Bogdanov on the Proletariat and Art

Aleksandr Bogdanov, The Proletariat and Art. 1918


Bogdanov was the pseudonym of Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Malinovskii, comrade of Maksim Gorky and Anatolii Lunacharskii, and an early leader of the Bolshevik faction of the Social Democrats. After the October Revolution, he played a major role in the organization and propagation of Proletkult.

1. Art organizes social experiences by means of living images with regard both to cognition and to feelings and aspirations. Consequently, art is the most powerful weapon for organizing collective forces in a class society–class forces.

2. To organize his forces in his social work, his struggle and construction, the proletarian needs a new class art. The spirit of this art is collectivism of labor: it assimilates and reflects the world from the viewpoint of the labor collective, it expresses the relevance of its feelings, of its fighting spirit, and of its creative will.

3. The treasures of the old art should not be accepted passively; in those days they would have educated the working class in the cultural spirit of the ruling classes and thereby in the spirit of subordination to their regime. The proletarian should accept the treasures of the old art in the light of his own criticism, and his new interpretation will reveal their hidden collective principles and their organizational meaning. Then they will prove to be a valuable legacy for the proletarian, a weapon in his struggle against the same old world that created them and a weapon in his organization of the new world. The transference of this artistic legacy must be carried out by proletarian critics.

4. All organizations, all institutions, dedicated to developing the cause of the new art and of the new criticism must be based on close collaboration, one that will educate their workers in the direction of the Socialist ideal.

Source: John E. Bowlt, ed., Russian Art of the Avant-garde: theory and criticism, 1902-1934 (New York: Viking Press, 1976), pp. 176-177.

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