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:

triangleStudent occupation at Chelsea College of Arts

triangleHull workers who fought in the Spanish Civil War

triangleArts unions agree joint campaign work

triangleWhat we saw

triangleSocialist artists invite others to exhibit work

Socialism:

triangle"Austerity hurts and the only alternative is socialism"

triangleThe fight goes on - let's make it a socialist fight to win

triangleCapitalism condemned

triangleLambeth Socialist Party: Kick out the Tories - Fight for Socialism

Art:

triangleSalford Socialist Party: Art, wealth and power

triangleTower Hamlets Socialist Party: Art and socialism

Revolution:

triangleThe Pentrich uprising: revolution and counter-revolution in 19th century Britain

triangleJune 1917: when workers in Britain first tried to form soviets

Lenin:

triangleCaerphilly and RCT Socialist Party: April 1917 - Lenin and the Bolsheviks

Exhibition:

triangleRare opportunity to see Russian revolution lifted off the page

Stalin:

triangleWhat went wrong in Russia?

Trotsky:

triangleBarcelona May Days 1937 - a civil war within a civil war

Russia:

triangleInternational news in brief

War:

triangleFinsbury Park attack: No to terror, racism, war and austerity!

Stalinism:

trianglePrecise, visceral account of working class heroism

Russian revolution:

triangleBristol South Socialist Party: What does the Russian revolution mean today?

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments

21/6/17

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

21/6/17

Socialist Party

"Austerity hurts and the only alternative is socialism"

16/6/17

Liverpool

1980s Liverpool Militants replaced tower blocks with streets

15/6/17

Grenfell Tower

A comment on the horrific 'Tory carnage' in West London

14/6/17

Militant

From Militant to the Socialist Party

13/6/17

LGBT

Fight Tory and DUP anti-LGBT+ bigotry

31/5/17

Letters

The Socialist inbox

31/5/17

LGBT

Corbyn's policies could help fight unhappiness for LGBT+ people

31/5/17

Socialist Party

Why I joined: "To fight for an end to tuition fees and cuts"

24/5/17

Letters

The Socialist inbox

24/5/17

Marx

Capitalist journal's warning to the bosses: Marx was right, watch out!

24/5/17

Film

Gentrification, class and race in Brixton film

24/5/17

Socialist Party

'From Militant to the Socialist Party' - new book now available

17/5/17

Spanish revolution

Barcelona May Days 1937 - a civil war within a civil war

17/5/17

The Socialist

The Socialist inbox

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...


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

triangle24 Jun Camden evacuation - residents expose fire risks

triangle21 Jun Justice for Grenfell and safety for all

triangle21 Jun Cabin crew calls two-week walkout over blacklisting accusations

triangle21 Jun Anger and grief on moving Grenfell marches

triangle21 Jun The Queen's Speech; and defending the right to protest

triangle20 Jun Whole establishment exposed for role in Grenfell fire

triangle20 Jun Tories and May stagger on amid crisis - get them out!

More ...

triangle24 Jun Tamil Solidarity Day

triangle25 Jun East Midlands Socialist Party: Rebellion - Then and Now

triangle1 Jul London: Tories Out national demonstration

triangle3 Jul West Cheshire Socialist Party: Prepare for the next steps towards JC4PM

More ...

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

Archive

Archives:

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