- Capitalism and Alternatives -

You misunderstand (a Marxist primer on art)

Posted by: Barry Stoller on January 14, 19100 at 11:11:42:

In Reply to: a world without music is a flawed world. posted by David on January 13, 19100 at 11:34:57:

: Barry, judging by your lack of appreciation and your constant belittlement of music and musicians, I can tell that you obviously do not listen to a lot of music nor have you ever worked at being a musician.

Actually, if you'll look at Alternative Press, issue 64 (November 1993), page 100 and issue 89 (December 1995), page 122, you'd discover that I once was a PROFESSIONAL musician (under my real name). Which would explain why Monthly Review (49: 7, December 1997, pp. 34 - 41) found me qualified to write an article about Marxism and music (under my Stoller name).

Of ALL the topics to challenge me on, you have picked the one that I am MOST qualified to opine upon.

: Quite simply, a world without music is a flawed world.

You have misunderstood me.

I am VERY MUCH in favor of music (and artistic expression). So much so that I want artistic expression to be accessible to EVERYONE, not merely a minority.

In order to appreciate my comment to Frenchy, let us consider ideology (ingeneral):

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas: i.e. the class, which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it.(1)

For example, the epoch of feudal relations brought to artistic expression its feudal ideology (ultra-hierarchal, obscurant values). Then the bourgeoisie swept aside feudal relations---and feudal ideology (which tails it)---putting in its place bourgeois ideology (market democracy values). All of which was absorbed by music (and all forms of artistic expression). Once music reflected feudal ideology---classical music for the educated court, religious and vulgar music for the serfs (unbending social division of labor from above); then music reflected bourgeois ideology---mass produced music for the market, emphasis on class ascension through social lottery (arbitrary [i.e. 'democratic'] social division of labor).

Get it?

Now, following this line of thinking, when socialists sweep aside bourgeois relations---and bourgeois ideology (which tails it)---socialist relations will put in its place socialist relations---and socialist ideology (which will tail it).

There will still be artistic expression in the socialist future. There will still be intellectual creativity. But its expression will reflect the NEW ruling material force of society, which will be its ruling intellectual force. Hence, the ideology of artistic and intellectual expression and creativity will reflect socialist values (the new ruling ideas).

As Trotsky put it:

Under socialism, solidarity will be the basis of society. Literature and art will be tuned to a different key. All the emotions which we revolutionaries, at the present time [a time of violent class struggle], feel apprehensive of naming---so much have they been worn thin by hypocrites and vulgarians---such as disinterested friendship, love for one's neighbor, sympathy, will be the mighty ringing chords of socialist poetry.(2)

Now, before you are tempted to crank up the capitalist cliché about the 'soulless conformity' of socialist art, carefully read Trotsky's following paragraph:

However, does not an excess of solidarity, as the Nietzscheans [and, as an Ayn Rand supporter, this means you, David] fear, threaten to degenerate man into a sentimental, passive, herd animal? Not at all. The powerful force of competition which, in bourgeois society, has the character of market competition, will not disappear in a Socialist society, but, to use the language of psychoanalysis, will be sublimated, that is, will assume a higher and more fertile form. There will be struggle for one's opinion, for one's project, for one's taste.(3)

Indeed, in the socialist future, there will be MUCH MORE art and artistic expression than there is now (and many more contending schools of thought). Everyone will have the opportunity to pursue their muse, a muse that bourgeois social relations (and its ideology which DEFENDS these relations) LIMITS to only a small section of the population. The socialist future will be a future in which EVERYONE has the time---and cultural access---to pursue their muse.

Which brings us to...

'In a communist society there are no painters but at most people who engage in painting among other activities' (Marx and Engels).

: And there are also no dictators, just people who, from time to time, tell other people what to do.

You know, David, when you get intellectually frustrated and start making mindless dictator accusations, I really find you immature---so much so that I am embarrassed for you...



1. Marx and Engels, The German Ideology, International 1939, p. 39, emphasis added.

2. Trotsky, Literature and Revolution, International 1925, p. 230.

3. Ibid, emphasis added.

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