The free development of artists and their art is held back by capitalism and the profit system. Socialist revolution would liberate art from these shackles.

The free development of artists and their art is held back by capitalism and the profit system. Socialist revolution would liberate art from these shackles.

It is sometimes said that Marxists are only interested in pouring over economic data and political analysis – that we have no interest in art and culture. Nothing could be further from the truth. By striving for the end of capitalism and freeing men and women from exploitation, we seek to give ordinary workers more time to enjoy and participate in culture, and raise art to new heights.

Art under capitalism is shackled to the profit motive. Culture is a business, and many of humanity’s finest works of art, music and literature are locked up in private collections or reserved for the wealthy. Moreover, art has become increasingly shallow and pedestrian, reflecting the crisis of the capitalist system itself. Rather than empowering artists to experiment and develop new ideas, billions are thrown at derivative dross by a shrinking handful of media monopolies. The rot of capitalist society is reflected in a rotten culture.

The solution to art's problems is not to be found in art itself, but in society. The Russian Revolution saw a flood of creativity as artists took inspiration from the heroic struggle of the masses against Tsarism and capitalism. The Bolsheviks flung open the gilded doors of Russia’s galleries and opera houses to ordinary people for the first time. This is our inspiration. By breaking with the capitalist system and returning culture to the people by investing in education and the arts, as Trotsky puts it: “The average human type will rise to the heights a Goethe or a Da Vinci… And above this ridge new peaks will rise.”

Learn the basics

Marxist classics
& books

Art and the class struggleArt and the class struggle
Alan Woods

This is the transcript of a speech by Alan Woods on the subject of the relationship between Art and the Class Struggle. The speech was given at a Marxist Summer School in Barcelona, in July 2001.

For revolutionary art!For revolutionary art!
Alan Woods

André Breton was one of the most outstanding literary representatives of surrealism, who tried to link art with revolutionary politics. Alan Woods wrote this piece commemorating the great artist.

Art and socialismArt and socialism
Alan Woods

At a Red October 2015 event, Alan Woods gave a talk on Marxism and Art. Here are some thoughts on the topic by Kit MacDougall of the Glasgow Marxists, based on the discussion at Red October.

Capitalist fetishism and the decay of artCapitalist fetishism and the decay of art
Alan Woods

Real art cannot flourish on the soil of capitalism, where it is denied air and room to breathe. The abolition of the profit system is the prior condition for the emancipation of culture from its chains.

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In-depth analysis

Marxist classics
& books

Shakespeare: A revolutionary in literatureShakespeare: A revolutionary in literature
Alan Woods

Shakespeare transformed English literature, reaching heights that before were unheard of and which have not been reached subsequently. Like a blazing meteorite he shot across the firmament and cast a glorious light on an entire period in our history.

Beethoven: man, composer and revolutionaryBeethoven: man, composer and revolutionary
Alan Woods

Beethoven deserves to be called a revolutionary and carried through what was probably the greatest single revolution in modern music and changed the way music was composed and listened to.

Art and socialismArt and socialism
Alan Woods

Hieronymus Bosch was one of the most remarkable and original painters of all time. His works were painted five hundred years ago and depict a world in a state of turbulence, torn by contradictory tendencies.

Robert Burns: Man, poet, and revolutionaryRobert Burns: Man, poet, and revolutionary
Alan Woods

Robert Burns (1759-1796) the poet needs no further introduction. But Robert Burns the revolutionary democrat is another matter. It is a matter of great regret that nowadays it seems to have become the fashion among certain left circles in Scotland to renounce Burns.

British poets and the French RevolutionBritish poets and the French Revolution
Alan Woods

This article by Alan Woods looks at how the French Revolution affected British poets. It struck Britain like a thunderbolt affecting all layers of society and this was reflected in its artists and writers.

Leonardo Da Vinci: artist, thinker and revolutionaryLeonardo Da Vinci: artist, thinker and revolutionary
Alan Woods

Leonardo da Vinci was an absolute giant in the history of human thought and culture. Alan Woods pays tribute to the great artist, scientist and philosopher, whose life and ideas were revolutionary in so many fields.

Art and socialismArt and socialism
Alan Woods

Shostakovich was a great Soviet artist who used music to express the terrible and inspiring events of the period in which he lived, a man of the people who believed in the possibility of a better world under socialism.

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Marxist classics

Art and Politics In Our EpochArt and Politics In Our Epoch
Leon Trotsky

Trotsky's remarks on the relations of art and politics retain their validity and urgency. More than ever today "the function of art is determined by its relation to the revolution."

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Leon Trotsky

These essays by Trotsky constitute a significant contribution to the then ongoing debate in the USSR over culture and art in a workers' state. It foreshadowed a later debate over the Stalinist conception of “Socialist Realism” in the later part of the decade.

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Alan Woods

Art has always been important to people, from the earliest human societies, when it was indissolubly linked to magic. However, in class society art is so designed as to exclude the masses, and relegate them to an impoverished existence, not only in a material but in a spiritual sense.

The European Union throws up a number of questions for Marxists, not just in terms of our perspectives for the class struggle in Europe, but also theoretical questions on the nature of the EU and the attitude of Marxists to the idea of European integration.

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Video

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Alan Woods

Alan Woods gave this lecture in 2009 about the important role that art plays in revolutionary political movements, and how art changes to reflect the social and political events of the time.

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Alan Woods

Using Picasso's great painting of the massacre at Guernica as a starting point, Alan Woods explores what makes great art; to what extent is great art a reflection of the period from which it comes; and can propaganda be great art?

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Alan Woods

The solution to art's problems is not to be found in art itself, but in society. In this video from Revolution Festival 2020, Alan Woods offers a fascinating Marxist analysis of the history of art – pointing the way towards the liberation of art and all human culture from the shackles of capitalism.

The European Union throws up a number of questions for Marxists, not just in terms of our perspectives for the class struggle in Europe, but also theoretical questions on the nature of the EU and the attitude of Marxists to the idea of European integration.

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