art/marx

Justin Schwartz jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us
Thu Jun 1 18:42:17 MDT 1995


On Thu, 1 Jun 1995, Ron Press wrote:

> I generally agree that Political Art is generally counter
> productive.

This is an absurd generalization. Political art counterproductive? Milton,
Bunyan, Shelley, (the young) Wordsworth, Byron, William Morris, Dickens,
Disraeli, Mary Gaskin, George Elliot.....just to hit some highlights of
English lit. Or going back a bit, what about Shakespeare's history plays?
Or Dante, to get off the Brit lit bit?

 However one must learn from history.
>
> The Nazi's used art extensively quite successfully.
>
Hardly an example of good art. Although there is Leni Reifenstahl.

> One of the best campaigns against racism in the UK was the Rock
> against Racism concerts.
>
> Oliver Tambo the President of the ANC was a musician. He composed
> liberation songs and conducted the singing of them.

In the US, we have Woody Guthrie, the Almanac Singers and the WQeavers,
lots of other stuff.
 >
> Good art is more powerful than poor art but the political content
> need not make it poor art.

Obviously.

>
> I remember that years ago it was said in left circles that
> Sibelius and Wagner were reactionaries. I also remember that some
> bourgeois writers were praised by communists for their artistic
> representation of their own class.
>
Sibilius I don't know about. Wagner was of course a raving antisemite. And
a great composer.

> On the other hand I would not dismiss the writings of the ex
> Soviet Union out of hand. They took matters to extremes but
> "Socialist Realism" must not be dismissed out of hand.

The only "Socialist Realist" works I know of any value are Shokolov's
Quiet Flows the Don written n before the official imposition of SR as a
method) and Grossman's great antiStalinist novel, Life and Fate,
unpublished in his lifetime and banned by Glavlit. SR was pretty wrteched
stuff, The great Soviet writings were the futurists' work and Bulgakov's
Master and Margurita, a semi-surrealist work. There was some great
music--Prokefiev and Shostakovish, but it was written orthogonally to the
offificial decrees.

 Similarly
> to gain the impression that art is "Free" is nonsense. The ties of
> money and art are well documented.

Obviously.

>
> There were a set of books by if I remember properly, Arnold
> Hauser, on the social history of Art. It is still in print. I saw
> it recently in a book shop in London. It is the best book relating
> art to the society it exists in. John Berger has written a number
> of books on the visual arts, generally very good.
>
Berger is very good. I think Hauser's a bit crude.

> Of course Picasso was a communist and proud of it.
>
> I do not know of a fascist who was a good artist and proud of
> being a fascist.

Hm. At at the time? Celine and Riefenstahl come to mind. It's not art, but
Heidegger was an unrepentant Nazi and a great philosopher.

--Justin Schwartz




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