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ROUDINE, V. " Art for the People? (The Slanderous Cinema)" [1913]. II
Transl. : Jesse COHN
Article published on 11 January 2005
last modification on 27 April 2015

by ps

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Following my article on "The Slanderous Cinema," some comrades began here a debate on the aesthetic education of the people. Certainly well-intentioned, they seek remedies for the devastation produced by dangerous films and they believe they have found them in this laconic formula: Art must be regenerated by the people. [1]

At the risk of sounding discouraging, I find this formula absolutely hollow.
It is nothing but a trompe-l’oeil.

Let us take for example the Theatre.

What does one understand by the Theatre "regenerated by the people"? Quite simply pieces with social "tendencies". i.e., a more or less gifted intellectual will compose a drama or a comedy inspired by the social question and will put class conflict on stage.

The psychology of the working class will be, in most cases, rather poorly grasped.

Where do you see in these processes the active collaboration of the people? It will be agreed that they play a rather passive role, these people who should regenerate art. They are used as studies, that is to say, but that is all.

Many times, one pursued this phantom of art by and for the people. I will recall only the period of 1892 to 1898, here in France. It is to anarchism that this noble mission then fell. A whole pleiad of young people wrote about it in Decadent and Symbolist reviews. I have some of most characteristic of these. All these poets merely used "art for the people" for the exaltation of their own personality.

Shall we re-examine these pleasant mystifications? If I began my preceding article by recalling Wagner’s broken dreams of a collective art, it is because I wanted to avoid misunderstandings.

I especially wanted to say that one should deal with this problem only by taking the industrial worker in his medium. However, after one week of working on the machines ­ fast work absorbing physical and intellectual energy ­ the cinema was to attract him irresistibly, him and his family. The bourgeoisie profits from it and finds film an excellent and powerful means of corrupting the mentality of the working spectator.

It is urgent to fight this harmful influence. The boycotting of the repugnant cinemas, the creation of our own cinemas, installed in the Bellevilloise, the Egalitaire, etc. (in lieu of anything better) appears absolutely necessary to me.

And the education of the worker’s aesthetic sense? one will ask me.
I see it outside of any contemporary art,– ­ art of the bourgeois intellectuals.

The true aesthetic sense of the people appears in its work. There, the worker is not a passive spectator, but a true creator.

Capitalist society generates the dislike of work. But in the society that we forge, work will flourish freely and the new technology will be the true art regenerated by the people!

Victor Roudine