In the depths of resignation, this left-wing melancholia is a red thread that crosses revolutionary culture, from Auguste Blanqui to critical cinema, passing by way of Gustave Courbet, Rosa Luxemburg, and Walter Benjamin. Traverso forcefully — and counter-intuitively — reveals the full subversive, emancipatory charge of revolutionary mourning.
No past revolution, she says, can be attributed to professional revolutionaries. Usually it was the other way around: “revolution broke out and liberated, as it were, the professional revolutionaries from wherever they happened to be – from jail, or from the coffee house, or from the library.”
Five great amateurs whose work changed the world, from author of The Amateur, Andy Merrifield.
Western Marxism as a whole, when it proceeded beyond questions of method to matters of substance, came to concentrate overwhelmingly on study of superstructures. Moreover, the specific superstructural orders with which it showed the most constant and close concern were those ranking "highest" in the hierarchy of distance from the economic infrastructure, in Engels’s phrase. In other words, it was not the State or Law which provided the typical objects of its research. It was culture that held the central focus of its attention.
To celebrate Verso's new paperback edition of Erdmut Wizisla's Benjamin and Brecht: The Story of a Friendship, we present this selection of Walter Benjamin's diary entries on Bertolt Brecht, translated by Anya Bostock, which appeared in Aesthetics and Politics.
Benjamin and Brecht. Svendborg, Denmark, 1934.
4 July. Yesterday, a long conversation in Brecht’s sickroom about my essay "The Author as Producer." Brecht thought the theory I develop in the essay — that the attainment of technical progress in literature eventually changes the function of art forms (hence also of the intellectual means of production) and is therefore a criterion for judging the revolutionary function of literary works — applies to artists of only one type, the writers of the upper bourgeoisie, among whom he counts himself.