Someone has said that one of the criteria for winning the Turner Prize
is not to be understood. The philosophy behind this is: the less I am
understood, the better the art.Yet the kind of art that wins the Turner
competition also has merit. They have the merit of holding up a mirror to the
society that produced them, and saying: “This is what you are, and this is
all you are capable of producing.” These works point out to us that
beneath the sleek, comfortable bourgeois surface of modern society, horrors are
lurking: dead vermin, murder, death and decay.
“Art can neither escape the crisis nor partition itself off.
Art cannot save itself. It will rot away inevitably — as Grecian art rotted
beneath the ruins of a culture founded on slavery — unless present-day society
is able to rebuild itself. This task is essentially revolutionary in character.
For these reasons the function of art in our epoch is determined by its
relation to the revolution.” Leon Trotsky, 1938.
We publish here 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 (Spain),
in July 2001.
William Morris is probably known best today as a designer of wallpaper
and fabrics. This is a travesty. Morris was a revolutionary socialist,
a Marxist. Morris read Capital when it was only published in German,
and therefore unavailable to most British workers. Inspired, he joined the Democratic Federation, later called the
Social Democratic Federation, the first British Marxist organisation.
From that time on he was a tireless agitator for socialism till his
major exhibition of the photographic work of Alexander Rodchenko (1891-1956) is
currently on at the Hayward Gallery in London. It is sponsored by Roman Abramovich, the
billionaire owner of Chelsea Football Club and a supporter of the Moscow House
of Photography Museum whose director, Olga Sviblova, curated the show. This important Russian
considered one of the most versatile avant-garde artists to have emerged after the Russian