Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Monday, February 27, 2012

Remembering Guernica

Stuart Hall - who was interviewed recently in The Guardian* - once asked the great Trinidadian Marxist C.L.R. James ‘about the three great moments in which he could see a single artist speaking on behalf of a whole historical revolutionary moment’.

‘He told me about the Acropolis, even though its architect is unknown. He told me about Shakespeare, and then he told me about Picasso’s “Guernica.” He said, “Look at Picasso. Look at ‘Guernica.’ A wonderful painting. What is it about? It is about the Spanish people. It is about the energies of the Spanish revolution. When you look at “Guernica” you see the whole movement, the whole maelstrom of the Spanish revolution encapsulated in an aesthetic form.”’**

Pablo Picasso’s 1937 masterpiece of ‘immeasurable chaos’ was a response to the Nazi Luftwaffe's bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War on 26 April 1937 - the first ever carpet bombing of an undefended civilian target. With the 75th anniversary coming up this year - and amidst a rising tide of propaganda designed to soften us all up for a military strike on Iran (though see this recent interview with Tariq Ali for why such an attack is currently probably not on the list of top priorities for the American Empire), Philosophy Football's anniversary T-shirt, reflecting Picasso's famous painting, bears timely witness to the collective memory of Guernica.

* Stuart Hall sounds particularly pessimistic in this interview because of his problematic association of Ed Miliband's Labour Party with 'the Left' in Britain. Recently the far-left - not least the SWP - has managed to deeply annoy the Tory Party and its rich supporters with its active and partly successful campaigning opposition to the exploitation of 'workfare'...
** Stuart Hall, ‘C.L.R. James: A Portrait,’ in Paget Henry and Paul Buhle (eds.), C.L.R. James’s Caribbean(London, Duke University Press, 1992), p. 15.

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