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International Socialist Review, Spring 1965


Ehrenburg’s Memoirs


From International Socialist Review, Vol.26 No.2, Spring 1965, p.63.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Memoirs: 1921-41
by Ilya Ehrenburg
trans. Tatania Shebunina in collaboration with Yvonne Kapp
World Publishing Co., Cleveland, 1964. 543 pp. $6.95.

This is the second of three volumes of the English translation of Ilya Ehrenburg’s highly controversial autobiography, first serialized in the outspoken anti-Stalinist monthly, Novy Mir, beginning in 1960. (The final volume is scheduled for publication this year.)

The present volume, which Khrushchev personally criticized in 1963, deals with the two stormy decades during which Ehrenburg lived mainly in the West, as a propagandist and cultural diplomatist for the Stalinist bureaucracy.

Ehrenburg departs from previous official stands on many points, especially in his chapters on art and artists whom he knew. However, the recollections of the great events of the 1930s – the Fascist victories in Italy, Germany, Austria and the Popular Front in France, and the Spanish Civil War – also depart from previous versions on important details.

Obviously moved by the power of the Spanish Civil War, to which he devotes many pages, Ehrenburg nevertheless describes it in the imagery of Don Quixote – as a gallant attempt doomed to defeat from the start. Here he glosses over what he surely knows – since he took part – the successful Stalinist drive to subordinate the revolution to the narrow-minded collaborationist aims of their diplomacy. Ehrenburg describes his own efforts to win over Anarchist workers to the policy of “first defeat Franco; then make the revolution,” which ultimately succeeded in killing the revolution, itself.

For all his celebrated departures from the official lines, many a discredited Stalinist notion survives; and Ehrenburg’s revelations of Stalin’s crimes within the Soviet Union are carefully kept within the limits of what has already been officially revealed.

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