6 comments on “Mayakovsky

  1. HEAD AGAINST THE WALL

    (Philosophical-Moral Conclusion)
    Matter is hard,
    matter is indestructible:
    therefore matter
    does not understand
    matter is cruel.
    ROQUE DALTON
    Another poet who clashed with Stalinist-Maoist walls. He was eventually murdered by his own “revolutionary” comrades in 1975 in El Salvador. One of his assassins Joaquín Villalobos, is enjoying English hospitality in Oxford. Villalobos was the commander in chief of the ERP-FMLN when they demobilized in 1991 (?) and the Truth Commission found him guilty of war crimes. The British Government rewarded him with a master’s degree. Dalton was basically murdered because he was an honest revolutionary, like Mayakovsky, and Marxist authorities, not only they are intolerant but also lack sense of humour.

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  2. You can learn something of Mayakovsky and something of Trotsky from reading the article. Trotsky’s insights are not without bias but are not wholly useless.

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  5. Dave,

    There is much in what you say about Trotsky’s method in dealing with the art, artists and people in general that I agree with. And your central critique (that Trotsky evaluated artists and people by how much they agreed with him) is undoubtedly true. Of course Leon Trotsky, Trotskyists or Marxists are not the only people guilty of said crime. In deed, it seems to be pretty prevalent in our species. Marxists, surely should know better, but alas….

    We should be critical of everything we read. The most important, IMHO, task in critical appropriation of what other revolutionaries have said or done is to place them firmly in the reality and context of their time. In the social and ideological cauldron of the first half of the 20th century lines were drawn in ways that seem totally out of bounds to us now. The kind of firm authority that nearly every question was approached, including the most minor, is not just a fault of Trotsky’s method (which it may well be) but the consequence, at least in part, of a life and death struggle. One where ideological lines were drawn out so sharply because the class struggle itself was so sharp.

    I wish it had been different and the dead Russians had really handed us a spotless banner. There are, of course, no spotless banners. But your points are well taken and I too urge people to read Mayakovsky. I wouldn’t have sought to mark the anniversary of his death if I didn’t. Read it critically as well, as all things should be read, including Leon Trotsky, The Rustbelt Radical and Dave Riley.

    Comrades can read another piece that I thought about putting up on Mayakovsky by Lunacharsky (who has his own faults, though somewhat different from LT’s), but it’s a bit long for a blog at http://www.marxists.org/archive/lunachar/1931/mayakovsky.htm

    RR

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  6. Trotsky does Mayakovsky a great disservice in this piece. As with so much of his writing on art and literature, Trotsky always pitched his critiques at a sort of threshold that set the artist an impossible task — ie: to become Trotsky, as only a Trotskyist is as one with the revolution. This approach has been replicated since by all the later Trotskyist commentators on art and literature such that now it is an identifiable template, full of verve and of much substance but inevitably marking down the subject person for failing to be as truly ruly revolutionary as the Trots would always inevitably prefer.

    And the Trotskyists don’t get it when they are accused of having a programatic fetish!

    Mayakovsky was Mayakovsky — a person who made the best out of what talents he had in the circumstances of his historical and personal experience. Inasmuch as his poetry, plays and graphics mean anything they reflect where he was coming from in that context. That’s all. That’s how you judge him, not on how much he fell short of the “Old Man’.

    You ever wonder why no artist gets ten out of ten from Trotsky? That’s because they were artists and not Bolshevik cadre — and that’s what they wanted to be. That was their achievement, their passion, and their legacy. Trotsky wrote all this stuff about freedom and art, but really the main game was about freeing up artists so that they could support his POV.

    And Leon Trotsky comes along with a deft hand at a pen and a penchant for modern French literature and weaves this tantalising methodology which marked him off as a cultural commentator who in turn attracted a line of leftward veering artists to his banner. And this ‘fit’ so impacts on the Trotskyist tradition that artists outside it — those who did not pass through his iconographic anointing — are ignored or dismissed as Stalinised hacks.

    Even Mayakovsky elsewhere by LT is denigrated as a creature of Futurism.

    I fear it’s a delightful con. That in trying to make a cultural stand against the rigors and constrictions of Stalinism in the Soviet Union, Trotsky constructs an alternative theory for art and literature that sentences art to being intellectural exercises that can only be measured against the Trotskyist program.

    Even when you start to tick off all those artists who were attracted to Trotsky every one of them were fly by nights who were in many instances only caught up in the lure of his creative use of language. But when you step aside form that and actually try to deal with the everyday struggle of artists to both express themselves and our collective condition it comes across just so much verbiage.

    Trotsky wrote profiles/biographies the exact same way — and in like manner so too does his followers.

    If anyone wants to understand what Mayakovsky was about — then go and read him! All of him! The plays and poems and such. And then come back to this piece of manipulated fluff and try to work out how relevant it supposedly is to anything. Thank god we don’t rely on Trotsky mark out Mayakosvky’s measure!

    He would have long been forgotten!

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