Isaac Deutscher on Trotsky on Art. From The Prophet Armed 1879-1921.
As a Marxist, Bronstein was not impressed by the pretensions of art for art’s sake. “Like a paper kite [that art] can soar to heights from which all earthly matters are drowned in grey indifference. But even after it has reached the clouds, this poor “free” art still remains tied to a strong rope, the earthly end of which is tightly gripped by the philistine”
“Literature without the power of great synthesis”, he wrote on another occasion, “is the symptom of social weariness and is characteristic of sharply transitional epochs” He therefore viewed critically the then fashionable symbolist trend; but he did so not because he favoured narrow realism. On the contrary: “Artistic creation, no matter how realistic, has always been and remains symbolist. . . .The purpose of art. . .is not to copy reality in empirical detail but to throw light on the complex content of life by singling out its general typical features. . . . Every artistic type is broadly a symbol, not to speak of such highly symbolical images as Mephisto, Faust, Hamlet, Othello, artistically embodying definite “moments” of the human soul. . . ” The symbolist school, however, he held, was trying to elevate the means into an end in itself and, so, was degrading the symbol from an intensified expression of human experience into a means of escaping from the experience.