Revolutionary Art in Leicester: The Toads of Blairism

The British working-class has many enemies, many of whom persist in pretending they are still on the side of the 99% per cent of us, not on the side of the 1% billionaire-class — a problem that is particularly persistent within the Parliamentary Labour Party itself.

But one clear-cut way in which we can tell which of our MPs are on the side of the working-class is by examining which Labour representatives have consistently opposed imperialist wars that contribute towards the needless slaughter of ordinary people. After all, genuine socialists are internationalists first and foremost, and should — just like Jeremy Corbyn — have a demonstrable track record of opposing all imperialist bloodbaths, shouldn’t they?

This afternoon I was reminded of such principled resistance to militarism when I popped into Leicester’s New Walk Museum and happened across two pieces of art produced by the German socialist George Grosz (1893-1959). The two drawings being titled “In Memory of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht” (1919) and “Toads of property” (1921).

Luxemburg and Liebknecht were of course famous revolutionary socialists who vigorously opposed German entry into the First World War, and then played a leading role in the subsequent German Revolution which was betrayed by other less principled socialists (the leaders of the Social Democrats). This working-class tragedy was the subject matter for Grosz’s first ink drawing which “commemorates this savage act by depicting justice as a ghost trailing a bloodstained robe across the open coffins of the two victims.”

Unlike Luxemburg and Liebknecht who passionately opposed all imperialist wars, Grosz had initially been called up to serve in the Great War, whereupon he was quickly converted to the cause of anti-militarism and revolutionary socialism. And on this front, although not featured in the New Walk Museum exhibition, Grosz’s 1918 political drawing “Fit for Active Service” provides a perfect illustration of his committed anti-war activism – wherein a rotting corpse is declared fit for military duty by a well-fed doctor.

Fit for active service

Grosz’s brilliant second drawing being displayed in Leicester, “Toads of property,” shows “fat cat capitalists jealously guard[ing] their profits, while unemployed workers stand nearby.” Most of all this socialist commentary reminded me of the noxious relationship that exists between warmongering Labour MPs like local Syria bombers Liz Kendall and Keith Vaz, and the still under-employed and underpaid working-class.

I can only conclude by suggesting that it would be fitting if such unprincipled Labour warmongers could be immortalised as the soon to be deposed “Toads of Blairism” who are depicted jealously guarding the Labour Party from the hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken Corbyn-supporters who seek to transform the Party into a genuinely democratic and socialist working-class organ for change. Maybe, in the near future, such a drawing could be featured in a retrospective commemorating the success of the working-class in reclaiming the Labour Party from Blair’s toxic capitalist legacy.

Toads of Blairism



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