Saturday, October 15, 2016

The servility of the intellectuals

"amongst those who clamour for independence of thought, how many have this faith, and above all, the sincere desire to realize it?  How many are really the servants of truth, loyal, disinterested and determined to go to the very end of truth? . . .  the intellectuals, the great majority of them, were unfaithful to their duty, unequal to their task, and . . . the independence they professed was conditioned by their real servility to the masters of public opinion, the dispensers of honours and of benefits.
     "The war had shown their versatility, their lack of character, their herd-instinct.  But it also brought to light a minority of men who knew how to withstand the test; and one could hope that the minority would be, after the war, as a solid core round which an army could gather determined to defend against future assaults the claims of truth, which are not different from those of social justice:  for social justice is but truth in action."

     Romain Rolland,"Panorama," I will not rest [(Quinze ans de combat (1919-1934))], trans. K. S. Shelvankar (New York:  Liveright Publishing Corporation, 1987), 17.  I was put onto this by Douglas V. Steere, "On the power of sustained attention" (1960), Gleanings: a random harvest (Nashville, TN:  The Upper Room, 1986), 52 (37-53).
     Yet Nobel laureate Rolland was apparently a fairly uncritical admirer of Josef Stalin right through to his death in 1944.  See, for example, Michael David-Fox, "The 'heroic life' of a friend of Stalinism: Romain Rolland and Soviet culture," Slavonica 11, no. 1 (April 2005): 3-29 (which I have only skimmed).

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