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Marxist Art Roster

These items comprised a semi-official syllabus of art for the "hard Left" in the Sixties. They are the figures who were given the right to speak by dogmatic socialists and "socialist scholars."

To explain further what this list means, Sartre was not counted as a Left icon, but rather as a figure of bourgeois decadence. (Ditto for Genet.) Only "Black Orpheus" would grudgingly have been granted Left interest. Feminism meant Simone de Beauvoir and was considered bourgeois.[1] Homosexuality was classified as bourgeois decadence.[2] Sex was excluded from the Left's program; hence Wilhelm Reich, a hero of Bohemia, was not a hero of the Left. Paul Goodman was considered an Establishment do-gooder. Vertov was too formalist to be beloved by labor radicals.

roster of art theorists





El Lissitzky






Mike Gold (CPUSA)





Dwight Macdonald

Madame Furtseva

Lee Baxandall

Howard Shulman, Palante

Frank Kofsky (SWP)

John Berger



the Situationists, Debord, Vaneghem

"third-world players in the metropolises"

Alioune Diop, owned Présence Africaine

Aimé Césaire

LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka)



Jean-Paul Sartre

Frank Kofsky


some artists with the Left's stamp of approval





the Mexican muralists -- Rivera etc.


Kurt Weill

Charlie Chaplin


Hugh McDiarmid


Howard Fast

Ilya Ehrenburg

Paul Robeson

Sean O'Casey

Clifford Odets

Salt of the Earth

Herbert Biberman

Paul Jarrico


selected publications

Radical Perspectives in the Arts, ed. Lee Baxandall

Lissitzky, lecture: Prouns (delivered in Inkhuk, U.S.S.R., 1921, unpublished)

Sophie Lissitzky-Küppers, El Lissitzky: Life, Letters, Texts (1968)

[S. O. Khan-Magomedov, Rodchenko: The Complete Work (1987)

Hugh Adams, "Alexander Rodchenko, the Simple and the Commonplace" Artforum, Summer 1979]

Ilya Ehrenburg, People and Life (New York, 1962), p. 274 for Mayakovsky

Leon Trotsky, Literature and Revolution (translation 1960)

Andrei A. Zhdanov, Essays on Literature, Philosophy, and Music (New York, 1950)

André Breton, Manifestos of Surrealism (Ann Arbor, 1969)

Bertolt Brecht, Brecht on Theatre (1978)

Situationist International Anthology, ed. Ken Knabb (Berkeley, 1981)

Walter Benjamin, Illuminations (tr. 1968)

Theodor W. Adorno, Philosophy of Modern Music (tr. 1973)

Theodor W. Adorno, Introduction to the Sociology of Music (tr. 1978)

T.W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory (1983)

Ernst Fischer, The Necessity of Art (1963)

Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization (1955), Ch. 9, "The Aesthetic Dimension"

Herbert Marcuse, Soviet Marxism (1958), pp. 129-135

Herbert Marcuse, "Art in the One-Dimensional Society" Arts Magazine, May 1967

Herbert Marcuse, The Aesthetic Dimension (1978)

John Berger, The Success and Failure of Picasso

Ways of Seeing

Toward Reality (New York, 1962)

John Zerzan, "The Case Against Art," Fifth Estate, Fall 1986

John Zerzan, Elements of Refusal (1988)

Dissent magazine; the "meaningless work" generation

Leslie Fiedler, An End to Innocence (1955)

C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite (1956)

Paul Goodman, Growing Up Absurd (1960)

Paul Goodman, Utopian Essays and Practical Proposals (1962)

Harvey Swados, A Radical's America (1962)


Irving Howe, Politics and the Novel (1957)

Lewis Coser and Irving Howe, The American Communist Party

Daniel Aaron, Writers on the Left

James Gilbert, Writers and Partisans

Harvey Swados, The American Writer and the Great Depression (1966)


Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre, "Orphée Noir" in Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache (Paris, 1948)

J.-P. Sartre, "Black Orpheus," in What Is Literature? (Harvard, 1988)

Aimé Césaire

"Poésie et connaissance"

Tropiques No. 12, 1945

"Poetry and Knowledge" is in Lyric and Dramatic Poetry, 1946-82 (1990) PQ 3949.C44.A24

André Breton

"Un grand poète noir"

Tropiques No. 11, 1944

"Aime Césaire: A Great Black Poet" in

André Breton, What Is Surrealism?, ed. F. Rosemont (New York, 1978)

LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Blues People (1963)

Frank Kofsky, Black Nationalism and the Revolution in Music (New York, 1970)