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Threepenny Marxist

The Marxist and the artist view human existence in fundamentally different ways. Marxism regards human existence as absolutely knowable because scientific laws govern history and because materialism underlies all of existence. It is not so simple for the artist. Although the artist may study history, he knows that nature is not a closed circle within our grasp, and he regards the human condition as an incredible mystery.

Despite the inherent tension between artistic endeavor and Marxist thought, many have tried to combine the two. On one extreme are the writers, poets, and playwrights whose Marxist inclinations prevail. They end up producing thinly disguised propaganda and are artists in name only. On the other extreme are Marxists who follow their art to its frontiers only to discover that it challenges the first principles of their political beliefs. Eventually, they must forsake their Marxism if they intend to be faithful to their art. Such were the six writers who narrate their fall from Marxism in Crossman's The God That Failed.

The third pattern—the middle way—is to temper the artistic and Marxist elements until they can coexist. For many, that means becoming a middling artist and a middling Marxist. A few escape such mediocrity, including Bertolt Brecht, here depicted by Ronald Hayman.

Brecht frequently envisioned his plays as being like trials in which the audience could judge...

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