COGS IN THE WHEEL: The Formation of Soviet Man by Mikhail Heller

COGS IN THE WHEEL: The Formation of Soviet Man

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Soviet history is, in the final analysis, the history of the formation of Soviet man: so argues Soviet expert and emigrÉ Heller (coauthor, Utopia in Power, 1986) in this sobering vivisection of the Soviet character. Heller depicts an Orwellian society that has perfected the mechanism of social control and the modality of human transformation. ""A new man is being created and with him a new language and a new civilization,"" he writes. Arguing that ""since the Bolshevik victory in October 1917 human society as a whole and man as an individual have been subjected to a planned, concentrated and all-encompassing attack of unparalled intensity,"" Heller reads Soviet history as an affliction of the human condition. ""What seemed to contemporaries to be a series of fortuitous, uncoordinated and chaotic acts"" is, he says, ""a system for the creation of Soviet man""--that product of ""uninterrupted ideological intoxication compounded by total control over the means of communication."" Totalitarianization processes the human material into a single direction--""aimed at instilling the conviction that the Party is everywhere, that it is everything, and that without it there is nothing."" This message is driven home in every facet of Soviet life--fear, corruption, labor, education, culture, language. Heller elucidates these instruments at some length, stressing the ""pedagogy"" inherent in the privation and corruption of Soviet society and the desiccation of the Russian language. He concludes that ""if the world-wide advance of the Soviet system could be halted, that would make it possible to stop the process which is forming the cogs without which the Machine cannot exist."" An inspired philippic and an unnerving meditation in the tradition of Orwell and Milosz.

Pub Date: May 25th, 1988
Publisher: Knopf