The most common mistake among Marxists in our cultural review work is right-opportunism, which means that they fall into liberalism and subjectivism, tolerating artistic works which promote reactionary politics. Right-opportunism can be summed up as the liberal outlook of denying a particular judgement of a work due to relativism, such as the old line, “You can attach any political reading to any book, movie, music or what have you, that you wish. It all depends on the reader.”
This is reactionary capitalist thought that insists that art remain “neutral,” magically standing above society as something pure and detached from classes and modes of production. In a word, they sell out to Hollywood and cling to a nonexistant “indepedance” of art as though art could, or even should be, seperated from the class struggle. As Marx said, the fact that “the ruling ideas of any society are the ideas of its ruling class” is a structural fact of society and cannot be denied because the liberal artist wishes it so.
Right-opportunist deviationists fail to recognize how much a peoples’ ideology may change at any given moment. As such, they allow the existence and wide spreading of all works, essentially offering the masses’ minds as a sacrifice to the alter of “open debate” and “freedom of speech.” This amounts to taking weapons out of the hands of the people and enables the blackest reaction and the most backward politics to spread.
Another form of this, besides run-of-the-mill liberalism, is the “ignore it” approach. This encourages leftist people to simply “ignore” reactionary works in the hopes that they will go away. History has proven this approach idealistic. It also does not allow the proletariat to teach themselves how to analyze works, which means communists then fail at leadership.
Another deviation within ourselves is ultra-leftism. Though it is not the larger danger of the two, it is still clear and present within our ranks. In this camp, Marxist reviewers will tear apart a work with progressive tendancies because of small traces of bourgeois ideology. Ultra-lefts fail to see the slightest progress even under the most radical bourgeois-made films, since they have departed from materialism and expect a capitalist film to essentially be socialist.
The sad reality is that most culture is controlled by the bourgeosie. To have any popular culture and be cut off from the masses, we will have to accept some flaws. The vast majority of films will be “submerged” with the dominant idealogy in one way or another, but it is not deterministic. Base does not determine superstructure 100% of the time, just as proletarians do not always take a bourgeois line and sometimes bourgeois may even take a correct stance. A minority of any class may be advanced, as shown by Lenin’s petty-bourgeois position as a lawyer who nonetheless took the proletarian line and put it into action for the first time in history.
Ultra-leftism and right-opportunism are both threats to be combated within the political situation at the time. Marxist criticism is especially important today when there is a definite risk that the audience will identify with and glorify the reactionary characters of a work, no matter how crudely depicted they are.