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Cultural Bolshevism, (German:Kulturbolschewismus), was a term widely used during the Third Reich by critics to denounce modernism in the arts, particularly when seeking to discredit more nihilistic forms of expression. As many modernists embraced Marxism while rejecting traditional values, cultural Bolshevism and the similarly pejorative term "Cultural Marxism" took on political overtones. This became an issue during the 1920s in Weimar Germany. German artists such as Max Ernst and Max Beckmann, were denounced by the Nazis as "cultural Bolsheviks".
The ideology was developed by Bolsheviks (supporters of Marxism and communism), who believed modern art seized power to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat. This was a cultural revolution that took on political overtones. The Bolshevik ideas are built on the foundation of Karl Marx’s social theory that aimed to empower the proletariat. The proletariats saw themselves as exploited by the bourgeoisie, who owned the means of production and controlled the economy. Bolsheviks wanted to revolutionize the existing culture, which was contrary to the Nazi's goals. Some academics argued that Bolsheviks could not create a society without oppression and exploitation. During this period, countries wanted to maintain their culture in order to underpin a national identity. Any form of innovation that was not aligned to the government’s view of society was oppressed.
The Nazi Minister for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, who attempted to align art with Nazi goals. The Nazis then destroyed all Jewish cultural organizations and anyone who was alleged politically or artistically suspect. The Nazis also destroyed the work of well-known German writers such as Alfred Kerr, Bertolt Brecht and Leon Feuchtwanger who were considered “Bolsheviks” at a Berlin book burning ceremony. Literature by writers such as Hitler Youth poet Hans Baumann and Adolf Bartels were promoted in an effort to facilitate the fast removal of unacceptable books from public libraries. German cultural authorities promoted war novels to prepare its population for conflict.
The German artistic movement emphasized the propagandistic value of art and glorifying the peasantry, the “Aryan race” and heroism of war. This ideology was contrary to art such as abstract painting, which the government denounced as “degenerate” as well as “art bolshevism” and “cultural bolshevism”.
In an effort to cultivate art aligned with Nazi goals the state subsidized the motion picture industry, which became an important propaganda tool. This led to the production of films such as Ich klage An, (I accuse) that justified the “Euthanasia Program” (good death) which glorified Hitler and the Nazi party. On the other hand films such as Jud Suess and the Der Ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew) were produced to perpetuate anti-Semitic stereotypes. The overall aim of Bolsheviks to revolutionize culture failed in Germany.
- Williams, Robert Chadwell Communism; Bolshevism in the West: from Leninist totalitarians to cultural revolutionaries.
- Castoriadis, Cornelius (1984). Crossroads in the Labyrinth. Harvester Press. ISBN 978-0-85527-538-9.
- Williams, Robert Chadwell (1 January 1997). Russia Imagined: Art, Culture and National Identity, 1840-1995. P. Lang. ISBN 978-0-8204-3470-4.