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From Vasily Grossman’s transcript of his conversation with M.A. Suslov, member of the Presidium of the CPSU in charge of ideology. The conversation took place on July 23, 1962:
- We are restoring the Leninist norms of democracy. But Leninist norms are not the same as the bourgeois norms of democracy. You know yourself: when Gorky—affected by traumatic impressions, deprivation, hunger and housing difficulties in the first years after October—abandoned his revolutionary position, Lenin did not hesitate to close down his newspaper Novaia zhizn’.
- You believe that we have violated the principle of freedom in your case. Yes, this is so if one understands freedom in the bourgeois sense of the term. But we have a different conception of freedom. Our understanding of freedom is not identical to the one in the capitalist world—as the right to do anything without taking into account the interests of society. Only the imperialists and millionaires need this kind of freedom.
- Our Soviet writer must be guided in his world only by the need of the people, useful for the society.
- I have not read your novel but I have carefully read the reviews of your manuscript, responses to it, which contain many excerpts from your novel. Look how many quotes from them I have written down.
- Everyone who has read your book are unanimous in their judgment. They all think it is politically harmful for us. There is no point in giving it for an evaluation to the writers Fedin, Leonov, Ehrenburg, etc. The reviewers could have made a mistake in their aesthetic judgment but they were unanimous in their political judgment, and I have no doubt that their political judgment is absolutely correct.
- It is impossible to publish your book, and it will not be published in the next 200 years.
- No, we have not destroyed it. Let it sit. We cannot change its fate.
- We should not underestimate the harm it would bring should it be published.
- Why should we add your book to the atomic weapons arrayed against us by our enemies. Publication of your book would help our enemies.
- We would only multiply the number of victims. Our duty is to strengthen the state and defend the people, why, then, should we publish your book.
- Your book contains direct analogies between us and the Hitlerite fascists. You book incorrectly describes our people, communists. Could we have won the war with the kind of people you describe? In your book you say positive things about religion, God, Catholicism. Your book defends Trotsky. You book is full of doubts about the legitimacy of our Soviet system.
- You know what enormous harm we have been dealt by the publication of Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. Everybody who has read your book, everybody who has seen the reviews are convinced that the potential harm from your “Life and Fate” would be far more dangerous than that of Doctor Zhivago.