Ars Vitae: Art as a Weapon
Not all great men of history are good men. Some are evil and are malefactors of mighty magnitude. Vladimir Lenin certainly exemplifies that description in every aspect. His life did more to bring misery to the 20th Century than anyone else who existed, even including Hitler. Tragically, his evil lives on in ways even he himself could never have schemed for or even imagined.
Historians argue over what makes individuals heroic. Some argue for circumstance, positing that if Julius Caesar had grown up illiterate in 640 A.D., no one alive today would even know his name. Others would counter that if Thomas Edison had grown up illiterate in 640 A.D., the printing press would have been invented nine centuries or so earlier.
I take the Oprah Winfrey approach to heroes in history, and argue that greatness emerges where opportunity meets with preparation. This involves both a deterministic and a volitional component. The preconditions have to exist for a hero, or an antihero, to make a difference. Also, that individual has to combine unflagging will, with a broad, imaginative vision and a certain morality of altitude and distance so that personal conscience can be turned off and on whenever necessary. Lenin certainly exhibited all three of these traits to an outlying extreme.
Lenin decided early on that he would remake Russia in the image of Marx. He would endure humiliation, ridicule, imprisonment and even Civil War in order to achieve his ends. Nothing, not even intervention by the US Marine Corps, would deny Vladimir Lenin a Communist State in Russia.
Along his path to victory and power, Lenin remade the world around him in whatever way he needed to in order to advance his ideals and secure his power. Though his empire fell by the wayside, his influence has touched every society in the world. He has reached us all through agitprop, disguised as artistic vision. Vladimir Lenin's pointed and vile truism "Art, is a weapon." has become the guiding principal of most modern and post-modern artistic movements.
This effect swept through every major genre of art. This takeover started in the 1920's and pervaded every facet of the avant garde by the 1930's. Filmmaking provided the initial burst of normative artistic content. Russian filmmakers, such as Kuleshov and Eisenstien, reinvented how films got edited and produced in order to amplify political messages directed to the audience.
Montage editing became the principal black art of the propaganda filmmaker. The movie "Battleship Potempkin" best exemplifies this technique. "The Odessa Steps" scene brilliantly uses a reordered sequence of events to amplify human emotions of empathy, fear and sadness to make the audience sympathize with the filmmaker's point of view.
Painters and writers fell in line with Lenin's movement in short order as well. Picasso's masterwork "Guernica" tells the story of Franco's despotism through the manipulation of Expressionistic Techniques. Kirchner's criticisms of German Society abound in painting such "Street with Red Coquette". Paul Klee's "Twittering Machine" and Munch's "Scream" exemplify the contempt these artists held for the mainstream of contemporary society and expressed a deep and primal desire to see that world destroyed. They provided a visual outlet for the war cry of the barbarian who wanted nothing more than to watch Rome burn.
Authors such as Alan Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac brought this artistic movement to the United States and infected popular music and literature with a mordant hatred of modernism, industry and progress. Behind the Dionysian call to revelry and the utopian dream of Socialist brotherhood, there was always the implied desire to overturn the current order and supplant the social certitudes upon which it rested. Lenin's nihilistic and almost martial vision of art became the unabashed driving vision of Rage Against the Machine and other members of the modern counterculture.
This is why "Roger and Me" and "Fahrenheit 9/11" are seen as works of art as well as political speech. This is the only reason they are accorded any more respect than "Some Dude Mouthing Off on the Internet; 30 July 2004."
Art was once a philosophical search for the truth. It has now become hopelessly politicized and dragged through the mud at the behest of Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin. We learn nothing from it now except to hate even more ferociously what Marx and his followers have done to modern humanity.