Cultural Left: Culturalising Democracy – Democratising Culture – MANIFESTO PART ONE

Panayiotis Neufelt* Interview, presenting the introductory first part of the Manifesto of the Cultural Left.

  to Dimitris Rapidis, for the European Progressive Forum

Read the article in Greek Language here: 

1. What is the importance and contribution of culture and the arts to the Left and how can these be used to shape a progressive cultural and cultural consciousness?

In order to answer this question, it is necessary to examine the founding relationship between Left with human societies and then return from the same path to the stronghold where creativity nests. There, where human expressions and needs find their substance, through the acceptance, the rejection and the understanding of the peculiarities of the deeper identity of both people and societies. The Left has always referred to democracy and freedom, in order to express its political positions through these human particularities.

Historically, at a socio-political level, which affects the economy and is influenced by it, we can see the development of the Left alongside the social and political struggles, social fermentations and technological developments that lead us back to the eighteenth century. The Left has expressed its political conscience through the concepts of equality, freedom, reconciliation and brotherhood, believing in progress and its reformist attitude, which are driven by the social and internal ideological osmosis. Faithful to its principles, the Left has highlighted the projection of human rights, criticizing strongly the leadership, principles and hierarchies. Including tradition, it continued the dialogue in any social and political position and process, wherever the sign of a policy was conservative or neoliberal in contemporary terms.

The Left, over the years, in the fields of culture, without relying on the humble but integrating anthropocentric and human-centeredness of its positions, without imposing the obvious, has contributed to the creation and emergence of a wide range of positive social phenomena. These phenomena have been directly linked to the cultural developments of societies and countries, defying boundaries and regulations, which have created barriers; Yet their instigators are still maintaining them.

2. Are you talking about the variety of political level and their relation to cultural and creative trends?

I am talking about the creativity of people and cultural actors who have found fertile ground within the Left, progressive, communist, Marxist and environmentalist, political parties, in order to initiate in many cases using non systemic processes, free from the impeccable support of the conservative political regulators of the current cultural progresses and the capital monitoring.

I refer to all those who have overcome the sponsor’s fear and the barriers that are created by poverty, and have reacted to a system of cultural, socio-political governance and organization of the society, which (the system) was devised in order to meet specific trade needs of the financial system and of the world’s political establishment. This is due to the exclusion for the benefit of few and capitalism, the human nature as the basic interactive factor of social equilibrium. It degrades its position, its tendencies and its creations in the process of primary production, without giving it the right attention. Thus, capitalism does not characterize people as the most important factor in the productive processes and as the unique exponent of creativity, artistic and cultural trends, but also as a basic consumer of the art he creates regularly or disorderly.

The system, neoliberalism, in co-operation with the occasional market oligarchs, from the late 19th century and the early 20th century, has steadily encouraged the need for social expression of capitalist consumerism. The system used the constant projection of the prosperity and cultural expression of the markets of satisfaction or acquisition of matter (e.g. Selfridges, Ritz, Barnum & Bailey). In this way, it imposes on today’s societies a number of phenomena, problems and inequalities, such as hyper-consumerism, extreme urbanization, class inequalities, punitive attitude of the legal system and the state or of a sovereign regime, the difficulty in access to justice and to the health system, disintegration and separation of people from their emotional and conscious inner world.

3. It is quite interesting to relate the cultural and aesthetic trends with politics, as if there is a conceivable intense dialogue, something like a counterpoint, between the Russian Avant-Garde and the New Deal. Europe was in the middle of these changes in the past. What is it that sets our choices today?

Neoliberalism canalises people into the struggle for unrelated and unconscious profits, to trade in productions of goods that will never enter in a production line, at the expense of the weak. It has caused social disorientation, poor education, de-Culturalisation, not to mention the demoralisation and the modern social media trend and the networks of communication.

Today, citizens of all countries are desperately seeking education and culture. Instead, they get entertained and are offered a ‘banana’ after a five kilometer race commencing from a known starting point, but heading towards an unknown destination. The accomplishments of the neoliberal policies, which have influenced and still affect creativity, the arts and culture, tend to limit the historical momentum of events leading to cultural changes , encouraging the ephemeral appearances of social media “Likes” as recorded and stored, which subsequently disappears into a bizarre existing oblivion in the social media networks.

Since the end of the 1970s, the neoliberal and capital system has given us new tendencies of socio-political, cultural and economic content, such as philanthrocapitalism, where the development of a social response, contribution, organization or idea is purely designed and implemented in terms of corporate management and competition, capital intensity and profitability, while the human beings involved in this process lose their status and become corporate.

People, along with their given acquirable problems, which they must face, within an existing problematic capitalist environment, living an unbearable everyday life, inevitably become themselves the problem to be “solved” for the markets of culture and of creative industries. Then the field which needs to get managed and developed is this conceivable environment of cultures, in which borders, rules and regulations play a key role in the control of the masses, where totalitarianism, abstraction, abolition of human rights, thrive.

I refer to the rights that have been obtained with struggles, sweat and blood over the last three centuries, and were born in classical Athens or in the alleys of Babylon. It would be enough to look at the themes of modern cinemas, advertisements, music industry and charities to see that emotion and frustration has always been an easy choice, a solution and a means of approaching the masses, as opposed to awareness-raising. We live in societies of artificial melodrama, where citizens experience in an extreme form the pathogens of capitalism and neoliberalism.

4. Yes, returning to the subject matter, through the aesthetic choices, perceptions and management, to the modern Left political consciousness, today realistically how much has the Left has been influenced by these “political-right-orientated interventions”?

To avoid any misinterpretation, the Left, regardless of the problems it faces, is inextricably linked to equality, rivalry and acceptance. Its objectives were always the balanced relations, the rationalization of procedures, the diversification of wage distributions and of labour relations and capital distribution quotas per household, in favor of social justice. It also includes the liberalization and dissemination of creativity in the fields of arts, literature and culture, the encouragement of young people, the acceptance of minorities, health, sustainability, the preservation of the natural environment and the gentle and peaceful management of the technological development in general.

Today, the Left, in all its manifestations and in all geographical coordinates, expresses the most vibrant tendencies of societies, without embellishments. The modern Left, trained in internal and social dialogue processes, forged in the democratic standards for which it struggled, resists vigorously in the midst of extreme narratives and unrestrained conservative and neoliberal populism.
The modern Left is called upon to politically express its opposition to an ever changing environment, where the Media, the Cultural Networks, the Arts and the Recreational Activities are almost completely controlled by the corporate sectors and the financial system. In Europe alone, the annual revenues (2015) generated by the sale of cultural and creative goods amounted to around 590 billion euros, i.e. 32% of the world’s revenues from the cultural and creative industries. More than 7.7 million jobs were created (not to mention the related and dependent industries), accounting for 25% of the world’s creative jobs (CISAC). This is a highly educated workforce that comes from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, and brings together a strong, dynamic variety of different social dynamics, which stimulate and produce a large array of well-known cultural products, productions and services.

5. So culture is a very important element in the economic growth, development and viability of the countries. What is your next move?

Today, more than ever, within this cultural and social environment, the European Left, progressive, communist, and environmental parties seek the modern common progressive field in order to integrate their own identity, stripped of self-accusation syndromes of the past.

Modern Left Political thinking and narration, having the arts and culture on their side, do not need to conduct populist dialogue. This populist dialogue is promoted mainly by neoliberal controlled media and super creative centers of culture, with a strategy of covert alienation. The same system uses projections that direct societies and collectives and groups of all kinds, to de-Culturalise, through de-Democratisation processes, created by the conservative and neoliberal or extreme right centers of the European Union. People in Europe are seeking and longing for democracy, but never ending up with it. This very dangerous approach often leads societies to severe social tensions and unrests.

The left path was never paved with rose petals, and the problems were not overshadowed by the management of the Left European Parties. Alas! One of the Left’s key priorities has always been to contribute to the political and social developments of the current events, while solving the internal issues of pluralism and diversity within it.

The political views of Marx, Lukács and Raymond Williams, either fragmented or on a common ground are not considered as a taboo today. We will have to look at the theory of the creative base, at the levels of cultural superstructure in terms of cultural policy, and at last we should walk this path from the creative base to the cultural superstructure and back again to the cultural events, in order to understand how we initially walk this path, while the systems follow.

Therefore, political consciousness, and in particular and cultural political consciousness, is not a one-way value or state. It is the cornerstone of the societies and the cultural uplifting of a country, and it works in all directions at the three poles of cultural development, which are no other than the citizen, the state and the markets.

6. The Cultural Left and the Creative Left are two very interesting organisations. Tell us more about these two young political initiatives you have founded.

The Cultural Left and Creative Left (Europe and America), along with the supporting mechanisms which aim to the cultural growth, development and encouragement of the cultural and creative economy, create precisely both the field and the environment that were missing from the Left Social Consciousness and political Awareness and from the expression of the progressive political parties, starting initially with the European Left.

The ten initial objectives of the Cultural Left and Creative Left, which lead to the Democratisation of Culture and Culturalisation of Democracy, are also the slogan of the organisations. These are the following:

1. To comprehend the needs of the cultural and creative industries, through a left progressive spectrum.

2. To support the socially acceptable, creative, legitimate and excellent social objectives and missions, the artistic, creative, cultural work.

3. To encourage, organize and set up working groups, meetings, assemblies and events, and also to raise social awareness and actions.

4. To observe the local, national, European and international legal framework of cultural and creative industries, and to present, for the public interest, relevant findings, researches and results.

5. To participate in relative cultural, political and social events, conferences, meetings and fora at a local and international level.

6. To develop and build partnerships, collaborations and developments with local governments, administrative bodies, institutions and agencies.

7. To study, develop and implement principles of equitable administrative practices, in the sectors of arts, cultural and creative industries.

8. To contribute in the optimisation of the quality of people’s lives, in the neighborhoods, communities and societies.

9. To create, develop and distribute international cultural support programs.

10. To promote, in any practically feasible, peaceful and legitimate mean, the comprehension, equality, solidarity, freedom of speech, relativity and unity amongst organisations.

7. With these two initiatives, you create a new definition on cultural management in a modern progressive political fields. How do these cultural and creative fields relate to politics?

The Cultural Left, the Creative Left and their structures create the necessary modern field of support and expression, initially related to the left political parties of progress, through the use of new models of artistic, cultural and creative managerial handling.

Ten years ago, an experienced cultural manager or producer would have been unable to rely on these social, cultural and creative political related phenomena of cultural economy and to explain them, guided through their valuable experience, or even to express them, in fear of being branded as weird. Something similar applies to Democracy, due to its nature. We are in a position to know when and why democracy is violated, and what are the feasible solutions to protecting democracy through dialogue, electoral processes, choices of political decisions, proposed solutions and expressions of social reactions or acceptances, and this is an inalienable right and obligation to do so.

Today, we scientifically and thoroughly measure the trends, as well as the constantly updated cultural results. These results enable us to interpret the social phenomena, as they are expressed through the developing and known actors of the arts, culture and creative industries.

The interaction between the two, Culture and Democracy, the dependencies and freedoms, integration and tolerance, the elaboration of ideas and dissemination of the created art, determine, to a large extent, the social rules of equality, normality, eurhythmy, prosperity and development of a country.

The Cultural Left encourages complete elimination of all the borders created between Culture and Democracy, in favour of Civilisation. Perhaps, at some point – if what I say it is not utterly utopian -, to contribute to the elimination of those borders, which sometimes encroach on us and sometimes prevent us from defining our cultural destination, for a better Civilisation. We need to lift all barriers between Culture and Democracy, the barriers that restrain us from living a better life.

8. When you talk about all kinds of invented or constructed borders and barriers to culture, can you set them at European level?

Today, culture is being thwarted by the inefficiency of managing societies by the modern capitalist and neoliberal systems, and by the aftereffect of austerity policies. The creative, artistic, and cultural spirit of reconciliation remains untamable, in the creative strata of societies, and this is something that markets, even if they need to promote it with tearful hugs, they do not forgive when it occurs out of the system. Perhaps, the independent and self-sufficient consumer is also the main enemy of the capitalist system. A degraded artistic and cultural environment, experiencing social tensions at its basis, creates the ultimate field of social inequality, which is the fertilizer for high profits for the systems that choose to handle these management models of economy.

In this context and with the rules emerging from this context, the Cultural Left and its productive structure, the Creative Left, fight against de-culturalisation and stand in favor of removing the obstacles that lead man to inhumane behavior, in conditions of impoverishment, leading to poverty and degradation. But what does this mean in terms of cultural management, economy and politics?

To date, a number of reasons (which are not for now to be analyzed) have prevented the Left from fully expressing the levels of creative and cultural developments, and integrate them dynamically within the framework of the reformation of the left-wing European parties. The friendly to the Left progressive and creative individuals and collectives have remained in many cases incapacitated or in maintenance mode, within this dynamically developing environment, which until now has been financially controlled by conservative and neoliberal market oligarchs.

Three important factors that do not appear in the debate of scientific ideas are: 1) the social origins of creativity and its intensity at a level of economic growth and development (I do not refer to the recorded financial results generated by the produced work only), 2) the proportion of non-subsidized organisations out of the total of the cultural resources of a country and the social tensions created over time (qualitatively and quantitatively) and 3) the relationship between the Hyper-Productivity of the cultural, artistic and creative sectors, and the austerity policies or the crisis of the financial system.

9. And somewhere in between all these, creativity is trying to survive.

The greatest proportion of creativity is generated in sectors, fields and environments by creative people who live with the expectation of developing art and cultural productions, but do not succeed for many, different or common reasons to complete, project or express their work. This creative potential of a country, although it consumes the smallest percentage of available funds allocated for arts and culture, it generates proportionally the greatest proportion of creativity. This creativity is embezzled by the few who eventually are funded by the financial system that has the available resources to develop cultural accomplishments, such as the European Union or other types of foundations and institutions. This underpaid creative human potential and its ideological and aesthetic field, has its origins in the progressive, left and socially aware areas of our societies.

This degraded yet extremely creative potential, which excels in numbers from the organisations that are regularly financially funded, although it clearly expresses its aesthetic, social and political concerns and restlessness, in a creative way, nevertheless, it feels horror in the thought that it would not be able to absorb the appropriate funds and resources or it would not be driven by the system into synergies that will add value to its work.

10. We are in a difficult turning point in Europe’s economy. Could we enter into the heart of the “pathogenicity” and malfunctions of the European political system of cultural management and economy, and offer a solutions that may create sustainability?

At a high-level meeting in Portugal, about two years ago, a cultural manager from the EU, asked me during a public debate: “The future of culture in the EU depends on EU funds, If you can foresee this reasonable possibility, what if the EU reduces the available resources for arts and culture?” My answer was clear and my reaction was immediate: On this basis, we can not construct a positive social dialogue, only frustration and inequalities. Why not try to do everything to overthrow such a treaty and turn negative thinking into a positive one? What if the EU doubles the available resources, that already has at its disposal for the arts and culture?

A large percentage of creators and cultural operators also, for many different reasons, cannot get to know, recognize, understand, connect, ask, choose, agree or join one of the European Union’s open support programs. As a result, a small number out of the total active cultural workforce, in this nascent creative arts and culture sectors, gain access to the information related to EU programs, for example, without reaching the funds and out of this minority of creators an even smaller number of people and organisations will be ultimately chosen to cover EU funded cultural production needs.

The solution we create through the Cultural Left and Creative Left and their affiliated bodies encourages a multi-level relation between organisations and key processes, through a special and open-minded cluster of organisations. These organisations aim at underlining the creative forces of the countries, bringing together, rallying and mobilising the cultural departments of the parties of the European Left, the development of mechanisms for supporting artistic and cultural work, and the creation of a purpose-built treasury and fund, for independent financial support for creativity, by using modern tools of cultural and financial management.

11. I assume, that this requires a special synchronization between the two political organizations, the Cultural Left and the Creative Left. Is such an objective feasible and where are you standing at present?

At the moment we are ready to present the final cut of our Manifesto (we have not decided yet the country, but it is more likely that I present the Manifesto either in Brussels or in Vienna (June or July), the dates are not fixed yet. It is going to be a joyful moment for both organisations, for our members, our friends and for me.

This is because in detail, the Cultural Left expresses, in its scope, the cultural political direction and its vision, as it is created and will be developed, in the future, through the democratic processes of the parties of the European Left, while the Creative Left supports the productive progressive cultural clusters and will be operating independently following the political narrative of the Cultural Left.

In this way, the key issue of cultural political expression of the Cultural Left and indeed of the Left is resolved, as, with the use of this model of progressive cultural management, the Cultural Left is separated from production lines and is devoted to the political handling of cultural policies and procedures on the one hand.

On the other hand, the Creative Left as an affiliated body to the Cultural Left, operating on its external environment, is the main producer, distributor and supporter of cultural productions, projections and promotions, and the main sponsor of the creative work of outstanding artists, who to date have lived in oblivion or with an expectation to produce their creative work at some point.

In a nutshell, a large number of creators and cultural operators are also the victims of a neoliberal system that acquires low-priced consciousness and sells at a high price the promise of support, promotion and visibility that will never happen.

In response to what has been said and in retaliation to the cultural systemic totalitarianism and cultural austerity attack, which has been imposed on the cultural industries, the Creative Left is supported by a series of modern tools, applications, networks and mechanisms that will facilitate its work in financing, development, promotion and distribution of creative and cultural productions.

The Cultural Left and Creative Left expect to be the amalgamation of the expectations of people who work in the cultural fields, as they consciously and sensitively envisage and express creatively these expectations. The Cultural Left, through science, perceives the current technical terms and methodologies that are extensively used in international cultural management systems, applying democratic policies that lead to cultural upturn, aiming to a better Civilisation. Therefore, the Cultural Left, without forgetting its roots, presents the basic seven dual-minded cultural axes, based on specific policies that will be presented in time. These axes are:

Awareness and Dissemination
Education and Cultivation
Acceptance and Inclusion
Innovation and Technology
Exposure and Implementation
Production and Distribution
Stability and Sustainability

All the above can only be adequately accomplished, when the rules of the Cultural Democracy are implemented and when individuals, cultural and social groups tend to move towards the Culturalisation of Democracy and towards the Democratisation of Culture, which is also the constant goal of the Cultural Left.

The arts and people’s creativity, with their extensions to our natural environment and within cultures, are necessary to represent and express moral solutions to the practical, creative, realistic, political, social or metaphysical issues of humanity. The arts, creativity, aesthetics and cultural tendencies challenge our own desires, bring the subconscious into the focus of people’s interest and create an open a social anthropocentric dialogue with nature, living beings, for the reconciliation among people and towards a better Civilization.

Culture is the result of people’s creativity and research. Creativity is the most essential part of cultures and the most controversial component of evolution, which motivates societies and leads them to a sustainable future.

Culturalising Democracy
Democratising Culture

T: @CulturalLeft

Affiliated body: Creative Left

Panayiotis Neufelt is the Founder and Chairman of the International Independent Arts Council, Arts Council of Greece and Founder of the Cultural Left and his productive affiliated body the Creative Left.