The Struggle for Realism in Art and Literature
To eliminate the dominance of formalism in art, it is necessary to develop a realistic art.
“Realism, in my mind, entails, apart from fidelity to detail, the faithful reproduction of typical characteristics under typical conditions.” (Engels to Margaret Harkneß, April 1888)
To develop a realistic art, we will take our cues from the example of the great Socialist Soviet Union, which has created the most progressive culture in the world.
Comrade Zhdanov put it this way in 1934:
“Comrade Stalin has called our writers engineers of human souls. What does this mean? What duties does the title confer upon you?
In the first place, it means knowing life, to depict it not in a scholastic, dead way, not as ‘objective reality,’ but as reality in its revolutionary development. In the process, the truthful and historically concrete artistic portrayal must be combined with the task of ideologically reshaping and educating the working people in the spirit of Socialism. This is the method that we call Socialist Realism in literature and in literary criticism.”
What lessons must we draw from this for cultural work in the German Democratic Republic? To develop a realistic art that “expresses the new social conditions of the German Democratic Republic” (Resolution of the 3rd Party Congress of the SED), our culture-creators must portray life correctly, that is, in its forward development. That requires knowledge of the development of life. The typical conditions of our time under which the faithful reproduction of typical characteristics is to take place are the new societal conditions in the German Democratic Republic, which is the struggle for a solution to the existential questions of our nation.
In accordance with these conditions, the faithful, historical, concrete artistic portrayal must be combined with the task of educating people in the spirit of the struggle for a united, democratic, peace-loving, and independent Germany, for the fulfillment of the Five-Year Plan, for the struggle for peace.
Realistic art conveys the understanding of reality and awakens in people aspirations that are suited to becoming embodied in a progressive, creative activity in the sense of solving the existential questions of our nation.