Conflict on the Historical Front
By 1931, academic debates between Marxist historians had degenerated into bitter polemics. While their exchanges possessed some genuine intellectual content, this was increasingly overlaid with accusations of political deviance and ideological heresy, as empty as they were vehement. Disputes were no longer only theoretical. As groups and individuals manoeuvred for positions of influence, they sought support from outside the intellectual world. Pokrovsky’s school set the tone of the conflict. Like RAPP in literature or Deborin’s group in philosophy, it aspired to be the party’s voice in the field of history. Hence the industry with which its members attempted to defend or establish orthodox historical interpretations. And its organisational strength made it easily the leading claimant to the role. But there were obstacles in its path. In the first place, the value of one of Pokrovsky’s main assets, that for two decades he had been acknowledged the foremost Russian Marxist historian, was more apparent than real in the changing conditions of the late 1920s and early 1930s. The growing obsession with Leninist orthodoxy made even a long association with Lenin less important than absolute faithfulness to his teachings—or to those emphasised at the time. Here Pokrovsky was at something of a disadvantage. As a historian, he was in no direct sense a pupil of Lenin.
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