Thoughts on art…quotes, reflections, exegeses

From Marx on Literature and Art

“When developing their theory of aesthetics, Marx and Engels naturally based themselves on the achievements of their predecessors. But the main aesthetic problems — and above all the problem of the relationship between art and reality — were solved by them in a fundamentally new way, on the basis of materialist dialectics. Idealist aesthetics considered art as a reproduction of the ideal, standing over and* above actual reality. The origin of any art form, its development, flowering, and decay, all remained incomprehensible to the art theoreticians and historians of the pre-Marxian period, inasmuch as they studied these in isolation from man’s social existence.

Marx and Engels considered it absolutely impossible to understand art and literature proceeding only from their internal laws of development. In their opinion, the essence, origin, development, and social role of art could only be understood through analysis of the social system as a whole, within which the economic factor — the development, of productive forces in complex interaction with production relations — plays the decisive role. Thus art, as defined by Marx and Engels, is one of the forms of social consciousness and it therefore follows that the reasons for its changes should be sought in the social existence of men. “


My thoughts:

Rancière undermined the possibility of understanding art when he said of revolution,  that  Marxists think  a revolution is always just over the horizon. In saying this he has accommodated capitalism, and holds no hope for change.

Rosa Luxemburg brought to the fore the question of ‘agency’, that the future is made by the actions of men and women today…many outcomes are possible, another world is possible, but another world  could be drowned in blood. Taking control of the systems that keeps the majority silenced, powerless and without control is the most important  question of our age, a socialist question, unanswered. Lenin’s  suggestion towards organising the most conscious  workers and workers’ supporters into an organisation for change, still stands as the most important issue for our day. Failed revolutions lead to rivers of blood. Revolution is cultural, ideological, physical and mental. It means taking over systems and throwing out, by force if necessary, that  tiny minority, those 8 people who have more wealth than the poorest 3.4 billion (half or the worlds population), and smashing the systems and people that keep them in power and on their gravy trains.  On the side of coal mining, oil pollution, global warming, poverty are the present systems in a drunken dance of  obscuration.  But capitalism is insane, a mad system that puts profit before the majority of people and human/animal/planet need. My art is about the challenge to capitalism, and those prepared to build the left and the movements that do so.

Given that we do not live in a system of fair distribution, and the excess of the few is hidden  ideologically, by the university theorists who serve the minority who fund the system and its cruelty, then funds for art, welfare, hospitals and education, gone. There is much money for war and even torturing refugees….Yes, there may be little class struggle, and unions have a low membership rate, not surprising given the cosy partnership between union bureaucrats and bosses,  but as the South African history writer Charles Von Onselen once put it, when class struggle is suppressed before it bursts out again, it is seen in the nooks and crannies of everyday working life. 1

Nor is Rancière’s  right wing argument new. Ever since Neoliberalism and capitalism loves to wave  ‘farewell to the working class’ only to see it arise again.  Marx’s understanding that a class is either ‘for’ itself or ‘in’ itself is handy here. A class “in”itself  exists without any consciosness of itself. It is a compliant defeated class de-unionised, quiet, obedient, the way the ruling class wants it. (That is why torture , prisons and the rule-of-law are so important for them to try to eep this state going) And so are the neoliberal Ranciers who posit the idea of a universal obedient class. A class that begins to learn its strength, begins to dance its way to strength, culturally, poetically artistically and intellectually, it sees itself as connected united and strong, across gender, race, culture and any other divide the rulers so love to exacerbate. It becomes a class for itself. The short lived days of class awakening in South Africa, after ’76 breathed oxygen into my veins. I was thirsty for knowledge and the ideas from the Russian revolution 100years ago still come to us today through the books writing and living revolutionaries.

Solidarity, is the war cry of the working class. To each according to their need from each according to their ability. Support is always given willingly to other struggles locally and globally, fly a picket, and borders are nothing but lines drawn in the sand.  A class “for” itself is a revolutionary class. I would like to do PhD looking at how art flourishes in times of revolutionary confidence.

A socialist revolution began,  it was destroyed by Stalin and the defeats in Germany and elsewhere, and we are coming closer and closer to the ticking clock of climate destruction, and it is necessary, imperative that we have a full blooded, wholesome, revitalising life giving planet saving revolution now.

“First, exegesis is a disciplined activity which requires a method in order to be effective and rigorous.  It is neither an arbitrary activity nor simply a response to the emotive or spiritual appeal of a passage of Scripture. Secondly, your exegesis should respect the independence of the text and endeavour to be as “objective” as possible. Exegesis should not become ‘eisegesis,’ an unconscious reading into the text of your own values and beliefs in a way that stifles the text so that it can never be heard anew as a challenge in life. Of course we are subjective, historical beings and none of us can transcend our own culture and history in order to achieve total objectivity. Nevertheless in the process of exegesis, it is your task to be as objective as possible while being as knowledgable as possible about your own subjectivity.”

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