Art & the Collectivist

Painting: Pavel Bryullov – Spring

“Our blustering civilization has completely robbed us 
of a concentrated inner life, dragged our souls out into a bazaar,
whether of commerce or of party politics.” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

            A politically “progressive” atmosphere is transformative to the artist because this means he is confined to the straight jacket of approved language and motions. Therefore, it is my assertion that the true artist can never be a collectivist because the two work at cross purposes. It is indeed true that the collectivist can have expressive tendencies, but his desire for Utopia overrides his urgency for free, artistic creation. The artist, at least in the traditionally accepted sense, has been encouraged to explode all ideas so that in his journey he finds the thousands of scattered truths amongst the rubble of falsehoods. In his unrelenting questing for the truth society as a whole benefits because it reinforces what works and the rest is discarded as useless, or at least, irrelevant information.

            One does not have to look further than the case of Aleksey Tolstoy, son of a count distantly related to the great Russian author Leo Tolstoy. Aleksey moved back to his Motherland after a short jaunt as a pro-monarchist (“White” Russian – Rightist in Soviet parlance) around Europe, and on his return, he quickly began to glorify Stalin (his quick conversion was highly suspect but became accepted in time). As a reward for his work, Tolstoy received the Stalin Prize and was appointed to the premier Soviet artistic direction council. Tolstoy himself several times confesses in personal letters how disappointing the Soviet Union has become in regards to society and art generally. A confession which would have dangerous repercussions if exposed given the authoritarian climate. George Orwell, upon reflection of Tolstoy, rightly proclaimed him as nothing more than a “literary prostitute”.

            The artist in the Statist society is seen as a cudgel for the regime to consolidate power and build spheres of influence. It is inevitable that in a heavily bureaucratic culture the creative ones cannot help but become muzzled and transmuted into an organ of state propaganda, especially if they seek to make a comfortable living.

            A well-known New York Times writer named Walter Duranty also fell victim to this artistic prison. Witnessing firsthand socialism’s blooded costs in Southern Russia, he wrote back home to the States that all was copacetic on the Communist frontier. His artistic legacy being thoroughly tarnished with the light of truth. In short, he downplayed the Holodomor, or in its original Ukrainian name, морити голодом (moryty holodom – to kill by starvation). Walter was robbed of true artistic expression, that is, expression of truth through the human to the human, because of the certain, inescapable collectivist regime. The socialist ideology being a blockade for the artist to covey his artistic voice to the masses.

               Stalin thoroughly understood the artist in a Statist society. Such discussions around his inner circle included if Jazz was considered “Western”. To have ruminations if a genre of music is to be allowed in a country should give the free individual pause. Why is the state deciding which artists the people should listen to? Worse even, to deprive the artist to create! Such ideations made the Soviet regime interpret a whole new style of art, named Socialist Realism. The new art was to be scattered everywhere and to remind workers of the Great Revolution.  A complete reconditioning of society as the Politburo sees fit. Everywhere to be seen great statues of marble were to be sculpted of Stakhanovites (стахановское) hard at work for the motherland. A perversion of art at the sake of politics. Absolutely disgusting.

            The point being here is that if an artist is truly concerned with art and the continuation of artistic freedom, collectivism is the anathema. The artist must always favor freedom of speech and freedom of thought, I.E, Classical Liberalism. The erosion of either of these means the obviation of the artists’ duty, that is to create as he sees fit, free from external coercion. Just as collectivist States always loot the Wests’ meritocratic treasures, so the Statists rob the artist of his creative gold.

            Of course, there is a boundary to this, as art is subjective. The line in the sand being physical and tangible harm. This argument must not be interpreted as the artist as anarchy, only that he himself is free to express himself without violating the non-aggression principle. Moreover, the artist can paint the famous ‘Saturn Devouring His Son’, a vivid scene of violence, but this scene is metaphysical and is not enticing violence but only conveying a story through paint. It is worth noting that only in a liberal, or at least bureaucratically lax society, this type of painting can be made. The artist painting Chairman Mao in 1950’s China in an unflattering way would almost certainly be sanctioned, if not disappeared. Therefore, it must be maintained that the creative ones stress a free society. Anyone objecting to this must consider the countless examples of artists using pseudonyms to publish their art due to authoritarian backlash.

            Within the free marketplace of ideas, the best ones win out. Whether it be of art, science, politics, or economics. The truth always wins. Authoritarian regimes cannot withstand a climate of truth. Without their suppression of speech and ideas, the populace becomes inflamed and tired of the lash. So to with the artist. The artist is inherently introspective, and this introspection is only expressed through free representation. Without this free expression, the artist is shackled. And as the artist is chained, the truth cannot be deciphered. Thus, a society stagnates. The artist must be free. True artistry within collectivism is strictly impossible.  

Further notes:
No government has the right to
• decide on the truth of scientific principles,
• determine the aesthetic values of artistic creations,
• limit the forms of literary or artistic expression,
• pronounce on the validity of historic, religious or philosophical doctrines.

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