During the early years of the Revolution, every soviet had section dedicated to ‘people’s education’ with many, like the Moscow Soviet, having an arts sub-section as part of educational programs. This is the report of the Moscow Soviet’s Art Educational Section for the year 1918.
‘Art Educational Section of the Moscow Soviet of Workmen’s Deputies’ from Education and Art in Soviet Russia in the Light of Official Decrees and Documents Presented by Max Eastman. Socialist Publications Society, New York. 1919.
The activity of the Art-Educational Section has been two- fold: administrative and art-educational, strictly speaking.
Owing to the limited number of persons comprising the directing body (the delegates’ group) much time has been consumed by administrative work, weighing heavily chiefly upon the shoulders of a small number of active members of the delegates’ group. This work consisted in managing the State Theatres and a dramatic school; participating in the management of people’s houses and of the theatre of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies; artistic supervision of Moscow’s theatrical life; solving a number of problems connected with requisition and housing of premises occupied by theatres and by members of the theatrical and musical profession and issuing of permits for removal of valuables contained in the safes,
All this sort of work has consumed much time. The Section has had to pass on whether certain theatres were subject to requisition, or whether they were to be preserved as of artistic value. This required a re-examination of stage productions and of the theatrical repertoire. Since several organizations claimed those premises the Section had also to acquaint itself with the nature of the activities of those organizations in order to preserve whatever might, at a given moment, prove to be most valuable to organized democracy. Besides, the Section has acted as an information bureau to proletarian organizations which have been seeking the Section’s help in obtaining quarters for their cultural needs.
The Section has had to pass on whether the living quarters of various individual actors, artists or musicians were subject to requisition or progressive housing; whether permission should be granted to certain members of the theatrical and musical profession regarding the removal of valuables from the safes, and what particular valuables, etc.
Thousands of persons have come to the Section requesting a speedy solution of all these questions.
Still more complex, and consuming still greater time, has been the work connected with the management of the State Theatres. It was necessary to carry out, as quickly as possible, the reorganization in the management of the theatres and determine the composition of theatrical companies for the next season, in order to begin immediate preparations for the next season. The representatives of the Sections had to actively participate in the meetings of the Soviets of the Main and Little theatres and the Dramatic School, meetings of theatre managements, committees on reorganizations; conferences of separate theatrical troops and groups of theatrical workers; to participate in the investigation of means on hand and to prepare the estimates for next year. Not a single day passed without such meetings and it was a rare thing when only one such meeting was held instead of two or three. As a result of this activity a temporary provision for the managing of the Little Theatre has been finally drawn up and accepted; the composition of the theatre agreed upon and organs for its management established. The work in connection with the Main Theatre and the Dramatic School has been almost completed: The Section’s activity in organizing the distribution of tickets to the State Theatres among labor bodies in order to throw open these theatres to large sections of democracy—deserves to be mentioned here.
The Soviet Theatre has been receiving special attention from the Section. When this theatre went over to the Art Union of labor organizations, two representatives from the Section joined the theatre’s management. Such performance as “The Barber of Seville” and “The Merry Wives of Windsor” proved to be events in the theatrical life of Moscow.
Two members of the delegates’ group have joined the committee in charge of People’s Houses and these members have been daily engaged in carrying out important and responsible work.
The administrative activity just described has naturally taken up the greater part of the time and consequently very little time could be spared for the promotion of artistic education among the masses.
The first thing that engaged attention was organization of performances in different districts. Prior to the November Revolution the Section had organized in the districts a few performances of the Little and Art theatres. The November Revolution temporarily frightened away individuals in the theatrical profession from the Soviet circles. But they have gradually come back to the Soviet. A number of conferences with the Actors’ Trade Union resulted in an agreement by the terms of which the Moscow theatres (Little, Art and its studios, Chamber, Komissarjevski, “Bat,” etc.) consented to hold performances in the districts. And a number of such performances did take place. During the summer season the section staged many performances, aided by the casts of the Komissarjavskaya Theatre, House of Free Art, the “Bat” and by Voljanin’s players.
Simultaneously the organization of district concerts was in progress. The Section organized over 200 such concerts in Moscow District and vicinity. A Soviet of Music was organized with the object of introducing greater system as well as for directing Moscow’s musical activity. A few meetings were called to which were invited and came all prominent leaders of the musical world. As a consequence of these sessions a Bureau was elected, comprising the most prominent musical names, for the purpose of outlining the problems and plan of the Soviet’s activity. It has been decided to organize a Soviet of 30 persons; 15 representatives of the musical world and 15 representatives of organized democracy (including 2 representatives of musical school students).
Constant requests from localities as regards the character of plays to be staged at People’s Houses, what plays are on hand and how they could be obtained has brought into existence the repertoire committee of the Section.
The committee has worked out a preliminary list of plays suitable for performing; has read a number of plays and is at work preparing of a more detailed list of carefully selected plays. The following principles have been accepted by the committee as a basis for the repertoire: 1) the list can include only plays whose artistic value is beyond reproach; 2) these plays by the impression they create on the audience, must be of nature coinciding with the spirit of the times, i.e. they must evoke a vigorous disposition and intensify the revolutionary fervor of the masses. The committee is preparing for publication a book which will include, in addition to a list of plays, a brief summary of them and stage-director’s notes regarding their production. This book ought to aid the local players in the selection of plays, as well as in improvement of their staging. The committee is also preparing for publication a number of new plays, chiefly translations, beginning to publish out-of-print plays and preparing for publication a collection of articles on history and theory of the theatres and also of a number of books bearing on practical questions connected with the technique of the theatre.
Lastly, the Section is issuing its own magazine—The Izvestia of the Art-Educational Section. Judging by the demands for the magazine from the provinces the need of such a publication is very great.
This is what has been done by the Section:
Wishing to widen the scope of this activity, raising it to a level befitting that of the Workmen’s Government, the Section has worked out a detailed plan of activity for the next summer season, listed a number of individuals who have already, in principle, expressed their willingness to participate in the execution of the plan; drawn up an estimate for the meeting of possible expenditures needed. The following are the steps under the consideration of the Section:
1. Staging of Verhaeren’s unique play “Dawn”;
2. Organization of district performances and employment of the Sections own casts for this purpose;
3. Organization of symphony (two) orchestras, chamber concerts and wind orchestras (eight) at the boulevards;
4. Organization of juvenile performances for and by the children;
5. Organization (at six places) of people’s holidays and pageants, its object being not only to offer to the people sensible artistically conceived recreations, but also to involve the masses themselves in a creative artistic activity;
6. Establishment of courses for instructors with a view of educating the future directors of People’s Houses;
7. Establishment of an information bureau continually in touch with the Moscow districts, its suburbs and provinces; the bureau will not only inform on the Section’s activities but will serve also as an advisory board to persons connected with such kind of work in localities;
8. Organization of a technical and art supervision over theatrical and musical Moscow enterprises and organization of a control of State taxes in theatrical establishments;
9. Further widening of activity of the repertoire committee and of the Section’s magazine. For all these beginnings detailed plans have been worked out and on their basis an estimate has been drawn and already submitted to the Soviet.
Education and Art in Soviet Russia in the Light of Official Decrees and Documents Presented by Max Eastman. Socialist Publications Society, New York. 1919.
A unique collection of thirty-four early Soviet decrees, laws, and regulations on education, schools, theater, and the arts collected by Max Eastman who also supplies a foreword. Published by Louis Fraina’s Socialist Publication Society, producers of the Class Struggle magazine.
Contents: Foreword by Max Eastman, ORGANIZATION OF THE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM) Circular of the People’s Commissaire of Education to All Regional Commissioners of Education, Provision for the Organization of Popular Education in the Russian Socialist Soviet Republic, Commissary Lepeshinsky’s Paper, Regulation of the Soviet of People’s Commissaires, Concerning Standard Remuneration for Teachers’ Labors, Regulation of the Presidium of the Moscow Soviet of Workmen’s Deputies, An Appeal by the Section of Independent Proletarian Cultural-Educational Organizations, Schools for Workmen, Regulation Concerning Admission to a Higher School (University), Declaration of Principles of a Socialist School, The Workers’ School and the School Servants by A. Okunkoff, Experimental Vocational School, The Institute for Child Study, SCHOOL SANITATION AND GENERAL HYGIENE) Essential Problems Connected with the Organization of Medical Aid, School Sanitation Board, A Provision adopted at the joint session of the United School and School-Sanitary Board, ART EDUCATION) The Art Collegium, A Decree on the dissolution of The Academy of Art as a State Institution, Decree Concerning the Moscow Art Society, The Main Problems of the Art Sections of the Soviets of Workmen’s Deputies, Art Educational Section of the Moscow Soviet of Workmen’s Deputies, PRESERVATION OF ART OBJECTS) The Activity of the Section of People’s Commissariat of Education Devoted to the Care of Museums, Preservation of Art Objects and Relics of the Past, Paintings at the Former Kremlin, Decree on Nationalization of Tretiakov Gallery, Concerning Export of Art Objects, Moscow Governmental Enactments, National Factory for Manufacturing Paints, THEATER AS A MEANS OF CULTURE) The Repertoire Committee of the Art-Educational Section, Concerning the Transference of All Theatres into the Hands of the Moscow Soviet of Workmen’s Deputies, Theatrical Section, Theatrical Performances at Shops and Factories, MUSIC AND MUSICAL TRAINING) Decree Regarding the Moscow and Petrograd Conservatories, A New Anthem, PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL PROPAGANDA) Facts About the Activity of the Literary Publication Board, Attached to the People’s Commissariat on Education, Memorial Plates for Propaganda Purposes. 64 pages.
The Socialist Publication Society produced some of the earliest US versions of the revolutionary texts of First World War and the upheavals that followed. A project of Louis Fraina’s, the Society also published The Class Struggle. The Class Struggle is considered the first pro-Bolshevik journal in the United States and began in the aftermath of Russia’s February Revolution. A bi-monthly published between May 1917 and November 1919 in New York City by the Socialist Publication Society, its original editors were Ludwig Lore, Louis B. Boudin, and Louis C. Fraina. The Class Struggle became the primary English-language paper of the Socialist Party’s left wing and emerging Communist movement. Its last issue was published by the Communist Labor Party of America. ‘In the two years of its existence thus far, this magazine has presented the best interpretations of world events from the pens of American and Foreign Socialists. Among those who have contributed articles to its pages are: Nikolai Lenin, Leon Trotzky, Franz Mehring, Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, Lunacharsky, Bukharin, Hoglund, Karl Island, Friedrich Adler, and many others. The pages of this magazine will continue to print only the best and most class-conscious socialist material, and should be read by all who wish to be in contact with the living thought of the most uncompromising section of the Socialist Party.’
PDF of full book: https://archive.org/download/educationartinso00soci/educationartinso00soci.pdf