Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/935/24405

From The Socialist newspaper, 8 February 2017

Smearing socialism by attacking the arts

The RA's exhibition on Russian revolutionary art has not even opened, and already the distortions have begun

The RA's exhibition on Russian revolutionary art has not even opened, and already the distortions have begun   (Click to enlarge)

James Ivens

The Russian revolution a hundred years ago is still a terrifying calamity - for billionaire thieves, warmongers and their political defenders. But for the working class, it meant a boom in living standards, freedom and imagination.

Some of the most spectacular evidence of this is Russian revolutionary art. Guardian arts columnist Jonathan Jones considers it "undoubtedly some of the most powerful of the 20th century." But he also attacks the coming exhibition 'Revolution' at the Royal Academy of Arts (RA). Apparently it sanitises a "call to merciless violence" which "anticipated Nazism."

This characterisation of the revolution is gibberish.

Democracy

Through 'soviets' - elected workers' councils - democracy escaped the unaccountable, capitalist-bought parliament, extending to every workplace and community. Soviets planned production to try to meet the material needs of all, not fatten the profits of the super-rich.

No wonder so many new and exciting artistic movements exploded. Workers and peasants finally had the possibility of the time, resources and control to make and enjoy art fully.

There certainly was "merciless violence," though. Generals loyal to the old regime, fresh from gunning down peaceful marches for bread, watched their power and prestige vanish overnight. Backed by 21 invading armies from various capitalist governments, they initiated a hellish civil war.

Death and famine were the results. A bruised and largely illiterate surviving population struggled to control a rising backward-looking bureaucracy carried over from the Tsar's administration. The bureaucracy only triumphed because later international revolutionary movements failed, often consciously held back by Stalinist officialdom.

Russia's inspirational revolutionary art reflects all these developments. Electric optimism and innovation, then mortal danger. Only after the avoidable isolation and decay does it finally reflect suffocation by a bureaucratic dictatorship.

Jones is unlikely to know the exhibition's actual political stance, writing well before it opens. But in fact, the RA's own material seems to take a similar line to his.

'Propaganda'

Publicising the exhibition, the RA ran an article by Martin Sixsmith, a former adviser to the Blair government. He claims that Vladimir Lenin, one of the leaders of the revolution, had this attitude: "I'm no good at art. Art for me is a just an appendage, and when its use as propaganda - which we need at the moment - is over, we'll cut it out as useless: snip, snip!"

This second-hand personal aside, reported by the portrait artist Yury Annenkov, is used to conflate Lenin's artistic liberties with Stalin's smothering censorship. But the groundswell of free artistic expression and engagement the soviets funded under Lenin - including movements he and others disliked, such as director Vsevolod Meyerhold's 'biomechanics' and political rivals in 'Proletkult' - contradicts it wholly.

Stalin later had Meyerhold executed. He banished Lenin's co-leader Leon Trotsky.

Trotsky, though, fought a tireless battle against Stalinism, including writing the 'Manifesto: Towards a Free Revolutionary Art'. The Socialist Party stands proudly in this tradition. As the 'Manifesto' concludes:

"Our aims: the independence of art - for the revolution; the revolution - for the complete liberation of art!"

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 8 February 2017:


Southern Rail dispute

Stand with the RMT: unite against Southern Rail and the Tories

Southern dispute: Aslef members must reject offer

Southern dispute: disappointment and anger - RMT president responds


Socialism not Trumpism

#NoBanNoWall #ResistTrump: Solidarity not racism - socialism not Trumpism


Socialist Party news and analysis

SNP and Greens agree cuts budget in Scotland


Save our NHS!

No cuts, no closures, save our NHS!

NHS: fight for funding - not passport checks


Universal Basic Income

Universal basic income - what do socialists say?


Socialist Party workplace news

RMT wins important tube jobs and grading victory

London Midland victory: RMT forces bosses to withdraw outsourced security

BA strike: "We're being paid well below what we should be"

AWE pension strikers vow to fight on

Workplace news in brief


International socialist news and analysis

Syria: Is an end to the war in sight?

Romania: mass protests against corruption go on


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Support Cardiff's no-cuts three

Campaign forces Surrey council to back down on fire station closure

Southampton: no-cuts budget needed

Regional Socialist Party conferences

Make some noise for Orgreave!

Canterbury Socialist Party attends 'I, Daniel Blake' film night


Socialist Party comments and reviews

Tense, lively prologue to events which changed the world

Smearing socialism by attacking the arts

The Socialist Inbox


 

Home   |   The Socialist 8 February 2017   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Arts:

triangleWelsh update of Chekhov an engrossing tale of 1980s class conflict

triangleSkipton show proves draw of socialist art

triangle'Dazzling' Bad Art show points to socialist future

triangleCorbyn confirms 1bn for the arts

triangleRussia 1917: how art helped make the revolution

Socialism:

triangleCardiff East Socialist Party: Socialism in the USA

triangleCardiff Socialist Students: Socialism and the struggle for LGBT rights

triangleSocialism 2017: Organising to fight back

triangleHighest ever ticket sales for Socialism event

Art:

triangleBad Art's Leicester event

triangleOctober 1917 reviews: 'More bright than any heaven'

triangleSwansea Socialist Party: Art and Revolution

Revolution:

triangleCaerphilly Socialist Party: Women and Revolution

triangleMass rally to commemorate 1917 Russian Revolution

Lenin:

triangleWell-deserved ridicule of Stalinism is impressive, funny but flawed

Exhibition:

triangleRare opportunity to see Russian revolution lifted off the page

Stalin:

triangleLessons from the Russian revolution for LGBT+ struggle today

Trotsky:

triangleSheffield South Socialist Party: Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution

Russian:

triangleSpain: Madrid rally celebrates October revolution

Russia:

triangleWest London Socialist Party: Why we need a party

War:

triangleCaerphilly Socialist Party: Are we heading for an era of war?

Stalinism:

triangleThe Socialist Inbox

Russian revolution:

triangleBrum meeting celebrates centenary of 1917

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments

15/11/17

The Socialist

The Socialist Inbox

15/11/17

Abortion

TV review: Abortion on Trial - hard-hitting look at impact of 1967 act

15/11/17

Vietnam war

Comprehensive account of bloody conflict

8/11/17

Letters

The Socialist inbox

8/11/17

Obituary

Obituary: Paul Randall, 1959-2017

8/11/17

Theatre

Welsh update of Chekhov an engrossing tale of 1980s class conflict

1/11/17

Letters

The Socialist inbox

25/10/17

Letters

The Socialist inbox

25/10/17

Fidel Castro

New musical on life of Castro

25/10/17

Film

Film - Dennis Skinner: Nature of the Beast

25/10/17

Russian revolution

Well-deserved ridicule of Stalinism is impressive, funny but flawed

18/10/17

Port Talbot

Powerful picture of the Port Talbot steel workers' struggle

18/10/17

Russian revolution

October 1917 reviews: 'More bright than any heaven'

11/10/17

Theresa May

Theresa May, Frida Kahlo and turning women into wares

11/10/17

Docks

Poverty, repression and fightback on the docks

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle15 Nov March for free education! We demand a future!

triangle15 Nov Tories on the brink - kick them out!

Socialism 2017

triangle14 Nov Socialism 2017: Organising to fight back

triangle13 Nov Strike wave continues with 49 walkout days by housing workers

triangle10 Nov US: Historic vote for Ginger Jentzen campaign in Minneapolis

triangle10 Nov Strikers picket the South Western Railway network

triangle10 Nov Europe in crisis, revolutionary winds in Catalonia

More ...

triangle20 Nov Birmingham Central Socialist Party: How can socialists support upcoming strikes?

triangle21 Nov Cardiff Socialist Students: Socialism and the struggle for LGBT rights

triangle21 Nov Birmingham South East Socialist Party: NHS in Meltdown - What can be done?

triangle21 Nov Sheffield North Socialist Party: The causes of capitalist crisis

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2