to read and write. In 1926 a quarter of the reading-rooms in Ural villages were supervised by YCLers.

p The YCLers of today have developed and augmented these wonderful traditions. The Komsomol conducts cultural and educational work on enormous scope among all segments of Soviet youth. Komsomol and art organisations are opening new youth hobby clubs, studios and literary associations. Youth and children’s theatres, youth publishing houses and newspapers are directly guided in their work by Komsomol organisations. In the period from May 1966 to May 1970, i.e., between the 15th and 16th congresses of the YCL, the Komsomol sponsored the All-Union Review of Young Composers, the Festival of Youth and Children’s Films, the Exhibition of Young Artists, the Theatrical Festival devoted to the 50th anniversary of the YCL, and the Festival of Youth Songs. There ?re regular all-Union, republican and regional conferences of young writers. In the period between 1966 and 1970, nearly 20 million young readers took part in the all-Union readers’ conferences sponsored by the Komsomol. From 1966 on, outstanding young scientists, writers and art workers have been awarded Leninist Komsomol prizes.

p All this is only part of everyday organisational and educational work conducted by the Komsomol in helping youth to become spiritually rich persons.

How, then, does Soviet youth acquire the spiritual wealth of socialist culture in practice?

* * *
 

Notes

 [65•1]   24th Congress of the CPSU, Moscow, 1971, p. 51.

 [66•1]   A. V. Lunacharsky on Public Education, Moscow, 1958, p. 86 (in Russian).

 [67•1]   Heinrich Mann, “Kultur”, in Verteidigung der Kultur. Antifaschistische Streitschrijten und Essays, Aufbau Verlag, Berlin und Weimar, 1971, S. 1G2.

 [69•1]   F. Tenbruck, Jugend und Geselhchaft, Freiburg, 1962, S. 52.

 [69•2]   G. Schwartz, D. Merten, "The Language of Adolescence”, The American Journal of Sociology, Chicago, Vol. 72, No. 5, March 1967 pp. 453–08.

 [71•1]   24th Congress of the CPSU, Moscow, 1971, p. 103,

 [72•1]   V. I. Lenin, On Youth, Moscow, 1970, p. 242.

[73•1]   Uralsky Rnbochiy, 1921, April 24.