Following this post, I was asked a series of questions. Principally amongst these was a question it seems worth giving a quick response to on here – for clarity if nothing else. The question was relatively simple: ‘How are you suggesting an artist should express themselves?’ The answer is equally simple: I am not, in any way, advocating an Absolute Form.
1stly – & this should be obvious – I am partisan. This blog’s tag-line states as much, as does the general content of each post. I am Marxist-Leninist, a Communist of the Bolshevik faction if 1 requires further elaboration. Specifically, I belong to this trend. This carries with it that I am a dialectical materialist. As a dialectical materialist, it would exceptionally bad practice for me to hold up any given work of art & say “This. This is the revolutionary art.”
A Marxist-Leninist analysis of art requires, as its starting point, an understanding of historical context. This complicates things somewhat for an artist, especially in an Imperialist country like Britain. To elaborate: certain forms have, tied to them, cultural connotations in a given context. Take rap music, now. Initially, this music represented a revolutionary force, mostly consolidated in the US, as a reflection of the political anger of urban black youth. However, now, the rap industry is – insofar as we consider its existence in Imperialist countries – representative of extremely reactionary, bourgeois ideas – sexism, individualism, exploitation, privilege. In this context, I do not advocate the production of rap music as I might have from its inception. Rap, as an artistic form, has been adopted by Capitalist monopolies & turned to those monopolies’ use.
A lot of the concepts I refer to, implicitly, on this blog are elaborated in The Yenan Forum, an essay being serialised on the RED blog. In the essay, I elaborate key concepts – the unity of form & content, the class character of art, the relationship between “populist” & “fine” art. I also provide a further formal proof of how historical context is important for understanding artistic products (Application: Poetry of Mao Tse-tung). To any1 who desires a further understanding of the reasoning behind the criticisms I post here, I suggest they begin with that essay. The concluding portion of the essay – to be posted shortly – will include an analysis of our current context & a path of action for Socialist artists in the immediate future.
The question is, still, pertinent. How can an artist express themselves & remain progressive in a context like ours? There is no movement to speak of & so a large degree of what I’ve written about proletarian hegemony cannot apply. What can we do? The question is answered, 1st in a general sense by Lenin & then in a specific sense by Gramsci.
Lenin: ‘it is therefore our duty, if we wish to remain socialists to go down lower and deeper, to the real masses; this is the whole meaning and the whole purport of the struggle against opportunism.’ (Lenin, Imperialism and the Split in Socialism)
Gramsci: ‘This taste can be combated in two principal ways: by ruthlessly criticizing it, and by circulating books of poetry written or translated in non-‘elevated’ language, where the feelings expressed are not rhetorical or operatic.’ (Gramsci, Popular Literature. Operatic Taste: PDF)
Gramsci comments are directed towards a specific manifestation of cultural taste of the Italian proletariat, in his historical context. 1 can take his point more abstractly. We must criticise that taste which is propagated by the bourgeoisie & finds its widest audience in the proletariat & simultaneously circulate material that is its contrary. We must go lower & deeper, to the real masses, with culture that brings them forwards – both ideologically & in terms of taste.
These are general points which may be used to analyse a context. The answer changes as with time, context & the movement. The responsibility of Socialist artist – that which I advocate – is to analyse the situation before acting. Whatever form finds the aim of the Socialist appropriate – that is, the content expressed (which will also change) – is the correct form.