Resisting the Commissars of Creativity

soviet violin IIIt is one of history’s great ironies that the brutality of Stalin’s regime shaped Dmitri Shostakovich’s genius, gifting us with one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century. Shostakovich was forced to play a game of cat and mouse with the Supreme Soviet, a regime that championed his work whilst simultaneously banning it.

The strained echoes of Russian folk music haunting his compositions are symbolic of the Soviets’ attack on romanticism. Marxism derided sentimentality as a bourgeois affectation. It preferred to champion the “rationalist” conceit of social justice through equality. The equality of the Siberian gulags, as it turned out. The Soviets went as far as to outlaw Christianity because it enshrined romantic love between a man and a woman in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, a union made before God that elided state power. In this utopian vision of the world, devoid of humility, there is no poetry, no justice, no God consciousness. In their stead, cold comfort and corpses strewn all around.

Today, in Australia, if you listen to the sloganeering of those functionaries in the arts community willing to demonise “the patriarchy” in favour of equality and an end to white male privilege, you could swear you were listening to one of Comrade Stalin’s soporific lectures to the Bolsheviks. Such propagandists found in the arts bureaucracy are not really interested in patriarchy theory any more than they are in the creation of art. They’re interested in the acquisition of power. If the rhetoric invested in patriarchal theory lines their pockets with public money, then, by definition, art has become a feminist hunting ground. Government mandarins may insist on their altruism in identifying what ‘minority’ group of musicians deserve to be playing centre stage, but the composition of the piece remains and its execution either pleases or displeases the listener.

It is through the evolution of custom or tradition, if you prefer, that the spark of civilisation is maintained. The presumption of innocence, the rule of law and the separation of powers are ideals that protect us from the tyranny of the state. When the ideology of the state elevates itself to the status of a religion and you can be found “guilty” of  secular blasphemy on the basis of an accusation such as “misogyny” without the protection of due process, then you can be sure that tyranny has prevailed.When the mob is allowed to destroy custom beyond recognition to “liberate” itself from the bonds of so-called “oppression,” a nihilistic force has been released, one that must be curtailed.

For how long can we deny the influence of Cultural Marxists in our institutions? How long can we tolerate those who would do us harm by claiming power on the basis of an alleged historical injustice? Power without responsibility is tyranny after all.

One thing is certain in these uncertain times: the need for truth, not propaganda, in art. Shostakovich’s genius lay in the fact that he was able to delineate truth despite the forces of antagonism aligned against him. May we find inspiration in his music to do the same.

Damien Richardson plays Gary Canning in Neighbours

  • IainC

    Most state-sponsored artists (the only legal ones under socialism) were parrots, disseminating the approved Party Line (which, annoyingly, changed frequently, so it paid not to be too slow in releasing your work) disguised in artistic clothing. A very few like Shostakovich successfully played the chicken game, overtly toeing the Line whilst subversively incorporating dissident elements. Some, like Pasternak, crossed the line and were duly punished. Current artists in the west are part of a similar phenomenon, parroting the Party Line and punishing the transgressors, not with the physical resources of the State, but with vilification, isolation, defunding and bullying. Conservative western-civilization aligned artists also need to cleverly incorporate their message these days, hidden behind shades of meaning that can be interpreted both ways. Capitalism (and western civilization, including the arts) IS in crisis, but not in the way it is usually framed.

  • Michael Galak

    the phenomenon you describe is called “Socialist realism’ depicting life not as it is but as it ought to be according to the Party line. Anyone, deviating from it would be denounced and starved of funds, recognition and the work itself. Alexandr Solzhenitzyn, in one of the accounts of his own struggles, aptly described Dmitry Shostakovich as an”imprisoned genius”. The list of talented Russians , who’s talent was throttled the Imperial and the Soviet Commissars is long and depressing. Who knows, what kind and what number of pearls of human culture we were deprived of by these cultural power grabbers, obsessed by the rules and regulations, in pursuit of self-righteousness, narrow , sectarian self-interest and dogma. In the absence of a workable alternative to a State funding, the war of independent art against the Marxist ideological narrative is going to be fought with no holds barred. I do not envy your task, Damien.

  • Damien Richardson

    If I was going to look for inspiration in his music, I’d start with the late quartets, 8 through to 15.

  • Jody

    Tangentially related to this essay; 40% of TOP TIER liberal arts colleges in the USA have no staff registered as Republicans!! The Left is far more sneering, vicious and entitled than any conservative would ever be!!


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