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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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In summing up, if we look back at what has been covered in the previous chapters, we observe the steady continuity of development of socialist literature and of the socialist theory of literature and cultural revolution. For example, Marx regarded the abolition of the natural division of labor as the central task of the revolution in culture, literature and art. He argued that the division between mental and physical labor was the historical basis that gave rise to developed human consciousness, albeit in a false form. Human beings could formulate abstract ideas and proceed with the philosophic, artistic, religious and other creations of the mind only when they were “emancipated” from practical contact with material reality. This advance, however, entailed a falsehood from its very inception. They imagined that the ideas of the mind, the products of their evolved consciousness, had no relation with the material world and were somehow superior to it.

According to Marx, human consciousness is a false consciousness as long as it is dependent upon this illusory emancipation from practical activity. The genuine emancipation of consciousness can only begin through the recognition of the primacy of practical activity. Similarly, the flowering of intellectual talent in a few individuals was abortive because it was based upon its suppression in the majority who were tied to physical labor. Thus, the artist in bourgeois society, and in any class society, was condemned by his own very “talent.” The subordination of the individual to the division...

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