Communists Maneuver to Control Art in the United States
Mr Speaker, twenty-three of the officers and directors of the Artists’ Equity Association are sponsoring the pro-Soviet Cultural and Scientific Conference now being held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. There will be mass picketing there this evening and perhaps tomorrow. I mention that as an introduction to the remarks I am now about to make on the subject of Communists’ maneuver to control art in the United States.
Exposure of Communist infiltration in the United States has been directed principally toward the fields of government and labor. We have been neglectful of the knowledge that communism is a hydraheaded serpent that attacks the true democracies on all fronts, political, social, economic, scientific, cultural. Generally we have been blind to the fact that Communist standards of measurement and Communist undermining of our traditional values have made broad progress in one of our great cultural fields – the field of art. The average American has only limited knowledge of the importance of art in our national existence. Art is a large and important factor in our educational system, in our repositories of culture, as represented by such public institutions as libraries and museums, in our great endowments and philanthropic organizations, and, through commercial art, in our great fields of industry.
In the Communist campaign to undermine the standards of American culture through the substitution of Marxist standards, the comrades have followed the same practices, the same technique, which they have established in other fields. Fortunately, we are able to identify their propaganda in art, and if we are alert to contemporary activities, can put the finger on the latest moves in the campaign of Communist infiltration.
The Communist-front organization is the same in the field of art as it has been in the field of political ideology. A disguised structure is built up and, when its true purpose is disclosed to the public, it fades from view – to be followed by an organization with a new name, but controlled by the same Marxist individuals. […]
* * *
The Artists’ Equity Association was formed at a meeting held in the Modern Museum of Art in April of 1947. It seems to be rising phoenixlike out of the members of the American Artists’ Congress which is described on page 5 of Citations, a pamphlet by an official Government agency, showing organizations and publications found to be Communist or Communist fronts, as typical of Communist-created and controlled organizations. This seeming immortality of the left-dominated culture groups is due to the apathy and confusion in artistic circles. In the Red camp, where they have tasted victory by measure of their continuous attention to organization, no such apathy exists. […]
* * *
On the board of Artists Equity we find the name of Ben Shahn. He was one of the New Yorkers who worked with Mexican Red Diego Rivera on the mural which included Lenin in its design. It was removed from the walls of Radio City Building in New York. He was a member of the John Reed Club, listed in Citation as a Communist organization named in honor of John Reed, who was one of the earliest Communist leaders in the United States. Later he became a member of the American Artists’ Congress and right up to the present he has continued his revolutionary aim. He is now in the National Council of Arts, Sciences, and Professions.
Max Weber, another of the many Artists’ Equity Association key men who have long Red records, and who has received tremendous publicity throughout America, due to the predominance of Marxian critics rather than art critics on our papers, is quite a favorite among the appreciators of Communist culture. Even before the revolutionary armory exhibition of 1913 he was an intimate of Picasso, the Communist artist in Paris, and was an influential factor in foisting a Communist international criterion into the judging of art in America. […]
* * *
. . . One could continue at great length to enumerate the Communist-front connections of these officials in the Artists’ Equity Association. However, these facts are portentous enough to convey the seriousness of the situation and to impress upon you the ulterior purpose behind this so-called art group, and to disclose its progress.
Through the aid of Marxist evaluators in the cultural sphere, leftists in art have succeeded in lowering, and are attempting to break down the standard to which artists of the past adhered – to be worthy of the calling of art.
The veritable wave of would-be painters, sculptors, with which America is drenched is directly traceable to the need of the Red culture group to create a numerically strong Communist art movement. The fact that the quality of both art and artists is inferior in no way deters them – though it should strike a warning note to all real Americans. * * *
We are dealing with a subtle enemy. Let every loyal citizen be on guard against this insidious menace to our way of life.
Modern Art Shackled to Communism
Mr Speaker, quite a few individuals in art, who are sincere in purpose, honest in intent, but with only a superficial knowledge of the complicated influences that surge in the art world of today, have written me – or otherwise expressed their opinions – that so-called modern or contemporary art cannot be Communist because art in Russia today is realistic and objective.
The left-wing art magazines advance the same unsound premises of reasoning, asserting in editorial spasms that modern art is real American art. They plead for tolerance, but in turn tolerate nothing except their own subversive ‘isms.’
The human art termites, disciples of multiple ‘isms’ that compose so-called modern art, boring industriously to destroy the high standards and priceless traditions of academic art, find comfort and satisfaction in the wide dissemination of this spurious reasoning and wickedly false declaration, and its casual acceptance by the unwary. […]
As I have previously stated, art is considered a weapon of communism, and the Communist doctrinaire names the artist as a soldier of the revolution. It is a weapon in the hands of a soldier in the revolution against our form of government, and against any government or system other than communism.
From 1914 to 1920 art was used as a weapon of the Russian Revolution to destroy the Czarist Government, but when this destruction was accomplished, art ceased to be a weapon and became a medium of propaganda, picturing and extolling the imaginary wonders, benefits and happiness of existence under the socialized state.
Let me trace for you a main artery from the black heart of the isms of the Russian Revolution to the very heart of art in America.
In 1914 Kandinsky, a Russian-born Expressionist and nonobjective painter, who found it safer to live in Germany, returned to Russia, and three years later came the revolution. He is the man who preached that art must abandon the logical and adopt the illogical. He dominated a group of black knights of the isms, who murdered the art of the Russian academies. They were Cubists, futurists, Expressionists, Constructionists, Suprematists, Abstractionists, and the rest of the same ilk. Kandinsky was a friend of Trotsky, and after the revolution founded the Moscow Institute of Art culture. He was Communist leader in Red art – the commissar of the isms.
Kandinsky remained in Russia until 1921, when the art of the isms began to feel the iron grip of the new art control, the art for the sake of propaganda, the art of social realism. Kandinsky went back to Germany.
The Communist art that has infiltrated our cultural front is not the Communist art in Russia today – one is the weapon of destruction, and the other is the medium of controlled propaganda. Communist art outside Russia is to destroy the enemy, and we are the enemy of communism. Communist art in Russia is to delude the Russian workers.
The art of the isms, the weapon of the Russian Revolution, is the art which has been transplanted to America, and today, having infiltrated and saturated many of our art centers, threatens to overawe, override and overpower the fine art of our tradition and inheritance. So-called modern or contemporary art in our own beloved country contains all the isms of depravity, decadence, and destruction.
What are these isms that are the very foundation of so-called modern art? They are the same old lot of the Russian Revolution, some with transparent disguises, and others added from time to time as new convulsions find a new designation. I call the roll of infamy without claim that my list is all-inclusive: dadaism, Futurism, constructionism, suprematism, cubism, expressionism, surrealism, and abstractionism. All these isms are of foreign origin, and truly should have no place in American art. While not all are media of social or political protest, all are instruments and weapons of destruction. [… ]
Cubism aims to destroy by designed disorder.
Futurism aims to destroy by the machine myth. […]
Dadaism aims to destroy by ridicule.
Expressionism aims to destroy by aping the primitive and insane. [… ]
Abstractionism aims to destroy by the creation of brainstorms.
Surrealism aims to destroy by the denial of reason.
* * *
[…] The evidence of evil design is everywhere, only the roll call of the art contortionists is different. The question is, what have we, the plain American people, done to deserve this sore affliction that has been visited upon us so direly; who has brought down this curse upon us; who has let into our homeland this horde of germ-carrying art vermin?
* * *
We are now face to face with the intolerable situation, where public schools, colleges, and universities, art and technical schools, invaded by a horde of foreign art manglers, are selling to our young men and women a subversive doctrine of ‘isms,’ Communist-inspired and Communist-connected which have one common, boasted goal – the destruction of our cultural tradition and priceless heritage. […]
In my previous addresses on this subject, I have used the word infiltration in describing the present Red element in American art. This is an understatement. Communist art, aided and abetted by misguided Americans, is stabbing our glorious American art in the back with murderous intent.
The two speeches were delivered on 25 March and 16 August 1949.