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Socialist Literature

Theory and Practice


Abdulla M. Al-Dabbagh

Socialist Literature studies the relationship between the development of socialist literary theory and the process of cultural transformation in modern society by tracing the outline of the theory in the works of Marx, Lenin, and Mao, and examining its reflection in actual works of literature. This analysis is set alongside a detailed examination of the literary part of the cultural superstructure in China and in the Soviet Union. Among the major literary and theoretical works discussed are The communist Manifesto, Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art, Gorky’s Mother, and the poetry of Mayakovsky.
Key issues, like the position of the writer in society, the relationship of the old and the new in literature, and the much discussed relationship between the «creator» and the «audience,» are examined and explained in a different light by regarding them as more than purely theoretical issues or abstract cultural problems and, instead, considering them as social issues that can only be settled at the level of practice.
Abdulla Al-Dabbagh amplifies the area of research by discussing some of the major opposing positions to the theory outlined and, by examining at length the portrayal of proletarian heroism, one of its key concepts, in the literary works of the same epoch. The result of the close textual analysis of a large number of major works of poetry, drama, and fiction reveals the course of the artistic development to be complementary to that of the theoretical advance.
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4 Counter-Currents





The opposition to the theory of the relationship between modern society and its cultural superstructure referred to in the first three chapters of this work proceeds in two different ways. Sometimes it is asserted that culture is a virtually negligible force in the process of social change and that economics and politics are always the decisive forces and the crucial domains in which change can take place. Such a position downgrades the role of culture generally and denies that there can be any proletarian socialist transformation of culture. Consequently it places a one-sided, mechanistic emphasis on the role of economic work or political work in the socialist revolution. Minimizing the role of culture to such a degree and separating it from the political struggle of the proletariat, it advocates, finally, a laissez-faire, or liberalistic and anarchist attitude toward the cultural domain which leads effectively to the abandonment of that sphere to the bourgeoisie. The second approach reaches the same conclusion and calls for the same mechanical split between culture and politics, but in a different way. Instead of belittling the role of culture in relation to the economic structure and to the play of political forces in society, it generally over-estimates that role. Emanating from an idealist standpoint, it declares culture to be, not the reflection of a particular socio-economic structure, albeit an active material reflection that becomes at times the decisive factor for change, but a totally...

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