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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Proletkult is an portmanteau of "proletarskaya kultura" (пролетарская культура), Russian for "proletarian culture". It was a movement active in the Soviet Union in 1917/1925 to provide the foundations for a truly proletarian art devoid of bourgeois influence. Its main theoretician was Alexander Bogdanov (1873–1928) who saw the proletkult as a third part of a trinity of revolutionary socialism. Where the unions would attend to the proletariat's economic interests and the communist party, their political interests, the Proletkult would look after their cultural and spiritual life. Other influential figures include Anatoli V. Lunacharsky (18751933), Aleksei Gastev, Fedor Kalinin and Mikhail Gerasimov; plastic arts were influenced initially by constructivism, literature and music by futurism; with reference to Lenin ("On proletarian culture'" 1920) experimental art was disapproved.

Leon Trotsky and A. K. Voronsky fought against the proletarian culture movement, labeling it self-contradictory and antithetical to the marxist position to bourgeois art and science. Trotsky and Voronsky argued that the proletariat must hold aloft the highest technical, artistic, and scientific achievements of the bourgeoisie, as they are universal to all of humanity. In addition, Trotsky argued that it would be impossible for the proletariat to develop its own artistic forms, since by the time the proletariat succeeds in its historical mission of overthrowing the international bourgeoisie it will cease to exist as a social class.

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