Justin E. H. Smith in his Substack Newsletter:
In a speech to the First All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers in Moscow in 1934, Central Committee secretary Andreï Zhdanov reminded those assembled of Comrade Stalin’s recent declaration that, in the Soviet Union, writers are now “the engineers of the human soul”.
What obligations does this appellation entail? Most importantly, Zhdanov says, reality must be depicted “neither ‘scholastically’ nor lifelessly, nor simply as ‘objective reality’, but rather as reality in its revolutionary development. The truthfulness and historical exactitude of the artistic image must be linked with the task of ideological transformation, of the education of the working people in the spirit of socialism. This method in fiction and literary criticism is what we call the method of socialist realism.”
Literature in this vein “is a fundamentally optimistic literature, since it is the literature of the rising proletarian class, today the only progressive and advanced class. Our Soviet literature is strong because it serves a new cause — the cause of socialist construction.” Literature from the bourgeois imperialist nations, by contrast —excluding that small number of Western authors who had thrown in their lot with the global proletariat, a handful of whom were in attendance at the All-Union Congress— is, Zhdanov thinks, “a riot of mysticism, religious mania and pornography… characteristic of the decline and decay of bourgeois culture. The ‘celebrities’ of that bourgeois literature which has sold its pen to capital are today thieves, detectives, prostitutes, pimps and gangsters.”