Red Wedge is currently fundraising to attend the Historical Materialism conference in London. We need your help.
What is Red Wedge?
Red Wedge is the only English-language Marxist cultural website and publication dedicated to all aspects of creative culture (art, music, film, poetry, fiction, dance, etc.). We believe that art and creativity aren’t just side issues to the fight for a radically different future, but integral to it. The ability of ordinary people to imagine something different is essential to the socialist vision, and we seek to highlight art, music, poetry, fiction, film and analysis that help feed this radical imagination.
We see the forces of capitalism and the culture industries as a fetter on this imagination and on the development of art. But rather than dismiss “popular culture” as some irredeemable bogey, we ask what it would mean for the massive productive forces of cultural production – the film studios, the galleries, the record companies – to be in the hands of working people. Likewise we do not dismiss the artistic and aesthetic experimentation that characterizes the avant-garde as inherently elitist. We believe that it can be drawn out of the ivory towers of institutionalization and reinvigorated with the spirit of popular struggle.
What is Historical Materialism London?
Historical Materialism is a Marxist journal based in London. It holds conferences all over the world from Australia to Lebanon to Canada, and holds a flagship conference every year in London. Over the past nineteen years this conference has become a key place for socialist and radical thinkers to discuss the heady ideas related to a total transformation of society in a fresh light. This is done in the spirit of asking what works and what doesn’t, and rebuilding a vibrant, thinking socialist movement. According to their website:
Founded in 1997, [Historical Materialism] asserts that, notwithstanding the variety of its practical and theoretical articulations, Marxism constitutes the most fertile conceptual framework for analyzing social phenomena, with an eye to their overhaul. In our selection of materials, we do not favor any one tendency, tradition or variant. Marx demanded the “merciless criticism of everything that exists”: for us that includes Marxism itself.
With crisis and catastrophe, state repression and vicious inequality all increasing parts of daily life, this is the kind of approach we believe is needed.
What can Red Wedge bring to Historical Materialism?
We believe the weakness of contemporary cultural production is connected to a mutually reinforcing dyad of cultural disbelief in an alternative to capitalism (“There Is No Alternative”) and the real-world defeats of the past few decades. The imaginative center of the socialist brain has been deprived of oxygen. We see ourselves among the caretakers of a kernel of something different that could, or might, get it breathing once again. We want to network and argue with and learn from other cultural Marxists. We want to do a modest part in enlarging and enabling a new popular avant-garde – the new Brechts and Eisensteins and Rodchenkos and Kahlos and Godards and Bretons, fully acknowledging the intellectual and real-world ruins that surround us.
Historical Materialism brings out academics, yes. But it also brings out people – both in academia and outside of it – looking to better understand capitalism’s strengths and weaknesses so that they can bring what they learn back into workplaces and campuses and other sites of struggle. The flagship London conference also each year features a robust track of sessions on arts and culture (which we are hoping to contribute to; more on that below). Which means that there is the potential to also think through what it may mean for the gallery, the concert hall, the performance space, and the literary festival to also become a site of struggle.
The above is some of what we hope to bring to London.
What will Red Wedge do at Historical Materialism?
We are going to talk, listen, learn, argue points, and network with other cultural Marxists, left-wing artists and other comrades. We will have a table where we can distribute copies of Red Wedge and related materials.
We will also be launching our new pamphlet, “Notes On a 21st Century Popular Avant-Garde,” at HM. This is a pamphlet aimed at radicals, culture workers, intellectuals and activists that argues for a
Some things have to be done in real life. And Historical Materialism is the biggest academic Marxist conference (worth going to) that we know of. And the London meeting is the biggest and most representative of “cultural” issues up for serious discussion. We are organizing a panel entitled “Reclaiming the Popular Avant-Garde.”
The papers presented include:
- “For a 21st Century Avant-Garde” by Alexander Billet
- “The Democratic Image: Aesthetic Leveling and Differentiated Totality” by Adam Turl
- “The Thirst is Real: On Bringing Back the Popular Avant-Garde and Drinking the Lemonade” by Crystal Stella Becerril
Why can’t we pay for it?
We are from the class. We did not arrive fully formed from Zeus’s head; a petit-bourgeois Athena producing a pet project with trust fund money. We are underemployed, unemployed and working-class. We are adjuncts and service workers. We are paying as much as we possibly can. We will sleep on comrades' floors and in hostels. We will take the train and the bus. We will eat cheaply. But we need your help. We will do our best in London to raise discussion of the above ideas; remaining loyal to both art and working-class politics.
We have launched a GoFundMe account to raise money for plane tickets that includes some modest but fun rewards. Please help send us to London.
"Feuilleton" is the Red Wedge editors' blog focused on announcements, events and relevant debate.