Saturday, January 21, 2017

A New Cure. (1906)

From the March 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the February issue of the Socialist Standard our comrade, Dick Kent, dealt with the latest quack remedy of the Salvation Army for solving unemployment. Now comes a writer in the Daily News, an "economic expert" who traces the cause of unemployment to the wasteful expenditure of wealth. Bow your heads, ye Solomons who taught the workers that they were poor because they were robbed. Shade your eyes from the dazzling light thrown upon this, up till now, difficult problem by the economic constellation alone. Can ye not see that it is not because Dick Turpin robs you that you are poor, but because, after he has emptied your pockets, he spends the proceeds of his industry in a wasteful manner. If, instead of spending this wealth among pals and girls, he were to turn it in the direction of useful production — such as the pistols and ammunition he employs for the purpose of persuading you to agree with him upon the point of wealth distribution - how much better off everyone would be. True! those already engaged in that industry would find their occupation gone by the inflow of new workers, unless they succeeded in beating them off the market by underselling them. In either case one set would still be unemployed.

"I know of no Labour member," says this economic sunbeam, “who does not desire to call men from the building of warships and the making of rifles to the construction of houses and the feeding and clothing of the people."

Note the phrasing of the last sentence. To construct houses does not necessarily mean the housing of the constructors; and to jumble this up with “the feeding and clothing of the people” without explaining how this latter is to be done, is to add to the confusion already existing. He would call men from building warships to build houses, and then, I suppose, place these upon an already fearfully overstocked market, compared to the effective demand, with the result of throwing out of work those at present precariously employed, and so replacing the present unemployed army by another. Then, we may suppose, this army will be set to work and thereby displace the displacers. The Inner Circle is a fool to it. Also the other sections of men now making rifles are to be put to making foodstuffs and clothing so that the sweated bakers, tailors, etc, will either have to “sweat" more to keep their hold upon the market or become unemployed themselves. This solution staggers the imagination of even the best balanced minds to see where it will end—other than where it began.

Under the present system of private ownership of the means of wealth production, and of the wealth when produced, the workers are unemployed just because they have produced too much for the effective demands of the market to absorb. The first step to be taken in dealing with the problem is obviously, not to set about increasing the extent of the difficulty by producing still more, but for the workers to have access to, and ownership of, that which they have already produced. It is not the want of commodities that is the trouble, but the private ownership of them, and the consequent prevention of the workers getting hold of the articles, that is at fault.

But "economic experts" are not paid by the ruling class to spread the truth, but to throw the weight of their “learning” and "science" upon the side of those who are engaged in keeping the mind of the workers directed away from the real question, and fixed upon one of the numerous "red herrings” before them.
Jack Fitzgerald

Another Quack Remedy. (1906)

From the February 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

With the multitudinous “remedies” for the unemployed problem, one wonders why it should exist at all, or, at any rate, why it is allowed to assume the alarming proportions it does each winter. Notwithstanding stone yards and emigration, Queen’s Funds and the rest, however, the problem remains, and what is more important, increases. But at last the "first practical proposal” has been made. It emanates from that quarter from which one would anticipate “practical” proposals.

The Salvation Army! A sum of £100,000 has been placed at the service of the Army to finance a scheme for putting “a certain section of the deserving poor” “back to the land." Without going into details, the nett result of this “practical proposal" is to create about 200 small holdings of 5 acres each, on which the unfortunate settler will have to work to produce (a) £25 per annum which will be demanded of him as rent; (b) 5 per cent. interest on the sum advanced, and (c) his own livelihood in competition with the larger and more economically organised farms both here and abroad. After 40 years he becomes a "peasant proprietor.”

So far as these potential peasant proprietors are concerned, their unemployment can, if they succeed in complying with the conditions, be accepted as cured; nut for such a scheme to be boomed in the Press as, in any way, a solution of the problem of unemployment, is, misleading and untrue.

For, after all, what leads to this unemployment? Why is it that no one among the ranks of the employers of labour will employ these people? Simply because they cannot do so and conform to the necessities of the system, i.e., show a profit. And this, because the system has developed so as to expose, in bold relief, its essential contradiction, and by virtue of the private ownership of the means of living, and its necessary corollary, wage-labour, to increase with its development, the disproportion between the amount produced and the amount received as wages. It is the accumulation of this difference that produces the glutted market, the depression in trade, the economic crisis, the "over-production ” and the "unemployed problem."

Such a result being the necessary outcome of the capitalistic method of production, how can the effect be removed, and the cause of the effect retained? It is an answer to this riddle which well-intentioned people try to find by means of such artificial arrangements as that mentioned above. For my part, I accept the inevitable, and believe that if capitalism produces the results alleged against it (and they cannot be denied), then to remove the results you must remove capitalism.

The purchasing power of the bulk of the community is limited to their wages. Their wages represent a declining proportion of the wealth produced. The proportion of the community so affected increases. Therefore, the surplus, over and above wages, represents an increasing proportion of wealth which goes to a decreasing proportion of the community. This is the prime cause of unemployment The new scheme (if indeed it can be called new) in no way tends to rebalance those proportions, but, if anything, to enlarge the disproportion. It is, therefore, no solution of the problem.

To attempt to solve an “unemployed problem” that is produced by the capitalist mode of production and yet retain the mode of production is folly and a criminal waste of time. Capitalism out of its own inherent weakness is rapidly preparing its own downfall by the production of such problems as that of unemployment. That downfall is inevitable. There is no escape from it. Upon its ruins only an intelligent working-class may construct the newer system which, by the organisation of the production of wealth for the satisfaction of the wants of those who produce it, will preclude the possibility of such anomalies as the general poverty problem of our time, with the more acute poverty and unemployment always attendant upon it, necessitating, as it at present does, abstinence and starvation in the midst of  plenty, and because there is plenty.
Dick Kent

Another Life of Marx. - Part 2 (1929)

Book Review from the December 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

I have now given sufficient information to enable the reader to judge of the biased and unreliable nature of Ruhle’s "Life of Marx." The last few pages of the book give us the apparent reason for this attempt to blacken the personal character of Marx. All through the book the writer is endeavouring to show (but without sound evidence) that Marx was a very clever thinker —but allowed his personal feelings to override his judgment. The author is compelled to admit time after time that Marx’s judgments were ultimately sound, as witness quotations given. But he persists all through the book in trying to give the reader this impression of uncertainty. Why? Here is the explanation :—
Marxism, being primarily called upon to stir up the proletarian masses, to make them collect their forces, and to lead them on to the battlefield, must necessarily display itself at the outset in a guise which would encourage optimism; in a guise which, by representing historical evolution as the guarantee of the liberation of mankind, would make the workers believe in their own mission. To gain headway, it must relentlessly clear out of the path all rationalistic and utopian systems of Socialism, and must inexorably proceed on its own course. To-day, when its work is finished, Marxism begins to assume a new aspect. In our own time, not merely can Marxism occasionally recur to the systems of the Utopists and the rationalists; it is directly faced in this direction by the practical demands of the day by the growing claims for positive achievements in the class struggle. (p. 396.) (Italics ours.)
There you have it. Marxism was all right in the past, but now times have changed—Labour rules !—and we can indulge in wars, and all the rest of the reformer’s stock-in-trade. Actually, of course, there has been no change, and practical affairs of the day demand a still stricter adherence to the basic principles taught by Marx unless the workers are to flounder in the morass of Labourism for another century.

Mr. Ruhle, however, in branding Marx as a neurotic, is really making a special plea for himself and his friends. On the last page of the book he writes :—
The main thing was the work which had to be done; the qualities of the doer mattered little. Or, rather, the doer of the work which had to be done, had to be spurred to his task by an impetus such as could only be furnished by the neurosis from which Marx suffered! To-day, we have different problems to solve, and they must be solved by highly qualified persons who have freed themselves from neurosis; must be solved by champions of the class struggle who approach the undertaking with a keen sense of responsibility, an awakened consciousness, and a strongly developed community feeling, (p. 397.)
Now we begin to see light. We must forget Marx’s view, that the workers must accomplish their own emancipation, and put our trust in nice, kind, gentlemanly people like Ruhle and MacDonald, and the rest of the silk-hatted, frock-coated crowd.

It will be observed that I am now suffering from “stomach-ache” and getting personal. Ruhle’s attack on Marx is a fitting reflection of the former’s practical career. A disciple of Alfred Adler, of Vienna, he belonged to the German Social Democratic Party and voted with Liebknecht against the war in 1914. In the German post-war upheaval he took a leading part and was a member of the Council of Workers and Soldiers. Now he is neither in the German S.D.P. nor in the Communist Party, but is a kind of anarchist and has written books on “The Soul of The Proletarian Child,” and similar topics. Hence his kindly feelings towards Lassalle and Bakunin.

In one respect, however, this book can certainly be recommended. It contains voluminous extracts from some of the earlier and less known writings of Marx. These extracts reveal how early Marx obtained a clear grasp of the driving force in history.

Marx’s approach to Socialism was from the philosophical side. His early studies were concerned mainly with law and philosophy. His father wished to make of him a lawyer, but philosophy had a greater appeal at the beginning and ultimately he obtained a degree as Doctor of Philosophy, though he did not make use of it.

While working on the “New Rhenish Gazette,” Marx found his ignorance of economics constantly placing him in difficulties when dealing with questions of the day. When that paper was suppressed he immediately set about making up for the deficiency. In 1843 he did a tremendous amount of reading in history and economics, the first fruits of which was an article in the French and German Year Book entitled ‘‘Introduction to a Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right.” The following extracts give an idea of his early progress towards Socialist knowledge (at the time he was only 25 years old):—
   'Man makes religion; religion does not make man. Religion, indeed, is the self-consciousness and the self-feeling of the man who either has not yet found himself, or else (having found himself) has lost himself once more. But man is not an abstract being, squatting down somewhere outside the world. Man is the world of men, the State, society. This state, this society, produce religion, produce a perverted world consciousness, because they are a perverted world. Religion is the generalised theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compend, its logic in a popular form . . . The fight against religion is, therefore, a direct campaign against the world whose spiritual aroma is religion.
   Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the feelings of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of unspiritual conditions. It is the opium of the people.
  . . . . Thus the criticism of heaven is transformed into a criticism of earth, the criticism of religion into a criticism of law, the criticism of theology into a criticism of politics, (pp. 57 and 58.)
Thus early in his mental development Marx saw in religion an attempt on the part of the oppressed to escape from the troubles that afflicted them in the world of practical affairs. He also saw that the solution lay, not in theological disputations, not in new philosophical views, but in changing the constitution of society:—
    The criticism of religion ends with the doctrine that man is the highest being for man; it ends, that is to say, with the categorical imperative that all conditions must be revolutionised in which man is a debased, an enslaved, an abandoned, a contemptible being . . .  a radical is one who cuts at the roots of things.
    A radical revolution, the general emancipation of mankind, is not a Utopian dream for Germany; what is Utopian is the idea of a partial, an exclusively political revolution, which would leave the pillars of the house standing.
    What, then, are the practical possibilities of German emancipation? Here is the answer. They are to be found in the formation of a class with radical chains, a class of civil society which is not a class of civil society; of an estate which is the dissolution of all estates; of a sphere which is endowed with a universal character by the universality of its sufferings; one which does not lay claim to any particular rights, the reason being that it does not suffer any one specific injustice, but suffers injustice unqualified; one which can no longer put forward a historically grounded title, but only a general human title; one which is not in any sort of one-sided opposition to the consequences, but only in general opposition to the presuppositions of the German political system; and, finally, a sphere which cannot emancipate itself, without emancipating itself from all the other spheres of society—one which, in a word, has been completely deprived of its human privileges, so that it can only regain itself by fully regaining these human privileges. This dissolution of society as a particular estate is—the proletariat.
    If the proletariat herald the dissolution of the world order as hitherto extant, it is merely, thereby, expressing the mystery of its own existence, for it is the actual dissolution of this previous world order. (p. 60.)
In the above extracts we have a remarkably clear foreshadowing of Marx’s final conclusions as embodied in his materialist conception of history and theory of surplus value which together form the foundations of scientific Socialism. And it is a remarkably clear and logical contribution from one so youthful considering the range of the subject and the state of philosophical, historical and economic science at the time he was writing.

I would like to give many more extracts from these earlier works of Marx, but, unfortunately, they would lengthen out this review too much. I must therefore refer anyone who wishes to watch the mental development of Marx to the book itself, in which there is a great deal of useful quotations from these early writings.

There are one or two further points, however, I must mention before concluding.

On page 198 "Hic Rhodus, hic salta!” is translated as "Here is the Rose; dance here!” Surely this really refers to the traveller in one of the ancient classical tales, who, returning home after considerable wanderings, boasted to his friends of his wonderful achievements; among others that while at Rhodes he saw a tremendous statue with gigantic legs spread far apart, and that he had leaped from one of the feet to the other. His friends, already sickened by his tall stories, and wishing to "take down” the boaster, cried, "Here is Rhodes, now leap,” or, in other words— "pretend this is Rhodes, now show us how you can jump.”

On page 199, writing of Engels, Ruhle says he "unselfishly devoted his evenings, year after year, when the day’s work was over, to writing the necessary articles for the 'New York Tribune.’ ” In a review of a previous book on Marx by Ryazanoff we gave our reasons for contesting this view, and we must refer the reader to that review for a full statement. Engels certainly helped Marx by putting his articles into English at a time when Marx had not yet acquired a complete command of English, and he also wrote some of the articles dealing with military matters, but that is all. Ruhle’s appetite for detraction leads him to make these sweeping statements where opportunity offers.

We cannot commend the translators for the bibliography at the end. They seem more concerned with their own translations than with giving the reader a list of Marx’s writings that are accessible to those who can only read English, e.g., "Value, Price and Profit,” "Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy,” "Lord Palmerston,” "The Eastern Question,” “Class Struggles in France,” etc.

Ruhle, in his book, has taken his evidence of Marx’s personal character from those who were his bitter enemies, and who knew comparatively little of Marx’s private life. Let me give the evidence of one who knew Marx for the greater part of his life and one who also suffered greatly and gave the whole of his life work—apart from the time necessary to earn a living—to the struggle for working class freedom. I refer to Frederick Lessner. Liebknecht’s tribute to Marx is well known, but Ruhle is pleased to look upon Liebknecht with the eye of suspicion. No one, however, has yet presumed to throw any mud at Lessner. Here is an extract from his "Recollections of an Old Communist,” with which I very fittingly close this review:—
   Marx was, as are all truly great men, free from conceit, and appreciated every genuine striving, every opinion based on independent thinking . . . as already mentioned, he was always eager to hear the opinion of the simplest working man on the labour movement. Thus he would often come to me in the afternoon, fetch me for a walk, and talk about all sorts of matters. . . . Generally he was an excellent companion, who extremely attracted, one might say, charmed, everybody that came in touch with him. His humour was irrepressible; his laugh a very hearty one. . . .
   Some comrades proposed to erect a monument to him. But no monument could be of finer foundation than his teachings, his actions, and his struggles, which are engraved now into the hearts and heads of millions of workers for ever.

Portrait of the Labour Party (1930)

Book Review from the May 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

Portrait of the Labour Party by Egon Wertheimer (G. P. Putnam. 5s. 214 pages.)

This book is written by a German journalist who resided in London for six years as correspondent for two German Social Democratic newspapers.

The impressions received and the opinions formed of the Labour Party by the author are alternately flattering, candid, and refreshingly simple.

His facts are clouded by romanticism. The leadership of the Labour Party by MacDonald and Snowden is accounted as a great “moral victory for the I.L.P”; Clynes and Henderson are “products which the British Labour Party can justly regard with pride.” Cook is described as a “weak man, intellectually far below the average miner’s agent, fascinated with the half-baked Marxism he picked up at Labour College classes, and mixing the Communist dialect with that of the Nonconformist evangelical preacher . . .” And George Lansbury—” the old class warrior and most endearing figure among all the English left and by whose side a man like Cook cuts a pitiful figure.”

The Labour Party is compared with corresponding organisations in Germany and on the Continent generally. The policies of these organisations are said to be based on Marxian knowledge, in which the members are said to be well grounded. The result being that the German organisations make "less mistakes” than their British brethren. Of what does this alleged scientific Marxian knowledge and outlook of the Continental parties consist? Were they not, in common with the British Labour Party members of the same non-Socialist international which collapsed so pitifully on the outbreak of War in 1914? Did they not support the sectional Capitalist interests of their National Governments, and form Coalitions with the enemies of the working class? In spite of the alleged “Socialism” of the German parties, Mr. Wertheimer says that their Marxism is mere “lip-service,” and that the British Labour Party and the German Social Democrats are in “immeasurably closer relationship than in the first half decade in the twentieth century.” We contend that if there has ever been any difference between the British Labour Party and its equivalents on the Continent, it has never been due to one of them pursuing a policy based upon working class interests, arising from sound Socialist knowledge, in opposition to all Capitalist parties and interests.

Mr. Wertheimer says erroneously that the I.L.P. is a “Socialist organisation of an extreme kind,” that adopted an attitude of “absolute condemnation to the War. ” This is consistent with the author’s “ideas of Socialism,” and “Sound Marxian training and knowledge.” He describes an organisation which permitted its members to support the War on grounds of “individual conscience”—as the I.L.P. did—as being in “absolute condemnation to the War.” The facts are that the I.L.P. decided on a policy, and permitted its members, as “individuals,” to oppose that policy. Such two-faced conduct enabled them to trim their sails to any wind that blew. A game of which they and their colleagues of the Labour Party are masters.

The Communist Party, we are told, was a “child of crisis.” It was formed from the ashes of the Shop Steward movement and the cinders of such obscure organisations as the “Socialist Labour Party” and the “Socialist Party of Great Britain.” This is really unkind ! Our bitterest enemies in their wildest moments have never held us responsible, or partly responsible, for the Communist Party. Neither have we been reduced at any time to that relative condition which could be compared to cinders. That “child of crisis,” the Communist Party, was a creature of circumstance, and working class lack of knowledge. The Socialist Party, which seeks to provide that knowledge of Socialism, certainly did not have any hand whatever in forming or assisting the Communist Party.

The book is moderately priced and makes interesting and easy reading for those who would like to learn what are a foreigner’s impressions of English political life.
Harry Waite

Marx and Soviet Reality (1958)

Book Review from the February 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

Marx and Soviet Reality by Daniel Norman. The Batchworth Press, 1955. 2s. 6d. 

This is a very useful little booklet of 72 pages which demolishes, with numerous quotations from Marx and Engels, a large number of the myths the Bolsheviks have built up to delude the uncritical: particularly their claims to be Marxists and to have established Socialism in Russia.

The author shows that the Russian revolution was fundamentally a revolution, similar to the French revolution of 1789-93, for the purpose of bringing Russia out of semi-feudalism into modern capitalism. Its ruthlessness and barbarity were part of the hot-house process. He also shows that the revolution never went "off the track,” as the Trotskyists pretend, because Stalin only carried on the Lenin programme.

The opening paragraphs of the booklet indicate the author’s standpoint:
  “There it at least one point on which Soviet propaganda and the opponents of Marxian—and Socialism in general— agree: both describe the U.S.S.R. as the embodiment of the Marx-Engels conception of a Socialist society. Both claim to see in the masters of the Kremlin the heirs and faithful pupils of Marx, and in the Soviet policy the extension of Marxian policy in our time.
   "Nothing could be wider of the mark; nothing would have infuriated Marx and Engels more. For under its Marxist veneer of Bolshevik terminology, Soviet reality can be easily identified with everything abhorred, criticised, and fought against by Marx and Engels all their lives.”
Of unemployment in Russia the author has this to say:-
   "How can there by any question of unemployment where important part of the working population is permanently behind barbed wire, working for wages far under subsistence level, that is, in worse conditions than a slave of ancient times.” (Page 27.)
Although the means of production are owned by the State the new privileged class that has grown up in Russia had their position legalised by the Stalin Constitution of 1936, which confirmed the right to private property and the right to inheritance. So the claim of the wealthy to the products of the workers’ labour is protected in the same way as in other capitalist countries. Of the relation between the Russian State and the workers the author describes as follows:—
   “The fact that in the U.S.S.R. the State is the owner of the conditions of production—'the general capitalist’—and the direct producers are wage-earners, that therefore the relations between them, according to Marx, are still the relations between capital and labour, between employer and proletarians, whether or not this pleases the Soviet leaders. And there is no difficulty in discovering that all the characteristics of the capitalist system of exploitation are to be found in the Russian system of relationship between the State, owner of the means of production, and the direct producer, the worker." (Page 23.)
The author makes the following general observation on Soviet planning:—
   “The general aim of Soviet planning being the industrialisation of the country, the immediate task for the Russian State capitalist planners is 'augmentation of Capital,' and capital, be it State or private, is accumulated surplus value. The planning of wages is thus naturally reduced to squeezing as much unpaid labour as possible from the worker, and the planners see to it that they are not robbed of their part” (Page 21.)
There are numerous quotations from Capital, as well as from other writings of Marx and Engels to illustrate how different their conception was from that which the Bolsheviks have tried to foist upon them, and how truly the progress of Russian industrialisation has followed the path which Marx had forecast as necessary in order to establish capitalism there.

Marx pointed out that “The expropriation of the agricultural producer, of the peasant, from the soil, is the basis of the whole process.” The author shows how the Russian plans accomplished just this, increasing the number of industrial workers by over 20 millions between 1928 and 1940, "without taking into account the millions of peasants who, during this period, were sent to hard labour in Siberia find Central Asiatic Russia, nor the further millions who perished during the famines of the thirties.” (Page 32.)

A letter from Engels to Vera Zasulich April 23rd, 1885, is quoted in which Engels gave an astonishing forecast of events in Russia. After saying that a revolution in Russia was imminent, he goes on:—
    “This is one of the exceptional cases where it is possible for a handful of men to make a revolution . . .  Well, if ever Blanquism—the phantasy of turning a whole society topsy-turvy by the activity of a small conspiracy—had a certain justification for its existence, it is certainly in Petersburg.
   “Once the fire is set to the powder, once the forces released and the national energy transformed from potential into kinetic energy . . .  the men who have set the mine ablaze will be blown away by the explosion, which will be a thousand times stronger than they and which will seek its issue as it can, as the economic forces and resistances determine.
    "Supposing these men think they can seize power, what does it matter ? Provided they make the hole which will burst the dam, the torrent itself will soon rob them of their illusions. But if it so happens that these illusions had the effect of giving them a superior force of will, why complain of that? People who boasted that they had made a revolution have always seen, next day, that they had no idea what they were doing; that the revolution made bore no resemblance whatsoever to that they wanted to make." (Page 45.)
We have now given sufficient to enable the reader to judge the character of this booklet. We can certainly recommend it to anyone who is interested in the subject matter and who has hitherto been misled by the fraudulent propaganda of the Russian Communists and their supporters.

What the author’s own outlook is, apart from the subject with which be is dealing, is not clear. We would be interested to know what he means, for instance, by "the alternative contained in our society: a revolutionary evolution towards a Socialism which implies freedom and democracy” (page 68). Also whether he supports Marx’s mistaken view about the value of the cooperatives “as forms of transaction from the capitalist mode of production to the associated one.” (Page 22) 

This booklet puts views we have been expressing for nearly 40 years—see pamphlet “Russia Since 1917.”

"Ghosts". (1917)

From the June 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is not many years since Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts was laughed from the stage. But we are now told that the life of those byegone years rang false; children were born into the shame of Peace, while the men-folk slept in the dull, deep dreams of the quiet of a prosperous world. All were wrapt in politics as shallow as Gladstone, were steadfast to the prudery of Victoria, read the feeblest novels, worshipped academic paintings and German sculpture. Never was an age fitter for the pen of the satirist nor for the reign of a queen without ability. Since it was dead as a doornail a great deal has been written to belittle the Victorian age, but if only we think of the old hostility towards Ibsen’s masterpiece we get one of the saddest, one of the gravest comments on the softness of that age it is possible to obtain.

The age demanded Purpose in everything so that in the end ethics became bracketed with art, became almost synonymous with art. This falsity and sentimentality was personified in Ruskin. He instructed the nation in life. He became artistic dictator. Under his powerful influence the picture became a scientific lecture, and the book a biblical homily. Landscape paintings became like naturalists' studies, while innumerable authors set to work to prove that the Lord Jesus had a hand in the fabrication of the primrose and the apple.

Some few did not submit to this vice, this cramp. The spirit of unrest was personified in Whistler. By the excellence of his work combined with the sting and brilliance of his wit he succeeded in lessening the power of the degenerative spirit. In literature the innovating spirit of romance was personified in Oscar Wilde. In painting, then, and in literature the principle of beauty, the principle of charm without Purpose, triumphed over the old principle of Purpose without loveliness.

Definite ethics, precise instructions on how to live, were forgotten in the passions of the new ideals. There was personality and not humanitarianism or science in the new nocturnes and landscapes, while in the new books the question of the divinity of Christ, even of the genesis of primroses, was lost in the fashioning of phrases.

This new movement in England with Wilde, Beardsley, Whistler at its head, with Shelley and Keats and some Frenchmen at its roots, soon became virile, influential, established. Slightly artificial at its birth, it soon added strength to its charm, till at last the pioneers decided to test their influence with the public by the supremely modern “Ghosts." I do not here pretend to give a complete account of the battles of the books and wits of that transitionary time, nor do I contend that the one or two masters of art named here were entirely responsible for the staging of "Ghosts." There were many men, who were sick and tired of the old stuff, who worked to further the interests of the new movements. But I do maintain that the revolt of these remarkable men against the straight-laced interests of the Victorian era made possible the production of "Ghosts." The public failed the play. The spirit of the public was not so fine or noble as the spirit of the play. The public, despite years of romantic tuition, was still interested in the theme of the play— in " what it was about." They were still spellbound by Ruskin and Carlyle and their principle of Purpose. They could not understand that what was purposeless and useless, even that which they might call immoral, might still be beautiful.

Now the play is again staged. The people go in thousands to see it. It is successful, and in consequence we are told that people have become enlightened People have become nothing of the kind. The play is successful because it has been boomed. It has been boomed by the authorities not because it is interesting to them as a wonderful drama, but because, owing to changed conditions, it has become useful as an ethical tract. The truth of the business is that at the time of the first presentation of "Ghosts" in England the masters had no use for it even as a tract. Not understanding the beauty and strength of its art, none of its characteristics appealed to them technically; its gravity and thought, its passion and lucidness, could not be seen by them. The mere theme of it was evident enough, but what Purpose could it serve, what good could it do to a generation nursed among bibles and crinolines?

Ghosts” deals with the tragedy of inherited diseases. The pitiful condition of the young art student, Oswald Alving, is given with tragic tremendous power, and, although the interest in the theme is secondary to the real interest one should feel in “Ghosts" as a dramatic creation, it undoubtedly appeals very powerfully to anyone who takes even a slight interest in morality. To the utterly inartistic this ethical theme must come like a storm.

Well, it is this ethical thunderstorm that the masters need now. And this is why. Every man is needed for the Army. Yet the military cannot get every man, for thousands are severely suffering with syphilis; other thousands are suffering in varying degrees with this and other venereal diseases. To say thousands is no exaggeration. The numbers are so huge, and the diseases are spreading so rapidly, as to seriously weaken the armed forces. The only ways the authorities can try to stop the plague are by legislation and personal appeal. A bill dealing with these contagious diseases has recently become law; the personal message is being delivered in such dramas as “Damaged Goods” and this “Ghosts.”

But be the laws never so stringent, the sorrows of venereal diseases presented in never so pitiful a wav, still most this generation pay in pain and anguish for the generations of ignorance that have preceded it. It it useless to try and remedy the damage and wreckage of ignorance, of generations of capitalistic schooling and social conditions, with s couple of dramas, be they the greatest in the world. Dramas are not the palliatives of injustice, they are the tragic or sweet fruit of our lives. A man here and there may appear to change after having witnessed some didactic drama, yet he only alters in so far as his earlier life has prepared him for an acceptance of the play’s pronouncements. A development of emotions is what we should expect from plays, only that, and not any change in our ideas. Dramas should be beautiful and useless as music.

So the authorities are quite mistaken again as to the nature of Ibsen’s “Ghosts.” It is neither an immoral play as they first thought it, nor is it moral as they now think it It cannot be crushed for being the one, nor exploited as the other. It is almost worthless as a tract for soldiers. It is useless for the authorities to get soldiers with syphilis to go to the playhouse; it would be more remedial, by means of some royal proclamation, to get them to set spinach.

Poor Ibsen! It would have been better had your poor “Ghosts" rested this while in the shadows of the contumely of its earlier years than be dragged and boomed onto the robbers’ stage for as churchy a purpose as preserving army divisions. Still must those wonderful words in that gem of composition be the precious keepsake of the lonely student—at least till social wisdom brings the great reconstruction and brotherhood.

Then will a play be, not a thing like Synge's "Playboy of the Western World" to be hissed at for heterodoxy, or a thing like “Ghosts” to be given prominence as a moral tract, but a thing of beauty only (and both the above plays may be considered as such) to thrill and cheer and inspire those whose liberated minds can grasp the might and sublimity of dramatic construction. Science then will have its own just dominions; the theatre will have its own. When the world is free, when the harvests of the earth are sensibly gathered and distributed, then will the peoples congregate in the theatres for the enjoyment of the artistic presentation of all the beautiful, jubilant and woeful pageants of the world—and that only.
H. M. M.