As someone with an interest in literature and criticism, but also as someone who is a revolutionary communist, Marxist criticism and theory, specifically in the Humanities, plays a major role in my thought. Or, one would at least think that it would play a major role.
Truthfully, I have spent the last few years since I entered university immersed more in poststructualist and postmodernist works than Marxist ones. This was done on purpose. After all, I figure if there was ever a time to engage with the study of such works, then as an Undergraduate would be the time and the place since, as a possible graduate student, I would return to a full-fledged Marxist praxis.
The downside to this was that though I learned a great deal about postmodernism and its nascent philosophy, my study of Marxism had suffered; I engaged in a plethora of electric theory at the cost of limiting my knowledge of concrete applicable theory.
While my engagements in posstructualism were well founded and will continue under the auspices of seeing how classical Marxist theory may be improved or altered so as to achieve new goals under increasingly stratified new intellectual conditions, I believe now will be a good time, seeing as how it is summer and I have a bit of a breather from university, to dive back into Marxist thought on art and criticism.
As such, I decided to write a series of abstracts. These “red” abstracts focused on Marxist pieces concerning art and artistic practice, will cover a wide range of figures and sources. But, that is the long term goal. At the moment, I am preoccupied with Mao and the Maoist contribution to criticism and practice: how art was viewed, practiced, and criticism wielded.
I start with the Maoist tradition for several reasons. One, because what many people forget is that Mao was not merely a military strategist, or a politician. He was a philosopher and a teacher. Mao was someone deeply concerned about human existence, behavior, and how it dwelt alongside art and culture. He wrote a great deal on philosophy, practice, and humanity as it struggled in revolutionary upheavals. Moreover, as I was at pains to see as I read Mao’s corpus of writings, was that there is a lot of unexplored potential in Mao’s works, potential which could possibly have great resonance if applied to contemporary times and augmented by new theoretical lenses.
The second reason I start with the Maoists is because of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (or simply the Cultural Revolution for short, or the GPCR). It was a world historic event and one which is the high-water mark for revolutionary practice, theory, and ideology. Its impact on how we can now view the Vanguard party, revisionism, capitalist restoration, and practice (both activism and armed struggle) cannot be ignored. To do so would be to throw away a monumental learning experience. Because of this, I feel that a great deal of the GPCR can be studied either directly as artistic practice (in how cultural and artistic units conducted themselves and their ideology and practice) or in the abstracted sense of ‘brainstorming what can be parsed from its triumphs and limitations.’
In sum: Mao Tse-tung Thought, its philosophy and practice contains potential to be realized. So I want to see what I am able to learn from the myriad of writings, polemics, and texts; what can be discerned, extrapolated, and understood from one of the greatest periods of human history. This will be the template by which other Marxist-artistic practices will be judged and what, by extension, can be imparted by an engagement between the two.
So, knowing this, I have devised a simple format for how this series will function: each abstract will feature a specific piece and will be numbered accordingly (i.e., ‘Abstract-1’ and so forth). The numbered piece, however, will only contain a summery and overview of the piece which was read; for the critical engagement(s), those will follow after the numbered pieces as abstracts assigned letters after the numbers. So, as an example, the engagement with Abstract-1’s content will be labeled as ‘Abstract-1(A)’ and so on down the alphabet until the engagements for that particular abstract have been exhausted. This way ensures that should I desire to move on and read and engage with other Marxist-artistic pieces, I can always return to an earlier pieces, engage with it, and post up the engagement without readers becoming confused; everything is, in short, strictly numbered and ordered. Coherency is maintained.