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Arendt and the Intimate Kitchens of the Communist System

On a trip last year to the Hannah Arendt Collection housed in Bard College’s Stevenson Library, we came across a copy of Milovan Djilas’ The New Class: An Analysis of the Communist System:

Arendt and the Intimate Kitches of Communism 1

This book made waves during its initial release in 1957, for it is the first time that a ranking communist–in this case, an associate of Yugoslavia’s Tito–expressed his disillusionment with the system.

Arendt and the Intimate Kitches of Communism 3

As is evident in the image below, Hannah Arendt made a number of annotations to her copy of The New Class. For example, on page 82, she placed a vertical line in the margins adjacent to the passage that reads:

“Care of its men” and their placement in lucrative positions, or the distribution of all kinds of privileges, becomes unavoidable.

Further down on the same page, she not only affixed a diagonal line and a vertical line next to a single paragraph, but she also underlined several passages contained therein:

Since it is based on administration, the Communist system is unavoidably bureaucratic with a strict hierarchical organization. In the Communist system, exclusive groups are established around political leaders and forums. All policy-making is reduced to wrangling in these exclusive groups, in which familiarity and cliquishness flower. The highest group is generally the most intimate. At intimate summers, on hunts, in conversations between two or three men, matters of state of the most vital importance are decided. Meetings of party forums, conferences of the government and assembles, serve no purpose but to make declarations and put in an appearance.

Continued on page 83:

They are only convened to confirm what has previously been cooked up in intimate kitchens.

Arendt and the Intimate Kitches of Communism 2

In that page’s second full paragraph, Arendt also places a vertical line adjacent to a passage that reads:

When he was called dictator, Stalin ridiculed the idea. He felt that he was the representative of the collective party will.

Finally, near the bottom of the page, the philosopher affixed two vertical lines next to the penultimate paragraph in section 3 of “The Party State”:

The fact emerges that in the Communist system no one is independent, neither those at the top nor the leader himself. They are all dependent on one another and must avoid being separated from their surroundings, prevailing ideas, controls, and interests.

Want to share pictures of your own Arendt library?

Please send them to David Bisson, our Media Coordinator, at dbisson@bard.edu, and we will feature them on our blog!

The Hannah Arendt Collection at Bard College is maintained by staff members at the Bard College Stevenson Library. To peruse the collection’s digital entries, please click here.

For more Library photos, please click here.

Posted on 28 January 2016 | 8:00 pm

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