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New Left Review 112, July-August 2018

john willett


The story of the cultural repercussions of the revolutions of 1917–19 took some time to unfold. Recounted with enthusiasm at the time and in the period immediately following, it passed into a curious limbo of forgetfulness in the twenty years between Hitler’s ascent to power and the death of Stalin. It was only in the 1960s that the history began once again to be studied seriously. Even those cases where the documentation had not been destroyed or scattered, in the three countries most directly concerned—the Soviet Union, Germany and Hungary—there was a positive official determination to ignore it, while elsewhere many of the cultural productions themselves could be studied only at second hand. It seemed that between the outbreak of the First World War and the eruption of Surrealism in Paris at the end of the 20s, the history of art presented only a black hole in which nothing well defined could be ascertained. Only when these three countries decided to acknowledge their modern inheritance and to share it—if only with a thousand provisos—could historians begin to fill in the gap. [1] This essay was first published in Italian translation in Eric Hobsbawm, Georges Haupt et al., eds, Storia del marxismo, Vol. iii, Il marxismo nell’età della Terza Internazionale, part 1. Della rivoluzione dell’Ottobre alla crisi del ’29, Turin 1980, and published here in English for the first time. Footnotes supplied by nlr.

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John Willett, ‘Art and Revolution’, NLR 112: £3

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