Chapter 7: Both Hitler and Stalin hated “modern art” and persecuted the
artists who made it. What was there about the “new aesthetic” which revolted
and frightened these dictators?
Since prehistoric times, when men communicated through crude drawings on
cave walls, art has been used to elicit an emotional response. Everyone has had
the experience of viewing a piece of art that “touched” them in some way.
Whether that feeling was happiness, sorrow, anger, or lust, and whether the art
form was a painting, or weaving, or sculpture, is immaterial. It still evoked a
response on some level of your psyche. In my personal experience, I have
sometimes had a feeling from a painting I had seen stay with me for days.Art,
therefore, is often used to voice an opinion that the author, for one reason or
another, is unable to express verbally.
Prior to World War II, western societies were largely optimistic about
life and about the future of our world. After the horrors of World War I, the
rise of communism in the Soviet Union, and the success of fascism in Germany and
Italy, the future was no longer viewed with optimism. Artists’s forms of
expression changed to reflect the disillusionment and anxiety that people felt.
Both Hitler and Stalin wanted the people in their country to believe that
things were still wonderful. That humans were making great progress. That “all
was well with the world.” Hitler specifically liked traditional, “sentimental”
forms of art that summoned feelings consistent with traditional values. Modern
art was viewed as decadent and growing out of a free society. A free society,
in turn, indicated freedom of expression.Freedom of expression, by its
nature, is the enemy of totalitarianism because freedom of expression celebrates
The antithesis of totalitarianism is freedom of expression. Freedom of
expression would also indicate intellectual freedom. Both Hitler and Stalin
were fiercely “anti-intellectual.” They viewed intellectualism as a threat to
traditional rules and values. They didn’t want people to think. They wanted
their people to conform and to cherish fundamentalist ideals. Modern art didn’t
honor traditional values. An atmosphere of intellectual freedom would be at
odds with a totalitarian/fascist regime.
Chapter 11: What was the difference in vision among Roosevelt, Churchill
and Stalin concerning the world after the defeat of Hitler? Whose vision
prevailed after 1945?
Churchill once was quoted as saying that he “did not become Prime Minister
in order to oversee the dissolution of the British Empire.” His vision was that
Great Britain would remain a supreme world power. He genuinely believed that
the sun would never set on the British Empire. By the end of World War II,
however, Great Britain’s position as a “world power” had been greatly
diminishedn, and was never again regained. The saying, “The sun never sets on
the British Empire,” came from the fact that at one point in history, no matter
what time zone you were in, there was a British colonial holding on which the
sun shone. But, the British Empire is no more. By 1997, of her once vast
colonial holdings, only Hong Kong remained; and now, Hong Kong has been returned
Stalin’s dream was to see the worldwide spread of communism and for the
Soviet Union to take her rightful place as a “world superpower.” He was
adamantly opposed to the “free election” of any governments in Eastern Europe.
This vision, too, has ultimately failed to attain success. There are few
communist countries remaining and, of those, most have chosen a
capital/communist way of life. Even the Soviet Union itself has recently
embraced capitalism. Of all the countries that were considered communist
immediately following World War II, only Cuba continues to strive towards
maintaining a true communist government.
Roosevelt’s vision was for a democratic world society with the United
States as the dominant world power. His vision for democracy, ultimately, has
prevailed. Democracy is increasingly favored as a form of government. Many
formerly communist countries now have elected officials. Civil wars are being
fought all over the world in favor of individual rights and self-government.