Where today a political regime establishes an official culturalpolicy, it is for the sake of demagogy. If kitsch is the officialtendency of culture in Germany, Italy and Russia, it is not becausetheir respective governments are controlled by philistines, butbecause kitsch is the culture of the masses in these countries,as it is everywhere else. The encouragement of kitsch is merelyanother of the inexpensive ways in which totalitarian regimesseek to ingratiate themselves with their subjects. Since theseregimes cannot raise the cultural level of the masses -- evenif they wanted to -- by anything short of a surrender to internationalsocialism, they will flatter the masses by bringing all culturedown to their level. It is for this reason that the avant-gardeis outlawed, and not so much because a superior culture is inherentlya more critical culture. (Whether or not the avant-garde couldpossibly flourish under a totalitarian regime is not pertinentto the question at this point.) As a matter of fact, the maintrouble with avant-garde art and literature, from the point ofview of fascists and Stalinists, is not that they are too critical,but that they are too "innocent," that it is too difficultto inject effective propaganda into them, that kitsch is morepliable to this end. Kitsch keeps a dictator in closer contactwith the "soul" of the people. Should the official culturebe one superior to the general mass-level, there would be a dangerof isolation.
Nevertheless, if the masses were conceivably to ask for avant-gardeart and literature, Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin would not hesitatelong in attempting to satisfy such a demand. Hitler is a bitterenemy of the avant-garde, both on doctrinal and personal grounds,yet this did not prevent Goebbels in 1932-1933 from strenuouslycourting avant-garde artists and writers. When Gottfried Benn,an Expressionist poet, came over to the Nazis he was welcomedwith a great fanfare, although at that very moment Hitler wasdenouncing Expressionism as . This wasat a time when the Nazis felt that the prestige which the avant-gardeenjoyed among the cultivated German public could be of advantageto them, and practical considerations of this nature, the Nazisbeing skillful politicians, have always taken precedence overHitler's personal inclinations. Later the Nazis realized thatit was more practical to accede to the wishes of the masses inmatters of culture than to those of their paymasters; the latter,when it came to a question of preserving power, were as willingto sacrifice their culture as they were their moral principles;while the former, precisely because power was being withheld fromthem, had to be cozened in every other way possible. It was necessaryto promote on a much more grandiose style than in the democraciesthe illusion that the masses actually rule. The literature andart they enjoy and understand were to be proclaimed the only trueart and literature and any other kind was to be suppressed. Underthese circumstances people like Gottfried Benn, no matter howardently they support Hitler, become a liability; and we hearno more of them in Nazi Germany.
In the midst of this economic integration, countries are striving to promote their cultural identity. Canada's cultural policies have served us well in the past. The growing pressure from new technologies and globalization highlight the urgent need for strong cultural policies in the future. Without strong cultural policies, we will become simply producers and consumers of tradeable goods and services. We will no longer have our own stories.
In trade terms, the growing economic interdependence is challenging national borders and changing attitudes towards policies designed to nurture national interests. The trend to economic interdependence is not limited to industry. With recent trade agreements, such as NAFTA and the treaties that helped create the European Union, the countries' economic interests are becoming more closely intertwined. Trade barriers are being pulled down, and national policies are being challenged. This trend will have an impact on both cultural and trade policies in the years ahead.
Cultural industries, like other sectors, are seeing rapid growth in multinational corporations. As companies try to position themselves to prosper from the information economy, mergers and consortiums -- firms from different countries working together to bring a product to a world market -- are becoming common. In many cases, artists and producers are thinking less about their domestic market and more about global markets.
We must not be deceived by superficial phenomena and localsuccesses. Picasso's shows still draw crowds, and T. S. Eliotis taught in the universities; the dealers in modernist art arestill in business, and the publishers still publish some "difficult"poetry. But the avant-garde itself, already sensing the danger,is becoming more and more timid every day that passes. Academicismand commercialism are appearing in the strangest places. Thiscan mean only one thing: that the avant-garde is becoming unsureof the audience it depends on -- the rich and the cultivated.
The avant-garde's specialization of itself, the fact that itsbest artists are artists' artists, its best poets, poets' poets,has estranged a great many of those who were capable formerlyof enjoying and appreciating ambitious art and literature, butwho are now unwilling or unable to acquire an initiation intotheir craft secrets. The masses have always remained more or lessindifferent to culture in the process of development. But todaysuch culture is being abandoned by those to whom it actually belongs-- our ruling class. For it is to the latter that the avant-gardebelongs. No culture can develop without a social basis, withouta source of stable income. And in the case of the avant-garde,this was provided by an elite among the ruling class of that societyfrom which it assumed itself to be cut off, but to which it hasalways remained attached by an umbilical cord of gold. The paradoxis real. And now this elite is rapidly shrinking. Since the avant-gardeforms the only living culture we now have, the survival in thenear future of culture in general is thus threatened.
Considering the size and openness of our market, Canada has developed a relatively strong cultural sector. The success that we have managed to achieve in the competitive Canadian market is due to:
Germany, on the other hand, increasingly appears to be the strongest remaining bastion of liberal democracy. With the United Kingdom mired in the aftermath of Brexit, France facing a possible hard-right swerve, and Italy in disarray, the country that long stood as a synonym for nationalist insanity has so far resisted political and cultural regression. Tellingly, it has rejected the libertarian code of the big Silicon Valley companies, with their disdain for privacy, copyright, and limitations on hate speech. On the day after the American election, which happened to be the seventy-eighth anniversary of Kristallnacht, a neo-Nazi group in Berlin, titled “Jews Among Us.” Facebook initially refused to take down the post, but an outcry in the media and among lawmakers prompted its deletion. Such episodes suggest that Germans are less likely to acquiesce to the forces that have ravaged the American public sphere.
Culture is also a critical tool in the task of nation building. Canadian culture represents the values that make us unique from other nations. The Canadian government, like governments in other countries, recognizes that cultural diversity, like biodiversity, must be preserved and nurtured. As the world becomes more economically integrated, countries need strong local cultures and cultural expression to maintain their sovereignty and sense of belonging.
The peasants who settled in the cities as proletariat and pettybourgeois learned to read and write for the sake of efficiency,but they did not win the leisure and comfort necessary for theenjoyment of the city's traditional culture. Losing, nevertheless,their taste for the folk culture whose background was the countryside,and discovering a new capacity for boredom at the same time, thenew urban masses set up a pressure on society to provide themwith a kind of culture fit for their own consumption. To fillthe demand of the new market, a new commodity was devised: ersatzculture, kitsch, destined for those who, insensible to the valuesof genuine culture, are hungry nevertheless for the diversionthat only culture of some sort can provide.