Litrature should not be judged from political point of view- Alan Woods


Alan Woods, editor In Defence of Marxism and leading international Marxist theoretician give excellent lecture on Marxism and Literature in Alhamrah Adabi Baithk Lahore. Alan spoke more than two hours and explained the relationship between the revolutionary movements and literature. Alan explained that literature must not be judged from political point of view but instead the poet, writer and novelist should express their emotions and inner feelings without any external pressures and influence. He criticised the Stalinist method of judging literature from pure political point of view.     Alan emphasized that Art and Literature must be free of all external constraints. The work of the artist or poet cannot be dictated to by the state, religion or political parties or by the dictatorship of Capital. “Capitalism is profoundly hostile to Art and culture,” Alan stated. “Somebody once told the English poet Robert Graves: ‘there is no money in poetry.’ To which Graves replied: ‘no, but there is no poetry in money’.”

Alan began by explaining the history of Literature from a remote period when writing was still not discovered. The earliest kind of poetry known to us is orally recited poetry, especially early epic poetry such as Homer in Greece. This oral poetry was the means by which traditions, religious beliefs, laws and customs were transmitted from one generation to another. Passing rapidly through the literature of Greece and Rome, Alan explained how the decay and fall of slave society led to a collapse of culture, which only began to revive in the later Middle Ages with the emergence of a new bourgeois culture in the towns, particularly in Italy and the Netherlands. This was the basis of the Renaissance which anticipated the bourgeois revolutions in Holland and England.

Alan pointed to the revolutionary role played by the great English poet John Milton, the author of Paradise Lost, who also wrote numerous revolutionary pamphlets such as the areopagitica, a fierce defence of the freedom of speech and liberty of the press.

Alan explained the relationship between French Classicism and the Absolutist regime which was blown apart by the French revolution of 1789-93. This prepared the ground for the enormous flowering of Literature and Art in 19th century France and a new school of literary realism. Alan pointed out that one of Marx’s favourite authors was the French novelist Balzac. He considered that one could learn more about French society after the revolution by reading these novels than from any history book. “Politically speaking Balzac was a conservative. But his novels held up a mirror to the French bourgeois society and mercilessly exposed all its vices,” Alan said.

Finally, Alan Woods underlined the colossal social and cultural liberation that was brought about by the October revolution in Russia. He pointed to the work of the Bolshevik poet Mayakovski as a striking example of this. “Propaganda, of course, can never be great art. Genuine art must express the inner feelings of the artist or the poet. But in the case of great poet like Mayakovski, his revolutionary convictions are expressed in a very graphic way in his poetry.“ Alan then proceeded to recite one of Mayakovski’s poems “Our March” in English and in Russian, showing the powerful effects that this great poet was able to achieve.

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