Monday, June 27, 2016

When artists from a middle-class background expressed their disgust, their non-belonging, they remained stuck in the background by digging in individual pain; but by writing they got closer to the people who viewed their activity as an unnecessary, luxurious extravagance. Perhaps they themselves did not yet comprehend, perhaps they would never transcend their desperateness, their powerlessness, never be able to transfer their disquiet to a search for political insights, would despise their origins only generally and not to manage to join the forces of upheaval. However, the movement they found themselves in, whether mournful of frenzied, single-minded or uncertain, was large enough to make it clear to us that the struggle to advance was being waged everywhere, that the rules, the methods of expression were going though a metamorphosis, that they were disintegrating in some places, being renewed in others. Full of misunderstanding, the members of middle strata, of the petty bourgeoisie, were pressing for change in the conditions, many were enticed by fascism, with their half-baked ideas they wound up with the teachings of the reactionaries, others began to understand their dependence on capitalism, they too were wage earners, producers of surplus value, bled white, none of them whether in an office, a bureau, a university, or a research center, owned the means of production. If they dared to see though their situation, they all made contact with people in the industries, the workshops, thereby broadening their concept of working class, more and more of these people who had once had to be counted as part of the bourgeoisie, made a path of proletariat their own, often even adding weightiness to it with theoretical and practical contributions. These reflections were very seldom to be gleaned directly from books on the era of crisis, outwardly most works were still reserved for the educated elite, the definitive step was not taken, was guessed at only as impatience, as dislike of the status quo, as something in the future. New progressive forces that had freed themselves from earlier bonds drove us to make others more conscious of our own position. The students and academics the artists and writers who joined us had not seen their background as definitive, and we likewise had to overcome the arrogance of assuming that we alone, on the basis of certain social and economic conditions were at home in the proletariat. Rather by precise differentiation we had to once again choose and define our standpoint. A person belonged to the working class if he acted in its behalf no matter where he came from. This was particularly important now that large segments of labor had gone astray and were being shoved away from their point of departure. The broad unity of proletarian action had failed to materialize. There workers had not known how to define themselves against fascism.
Peter Weiss, The Aesthetics of Resistance, Duke University Press, Volume I, pp 162-163