The State of the Arts under Communism

Brian Micklethwait comments on a piece by Alan Little, who is asking: “So why does art produced under Stalin not make me queasy whereas art produced under Hitler does?”

Because it is simply not true that all works of art and letters produced under the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century were somehow sanctioned for publication or approved by those regimes. On the contrary, one can argue that the greatest works, especially of literature, were created in spite of, not with the approval of dictators and their societies.

Shostakovich’s music was not composed by a Stalinist, but by a man who lived under Communism, in its Stalinist and later incarnations. After all, most great art and literature did not originate in liberal democracies big on human rights as we understand them now.

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