New Left Review - Walter Benjamin: The Author as Producer
03/18/2007 03:57 PM
New Left Review I/62, July-August 1970
THE AUTHOR AS PRODUCER
Il s’agit de gagner les intellectuels `la classe ouvrière, en leur faisant prendre conscience de l’identité de leurs dé-marches spirituelles et de leurs conditions de producteur. Ramon Fernandez You recall how Plato treats the poets in his projected State. In the interest of the community, he does not allow them to live there. He had a high idea of the power of poetry. But he considered it destructive, superfluous—in a perfect community, needless to say. Since then, the question of the poet’s right to exist has not often been stated with the same insistence; but it is today. Certainly it has rarely been posed in this form. But you are all more or less familiar with it as the question of the poet’s autonomy: his freedom to write whatever he may please. You are not inclined to accord him this autonomy. You believe that the current social situation forces the poet to choose whom his activity will serve. The bourgeois writer of popular stories does not acknowledge this alternative. So you show him that even without admitting it, he works in the interests of a particular class. An advanced type of writer acknowledges this alternative. His decision is determined on the basis of the class struggle when he places himself on the side of the proletariat. But then his autonomy is done for. He directs his energies toward what is useful for the proletariat in the class struggle. We say that he espouses a tendency.  There you have the key word about which there has long been a debate, as you well know. It is well-known to you, so you also know how fruitless it has been. It has never broken away from the boring ‘on the one hand—on the other hand’: on the one hand we should demand that the poet’s work conform to the correct political tendency, on the other hand we have the right to expect that his work be of...