Thursday, April 28, 2011

Britain: Royal Wedding Exposes Deep Class Divisions

Written by Alan Woods
Thursday, 28 April 2011

The happy couple. Photo: UK_repsome

On Friday 29 April the people of Britain will be invited to participate in the joyful celebration of the marriage of Mr. William Windsor and Ms. Katherine Middleton. At the same time that the government is cutting billions from unnecessary extravagances such as hospitals, schools, teachers, nurses, the old and the sick, the unemployed and single parents, the Coalition has had the good sense to spend a lot of money on something as essential to the Public Good as the nuptials of Willy and Kate.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Religion and Secularism

Written by John Pickard
Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Ariane Sherine and Richard Dawkins at the Atheist Bus Campaign launch, London, January 2009. Photo: Zoe Margolis

As the twenty-first century progresses, there has been an increasing interest and not a small amount of debate on the role of religion in society and particularly on advances in secularisation. Richard Dawkins’ book , ‘The God Delusion,’ was a best-seller in the UK and novels like ‘The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ’ by Richard Pullman have touched raw nerves in Church hierarchies.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Religious Fundamentalism and Imperialism – Friends or Foes?

Written by Lal Khan
Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, leader of the Mujahideen, friend of bin Laden, and later member of the Northern Alliance. Photo: Erwin Franzen

As the last Russian soldier crossed the Oxus River going back from Afghanistan into the Soviet Union in 1989, the Japanese-American philosopher at St. James’s University, Maryland and a CIA operative, Francis Fukuyama, came out with his iniquitous thesis on the “end of history”. However, although the Berlin Wall had fallen and the Soviet Union had collapsed, this thesis was soon refuted by history itself as the first Gulf War broke out in 1991.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bhutto: A Legacy Betrayed

Written by Lal Khan
Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Bhutto speaking in Simla. Photo: Abbt850

Thirty two years ago on the night of 3rd and 4th April 1979, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was assassinated on the gallows in Rawalpindi jail. This was probably the most significant political murder in the history of the country. A terrified state, headed by the country’s most brutal and vicious dictator Zia ul Haq carried out this harrowing act.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Stalinization of Post-Revolutionary Soviet Art and Architecture

Panteleimon (brother of Il'ia) Golosov's Submission for the Narkomtiazhprom Competition

The vibrant artistic culture that existed in post-revolutionary Russia thrived up until the early 1930s. During that time, the Soviet government allowed a great deal of creative liberty, with a number of independent artistic and architectural movements sprouting up in the aftermath of October. Some state oversight existed in the capacity of Narkompros, the People's Commissariat of Enlightenment. Its Fine Arts division sponsored some projects, but gave no special preference to any particular group or style. Narkompros' director (and Lenin's old friend) Anatolii Lunacharskii may have been more fond of the classics of Western civilization than he was of the modernists' brash iconoclasm, but he was remarkably tolerant of any group that displayed enthusiasm for the Bolsheviks' social and political revolution.

Post-revolutionary art and architecture can be disaggregated into three main categories: the modernist, the atavistic, and the "proletarian." This third category traced its origins to Aleksandr Bogdanov, one of leading figures in Russian Social-Democracy and Lenin's early rival within the Bolshevik party. Modernism had emerged in pre-war Russia out of the fragmentation of Symbolism in the fields of literature, poetry, and art, but absorbed international influences as well. The traditionalist eclecticism of artistic and architectural atavism was passed on through the Imperial Academy system, which had been imported from Western Europe some two hundred years before.

Tatlin's Tower Digitally Superimposed on the Petersburg Skyline

Out of these three groups, the modernists were the first to lend their support to the Bolshevik cause during the Revolution. Only months after October 1917, Maiakovskii and others declared their solidarity with Lenin's party. They saw the social and political revolution carried out by the communists as a parallel to the artistic revolution that they were attempting to realize. But the Soviet avant-garde was far from being a unitary movement. In the fifteen years following the October Revolution, numerous avant-garde currents were established, each with their own agendas and often antagonisms against one another. They shared a rejection of the ways of the past, and they tended to be more internationalist and experimental in orientation. There were the Russian Futurists (very different from their Italian counterparts), painterly and architectural Suprematists, Productivists, artistic and architectural Constructivists, and Formalists in architecture and literary theory, etc. These various groups also invited modernists from other countries to join in the project of building a new society.

Eclectic Architecture from 1924

At the same time, however, there was the more conservative brand of eclectic art and architecture inherited from the old academy system. These artists and architects were generally referred to as the academicians, and were generally despised by the avant-gardists. They saw artistic and architectural history as a sort of inventory of recognized styles that could be arbitrarily combined or juxtaposed at the whim of the artist or architect. This is why their style was often referred to as "historicist."

Anti-Capital (1920)

Alongside this, there was the Proletkult/proleterian art movement that Lenin and Trotskii were so uncomfortable with, that tended to be more realist and “heroic” in its representation of workers, Bolshevik leaders, and revolutionary battle scenes. They believed that there would emerge a new form of art and architecture that was both created by and legible to the revolutionary proletariat. They believed that the working masses had already established their own essential culture in opposition to bourgeois taste and high society under capitalism. Lenin and Trotskii criticized them for believing that the culture of the proletariat would be that drastically different than the culture that had predominated under capitalism. The other aspect that disturbed them was that the Bolshevik Revolution was meant to create a classless society, not a specifically proletarian society. Nevertheless, Proletkult and proletarian art merged with elements of a strange brand of monumentalist avant-gardism that in architecture banded together in the group VOPRA, and this led to the Stalinist synthesis of Socialist realism.

Around 1931-1933, Stalin and his henchmen intervened and wanted to put an end to the various competing groups and form an official style that would be run by forcibly unionizing the different art and architectural groups together. Once all the groups had been subsumed into All-Union appendages of the state, bureaucratized and monitored closely, the decision was made to institute Socialist realism. This way, all artists and architects had to be registered with and licensed by the state and made to conform to union mandates handed down from above, by the Stalinist hierarchy. Those who did not join with the state-funded unions would not have their work supported or even recognized by the Soviet government, and would not receive the regular income that the union provided.

Works now had to be:

  1. Proletarian: art relevant to the workers and understandable to them.
  2. Typical: scenes of every day life of the people.
  3. Realistic: in the representational sense.
  4. Partisan: supportive of the aims of the State and the Party.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Prospects for Revolution: Canadian Perspectives 2011

Written by Fightback Editorial Board
Monday, 11 April 2011

“Revolution is never practical — until the hour of the Revolution strikes. Then it alone is practical, and all the efforts of the conservatives and compromisers become the most futile and visionary of human imaginings.” (James Connolly, Workshop Talks, 1909)

The Arab revolution changes the entire world situation. For the first time in generations, the concept of revolution has ceased to be an abstract idea. Revolution is no longer an impractical imagining, to paraphrase the great Irish revolutionary James Connolly. Instead, revolution is something very real and is discussed by all sections of society — some in hope, others in fear. It is seen as a real option to challenge the injustices of capitalist society; indeed, the only option that has made any progress in recent memory.

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Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Nature Of The Gaddafi Regime – Historical Background Notes

Written by Fred Weston
Wednesday, 06 April 2011

Assad & Gaddafi, 1977. Source: Online Museum of Syrian History

We provide a brief historical outline of the development of the Gaddafi regime from the bourgeois Arab nationalism of the early days, to the period of so-called Islamic socialism, to the recent period of opening up to foreign investment, with major concessions to multinational corporations and the beginnings of widespread privatisations.

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Friday, April 01, 2011

Libyan Interim Government – Agents of Imperialism

Written by Fred Weston
Friday, 01 April 2011

USS Bataan sailors and marines prepare for action in Libya. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erin Lea Boyce

What started as a genuine revolution against Gaddafi, has been taken over by reactionary bourgeois elements. In the Interim Council, and now the newly formed Interim Government, direct representatives of imperialist interests have been promoted to leading positions.

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