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.