This week we have an object lesson in what happens when you dig up the the dead Victorian body of your Great Grandparent, prop it up in the hallway in a sharp 2012 suit, and hope that your friends will gasp in admiration.
It doesn’t work.
Instead it appears as a Victorian skeleton in 2012 clothing.
The post photo above is a new attempt to communicate one of the versions of ‘Socialism’ to modern man and woman.
They have discovered the online magazine format, and the groupuscule are putting forward the need for another class struggle.
The picture used as an illustration is a piece of ‘Social Realism’, depicting ‘Woman Metro Builder with Pneumatic Drill’ (*), (1937) by Aleksandr Samokhvalov.
The article inside, “A defence of Stalinist art policy”, by one Mark Jones, describes the picture thus:
“It shows a woman shock-worker briefly resting from excavating the tunnel for the Moscow Metro. In reality it is a Palladian scene; classical and statuesque, there is a stillness about her face, which is strongly illuminated from the front, and as she gazes into the bright light, we almost see the socialist Arcadia she is seeing, the disclosed/hidden, future/past utopia.
One half-clenched hand, plump and dainty, unmarked by labour, rests upon a rock; she has tied her jacket round her waist and the effect is of a classicial, robed piece of statuary that seems to have emerged from the living rock; the face is youthful, plastic, inquisitive, robustly beautiful and determined: there is defiance in her eyes. Whatever this painting is of, it is not of a woman metro builder (but there were tens of thousands of women volunteers, often office workers, who did help dig the tunnels, even during lunch-breaks; it is them the painting celebrates, not as they are but as they should be.”
…strikes me as rather pretentious bollocks
Samokhavalov trained at the Imperial Art Academy in St Petersburg before the Revolution. His style is more or less post-Impressionist and any socialist message is skin-deep.
In reality 1937 was a year of mass repression in the USSR. Once the repression was all over, Samokhvalov reverted to painting fairly conventional nudes.
It is nice to see that consumerism cannot be extinguished even in a Dictatorship.
Other articles inside explain why the Morning Star newspaper needs charitable support to bring in the revolution, and tell us why it is still all the fault of imperialism (again). Try reading a little more on Stalinist Art without gnawing your left leg down to a bloody stump:
It is not just a matter of the Stalinist liquidation of the avant-garde and their substitution by the alleged aridities of socialist-realism. The real issue is more serious and universal: freedom of expression versus the interests and rights of the state. The Bolsheviks arrogated the right to subordinate art to politics, meaning, to the creation of their dictatorship. Still more heroically, Lenin even wanted not merely to use art for his own purposes but to insist theoretically that art could not even be art unless it served those purposes.
If you grant that art is a class question and must be subordinated to a class politics, then you take your stand with Lenin’s frankly ‘totalitarian’ subordination of art to political life and the interests of the state. Art has no more autonomy than any other sphere of life. The proletarian dictatorship insists on its subjugation. It is clear too that Stalin was the executor of Lenin’s behests, and you cannot separate Lenin’s policy from Stalin’s. If Lenin was wrong, so was Stalin. If both were wrong then we have to admit that the socialist revolutionary project contains a radical defect and cannot be the instrument of human freedom. So the question is important.
Ironically, both Lenin and Stalin turned out to be conservators of bourgeois cultural forms. Lenin destroyed the Proletkult and called instead for the preservation of the finest achievements of bourgois culture, and for making them accessible to the masses. Stalin in his time purged the avant-garde, accusing it of ‘formalism’ and even drove Mayakovsky to his grave. However in terms of the principled question it would not have mattered if the Party had done things the other way round, ie, purged the Socialist Realists and the Victorian novelists and made the practitioners of Proletkult into honoured representatives of official Soviet art. The issue would still be, does the Party have the right to decide which art and which artists shall survive and prosper, and which shall be silenced and purged?
That little lot tells you much of what you need to know about why the British extreme left is where it is today. Every time I read something like this I am reminded of commentaries that used to be on pre-Gorbachev Radio Moscow.
It is starting from somewhere bizarre shrouded in eccentric mythology, and going nowhere any time soon.
The medium does not help if the message is from Mars.
* I have corrected the description. In the original comment it was “Penumatic Drill”, which deserves a prize for Freudian Slip of the Year. Who needs a washing machine on spin cycle?