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The Picture and the Film in the Revolutionary Movement
By WILLY MUENZENBERG. ARTICLE 11. NUMEROUS means for agitation and propagandation of the Com munist Idea are at the disposal of the Communist Parties and organiza tions; the spoken word in mass meet ings, factory meetings, demonstra tions, etc. The printed word thru leaflets, papers, manifestos, maga zines, pamphlets, and books. These means have been in use since the first days of the working class move ment. Besides these means firmly estab lished thru decades of use, more and more, altho slowly and against oppo sition, the picture is taking its place in Communist agitation and propagan da. Up to two years ago the picture was virtually ignored in Communist literature. It was seldom that in a book or any kind of pamphlet a pic ture was used to support and empha size the text. In no daily paper, in no youth organ, in no woman's paper was it used. Fortunately this situation within the past two years, had been largely improved and more and more the picture serves the Communist daily, magazine, women’s paper, etc., to liven up the text —altho still in regretfully limited extent. OUR enemy controls in Germany alone more than hundreds of variegated illustrated papers, and in Berlin alone there appear every day numerous papers with special pictor ial supplements. It is unquestionably necessary and desirable that pictures be utilized In Communist papers to a far greater extent than heretofore. The picture is most tellingly effective upon the children, youth, on the primi tively thinking, unorganized, indiffer ent masses of workers, agricultural labor, small peasants and similar groups. Coincident with the illustra tions in the dailies, youth and chil dren’s organs, women’s and peasants’ papers, we must unquestionably tarsia the development of the illus trated workers’ paper. Right in the factory an illustrated paper is far easier to sell to an indif ferent fellow worker than is a theo retical pamphlet. We must make it possible to stupifying in fluence of the bourgeois illustrated journals that are now circulated in the millions. Besides the creation and develop ment of the illustrated labor paper the picture must be fully utilized for our propaganda, by means of photos, cards, picture collections, etc. Parti cularly for the popularizing of the leaders of the Communist Interna tional, for the combatting of the hero worship toward bourgeois leaders and military figures, and above all, in the education and agitation work on be half of Soviet Russia the picture can and shall render priceless service. Letters from Our Readers When Workers Fight For Capitalists. To the Daily Worker: —It takes very little shrapnel to make a nasty mess Cf ones anatomy; but it takes an aw fnl lot of perseverance on the part of a disabled veteran to impress this fact on the government doctors, and, if possible, weedle a little compensa tion out of them. I was one of the poor suckers that got mixed up on the wrong end of the recent conflict. My share of the spoils of war was one fine assortment of wounds —the result of a personal contact with a three inch shell. One in the side has been particularly troublesome, and has made a serious dent in my otherwise sweet and cheerful disposition. I had no idea how really well off I happen to be, however, until I went to the veterans’ bureau to be examin ed for a permanent disability rating. This is what took place: One doctor after another, as I was being exam ined, took great pains to impress me with my entire unworthiness. In fact they as much as implied that I had one helluva nerve to be looking for money from our dear government, just because I happened to be shot up a bit. They told me I was extremely A further extension of the use of the picture is seen in the stereopti can slide lecture, which in the rural sections of Germany and Czecho-Slo vakla, where they have thus far been most used, have had best results. These slides make it possible to pre sent in most convincing and plastic form such themes as the economic upbuilding oL Soviet Russia, the life of the Russian worker and peasant, the children's homes in Soviet Rus sia, the Red army, etc. ON all these fields a start, altho perhaps, a humble one, has al ready been made. But next to noth ing has been done to put the film in to the arsenal of agitation and propa ganda weapons of the Communist Parties. Quite properly the enlarged executive of the Comintern in March, 1925, called attention to this short coming, and instructed all affiliated parties to concern themselves much more than formerly in turning this weapon to their service. Leading comrades of the International have repeatedly and emphatically pointed out the tremendous significance of the film propaganda. Vladimir Ilitch Lenin, in a conver sation with Comrade Lunacharski, said: “You must powerfully develop film production, taking especially the proletarian kino to the city masses and in still a much greater extent to the village. You must always consi der that of all the arts the motion picture is for us the most important." A statement from Comrade Zino viev on the motion picture: “The mo tion picture in the possession of the bourgeoisie is the strongest means for the betrayal and befuddling of the masses. In our hands it can and must become a mighty weapon of Communist propaganda and for the enlightenment of the widest working masses.” N. A. SEMASCHKO, Peoples' Coiu misar for Health, “. . . the kino gives a vital and accurate picture full of life and true to life, it can agt tate thru the Fable, thru tfie~picturiz® ation. These circumstances enhances the value of this form of propaganda also in the protection of public health, for today, with the widespread in creased popular interest in world questions, with the prevailing univer sal nervous tension, dry discourses and lectures on public health, no mat ter how learned they may be, cannot always get to the heart of their audi ence." A. V. Lunacharsky, Commissar for Public Education: , . The kino proves itself extremely vital. Wo possess mostly a very busy and high ly promising production, but altho wo have decided upon a salvation bring ing unification of all motion picture activity in the U. S. S. R., and par ticularly in the R. S. F. S. R., our steps in carrying out this decision are fortunate to get off as easily as I had —to have retained my arms, my lungs, etc., some fellows would consider themselves pretty lucky to be in my shoes —and more to that effect. This is a stock gag with the M. D.’s. The idea of it is to put the veteran in such a frame of mind that when he goes before the rating board he’ll be content if they hand him the min imum amount per month, no matter what’s wrong with him. Well, I finally reached the rating board. In our city this board is sup posed to consist of their three best doctors, medical “best minds” as it were. (I’d hate to be treated by one one of their worst). My first impression of the members of this board was by no means an ordinary one.'No, Indeed! I felt that here before me were three of the dopiest looking old codgers that had graced my sight in many a long year. That was my first impression. My last was even less favorable. One of them woke up as I entered. He blinked at me a while and then nudged the guy next to him. They asked a few of the usual idiotic ques tions, whispered together a while, and hesitant and uncertain.” K. Woroschilow, commander of the Red Army in the Moscow military district, “The motion picture, as a cul tural plane (the carpenter’s tool), has won itself a place of honor in the U. S. S. R. It is no less popular in the Red Army than among the work er and peasant masses.” CLARA ZETKIN writes concerning the significance of the film in the Communist propaganda: “On no ac count can the Communist movement ignore the propaganda power of the motion picture. For it seeks its fol lowers in first instance from those strata deprived of educational oppor tunity and barred from books, it must call out the foreign-speaking colonial peoples against their masters, and unite the proletariat of all lands. The film is particularly significant for the Soviet Union. Czarism left a heritage of illiteracy and feudalism. Soviet Russia includes great primitive, but culture hungry masses, speaking hun dreds of varying tongues. Here the film is a means of popular education of tremendous importance, a tool for the raising of productivity, a weapon in the struggle against unhealthy hab its of living, and against plagues, a disseminator of knowledge, an educa tor, a bringer of culture and happi ness.” Let us value to film by the great propagandistic, cultural possibilities that it contains. When we think of the masses that daily, in city and tiny village, fill the movie theaters, and that of those eighty to ninety per cent are workers or closely connected with the work ers, and when we consider further the effect of these pictures upon the mass es, knowing their power of mass sug gestion, then we welcome indeed the decision and pledge of the Commun ist Party for the full utilization of this means. To make available and use the film as a means of winning support, in support of our efforts at ~enlightening the working masses, is the most pressing task of Communist propaganda and agitation. The film can, for instance, be employed for the unmasking and gibbeting of our op ponents, in showing the development of the social-democratic party from the first beginnings under Marx and Eng els down to the Barmat circle in Hotel BristoL The effect of such a film can be appraised when one re members the effect of even only a series of stereoptican slides, dealing with this same subject, during the re cent reichstag elections. THE same applies to a film to meet the militarist and monarchist prop aganda prejudice films with a true ex position of the old Russian militarism, showing the torture in the barracks, the beastly treatment of the soldiers, and the grewsome horror of the war. In districts where the clericals are es then pronounced their momentous de cision. The first was a German (hot stuff!). “Veil,” he said, “I don’t see how we could gif you more dan 10 per cent.” That means 10 per cent disabled, and brings in the handsome sum of eight dollars a month. Since they hadn’t taken the trouble to look at my wounds as yet, I sug gested that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do so before pronouncing their final decision. They didn’t take this in very good part. It meant that one of them would have to stand up. How ever, he went thru with it, and they began to pull the old gag about how lucky I was to get off so easy, to still have my arms, etc. He started to compliment me on my good fortune in being able to get eight dollars a month, but he didn’t get very far. I started to pass out a few compliments of my own. I think I succeeded in conveying to them gome idea of the estimation in which I held their bu reau, themselves, and their eight dol iars a month. At any rate I actually woke up the third member of the rat ing board. Then I discovered why they have three members on that board; it is for protection, and they need It. The three of them stood up, faced me bravely, and told me that they con sidered my language very much out 7 pecially strong, a film showing the horrors of the medieval inquisition, would surely not fail of effect on the hitherto loyal supporters of the Zen trum. But not only against the enemy can our film be directed, it also bears tho possibility to present positively the aims and struggles of the Communist movement and of the revolutionary workers’ organizations. There can be no doubt, that a film showing the life of a youth, beaten in school, mistreat ed by teachers, suffers, hungers, and finally comes into contact with the Communist Youth Movement where he finds defense, protection, support, of his interests, is drawn into the mass movement, learns the meeting routine, takes part in demonstrations, etc.; such a film would surely exert suggestive power upon thousands of juveniles and bring great crowds of them closer to the Communist move ment. rpHE same applies to a film showing the life story of a worker, return ed from the war, plunged into the maelstrom of* the November events, and on the barricades of Berlin de fends his family and his class. Or a really extensive picture along the lines of the Griffith film, “Intoler ance,” recreates historical periods of revolutionary upheaval, beginning with Spartacus, the peasant uprisings, Thomas Munzers, the great French Revolution, and closing with the great triumphant victory of the workers and peasants of Russia. In the fac tories or after working hours we could show the workers by means of trick film the constant lowering of their living conditions, of the actual lower ing of their wages in conparison to the rising prices, and thus demon strate the actual working out of bour geois control of politics and industry. There are hundreds of motives and objects that can be utilized in film propaganda. We are not oblivious to the colossal censorship difficulties,, technical and organizational ob stacles, that stand in the way of all these suggested Til an s. ~STilflrV<ffrnd would already be won if we could put every Communist Party and or ganization into a position to show a monthly film chronicle of the most important happenings in Soviet Rus sia, and thus to bring the develop ment of this strongest prop of the in ternational proletarian and revolu tionary movement into the clear vi sion of the masses. Good and valu able as our present agitational and propaganda media, the spoken or printed word, may be, their effect would be tremendously increased if they could be combined with the up to-date medium of the film. rjIHERE must no longer be any country in which the Communist Party and Us groups do not make ex tensive propagandist use of the mo tion picture film. of place, and that if I didn’t pipe down they’d have me thrown out. I told them they’d have to throw me out or else give me a decent examination. They finally acquiesced and handed me an order to have some X-rays taken, with the promise that if the pictures showed my kidneys missing or a lung amputated they might in crease my rating. Maybe they'll in crease it one-half of one per cent. Well, it was a great war while it lasted. Yours for world Communism, Another Disabled Veteran. The Walden Book Shop 307 Plymouth Court (Between State and Dearborn Just South of Jackson) CHICAGO If you want to thoroughly un derstand Communism—study It.