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Following his account of the Molodaya Gvardia affair, Yanov goes on to discuss what he calls 'the Yakovlev affair'. He is referring to 'a gigantic article by Yakovlev, taking up two newspaper pages' which appeared on November 15, 1972, in the mainstream Soviet journal Literaturnaia gazeta (to which Yanov himself was also a contributor) under the title Against anti-historicism. (11) 

(11) Russian New Right, p.58. The series for the Institute of Modern Russia doesn't continue this far though it promised to go further. The last article in the series as published was dated August 2014.

Alexander Yakovlev was an important figure in the nomenklatura. Yanov says that he 'fulfilled the function of the head of the Propaganda Division of the Central Committee - that is to say, ideologist of the Party [...] He was performing the functions of a Division Head, but he was not named to the post. He was too far "to the left". His reputation had its obligations, and in order to justify his "leftism", Yakovlev tried to move the centre of gravity of the Brezhnevist faction to the left. The most convenient political lever for doing this was the struggle against Russophilism. As far back as 1968, Yakovlev was trying to transform Russophilism into an object of political struggle "upstairs". He stood behind the critical salvo fired at "Chalmaevism"; he stood behind the article in Kommunist [according to Yanov the authoritative pronouncement which finally ended the controversy over Molodaya gvardia]; he stood behind the session of the Secretariat of the Central Committee at which the fate of the editorial board of Molodaia gvardia was decided.' (p.57)

But Yakovlev's real importance comes later and is reflected in the title of a book devoted to him, written by Richard Pipes: Alexander Yakovlev: the man whose ideas delivered Russia from Communism. The ideas were indicated in a memorandum submitted to Gorbachev in 1985 on 'The imperative of political development'. According to Pipes 'During the six and a half years that Gorbachev served as General Secretary and President he was in almost daily contact with Yakovlev by phone or in person.' (12)

(12) Richard Pipes: Alexander Yakovlev: the man whose ideas delivered Russia from Communism, Illinois, Northern Illinois University Press, 2015. I have it in a Kindle edition that doesn't give page numbers.

Pipes gives the full texts of both the 1985 Memorandum and the 1972 article, 'Against Anti-Historicism'. They are both written in what the French call 'langue de bois' ('wooden tongue' Soviet jargon), larded with quotes from Lenin. The 'historicism' defended in the first article is of course the march towards the radiant future of humanity proved by the science of dialectical materialism to be historically irresistible:

'the degree to which the eyes of the scholar or artist, capable of perceiving the novelty, are far-seeing; the degree to which the heart generously gladdens at the new; the degree to which the progress of his thought is profound in penetrating the future - on all this depends the social significance and buoyancy of the scientific or literary work. The question is to know how to accurately analyse and inspiringly to dream, or, to speak in Maiakovskii's words, "to pin the day to the paper" and to peer into "the Communist far away"'

The anti-historicism that is attacked is nostalgia for a pre-industrial age when the Russian landscape was studded with pretty onion-domed churches. As with Dementyev, a main target is writers associated with an obviously unreformed Molodaya gvardia, in particular again, Mikhail Lobanov:

'In M. Lobanov’s book [The courage of mankind] we encounter concepts that have long set our teeth on edge: “the enigma of Russia,” “the heavy cross of national consciousness,” the “mystery of the people, its tacit wisdom,” “the call of natural wholeness” and, in contrast, “the corruptors of the national spirit.” These concepts contain not an ounce of concrete historical analysis. There is no understanding of the elementary facts—that “the national feeling", “the national spirit” of the Decembrists and of Nicholas I, of Chernyshevskii and Katkov [Mikhail Katkov, 1818-1887, leading advocate of a conservative, Western-style Russian nationalism - PB], of Plekhanov and Pobedonostsev [Konstantin Pobedonostsev, 1827-1907, Chief Procurator of the Holy Synod, the government department responsible for running the Orthodox Church, and advocate of an absolute Orthodox Christian autocracy - PB] are incompatible, that in a class society there is not and cannot be one and the same “national consciousness” for all.

He quotes Kozhinov:

'"Eating, whether in one's family or in company, has been since time immemorial a genuine religious rite and ceremony. It began and ended with a prayer of thanks," writes V.Kozhinov in the journal Kodry (no 3, 1971), drawing further a picture of "Russian eating" with its abundance, beauty and "spirituality" as something nationally special, something linked to "millennial tradition, to the peoples tradition." Doesn't all this sound abusive? ... Hunger, poverty, shackled peasants, and the lash of serfdom or, speaking in the language of Lenin, "the slave past", "the slave present", "the great servility" - this is what was inextricably associated with the concept of patriarchal Russia, which the protagonists of "eternal morality", people out of step with history, cherish in their imagination.'

By way of contrast:

'Active socially transforming industry shaped in the village the character of the laboring collectivist, the Soviet patriot, a spiritually rich personality, for whom the world is not only the regions beyond the neighborhood, but the mighty and free Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Peasant sons today do not graciously worry about the “self-regeneration of the patriarchal spirit” but they transform the soil, storm outer space!'

And he damns them through association with the appalling Solzhenitsyn and with Vekhi (which I discussed in the last article in this series):

'As is well-known, anti-Communism, in the search for a new means of struggle against the Marxist-Leninist world outlook, attempts to galvanise the ideology of Vekhi, the ideas of Berdiaev and other reactionary, nationalistic, religious-idealist conceptions of the past, which were shattered by V.I.Lenin. A vivid example of this is the stir aroused in the West by the works of Solzhenitsyn, and especially by his most recent novel, August 1914, which follows Vekhi in its philosophy and the Constitutional Democrats in its politics - a novel that foists on the reader a negative attitude to the very ideas of revolution and socialism, denigrates the Russian liberational movement and its intellectual-ethical values [sic - it was of course 'the Russian liberational movement' that gave rise to the Constitutional Democratic Party! - PB]. idealises the life, the mores and the customs of autocratic Russia.

'Of course, Solzhenitsyn's novel is a manifestation of overt hostility to the ideals of revolution and socialism. It goes without saying that for Soviet writers, including those whose erroneous views are criticised in the present article, the behaviour of the latter-day Vekhovite is alien and offensive.'

Although the emphasis is heavily on Russia Yakovlev also, it should be said, criticises manifestations of non-Russian - Georgian, Kirghiz, Moldavian - nationalist writing, including a book of Armenian poetry published by Novy Mir

'Sighs for rocks, ruins, monasteries fill the selection of poems 'The Poets of Armenia' (Novy Mir, No 6, 1972). The lyrical hero of one of the verses sits at the window and sees trucks carrying horses "which for thousands of years have hauled and hauled, bearing along the history of mankind on their hardy cruppers, their hoofs hammering out that history" and it seems to him that one must save the past from the present. "How should I save you, horses? All I can do is repress my tears, to give my soul for you ..."'

But what is interesting in all this is that Yakovlev was punished for publishing what appears to be a perfectly conventional defence of the radiant future of humanity against what one would have expected Leninists to see as whining nostalgia for an idealised past. Pipes tells us that ten days after it was published, an article in Pravda praised Yakovlev, saying that the 'broad repercussions this essay produced in society were not by accident. Profoundly argued in a Party manner it clearly and principally asserted the necessity of a precise class and Marxist-Leninist approach to the evaluation of any manifestations of history and decisively refuted attempts at its distortion."'

Nonetheless, Pipes continues:

'After the offending article had been discussed in high party circles, including the Politburo, Yakovlev was dismissed from his position of head [sic. Acting head, according to Yanov - PB] of the Central Committee Propaganda department and told that he would have to choose another post. He asked to be assigned as ambassador to an English language country [he had studied for a year, 1958-9, as a Fulbright scholar in Columbia University, leading to later charges that he was in the pay of the CIA - PB] and was appointed envoy to Canada.'

Pipes, quoting Yakovlev's son, gives a relatively frivolous explanation for this - that Yakovlev 'had spoken out in Communist Party circles against "the excessive glorification of Brezhnev ... the article in Literaturnaia gazeta served as a pretext"' but that hardly explains why it was an effective pretext. For Yanov:

'Like Dement'ev he suffered for a Marxist dogmatic article, for a "refutation" of anti-party ideology. Who was behind this fall of the high-flying ideologist? [...] We can only guess. We know one thing: with his fall the campaign against Russophilism not only ceased to be the arena of political struggle, but was totally closed. One other thing is clear: very powerful forces "upstairs" were concerned not to let the editorial board of Molodaia gvardia go under as did the editorial board of Novy Mir ...' (pp.59-60).