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Idealism Versus History
TWO plays—one by a Fabian, one * by a Communist —have recently been produced In London; each Is the epic of the struggle of a woman and idealist with the world, and in both her fate is to be dutifully executed by quite polite State officials. But the worlds of Shaw and of Toller are dif ferent worlds; the characters in Saint Joan are people drawn from the world of mediaeval history; in Masse-Mensch ‘the protagonists, except Sonia,’ Tol ler states, ‘are not individual charac ters’—they are symbols representing the forces that govern the world to day, the world of the class-struggle In its most brutal reality. Hence Toller has a message for the working class, and that is perhaps why the workers have less opportunity of seeing Masse- Mensch than Saint Joan. Not that serious consideration can be given to! the rash classification of Saint Joan as Fascist, on the grounds that Shaw accepts a philosophy of social despair when he seems to depict the shabbi ness of the powers that be merely by contrast with the glorious courage and perfect faith of one human being, martyred without malice in her own age, and canonized by humbugs in the next. Now whether Saint Joan be or be not Shaw’s greatest work, it certainly iB one of the finest historical plays ever written —in the conventional sense that an historical play is a dramatization of a “true story” from the history books; and Saint Joan is nothing more. But in it Shaw’s stage craft has so surpassed itself, and, in the present production at the New Theater, he is so nobly served by the players, that the effect overwhelms powers of criticism. The too subtle critic, failing to discern that the secret of Saint Joan is not in any obscuran tist evasions but in its Homeric sim plicity, seeks some explanation of Shaw’s emphasis on the lives and fates of half-legendary personalities, diverting attention from his play’s un questionable historical background of social conflict —on the one side the feudal aristocracy and the interna tionalist Roman Catholic Church in al liance with a foreign invader, and on the other side a nationalist middle class finding its ideological expression in incipient Protestanism and personi fied by Joan; and so into the play wright’s incidental irony is read a consistency of despair which is not likely to be supported by Shaw’s preface in the edition about to be pub lished by Messrs. Constable —if indeed there is any preference, other than the brief historical note that appears on the program at the New Theater. Saint Joan might well stand without one, because its epilogue, when the ghosts of Joan, her persecutors from hell, and a modern priest assemble to the Dauphin in a dream, supersedes the need for any prefatory argument. If critics of the Left are to justify the mediocrity of their own under standing—a thing which the critics of the Right never bother to do —and to find the intellectual food of Fascism In Saint Joan, how is the almost help less pessimism of Masse-Mensch to be Oreated? Masse-Mensch is more di rectly a drama of class-war; the bour geois critics have not attacked it, for they have not understood it. There is no criterion by which a unique ex pression of genuine revolutionary art ■—that is, art created out of conscious experience of the working-class revo lution —can be judged by critics tim orous of analyzing the meaning of a conflict which the bourgeoisie would prefer were ignored. Happily for the “Heartbreak House” audiences who attended the Stage Society’s perform ances the political significance—the “propaganda”—of Masse-Mensch is ob scured by its pessimissm, a pessimism natural in the circumstances in which it was written, during October 1919, when the author was in solitary con finement in a cell at the fortress of Niederschoefeld, Bavaria, beginnings term of five years’ imprisonment for the part he played as President of the Munich Soviet in March of that year. Masse-Mensch, says Toller In his preface, which was written two years later than the play itself in the form of a note to the producer of the Volksibuhne production at Berlin, “lit erally broke out of me and was put on paper in two days and a half.” Masse-Mensch consists of seven "pictures,” three of which are called “dream pictures,” but the whole has the effect of a nightmare by reason of its “expressionist” form. It is ac cepted as the masterpiece of expres sionism, and, since it cannot be sup posed that during those two-and-a-half days Toller occupied himself with ex periments in technique, it is evident that that was the form he found most adequate to his inspiration. The picture opens in a workman’s tavern where the general strike for the morow is being planned. The comrade of the working masses—the woman, Sonia, wife of a State official i _ Street Free! . ' • -N. By OSKAB KANEHL. Street free. In big crowd red banners wave. Tramways respectfully still stay. Loudly calls the Internationale: People, hear the signal. Street free. Street free. We have hunger. Look, we freeze. In hired-barracks we must decease. To toil as slave we have no mind. We take our right, where we it find. Street free. Street free. Up to the gardens, to the palaces. Where they puff, where they are in fatness. Where by race-horses and automobiles Before prolets they live safe and still. Street free. Street free. Up to the prisons, up to the keeps. Where class-fighters pay for heroic deeds. Out with them. Give free them at once. Else we fetch them. With violence. Street free. Street free. Who isn’t for us, is against us. Who blocks our way, we will him rush. Vanish and die, bankrupted bourgeoisie. March up, proletarian army. Street free. —Translation, Paul Acel. —is all strength: 'WfWUVRMP I am ready. With every breath power grows In me. How I have longed and waited tor this hour. When heart’s blood turns to words And words to action! If I tomorrow sound the trumpet oi Judgment And if my conscience surges thru the hall— It is not I who shall proclaim the strike; Mankind is calling "Strike!” and Na ture “Strike!" My knowledge is so strong. The masses In resurrection, freed From worthy snares woven by well fed gentlemen, Shall grow to be The armies of humanity; And with a mighty gesture Raise up the invisible citadel of peace. . . . Who bears the flag, the Red Flag, Flag of beginnings? Workman. You. They follow you. Such is the individual at the sum mit of her strength, and yet, even so, only strong enough to overcome the ties of her own social class, personi fied by her husband when he comes to dissuade her from damaging his ! reputation, “the more that you will ; harm the Statfe as well as my career.” i The urge you feel to help sooiety > Can find an outlet in our circle. ! For instance, i You could found homes for illegiti mate children. That is a reasonable field of action, A Witness to the gentle nature which you scorn. Even your so-called comrade-workmen i Despises unmarried mothers. ! In the next picture, the Stock Ex change, bankers are bidding for shares in a profitable investment, Na - tional Convalescent Home, Ltd. ! _We call it Convalescent Home For strengthening the will to vic tory! In fact it is State-managed brothel. The curtain falls on a grotesque i fox-trot danced by the bankers to i raise money for charity. In the third picture, the Masses, MR. GANDHI’S SWAN SONG (Contined from Page 4) ant Schools, titles and mill-made oth, would be forced to resign from ie All-India Congress Committee, his resolution, if carried, would auto latically exclude the Swarajists from >ower, and restore the leadership of he Congress to the orthodox Non o-operators. The All-India Congress Committee net at Ahmedabad— Mr. Gandhi’s >wn province and seat of authority— >n June 27, and continued its deliber ations for three days. Mr. Gandhi submitted his famous “self-denying ordinance,” despite the heated opposi tion of the Swarajists, and even that of some of his own followers, who vainly sought to reach a compromise beforehand. It was a dramatic mo ment; Mahatma Gandhi, the idol of the Indian people, stood at bay, de fied by the opposition within the con gress ranks. It fell to the lot of the Pundit Moti Lai Nehu to state the case for the Swarajists: “We decline to make a fetish of the spinning wheel, or to subscribe to the doctrine that only thru that wheel can we obtain Swaraj. Discipline is desirable, but it is not discipline for the majority to expel the minority. We are unable to forget our man- 5 By Arthur E. E. Reade “from eternity imprisoned in the abyss of towering towns,” are crying, "Down with the factories! Down with the machines!” The woman calls the strike, and then the Nameless One comes out of the Masses and calls for arms: The Woman. Hear me! I will not have fresh murder. The Nameless. Be silent, comrade. What do you know? I grant you feed our need, But have you stood ten hours to gether in a mine, Your homeless children herded in a hovel? Ten hours in mines, evenings in hovels. This, day by day, the fate of masses. You are not Masses! I am Masses! Masses are fate. The Masses in the Hall. Are fate . . . The Woman only consider, Masses are helpless, Masses are weak. The Nameless. How blind you are! Masses are master! Masses are might! The Masses in the Hall. Are might! The Woman. My feelings urge me darkly— But yet my conscience cries out; . No! Jhe Nameless. Be silent, comrade, For the Cause! The individual, his feelings and conscience, What do they count? The Masses count. Consider this One single bloody battle; then Forever peace. The Woman. You—are—the Masses! You —are —right! But when the battle is joined, Sonia tries to stop it, and the Masses are crying, “Treason!” “Intelligent sia!” “Let her be shot!” She is only saved from the workmen by the sol diery capturing the hall and all within being taken prisoner. The husband comes to the con demned cell to congratulate her that she is at any rate guiltless of murder. “Guiltlessly guilty,” she replies. The Husband. I warned you of the Masses. Who stirs the Masses, stirs up Hell. The Woman. Hell? Who created Hell- Conceived the tortures of your golden mills Which grind, grind out your profit, day by day? (Continued on Page 6) hood and our self-respect, and to that we are willing to submit to Mr. Gandhi’s orders. The congress is a* much ours as our opponents, and we will return with a greater majority to sweep away those who stand for this resolution.” With these words, Pundit Nehru and Deshbandhu Das left the hall taking with them fifty-five Swarajists. One hundred and ten persons re mained; when the resolution was put to vote, it was carried by 67 for and 37 against, with six abstentions. This apparent victory of the Gandhists is merely apparent; had the Swarajists remained in the hall, the resolution would have been defeated by about twenty votes. As a result of this vote, Mr. Gan dhi recognized defeat. After hurried consultation with his followers, he agreed to drop his resolution on com pulsory spinning and the five fold boy cotts, making it only advisory in na ture, and with these and other con cessions, the Swarajists were per suaded to rejoin the session. Thus, the defeat of orthodox Gandhism is complete and final; the Swarajists have won the day and Mr. Gandhi, as leader of the Indian National strug gle, has sung his swan-song.