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:

triangleSocialist artists invite others to exhibit work

triangleJohn Berger: remarkable art of a contradictory socialist

triangleOver a thousand march to fight museums and libraries cuts

triangleGlasgow School of Arts students "let us learn" revolt

triangleUniversity of the Arts London Socialist Students: Black Lives Matter

Socialism:

triangleWolverhampton & Black Country Socialist Party: How would socialism work?

triangleSocialism not Trumpism: Thousands more protest and plan to walkout

Art:

triangleThe Socialist Inbox

triangleTheatre review: high art and savage poverty in Bootle

triangleLeicester Socialist Party: Art and Socialism

Revolution:

triangleBirmingham Socialist Party: The start of the 1917 Russian Revolution

triangleFebruary revolution 1917 - what lessons for today?

Lenin:

triangleNo, Trumpism is nothing like Leninism

Exhibition:

triangleCouncil estate exhibition shows the full picture

Trotsky:

triangleTrotsky and February 1917

Russian:

triangleNottingham Socialist Party: The lessons of the 1917 Russian Revolution

Stalinism:

triangleLeon Trotsky's living legacy

Russian revolution:

triangleManchester Socialist Party: The role of women in the 1917 Russian Revolution

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments

22/2/17

Obituary

Obituary: John Pickett - 1954-2017

22/2/17

Review

Web series review: Cooked - "How capitalism ruined eating"

22/2/17

Retail

Organise to reverse 28% rise in violence against retail workers

22/2/17

Local government

Worried about fake news? Start with Labour councils' budget lies

22/2/17

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

15/2/17

Letters

The Socialist inbox

15/2/17

Review

Vivid visual account of the Paris Commune

15/2/17

Foreign Aid

Foreign aid's not the problem - it's capitalist thieves

15/2/17

Russian revolution

No, Trumpism is nothing like Leninism

8/2/17

Arts

Smearing socialism by attacking the arts

8/2/17

The Socialist

The Socialist Inbox

8/2/17

Review

Tense, lively prologue to events which changed the world

8/2/17

RMT

Southern dispute: disappointment and anger - RMT president responds

7/2/17

Liverpool

Housing: Irresponsibility becomes reality

3/2/17

Parliament

Response to Derek Hatton's criticism of Corbyn over Brexit vote

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...


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

triangle22 Feb Support the NHS? Join the march!

triangle22 Feb Thousands more protest and plan to walkout

triangle22 Feb February revolution 1917 - what lessons for today?

triangle21 Feb Dublin: #JobstownNotGuilty

triangle17 Feb Tata pension deal: 'Gun to the head' offer accepted

triangle16 Feb Aslef members reject Southern deal - now for coordinated action to...

triangle15 Feb Socialist Students: growing, brimming with confidence

More ...

triangle26 Feb Wales Socialist Party conference

triangle27 Feb Leeds Socialist Party: Building the Socialist Party in Leeds

triangle27 Feb Nottingham Socialist Party: The inspirational life of Eleanor Marx

triangle27 Feb Birmingham Central Socialist Party: NHS cuts - What do The Tories' STP plans involve?

More ...

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

Archive

Archives:

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