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:

triangleBristol North Socialist Party: 'Bad Art' - socialist struggle in the 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

Socialism:

triangleSocialism 2018

triangleSocialism 2017 Socialist Students meet-up

triangleLeeds Socialist Party: Religion and Socialism

triangleCardiff East Socialist Party: Socialism in the USA

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:

triangleRussia 1917: how art helped make the revolution

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

6/12/17

Fire

The Socialist Inbox

6/12/17

Surrey

Comment: Socialism and truth about Zane

6/12/17

Labour Party

Blairite horror and Labour's divisions graphically exposed

30/11/17

Theatre

Dramatic retelling of Grunwick strike

22/11/17

Working class

Left comic's take on politics will have you in tears

22/11/17

Letters

The Socialist inbox

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

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...


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

triangle8 Dec Local government pay: fight for the full 5% claim

triangle6 Dec Strikers rally in Liverpool

triangle6 Dec Corbyn's Labour can defeat Tories with socialist programme

triangle5 Dec Victory at Glenfield shows people power can save our NHS

triangle5 Dec Labour council Blairites deselected

triangle30 Nov Victory: Glenfield Children's Heart Centre saved!

triangle30 Nov Dramatic retelling of Grunwick strike

More ...

triangle12 Dec Birmingham South East Socialist Party: Can the Labour Party be changed?

triangle12 Dec Liverpool Socialist Party: Fighting council cuts

triangle13 Dec Caerphilly Socialist Party: Are we heading for an era of war?

triangle14 Dec Wakefield Socialist Party: Universal Credit - the Tories' latest assault on the poor

More ...

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

Archive

Archives:

December 2017

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