Socialist Appeal - British section of the International Marxist Tendency

A contribution by Mordachai Peargut.

We live in a very dull and ugly world don’t you think? Do you think? Well I suppose that if you have logged on to this web site you must think. But we, " We lucky few", are so few otherwise I would not feel inclined to write this article.

When I say the world is ugly I don’t mean the planet. I mean it is what we the inhabitants of this round wonder spinning in the gravitational grasp of our galaxy are doing to our home that is ugly. You may think this is going to be another piece about the environment, well in a sense it is. It’s about the environment of two of our senses, our eye’s and ear’s.

Heard any good music recently, seen a good film, a good work of art? Now let me rephrase the question, heard some good new music, seen a good new film or a new great work of art recently? You have not! Because good new art, that is music or visual does not sell. Because we live in an age where profit is the objective of every product, be it a paper clip churned out in the millions by a mindless machine, or a piece of music that someone slaved over for months.

The capitalists tell us that we live in a global market. Markets exist to sell their wares and make money. What they sell is irrelevant, so long as it sells, and of course makes a profit.

Burning of the houses of parliament (1834) - Turner

Hollywood in its heyday is a prime example. Great talents were exploited to such an extent that in many cases the stars died young, either by their own hands or through overuse of stimulants, such as drugs and alcohol. The most famous examples of this use of human beings as commodities were Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe and of course the "King", Elvis. And the most notorious example of this form of slavery was Judy Garland. She was a child star in the movies, who progressed to become an adult star. She was relentlessly forced to make film after film. Forced to take pills (what we call today, uppers and downers) so that she could turn out movie after movie, she became an alcoholic and finally died at the age of forty-seven in London. She had become a pathetic shadow of the great talent she had been, parodied and lampooned on TV and the press, because they did not know the truth behind the demise of her talent. But MGM had made their money out of her, so what did they care. Just another spent paper clip in the Hollywood waste paper basket.

One thing that can be said for MGM, Warner Brothers and the other great names of the Hollywood era is that they were owned by people who were in the film business and only in the film business. Nowadays entertainment companies are owned by all sorts of multinationals.

Let’s take one example General Electric, who makes jet engines, fridges, giant turbines, and also owns the American TV broadcasting company NBC. NBC are now widely tipped to buy the UK’s main commercial TV channel ITV, now that Tony Blair is going to allow foreign companies to buy into British TV. As if it were not enough that American bland programmes proliferate on ITV’s screens as it is! No doubt once the Refrigerator Company owns ITV all homegrown content will all but disappear! But this is no random acquisition it is part of an ongoing process whereby US corporations attempt to dominate our ears and eyes and ultimately our minds.

Turn on a TV anywhere in the world, and you are sure to see the world’s favourite show Bay Watch. What a sad comment on the state of our planet. When we have the ability of mass communication what is the world watching? Educational programmes? NO! Women with big tits, produced in the most puritanical country in the western world. If this same show were to feature topless girls as can be seen on most of the world’s beaches it would not see the light of day, what a load of hypocrisy.

We must also not forget that all this crap is of course frequently interrupted by commercials, and in some cases the commercials are better than the shows! Programmes such as Bay Watch, Zeena, Dynasty and the daddy of them all Dallas have one thing in common they are cheap to make and sell, and reap in BIG profits. They also give the world a distorted view of American life. Poor people living in hovels made from discarded packing cases in Brazil, India, i.e. the so-called "third world", see this trash and want a part of it. And this is the plan: to sanitize the minds of the peoples of the "third world" into thinking that only through capitalism can this pseudo-world be realized.

Impression Sunrise - Monet

We are now at the beginning of the 21st century; if one compares our time to the beginning of the last century we can see that not a lot has changed. Wars are in no shortage, they’re all over the place; there is a nice one going on in Iraq. Sorry, I stand corrected, that nice man Mr. George W Bush, who of course only has the good of the Iraqi people at heart, said it was over in May.

There is also no shortage of famine and slavery, the old type and the new type. The difference is that today it is called sex slavery, and in the old days they were called bondage and serfdom (the latter those nasty communists got rid of in Czarist Russia). But the Lord be praised it’s back.

However not everything is the same though, as at the turn of the 20th century art and music was vibrant, undergoing a revolution the likes of which had not been seen even during the renaissance period. The advancement of photography during the 19th century had lessened the demand for portraits and bland landscapes. And in the case of Marcel Duchamp it had even influenced him. After seeing a multi exposure of a man running he produced Nude descending a staircase. Artists such as the Englishman Turner started to paint in a different way, a non-representative way. The French artist Monet on a visit to London on seeing Turner’s work painted Impression Sunrise, which gave this new form of art its name, Impressionism.

Nude descending a staircase 

In 1913 Igor Strawinsky’s new ballet The rights of spring was given its first performance in Paris. There was a near riot, as the rich conservative audience could not take this new form of music and the sets designed by Picasso. This was a good sign as new art is always hard for the establishment to accept.

Art and music progressed throughout the 20th century. Impressionism led to surrealism, cubism. Great writers sprung forth writing novels that questioned the social structure of the times. Where are their equivalent today?

It is true that many of the patrons of the arts were capitalists and aristocrats but this is not new. For hundreds of years the kings and Queens of Europe had encouraged and commissioned great names such as Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Bach, Hydn etc. In England although the reformation had destroyed much of English art, the theatre had remained, and Shakespeare and Marlow were seen by the ordinary masses.

Who are the sponsors of today’s art? Multi nationals like Coca-Cola, who of course will only sponsor nice clean uncontroversial stuff, so as not to tarnish their clean image. The fact that they exploit migrant workers from across the Mexican border is a fact they don’t mention. So consequentially the art of to day is moribund, and when future generations look back at this period in time they will feel sad for the people who had to endure such a bland world.

The rot seems to have begun to set in after the Second World War. Europe was decimated, America was king. The USA had everything, money, its entire manufacturing infrastructure was undamaged, and there was the now victorious bogeyman the USSR. The US imperialists had to dominate the so-called free world, and like an unstoppable cancer this meant total domination. Also a new baby had arrived: Television.

At first because of radio’s domination in the US the networks were reluctant to invest in this new medium. The three big networks NBC, ABC and CBS were making plenty of money out of radio, which of course in the US was totally commercial. But slowly one network after another started to broadcast TV and the stage was set for what we have today, almost total world "cultural" US domination.

Countries such as France - who naturally want to preserve their own culture have quotas on how much non-French programming is allowed on French TV - are looked upon as an enemy. Because the American programmes are only a vehicle to sell US products - like Coca-Cola, Macdonald’s - you know their names. They are all part of the imperialist bland subculture invasion of the world.

What does the future hold for art? This question has to be linked with the general question. What does the future hold for humankind. Capitalism has only one driving force, profit. It is blind and the market must dominate, and in the market the only value that can be put on an item is its monetary value. Here is one example. Van Gogh died a pauper, yet his paintings are amongst the most valuable in the world, changing hands at auctions for millions of dollars. The buyers know they are buying a painting, but it is primarily an investment. If for some reason Van Gogh should become unfashionable tomorrow, these so-called art lovers would divest themselves of their Van Goghs just like dealers get rid of falling shares on the floor of the stock market.

A little known thing about the aftermath of the September 11 attack on the Twin Towers was that all the rubble was religiously sifted through to search for any of the many priceless works of art that may have survived the attack. All they found was a twisted metal sculpture. I suppose the lost works of art were not insured against being destroyed in a terrorist attack. Life is tough. Ask any of the countless people dying of hunger throughout this sad ugly world. This capitalist world!