Theater of Cruelty

The free word – Socialism and freedom part III

We bring here the third and final part of Jens Bjørnebo's article series Socialism and Freedom


Freedom of speech has, besides being our only guarantee of legal certainty, another aspect that is of great importance to us as individuals. I find it almost best articulated by Erich Fromm, today at the University of New York City – and probably one of the world's most important socially oriented psychologists. Fromm chooses an example of a disease-causing situation, and strangely enough he chooses the following picture: A gifted author has accepted a new position. It brings him a lot of money, but forces him to represent opinions he cannot identify with. He begins to suffer from severe nervous disorders.
The usual adaptation therapy would try to cure his neurotic symptoms by considering an adaptation to the profitable position as a sign of health – "a healthy adaptation to our culture."

Fromm says the opposite: he would appeal to the patient's moral self-power, his conscience, his spiritual and intellectual independence: Only by independently expressing his own opinion can the patient achieve what is necessary, to regain his conscience and self-esteem.
This applies to all people, but it applies to scientists, writers and writers in particular: a writer can only fulfill his human and social task, when he is completely and unreservedly honest. Only when he says the truth that only he can say, even when it totally deviates from the official, only then does he make any use at all. And a man who does not know that he is doing useful work in some way, can hardly maintain his self-esteem and thus his real, inner health.

This is the reason that so many writers in the course of time have ended up in court and in prisons, – at best in exile. Police, courts, prisons and emigration run like a common thread throughout the world's literary history. Always hand in hand with the requirement for creators censorship by the authorities.
I have tried to find one example that some authorities have ever used to use censorship, police and violence against the written word. I have not found one case. It has always been the suppressed opinions that have ultimately had the benefit of it.
Hitler created a flourishing German emigrant literature. He had no benefits from it. It should not be redone by any regime.

Suppressing a critical or unwanted opinion is like squeezing A rubber ball in your hand.

The whole Christian culture arose in this way. Its founder was executed, on an earthly durable basis. And that didn't help. His successor, the excellent writer Apostle Paul, was beheaded, Peter was crucified. It didn't help. It went on for a long time. The church took over. It burned Bruno on fire. It didn't help. It forced Galilee into silence. It didn't help. The examples are countless: it never helped. Suppressing a critical or unwanted opinion is like squeezing a rubber ball in your hand. For a while you can keep it compressed – then the rubber ball becomes the strongest. The greater the force you use, the stronger the pressure inside the rubber ball. And it's a pressure that never diminishes.

If an idea is not true, then it falls by itself. If a critique does not hit, if the satire does not In all its exaggeration contain central truth, then everyone can see that it is not true – and it falls by itself. But if it's true, then it's like the rubber ball. You can not squeeze life out of it.
One of the usual arguments in favor of censorship is that a literature is not healthy: it is negative, sickly, dirty, unclean, low and above all, sick. It is contagious, and the impotent people must be spared it. In particular, the youth must be spared lowness, perversity, negativity, and illness.
There's a lot in it. And it is also hesitant.
Not the official textbooks, but the cultural history medically, shows:
The truth is that the whole culture, the whole European culture is created by criminals, drinkers, syphilitics, insanity, epileptics, drug addicts, homosexuals, or at least serious psychopaths, neurotics and at least tuberculosis. It is not the so-called healthy forces that create a culture. It is not skiers and gymnastics teachers who create a culture. And yet, in most cases, this disease is healthier than the usual robust "health". Already Shakespeare uses the term "sick health".

This is not to put the matter at the forefront – although one can find exceptions. And it is not just about the art or the poetry, it also applies to a great extent within philosophy and science. I'll take an example.
In 1848, as is well known, the Communist Manifesto was published. In the same year, an equally violent revolution took place in another area – medicine, especially for surgery. Almost exactly at the same time, both aseptics and anesthesia were discovered, the aseptics in Vienna by Ignaa Semmelweis, the anesthesia of three Americans. Together, these three people made it possible to operate in the future without the devilish pain the surgery was previously associated with, and also without the enormous death rate that accompanied both the maternity fever and the wound fever.

Of these three Americans died one in a mental hospital, the other in depression and poverty, the third, an alcoholic and drug addict, killed a prostitute in a brothel in New York, and cut his throat like a murderer in a prison cell. Semmelweis died at the psychiatric hospital in Vienna.
It is a bad argument to demand a "healthy" culture.
As life itself, culture requires a little bit of impurity and a minimum of microbes to emerge, such as procreation requires a bit of uselessness to continue.
There is no "healthy culture", and no chaste propagation – except in a nightmarish society where the processes take place by insemination.

Only pure idiots have believed that the conditions in Russia or any other country on earth were perfect.

The two processes in Moscow have so far led to only one thing, namely that three Russian, previously unknown writers, have become world famous in a few days. Of course, this is an excellent thing. Even I would hardly have read Sinjavski and Tarsis if the process had not taken place – but today I am glad to have discovered them. In my opinion, they are both distinctly original and deeply honest writers, who continue a clear and typical Russian tradition.
I do not think that the books by Sinjavski and Tarshish that I have read could have harmed the Soviet Union. Only pure idiots have believed that the conditions in Russia or any other country on earth were perfect. On the other hand, the two prison sentences have damaged Soviet Russia's reputation to an extraordinary degree. They have damaged the country more than any book could ever have done. Sinjavski or Tarshish are not harmless. Harmless writers are plentiful. But compared to the depictions such as. Baldwin or Wright or e.g. The gene, just to name a few, gives of their lands, the two Russians are pure Sunday school boys.

Not too long ago There was a storm of witch trials over the United States. All possible thinking people were accused of "un-American business". It was a very bad time for America, and fortunately the United States grew out of the period. However, it was detrimental to the country's morals internally, and to its external reputation. Those who harmed the United States were the judges of these courts – and it was they who were bad Americans, it was the judges who should have been convicted of "un-American activity."

As for Sinjavski, Tarshish and these three who have been lackeys and aides to the enemies of the Soviet Union, it is the old Stalinist judge in the case, all the actors in the tragicomedy, it is the court itself that has provided arguments to the real enemies of Soviet Union. It is again the judges who should have been convicted.

Does true socialism have anything to fear from free speech?

In principle, one must ask the question: does true socialism have anything to fear from the free word?
One can only answer that if one has the truth and the right on his side, then one must naturally also have the free word, the unlimited freedom of speech on his part.
When calling on the police or acts of violence to stop a statement of opinion, it is always because you are intellectually unable to refute it by logical arguments.
Our future as human beings depends on this principle.
And socialism has nothing to fear from the free word.
Voltaire has once and for all formulated the truth here: "I deeply disagree with his opinions, but I will put my head on the block for his right to speak them!"
And Voltaire was a wise man.

The Soviet Union has lost sympathy, it has lost reputation and esteem, it has lost morality – in the two judgments. The only way to regain trust and respect is to put the two convictions out of power as quickly as possible, and as soon as possible, the two convicts can be set free.

SEE ALSO: First part of "Socialism and freedom" | Second part of "Socialism and freedom"

Jens Bjørneboe
Jens Bjørneboe
Author. Wrote in Ny Tids predecessor Orientering.

You may also like