The Technical Intelligentsia

The author of a book I’m reading on the Russian Revolution comes right out and says it was all the fault of non-STEM smart guys.

He doesn’t put it quite that way, of course — he’s a professional historian after all — but he does introduce the Russians’ distinction between types of intellectuals.  In Russia around 1900, the “intellectual” was what he was in Europe in 1700: An independently wealthy dilettante, who could dream up impossible schemes because he’d never have to interact with the grubby proles who would have to implement it.  As Europe went all-in on industrial capitalism, though, this kind of guy disappeared — except for professors of obscure subjects at the very few universities, anyone with anything on the ball went into trade.  They became what the Bolsheviks called “technical intellectuals” — engineers, lawyers, doctors, etc.  Lacking developed industries, Russia didn’t have a “technical intelligentsia” either, and since Russian universities, like Russian cultural life in general, was so heavily censored, there weren’t many job openings in the “literary” intelligentsia either.  Which meant, again, that the only option for these guys to vent their resentment was in Revolution.

The Revolution got more violent, dogmatic, and repressive in direct proportion to the number of these guys in the ranks, the author says, because they weren’t really Marxists — they were envious, frustrated intellectuals, and “Marxism” as they understood it was the best way for them to act out.  Their “Marxism,” like Lenin’s, was a self-contradictory mishmash masquerading as the most rigid orthodoxy.

The results were interesting.  Marx said you had to have industrial capitalism in order to have socialism — largely, it turns out, because you need the “technical intelligentsia” that only capitalism can provide in order to set up “socialist” production.  Since they wanted to skip capitalism, the Bolsheviks were forced to crash out a technical intelligentsia from scratch… but since they were Bolsheviks, they insisted that their indispensable technical experts be paid exactly as much as a factory hand.  And so, of course, anyone with anything on the ball skipped that whole “technical intelligentsia” bit and got himself a Party job, where he could live the life to which he believed himself entitled.

The parallels with our current situation are obvious, so I won’t belabor them.  Rather, I’ll point out that the USSR worked (insofar as it did) because there were enough technical intellectuals who bought into the system to keep it going, and the reason they bought in was that they had a goal — they thought Socialism was a real thing, and they were building it.

After Stalin, of course, it became obvious that Socialism is impossible, and these days we don’t even bother defining a goal.  What do the SJWs actually want?  They don’t know, and the very question would baffle them.  Want a glimpse into our future?  Russia, circa 1995, is probably the closest you’ll get.

2 thoughts on “The Technical Intelligentsia

  1. Re Technical Intelligentsia: Don’t forget that some were upwardly mobile Russian patriots. If your alternative under the Czar was following the wrong end of a horse around a meager-harvest field, being an ill-paid techie in a city with paved streets while advancing the Rodia could still be preferable.

    • Sure. The technical intelligentsia generally aren’t Revolutionaries — if you can make a decent living within the current system, why overthrow it? It’s those guys who WANT to be technical intelligentsia, but CAN’T –and can’t find jobs as “literary” intelligentsia either — that make Revolution.

      College professors are a modern American example. The tenured ones may preach Revolution, but they’re never going to actually do it (and would run screaming in terror to the nearest racist capitalist pig cop if violence ever broke out in their neighborhood). They’re the literary intelligentsia. Software engineers aren’t going to revolt, either, because they’re paid well to do a rewarding job. It’s the adjuncts, the grad students, the juco professors, the high school teachers, who are the Revolutionaries. They think they’re entitled to live a nice 1% life because they’re Smart, but our society — racist, heterosexist, etc. — just won’t recognize their super secret special brilliance… and pay them accordingly.

      They’ll never get tenure, and they can’t hack the math to program computers, so there’s no way for them to live the life they “deserve” without overthrowing society.

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