The Private Life is Dead
Remember the Bolshevik Strelnikov in the film classic, “Dr Zhivago” (1965)? Played by Tom Courtenay, he was a young intellectual communist who had turned into a Red military commander in the civil war that followed the October Revolution. In reality, that comment “the private life is dead” had been the standard signature of the new Soviet experiment throughout America the 1930s, especially in Hollywood. Even in the 1939 light-hearted comedy-romance, “Ninotchka” with Greta Garbo, the story line was about a dour apparatchik from the Ministry of Finance who went to Paris to find three party members who had gone there to recover stolen jewels belonging to the new regime, then decided to stay when they discovered the private sector, opening a restaurant. First Ninotchka discovered the feel of fine fabric, then learned to smile and then to laugh, and finally to love, things all Party members had purged from their consciences since 1918, in the 20 years of the USSR’s existence.
There was even an early Hollywood B&W cartoon (which I’ve never been able to find) of a valley of people who lived and frolicked in sunshine while a valley away there lived frowning people living unhappy lives in near darkness. The story was of their trying to drive out the sunshine in the sunny valley.
In the middle of a world wide depression, these stories were indicative of a struggle in Hollywood, where a battle royale was going on about this New World drawn up by Lenin and Stalin. Predictably many of its writer-intellectuals took to it with vigor, since, like Marx, they were the smartest people in Tinsel Town but also paid the least. A few actors signed up as well.
If there was a communist signature for that era, it was that humorless deep furrowed brow of the weight of the world sitting squarely on their shoulders. This dispassion, this cold, even brutal analytical thinking defined the early Soviet state. Lenin and Stalin, more than Marx, knew that this brooding look had sales appeal in the West, and marketed its New Man and New World vision as one without sentimentality or any backward glances. It expressed an exclusivist state of mind implying that reason is harder then sentiment, thus more noble
What Lenin hadn’t banked on that in America this sales pitch appealed to a vanity that allowed converts to set themselves apart from the masses simply by converting. Hold that thought, for it was a great mistake. Lenin really couldn’t have believe that some people could only pretend to be committed, and then, within a century, that’s all there would be. See Bernie Sanders[…]