Art

new planet 1921.jpgLargeIt is sometimes said that Marxists are only interested in pouring over economic data and political analysis – that we have no interest in art and culture. Nothing could be further from the truth. By striving for the end of capitalism and freeing men and women from exploitation, we seek to give ordinary workers more time to enjoy and participate in culture, and raise art to new heights.

Art under capitalism is shackled to the profit motive. Culture is a business, and many of humanity’s finest works of art, music and literature are locked up in private collections or reserved for the wealthy. Moreover, art has become increasingly shallow and pedestrian, reflecting the crisis of the capitalist system itself. Rather than empowering artists to experiment and develop new ideas, billions are thrown at derivative dross by a shrinking handful of media monopolies. The rot of capitalist society is reflected in a rotten culture.

The solution to art's problems is not to be found in art itself, but in society. The Russian Revolution saw a flood of creativity as artists took inspiration from the heroic struggle of the masses against Tsarism and capitalism. The Bolsheviks flung open the gilded doors of Russia’s galleries and opera houses to ordinary people for the first time. This is our inspiration. By breaking with the capitalist system and returning culture to the people by investing in education and the arts, as Trotsky puts it: “The average human type will rise to the heights a Goethe or a Da Vinci… And above this ridge new peaks will rise.”

Alan Woods gives a lecture at the Chelsea College of Art in London in April 2009. He deals with the important role art plays in revolutionary political movements and speaks about how art changes to reflect the social and political events of the time.

Alan Woods spoke at the IMT Winter School in Berlin on the subject of the relationship between Art and the Class Struggle.

In his The Mona Lisa Curse, the Australian art critic Robert Hughes subjected present-day commercialisation of art to a withering criticism. His programme was a damning indictment of the general tendency of art to degenerate into flashy triviality to the degree that it subordinates itself to money-making and capitalist market economics. It condemned the British artist Hirst for "functioning like a commercial brand" and destroying any true understanding of art in the public's mind by placing importance on the price tag alone.

The prophetic description of anonymous warfare, the blankets of darkness and death dropped over civilian populations still resonate. To the degree we realise the truth expressed in this work, Guernica stands as possibly the greatest painting of the 20th Century.

This year is the centenary of Dimitri Shostakovich, one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, a giant who gave voice to the sufferings and triumphs of the Soviet people in one of the most turbulent and revolutionary periods in history. In this article Alan Woods attempts to show Shostakovich as he really was: a great Soviet artist who used music to express the terrible and inspiring events of the period in which he lived, a man of the people who believed in the possibility of a better world under socialism.

On this Easter Monday we are republishing an article by Rob Sewell in which he analyses the real origins of the early Christians. Quoting at length from Kautsky's The Foundations of Christianity he reveals the real nature of early Christianity and how it emerged as a movement of the oppressed in ancient Roman society, an early form of Communism.

Phil Mitchinson reviews a new book Remembering Arthur Miller and interviews one of the contributors, the well known director David Thacker who worked with the American playwright on numerous occasions and was the artistic director of the famous Young Vic theatre in London. Miller's courageous stand against McCarthyism is well known but perhaps less generally recognised is how important an influence politics in general played in his life and writings.

Twenty-five years ago today John Lennon was killed in New York. There was a mass outpouring of grief all over the world. This was because he symbolised something different from the mainstream music industry. He gave expression in the words of some of his songs the genuine feeling of disgust of many workers and youth at what capitalist society stands for.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of André Breton, one of the most outstanding literary representatives of surrealism, who tried to link art with revolutionary politics and collaborated for a time with Leon Trotsky. Alan Woods wrote this piece commemorating the great artist.

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the first publication of Don Quixote, the greatest masterpiece of Spanish literature. The working class, the class that has the greatest interest in fighting to defend culture, should celebrate this anniversary enthusiastically. This was the first great modern novel, written in a language that ordinary men and women could understand.

Last week, Arthur Miller, the dramatist who wrote plays that dealt with big moral and political questions in America, died. The legendary playwright, who continued his commitment to art and politics until the end of his life, was 89.

On Sunday evening, September 12, thousands gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square for the screening of Sergei Eisenstein’s revolutionary film “Battleship Potemkin“ and to hear the Pet Shop Boys and the Dresdner Sinfoniker string orchestra. The presentation was accompanied by reminders of the many demos that have been through the square, with quotes from Marx and Engels.

It comes as no surprise to the art world that the recent Hopper Exhibition at the Tate Modern was an outstanding success. Harry Whittaker wrote this review while the exhibition was on.

Someone has said that one of the criteria for winning the Turner Prize is not to be understood. The philosophy behind this is: the less I am understood, the better the art. Yet the kind of art that wins the Turner competition also has merit. They have the merit of holding up a mirror to the society that produced them, and saying: “This is what you are, and this is all you are capable of producing.” These works point out to us that beneath the sleek, comfortable bourgeois surface of modern society, horrors are lurking: dead vermin, murder, death and decay.