Monday, January 14, 2019

Socialism, One World, One People (1958)

From the November 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

Address to the Cosmo Debating Society, Nottingham, by Comrade Willmott

We have often been reproached for having a black and white case for Socialism and in the light of the recent race riots, both in London and Nottingham, we can say that from a particular standpoint—we have, and if you will permit a mild pleasantry I shall from the viewpoint of the S.P.G.B. attempt to shed some light on a rather dark subject.

To begin, it is an error to think that race prejudice is itself a black and white question. It is not The worst race riots in the British Commonwealth took place in South Africa between Indians and Negroes. That was rioting between brown and black. The worst race riots perhaps in the U.S.A. were not in the Southern States but in the north—Detroit. While the most tragic example of race prejudice in Europe, the persecution and slaughter of the Jews was man’s inhumanity to man in the form of whites’ inhumanity to whites. And who knows, the next showdown may at least in part be presented as a struggle between white and yellow, and so we arrive at the paradox that race prejudice knows no colour bar.

Now one of the myths of our times is that race feelings are somehow associated with differences in blood stock. Now scientists agree that there are different types of blood, which are enumerated as A, B and O, but whatever group the blood in the human body belongs to, is independent of race, clime, or country. A white man may belong to the same blood group as a coloured man and the white man’s own brother belong to a different blood group.

So if at any time you have to undergo a blood transfusion and perhaps unbeknown to you your blood donor is a coloured person, you will be none the wiser, and if you had colour prejudices before the transfusion you will have them after transfusion, and the coloured man’s blood inside you won’t make any bloody difference.

Even the term race has no real meaning. It is true there appear in certain human groups inherited features like woolly or straight hair, colour of skin, shape of head, and so on, but such things are found in other groups, like red hair and blue eyes, they are physical characteristics and have nothing to do with a person’s mentality. And seeing all these ethnological groups, black, brown, white, yellow, have all intermingled and got mixed up for thousands of years to look for something called race in any real sense, is like looking for a black cat in a dark room that isn’t there.

What ethnologists stress is that between the various ethnological groups there is so far as mental capacity is concerned, complete equality.

Class and Race
There are, of course, whites and coloured in the social top drawer, just as there are whites and coloured in the bottom drawer, and the whites and coloured in the top drawer have much more in common than they have with white and coloured folk in the bottom one. Those in the top drawer never indulge in race rioting with each other. Being more civilised they will often share the same exclusive hotel, or a bottle of champagne, even the same yacht Their good breeding also prevents them from being antagonistic about who's going to fill a job vacancy or occupy a basement flat. All of which shows how one's racial views are coloured by one's class conditioning.

While there are social divisions among men there is no biological division. Differences in ideas and attitudes arise from differences in their socio-economic environment. A negro who has lived all his life in Stepney will be a cockney and a white child reared by Africans in the Congo. will be a product of Congo culture.

Yet in this age of jets, sputniks, rockets and television, the superstition and ignorance on the question of race is such that one wonders whether we have made any real progress over our witch burning, rackrending, thumb-twisting, forefathers, and after the recent racial riots we might look less superciliously at the Philistines across the Atlantic with their Ku Klux Klan tradition and Little Rock problem and remember that people who live in prefabs shouldn't throw atom bombs.

Before the recent racial outburst there have been outcries against Poles, Italians, Lithuanians, even the Irish. While before the war there were organised protests about keeping the Welsh miners out of London and other cities. Given a recession and a big increase in unemployment, many who think of themselves as British subjects may find that they have become foreigners overnight.

Apart from racial antagonisms there are all sorts of other antagonisms in this society. There are antagonisms between the young and old in the Civil Service, commerce and elsewhere, on the matter of retirement and promotion. The antagonism of married men about other married men whose wives go out to work. The antagonism about policemen who retire fairly young with a pension and are regarded as unfair competitors for certain jobs. The antagonism between miners and agricultural workers when miners work on the land in times of unemployment or trade disputes, and so one could go on and on and on.

National Antagonisms
Then over and above all these are the national antagonisms resulting from the economic rivalry of world Capitalism. In this case, whites feel antagonistic to whites. Have we not been taught at various times to feel hostile to Germans, Italians, Japanese, and others, and they in turn have been taught to feel the same about us. We are now told by press, pundits and politicians that it is wrong for whites to feel hostile to blacks. Although at other times they have held that it is right for whites to feel hostile to whites.

But we shall not see the antagonisms of the present set up in real perspective, unless we realise that it is based itself on an antagonistic class division of income, producing an antagonism of class interests. This arises because a small minority of the population own the means of living and the rest own nothing but their ability to work. This ownership allows the Capitalists to appropriate profit or unpaid labour over and above what is necessary for the working class to efficiently reproduce their productive energies.

The Capitalists in order to realise this unpaid labour or profit compete with each other on a world-wide market and this international rivalry in turn brings about preparation for war and sometimes war itself.

Worker versus Worker
Given such an antagonistic set up small wonder that racial and other antagonisms are present in a latent or active form. Again in a competitive system where workers compete for jobs and houses, the coloured person who is a worker must become a competitor too. And in a social system where ruling groups exploit race prejudice along with other prejudices to play one set of workers off against other workers, it becomes easy for the coloured person to become a scapegoat for all sorts of social evils.

It is claimed that race prejudice has never been actively promoted in England. Well, if it has not, the English ruling class have certainly actively promoted it outside of England under the slogan of “the white man's burden." As the centre of a vast colonial empire, the empire builders here, made the colonies with their exploitation, oppression and appalling poverty, a prolific breeding ground for national and racial prejudices.

The coloured workers are victims of race propaganda. Native Capitalist groups have sought to gain their support by presenting the white as the common enemy of all coloured people and so using it as means of sharing with the whites or ousting white exploiters, in favour of coloured exploiters. If the coloured emigrant meets with adverse conditions in a hostile environment, race prejudice can be let up.

A lot of left wing sentiment has been shown over the colour question. Yet many of these left wingers give support to all sorts of national Capitalist movements. Only a short time ago they were backing that greatest of national and racial demagogues, Nasser, who is demanding expulsion of whites from the Arab world.

Housing and Armaments
Then there is the left wing, right wing, centrist. Mr. Bevan. In the News of the World a few weeks back he said that the Labour Government of which he was a member was worried in 1946 about West Indian immigration. They thought it would lead to increased pressure on houses then, as now, in short supply. Mr. Bevan’s Government could have begun extensive housing schemes, but they had much more important things. They had a vast rearmament programme on hand. So there were no houses for black or white. It was the same old story, guns before butter and howitzers before houses. Mr. Bevan and his kind might shed tears over the plight of the immigrants, but they are crocodile tears.

With increasing unemployment there is a lot of talk about last hired first fired. Many white workers have consigned the immigrants to that category. But workers don’t control their own jobs, the employer or his manager on his behalf does that. It's no good saying to the employers you must displace coloured workers for white ones should the occasion arise, or you must only employ blacks when whites are not available, otherwise you will create colour prejudice. The employer will take on or sack as he thinks fit regardless of race prejudice.

Back to Jamaica?
One wonders what might happen if the Government decided to build big atomic power stations in Jamaica. In that case many white workers might leave here to go there. Would they in view of what has happened here raise the cry “Keep Jamaica black.” So given a change of economic circumstances and it would be emigration in reverse. 

There is no real solution to the colour question in Capitalism. Unrestricted emigration with its increased pressure on employment and house accommodation provides fertile breeding grounds for race prejudice. Even restricted emigration or no emigration at all would not do away with the competition for jobs and houses in which coloured workers are involved. Race prejudice would still remain.

How much better if white and coloured workers realised they have a common class interest. That poverty, unemployment, housing shortages, are not a colour issue but a class issue, and while white and coloured workers are enchained to Capitalism, neither are free. How much better off if white and coloured workers realised that the vast sprawling slums of London and other cities are not products of immigration but Capitalism. How much better if white and coloured workers united to bring pressure on the authorities, that it is housing shortages and bad living conditions which are the cause of it all and not be side-tracked by red herrings or black and white propaganda. That, of course, would presuppose that black and white workers have added to their class understanding and how much better that would be as well.

In principle we assert the right of people to go anywhere at any time but the conditions are lacking in present society to operate it.

The very term emigrants meant they arc not free people able to move in a free world. They leave their country generally because of the pressure of poverty or lack of economic opportunity. They do not move into an integrated society, but in a world of high national barriers where man is against man, class against class, and nation against nation. A jungle of competition and acquisition where the undergrowth of fear, ignorance and superstition chokes all healthy social growth.

To blame teddy boys for the recent racial disturbances is to evade the problem by seeking a scapegoat To act on the sadistic advice of the Daily Herald, who wanted to mow them down is to incite race prejudice and an open invitation to group warfare.

Just as proposed legislation for revoking the licences of dance hall proprietors who operate the colour bar or taking away leases from house-owners who refuse rooms to coloured people would make people feel they are being discriminated against in favour of other groups. This would have the effect of further inciting race prejudice. You can’t legislate emotion or prejudice.

Our Socialist Stand
We ourselves are not emotionally uncommitted on the question of race prejudice. But we refuse to be so emotionally committed that we lose sight of our own aim and object—Socialism. Emotion is only a positive and constructive force when it is controlled and directed. When it is misdirected its effects are negative and pernicious. We do not put forward our diagnosis of society merely because it is right, but because in the conclusions we draw from it are the humanitarian assumptions of remedying the ills of extant society. We are keenly sensitive to social suffering, but we refuse in lieu of our own remedy to accept what we hold to be harmful soporifics based on a faulty diagnosis. To act other than we do would be to impugn our own humanitarian aims and falsify the reason for our last 50 odd years’ existence.

The Brotherhood of Man
Tb the ideals of other parties we offer the ideal of the universal brotherhood of man. Others have paid lip service to this ideal. We have acted upon it and not to act on what you believe is not really to believe it at all.

We do not only say the vast mass must come to terms with the problems of their time: our very existence is an attempt to help bring it to fruition. For us, man is the measure of all things, and how well or badly he measures up to things is the final arbiter of social change.

Man has the biological prerequisites for co-operation but being a social animal he can only exercise them in and through society. But it is only in a cooperative society can he become a truly co-operative individual. Only where he can equally and freely participate in the community can his own personality become harmoniously enriched.

That is why in answer to this antagonism ridden, man divided, class divided, nation divided society, we proclaim the alternative, Socialism, one world, one people.
Ted Wilmott

50 Years Ago: Socialism versus Religion (1958)

The 50 Years Ago column from the November 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

“Clericalism, high church, low church, Roman church, “Labour” church, and tin Bethelism of any calibre, are all in the ruck of reaction. Their power for evil depends, so far as we are concerned, upon the measure of working-class ignorance prevailing. Given that change in social conditions that will free men economically, the religious forms and influences which have been built up and maintained upon economic subjection must go. Our business, therefore, is to direct the working-class mind toward that changed social condition.”

[From an article rejecting the view that attack should be concentrated on the Catholic Church. Socialist Standard, November, 1908.]

The Tory Pension Plan (1958)

Editorial from the November 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

People live longer than they did a generation or two ago. So there are more voters who are old and the big political parties are more concerned than formerly about having in their electoral shop window something to offer to the pensioners.

Last year, with unlucky timing, the Labour Party put out their pension scheme and thought they had found a good vote-catcher. Mr. Crossman, M.P., said at the Labour Party Conference: "I believe you will find the electorate will want it. At least, I have noticed that the Tories seem a little alarmed at the idea.” (Report, p. 124.) Of course, the Tories, being the government and therefore in a position to know when they proposed to have the next general election, had time to study the reception given to the Labour plan and then to produce one of their own. They have done so and have put the Labour Party in a dilemma. The Labour Party and Mr. Crossman call it a “shoddy copy” of their own plan, but now they do not know whether they dare oppose it or not. The Tories have pinched Mr. Crossman’s plan and, as the Manchester Guardian puts it, have trimmed down the original to make it more acceptable to the voters. The Labour Party are naturally annoyed about this, because it reduces a little more their prospects of winning the next election—prospects generally rated to be rather dim at the present time.

We have no sympathy to offer them in their distress. Rather we would rub it in by saying we told you so. We have been telling the Labour Party reformists for years that the avowed defenders of Capitalism are at least as astute as the Labour Party reformers of Capitalism. Every time the Labour Party has conceived and worked up a good vote-catching reform, the Tories (or the Liberals) have come along and made it their own.

Is there any way of stopping this? Indeed there is. If the Labour Party did not put forward schemes that are good for Capitalism the avowed defenders of Capitalism would not steal them; anything not good for Capitalism they would not want to steal.

If the Labour Party stood for Socialism and fought elections on that issue there would never be the slightest danger of Tories and Liberals taking it over.

Which brings us to a remark made by the Editor of the Manchester Guardian (October 15th, 1958) that perhaps neither the Labour Pensions Scheme nor the Tory Pensions Scheme is the last word. “It may be, indeed, that a fresh approach—different from those of Government and Labour alike—will have to be tried.”

How right the Guardian is for once—but how accidentally! When the workers ultimately get tired of trying alternately the Tory and Labour plans for tinkering with Capitalism, they will try a fresh approach—Socialism, with whose inauguration there will be no need for any pension scheme because all people, young and old, well and sick, will possess free access to the means of living.

One other observation needs to be made. The Labour Party, from force of long habit, will maintain that the basic idea of the plan is sound, the idea of having unequal rates of pension; a small pension for the worst paid workers and a larger pension for those who earn more and who pay larger contributions. At last year’s Labour Party Conference the Executive had to defend this against a minority who held that such inequality is a betrayal of earlier views of their party. These critics were right, for at one time their policy was that there should be adequate flat rate pension for all. They also held that it should be non-contributory. That also has been abandoned; the financial purists are appalled at the notion that workers should be “improvident” and spend all their wages without making provision for old age. Another “principle” they have jettisoned is that of aiming at a “shorter working life,” an earlier retirement age. Now 55 has been forgotten, 60 has already given place to 65 and it is by no means impossible that before long they will be wanting to make it 70.

Those who still have faith in the policy of reforms might also note that this new plan (and Labour’s plan) by having unequal pensions finally buries the principle of the Beveridge Report embodied in the present National Insurance scheme. Only ten years ago they were telling us how the Beveridge plan had abolished poverty and ushered in a new era. We risk the confident prophecy that it will be less than ten years ahead that the Labour Party or the Tory Party will be introducing another new era to win the votes of the workers for the continuance of the Capitalist system that exploits them.

The Passing Show: ’Ardies’ ’At (1958)

The Passing Show Column from the November 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

’Ardies’ ’At

At the Labour Party conference the executive only narrowly escaped defeat on a motion which advocated the integration of the public schools in the state system. This would mean the end of public schools as we know them, and the speakers who called for this won the applause of the conference. The executive finally succeeded in getting the motion rejected only because the majority of those old props of the platform, the union block votes, was behind them.

But what difference would it make to our society, which rests on the exploitation of the many by the few, if every public school was closed down tomorrow? Some Labourites seem to come near to believing in this connection that if we all dropped our H's and spoke with provincial accents we should have taken a stride forward towards Socialism. It reminds one of the people who, when asked why the Labour Party claims to be Socialist, recall that Keir Hardie turned up at the House of Commons in a cloth cap, and seem to think that it clinches the argument. But the important thing is not how you dress, but what you do; not how you speak, but what you say.

Miss Bacon’s Dislikes

Even the speakers from the platform had to join in the general denunciation. Alice Bacon, M.P., who replied to the debate for the executive, said, “we all detest and dislike the public schools.” If by “all” she meant all the people in the Labour Party, the statement is not true. Many leading Labourites not only went to public schools themselves, but send their children there as well. The reason is simple and obvious—they think that children get a better education at public schools than they do at state schools. The equipment and accommodation at the average public school is much better than it is at the average state school, teachers at public schools get more social prestige and higher pay, so teachers with the highest academic qualifications tend to go to them, and most important of all, a teacher at a state secondary or grammar school often has to take a class of thirty-five or forty, while his public school colleague can concentrate on a much smaller number. Naturally those Labour leaders who can afford it send their children to public schools.

Under new management
But the question goes much deeper than this. Even supposing that we had absolute equality of opportunity—which is impossible in a Capitalist society—even supposing that no member of the ruling class could give money or shares or a better education to his children, and that while the Smiths and Browns provided the Capitalists of this generation, the Joneses and the Robinsons provided the Capitalists of the next (again, impossible, but let it pass) even supposing all this, we should have exactly the same society that we have now. So long as we have a Capitalist society—part private and part state, like the Conservatives want, or a little-less-private and a little-more-state like the Labourites want—we will have the exploitation of the mass of people, the working class, by a small minority, the ruling class. To support Capitalism while demanding equality of opportunity is like supporting burglary, provided everyone has an equal chance to become a burglar. Equality of opportunity in our present society simply means that each generation of Capitalists would have different names from the last lot. But who in the world cares what they are called? To alter a familiar line, a sewer by any other name would smell as foul.

The Socialist Answer

Of course, there would be no public schools in a Socialist society. It would be impossible for one child to be huddled with forty others in a badly-ventilated room opposite a soap factory, with the teacher wondering how he can keep up the instalments, while another is in a class of ten or twelve, in an airy room in pleasant surroundings. In a Socialist society, the members of it would determine what education would best fit children for living, and the children would have equal opportunities to benefit by it. But those Labourites who call for the abolition of public schools in our present society are confusing, as they so often do. the effects with the cause.

The Methods of Colonel Grivas

There are some facts about Cyprus which seem to have been forgotten.

Colonel Grivas, who is the head of Eoka, has a long history of extreme right wing activity, and of willingness to resort to violence to achieve his ends. It would not strain an over-used word to call him a Fascist.

Grivas took the opportunity of the feeling aroused by the announcement by a member of the British Government in the House of Commons that Cyprus could “never” be given its independence to begin a campaign of terrorism in the island, which still continues. This campaign is directed not only against the British, but also against Grivas's political opponents among the Greeks, who make up more than eighty per cent, of the island's population. Grivas has killed more Greeks than he has Britons. This fact has been repeatedly stressed by the British authorities. Some of the Greeks have been killed by shooting, others by being beaten or hacked to death in circumstances of revolting brutality: both men and women have been murdered.

A Death in Famagusta

In early October a British woman, the wife of a soldier, was shot dead in the streets of Famagusta. At the time of writing it is not known who did it. Eoka have issued leaflets denying responsibly, and the authorities say that if it was an Eoka gunman, this is the first British woman killed by Eoka. However, it seems more likely to have been done by Eoka than by anyone else.

This was a most deplorable crime. The woman had five children, the youngest being still in arms. What happens to the children now? Inevitably the crime must have a terrible effect on them. There is a saying that if you educate a woman, you educate a family: and there is a grim sense in which it is true to say, if you kill a woman, you kill a family.

More Deaths in Famagusta

As soon as the crime was known, a body of British troops descended on the district of the town where the murder, as it happened, had taken place. Famagusta is not a large town, and in it numbers of Greeks have been killed by Eoka because Grivas did not like their politics. No doubt in this district there were many Greeks who have had friends or relatives shot or otherwise brutally done to death by Eoka.

The British troops cordoned off the district, and proceeded to arrest every young man they could find. Within hours a thirty-year-old Greek was dead from suffocation, having been thrust into an army lorry with many others who had the misfortune to live in the area; an eighteen-year-old Greek was also dead, in circumstances which have not yet been revealed; a British soldier had been accidentally shot dead by one of his own comrades; ambulances were running shuttle services carrying injured Greeks from the temporary compounds where they were being “questioned" by British troops; no less than two hundred and fifty Greeks had been treated for injuries (“only" sixteen had been retained in hospital, said an official spokesman—"only" is an interesting word to use in this connection); and a twelve-year-old girl, having seen the “questioning” in progress, ran away in terror and died of shock. Apart from this the material damage, such as car-windows and shop-windows smashed in, was considerable.

These figures of casualties are those given by British official sources: unofficial sources put the numbers of dead and injured higher. (At first even an official spokesman said five Greeks had died during the operations, according to The Observer. October 5th, 1958, but subsequently he admitted less.)

Revenge—on whom?

If the dead and wounded Greeks, down to the twelve-year-old girl, had all been proved members or supporters of Eoka, then the British ruling class could claim that their soldiers were taking revenge—assuming that revenge, rather than the usual claim of “justice,” is to be the British aim in Cyprus. But the victims of this military brutality were simply those Greeks who happened to live in the area—people who, the British authorities admit, are terrorised by Grivas and have suffered more in the way of Eoka killings than the British themselves.

Broken heads, but no violence

Sir Hugh Foot, the Governor of Cyprus, one of whose duties theoretically is to look after the welfare of the citizens under him, issued a statement after these events saying “Our first obligation is to stand against violence,” but made not even the most perfunctory expression of regret for the activities of the British troops. Presumably death and injury do not come within his definition of violence when the sufferers are only Greek Cypriots. The War Minister, Mr. Soames, has denied that the troops concerned were out of control; for which one can only conclude that the things they did were not objected to by their officers and commanders. Mr. Soames said that he was very satisfied with the conduct of our troops in Cyprus (Manchester Guardian, October 7th, 1958). According to a BBC broadcast, Mr. Duncan Sandys, the Defence Minister, claimed that he was proud of the way the British troops had behaved.

Pride—and prejudice

Couldn't you have said, Mr. Soames, that you would have been even more satisfied if the British troops had injured only two hundred, say, of the local inhabitants, instead of two hundred and fifty? Couldn't you have said, Mr. Sandys, that you would have been even more proud if the soldiers during these operations had caused the deaths of only three people, say, instead of four?

How satisfied, how proud, can you get?
Alwyn Edgar

Reflections on a Mirror (1958)

TV Review from the November 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

Can there be any point or purpose in reviewing television in a Socialist journal? This one-eyed monster, instrument of abomination and ruin, heap bad electronic ju-ju—is there anything to be said for giving it notice and space?

Of course there is. The alternative, in fact, is to take no notice and pretend it doesn't exist: a hopeless pretence, since it exists now in the majority of people's lives. True, its place in our culture is still a suspect, parvenu one; but that is only because the grown-up generations still remember the world without it.

The same thing happened and the same things were said about the cinema, the radio and the novel. Indeed, the history of those and other art-forms suggests that the primitive pot-boilers of early years are the classics of later ones. The ’seventies may even see the U-boys queueing at the National Telly Theatre, Observers under arms, to drink in early Dragnets or vintage Spot the Tunes.

The television is here to stay, at least until the feelies arrive; and while it stays it is making its own contribution to disseminating knowledge, stylizing thought and formulating ideals. It is doing those and other things now, today, this moment—and that surely makes it worth observation. What better time to start than at the beginning of, as it were, a new season? For the winter programmes are upon us; the image in the home is, reputedly, at its brightest.

It would be nice initially to he able to comment on some late masterpiece, another 1984 or Look Back in Anger, as drawing attention to what T.V. can do. Alas, there has been none and nothing approaching one; certainly not the production of Arms and the Man, which showed only the datedness of this, as many another, Shaw piece.

The most interesting things at the moment, in fact, are two trends in the lesser televisual spheres. One is the increasing amount of petty-drama space given over to the cops. Currently there are no less than three weekly series about policemen; Dixon of Dock Green, Dial 999, and Murder Bag. Will this affect the crime wave? Well, a curious fact about the present young delinquent generation is that they were reared under an educational obsession that a policeman is a friend. If he is now to become a fireside figure as well, there is no knowing what may happen.

The other is the sad documentary significance of Six-Five Special. For some time now the cameramen have been breaking this programme’s continuum of rock and skiffle with shots of faces in the crowd (possibly as calculated relief from the star turns, most of whom would once have got the raspberry on amateur night at the Queen’s, Poplar).

This fragmentary portrait gallery is one of the most melancholy commentaries yet made upon our way of life. Any eighteenth- or nineteenth-century artist’s record of an audience or a crowd shows rich variety of expression and character; Six-Five exhibits a hundred identical adolescent pans with the same glaze on the eyes and the same round-the-clock movement with the chewing gum.

And to think, as one watches, that some people still fear Socialism would lead to everyone being alike.
Robert Barltrop

Advertising by Stealth (1958)

From the November 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Slight Subliminal
There is proverbially no sentiment in business, and obviously no conscience in advertising. There is, however, a curious ethic of "fair play” which picks on one way of victimizing people among a thousand and demands that it be stopped. Thus at the present time “subliminal” advertising seems likely to be banned as too mean a method of what in any case is achieved in plenty of other ways.

The “subliminal” technique is a visual one, devised for the cinema and TV. In Chamber’s Dictionary it means “beneath the threshold of consciousness"; it consists of flashing a word or a symbol so swiftly that the brain registers without awareness that the eye has seen. Its first test in a cinema in America involved the words “ice cream,” and according to the Sunday Pictorial, which sounded a furious alarm (“Home Office Must Act”) on its front page on October 5th: “Ice cream sales in the interval took a tremendous upward leap, and the customers did not know why.”

It was announced in the House of Commons earlier this year that advertisers are forbidden to use subliminal suggestion on television in this country. There is, however, the promise of an American horror film in which nasty symbols and words like “blood” and “death” are flashed. Calling this "rape of the mind,” the Pictorial reported that "screams of horror are almost doubled when the symbols are used” because "without realizing it, the sub-conscious mind of the audience is flooded with thoughts of death.”

That this is low and objectionable could not be contested: what, one wonders, will future social historians make of the twentieth century? The suggestions made about it, however, extend far beyond those simple considerations. Through the subliminal technique, it is said, ideas and fears may be planted in the mind by stealth—it means, in fact, the beginning of thought-control. “Advisers to the Pictorial” made the demand for a ban indisputable by saying: “This is the sort of terror that George Orwell visualized in his book '1984.’ This is Big Brother’.”

Orwell’s earnest, mistaken book: what a lot it has to answer for! And, curiously enough, it never succeeded in showing any such terror. For all Orwell’s efforts, its horror lies chiefly in physical brutality; its Thought Police are simply plug-uglies, its hero hectored into seeing two and two as five ultimately not by suggestion but in fact by pain, privation and fear. One wonders, again, what the future could show the past in obtaining conformity, acquiescence, and self-deception. The Roman Catholic Church held millions in subjection for centuries without a single subliminal symbol; the Kaiser’s picture in the papers roused fury equal to anything in Orwell’s “hate week.”

Subliminal suggestion is undesirable, but there is no evidence to date—discounting the somewhat naive “tests” described in the Pictorial—that it is anything more than a new way of advertising. True, it carries the stigma of unfairness, of invading the person’s mind while his back, so to speak, is turned. Is that any more unfair or any more undesirable, however, than browbeating him into submission, which is what much modern advertising does? It is hard to see the difference between slipping a name into the subconscious and imprinting it by nagging repetition: few of us today will not carry the news of the New Blue Whitener to our graves.

Advertising has for many years employed techniques of suggestion; if the subliminal is rape of the mind, then these may be said to have tried taking liberties with it. The implications, for example, of all the symbols of masculinity and female desirability: Twice the Man on Whatsaname. What Makes a Woman Magnetic, Handsome Men are Slightly Sunbronzed. Where all suggestion techniques founder is on their own basis of competition. Presumably it is not difficult to rouse anyone’s wishes for strength, security, health or charm: what no advertiser has discovered, however, is how to make conflicting and contradictory claims effective on the subconscious.

It is all very well to find that more people bought ice cream after a subliminal flash, but the same effect could have been produced by any of half a dozen others means (overheating the cinema, for example). The real test is not whether they can be persuaded to buy more ice cream, but whether it will mean anything at all when they are told to buy four brands simultaneously, each one in preference to the others.

Every person in our society must always be on his guard against attempts to regulate his thoughts: government. press, church, school and advertisement are at it all the time. The facile common picture—Orwell’s one—of twentieth-century man as having less and less autonomy of thought is, however, completely untrue. It is the opposite which is true. For all the black patches, all the prejudice and cruelty and acceptance of things which ought not to be, man today is far more knowledgeable than ever before. That is not man in the abstract, typified by a few; it means man everywhere, walking the streets and going to work and reading the paper and watching the television. Knowing more, he is more critical and altogether more sensible than he has ever been.

The only really effective means of subjecting people’s minds is ignorance. The Catholic Church has already been mentioned; there are innumerable other examples— kingship, war propaganda, every persecution in history, including that of the Jews. While on the one hand new techniques of mass communication are developed and put into the hands of the few against the many, every day man grows in knowledge and so in ability to think for himself. It is worth reverting to advertising for a moment to point out that after forty years of mass commercial advertising a great many people remain more or less immune to it, and the growth of ventures for “consumer research” suggests that knowledge is far more effective than symbols.

1984” has not come yet; nor will it This is not the trouble with the modem world. Much of its technical development points the way to the kind of world that could be; as things are, it is the organization of society now and nothing else which stands in the way of man’s full development. For that only a little more knowledge is needed. The enemy is ignorance.
Robert Barltrop

Sociology of Eighteenth Century French Drama. by G. V. Plechanov. (1928)

From the July 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

The study of the existence of primitive man confirms the fundamental statement of historical materialism, which declares that the consciousness of people is determined by their conditions. In support of this, it is enough to refer to the deductions made by Bucher in his remarkable research Arbeit und Rhythmus. He says :—
 “I came to the conclusion that labour, music and poetry at the first step of development were blended together, but the fundamental element of this triad was labour, and the two others were of secondary importance."
According to Bucher, the origin of poetry is explained by labor (Der Ursprung der Poesie ist in der Arbeit zu suchen), and one who is acquainted with the literature of this subject will not accuse Bucher of exaggeration. [1] Refutations launched by competent people are not concerned with the fundamental substance of Bucher’s theory, but only with certain secondary particulars. In essence, Bucher is undoubtedly right.

But his deduction primarily concerns itself with only the origin of poetry. However, what about its further development? How are poetry and art in general progressing in much higher steps of social evolution? Is it possible, and on what grounds, to note the existence of a causal relation between the state of being and the consciousness, between the technique and the economics on one side of society, and its art on the other?

We shall attempt to answer this question in this essay, and for this purpose shall treat of the history of the French drama during the eighteenth century.

It is necessary, first of all, to make a digression.

French society of the eighteenth century, from the point of view of sociology, is characterised primarily by the fact that it was a society divided into classes. This circumstance could not but reflect itself in the development of art. As a matter of fact, let us take even the theatre. On the stage of mediaeval France, as in all Western Europe, the main place was occupied by the so-called farce. Farces were written for the people and were acted before the people. They always served as an expression of the people’s views, its aims, and— what is especially necessary to note here— its discontents with the high class of society. But, beginning with the reign of Louis XIII, the farce begins to decline; it is considered as an amusement fitted only for lackeys and which is unworthy of people with a refined taste: "éprouvés des gens sages," as one French writer expressed it in 1625. Tragedy replaces the farce. But the French tragedy has nothing in common with the views, aims and discontents of the public mass. It represents a creation of the aristocracy and expresses the views, tastes and aims of the higher class of society. We will see what a deep impression this origin of class-division had upon the character of the tragedy; but, first of all, we wish to direct the reader's attention to the fact that in the epoch of the birth of the tragedy the aristocracy in France did not occupy itself with productive work, and lived by using that which was produced by the economic activity of the Third Estate (tier état). It is not difficult to understand that this fact could not but affect those productions of art which were arising in the aristocratic society, and which expressed the tastes of that society.

It is known, for instance, that the inhabitants of New Zealand praise the cultivation of certain native plants in their songs. It is also known that their songs are followed by a type of dancing which illustrates the motions performed by the cultivators of those plants. Here it is obvious in what manner the productive activity of man affects his art, and it is not less clear that since the upper class of society is not occupied with productive activity, as a result their artwhich arises in their societycan have no direct relation to the public process of production. But does it mean that the causal dependence of consciousness upon conditions is enfeebled when a society is divided into classes? Absolutely not—for the division of society into classes is determined by the society's economic development. If art created by the upper class has no direct relation to the productive process, this also is explained by economic causes.

The materialistic interpretation of history, then, can be fully applied in this case, but it is understood that in this instance the undoubted causal connection between consciousness and conditions, between social relations—starting out on the ground of "work"—and art is not so easily disclosed. Here, between "work" on one side and art on the other, certain intermediate situations are formed which often attract the attention of scholars, and therefore make difficult the correct understanding of certain phenomena.

Having made this important digression, we shall return to our subject. First of all, we shall discuss tragedy. Taine states in his Lectures on Art:—
  “French tragedy appears at the time when the well-to-do and noble monarchy during the reign of Louis XIV organised the supremacy of manners, of fine aristocratic surroundings, a court life; and it disappears at the moment when the nobility—and morals—of court decline under the blow of the Revolution."
This is entirely true. But the historical process of the origin and especially the fall of the French classical tragedy was a little more complex than is presented by this famous art-theoretician.

Let us examine these kinds of literary productions in their form and substance.

From the side of form in the classical tragedy, it should first of all be noted that the famous three unities were the cause of so many disputes in the memorable period of French literature which involved the struggle between the romanticists and classicists. The theory of these unities had been known in France from the time of the Renaissance; but it became a literary law, and an indisputable rule of “good taste" not until the seventeenth century. "When Corneille wrote his Medea in 1629," Lanson remarks, "He knew nothing about the three unities." [2] As a propagandist of the theory of the three unities, Meré wrote during the 1630’s. In 1634 his tragedy, Sophonishe, was enacted—the first tragedy written in accordance with the "rules." It was the cause of a polemic in which the opponents of the "rules" put forth arguments much resembling the arguments of the romanticists. In defence of the three unities, the learned adherents to ancient literature were armed, and they had an absolute and firm victory. But to whom were they indebted for their victory? In any case not to the erudition in which the public was little concerned, but to the growing pretensions of the upper class for whom the naive scenic absurdities of the preceding epoch were getting intolerable.
  “Behind the unities was an idea which had to attract well-bred people" continues Lanson, “the idea of exact imitation of reality, capable of conveying the necessary illusion. In its real sense the unities represent the minimum of conditionality . . . Thus, the triumph of the unities was in the real sense a triumph of realism over imagination.” [3]
And thus the refinement of the aristocratic taste, increasing with the strengthening of “the noble and well-disposed monarchy," conquered. Further progressions of theatrical technique made an exact imitation of reality fully possible without the observation of the unities; but the representation of them was associated in the minds of the spectators with a whole series of scenes important and dear to them; therefore, their theory seemed to acquire an independent value, though depending on the indisputable demands of good taste. In the course of time the prevalence of the three unities was supported, as we shall see later, by other social causes, and the theory, therefore, was defended even by those who despised the aristocracy. The struggle with the theory of the unities became very difficult; in order to overthrow them the romanticists required much ingenuity, persistence and almost revolutionary energy.

Having touched upon theatrical technique, let us also note the following:—

The aristocratic origin of French tragedy also affected the art of the actors. Everybody knows that the acting of French players to this day. is characterised by a certain artificiality and even a stiltedness, which makes a rather unpleasant impression on a spectator unacquainted with this fact. Whoever saw Sarah Bernhardt will not dispute this with us. Such manner of playing is inherited by the French actors from the time when the classic tragedy reigned on the French stage. The aristocratic society of the seventeenth and eighteenth century would have revealed discontent had the actors of tragedy thought of acting with the naturalness and simplicity that enthralled the audiences of Eleanor Duse. Simple, natural acting absolutely contradicted all of the requirements of aristocratic aesthetics. The Abbé Du Bos proudly stated :—
  “The French do not limit themselves only with a costume to add the required nobility and dignity to the actors and the tragedy. We also demand that the actors speak in a higher and slower tone than that employed in common speech. This is a more difficult manner, but it has more bearing. Gesticulation must correspond to the tone, for our actors must display greatness and ability in everything they do."
But why did the actors have to display grandeur and nobility? Because tragedy was the child of court aristocracy and the leading characters were kings, heroes and, as a rule, such “high-place” persons, who, so to speak, the duty of service obliged to appear great and noble, if they really were not. A dramatist, in whose productions there was not the required conditional dose of court “nobility,” even though possessed of great merit, would never have received applause from the spectators of that period. This is best seen from the French opinions expressed about Shakespeare at that time, and through the influence of France even in England.

Hume found that Shakespeare’s genius ought not to be exaggerated; unproportioned bodies often seem taller than their actual height; for his time Shakespeare was good, but he did not fit in with the refined audience. Pope expressed regret that Shakespeare wrote for the populace and not for the well-bred. “Shakespeare would have written better,” he said, “had he enjoyed the protection of the monarch and the support of the court people.” Voltaire himself, who in his literary activity was a harbinger of a new era, inimical to the old order, and who gave to many of his tragedies a philosophic content, paid an enormous tribute to the aesthetic conceptions of aristocratic society. Shakespeare appeared to him a genial but rough barber. His opinion of Hamlet is noteworthy, indeed. He says :—
   “This piece is full of anachronisms and absurdities; in it Ophelia is buried on the stage, and this is such a monstrous spectacle that the famous Garrick got rid of the scene in the cemetery. This piece is rich with vulgarities. For instance, in the first scene the watchman says: 'I did not even hear the stamping of mice.' Must such absurdities be tolerated? Without doubt, a soldier speaks thus in the camp, but he must not express himself so on the stage before the selected persons of the nation—persons who talk in a noble tongue and in whose presence it is necessary to speak not less nobly. Imagine, gentlemen, Louis XIV in his glass gallery surrounded by his glistening court, and then imagine a jester covered with rags pushing the crowd of heroes aside—the great nobles and beauties which constitute the court—and proposing that they throw up Corneille, Racine, and Moliere for Punch and Judy, who possess sparks of talent, or make grimaces. What do you think? How was such a jester met? ”
These words of Voltaire not only indicate the origin of the French classic trageoy, but also the cause of its fall. [4]

Exquisiteness easily passes into affectation, and affectation excludes the serious and meditative refinement of the object.

The sphere of choice of objects must certainly have become narrow under the influence of the class prejudices of the aristocracy. Class conception of proprieties was clipping the wings of art. In this respect the demand which Marmontel put forth in the tragedy is extremely interesting and instructive:—
  “A both peaceful and well-bred nation, in which everyone thinks it necessary to adjust his ideas and feelings to the manners and customs of society, a nation where proprieties serve as laws—such a nation can allow only those characters which are softened with respect to their associates, and only such vices which are mitigated by propriety."
Class propriety becomes a criterion when valuing art productions. This is enough to bring forth the fall of classic tragedy. But this is not yet enough to explain the appearance on the French stage of a new kind of dramatic production. In the meantime, we see that in the 1830’s a new literary genre appears—the Comedie Larmoyante, the tearful comedy, which for a time had a fairly notable success. If consciousness is explained by conditions, if the so-called economics is in causal dependence to its economic progress, then the economics of the eighteenth century should also explain the appearance of the tearful comedy. The question is: Can it do it?

It not only can do it, but it did in part, though without any serious method. In proof we’ll refer, for instance, to Gettner, who, in his history of French literature, views the tearful comedy as a result of the growth of the French bourgeoisie. But the growth of the bourgeoisie, like the growth of any other class, can be explained only by the economic development of society. Therefore, Gettner, unsuspectingly and against his own desire—he is a great enemy of materialism, about which, by the way, he has the most stupid conception—applies the materialist interpretation of history. And not only Gettner! Brunetière, far better than Gettner, showed this causal dependence in his book, Les epoques du theatre francais. He writes :—
  “Since the time of the failure of Lau’s bank —to stop at this point—the aristocracy loses ground every day. It seems to hasten to do everything that a given class can do in order to . . . but especially does it (the aristocracy) become impoverished, while the bourgeoisie, the third estate, multiples its wealth, and, gaining more and more importance, acquires in addition the consciousness of its rights. As one poet afterwards expressed it, in their hearts a hatred was born simultaneously with the thirst for justice. Is it possible then that the bourgeoisie took no advantage of the theatre—such a means as it was of disposing propaganda and influence; that the bourgeoisie did not take their situation seriously; did not look with a tragic view at the inequalities which only amused the author of the comedies. Bourgeois gentilhomme and Georges Dandin? And, above all was it possible that this triumphing bourgeoisie became reconciled with the constant performances concerning emperors and kings and that it did not take advantage of its increasing wealth to demand the portrayal of its own life? ”
And so the tearful comedy was a portrait of the French bourgeoisie of the eighteenth century. Not incorrectly is it called the bourgeois drama. But Brunetière’s view, though correct, has a too general, and, therefore, abstract character. Let us develop it more fully.

Brunetière says that the bourgeoisie could not reconcile itself with the perpetual representations of emperors and kings. This is very probable after his emanations in the above citation, but so far it is only probable; it will become certain only when we investigate the psychology of at least a few persons who took an active part in the literary life of France at that time. To them the talented Beaumarchais—the author of several tearful comedies—belonged. What did Beaumarchias think, then, of the constant representation of only emperors and kings?

Decidedly and passionately he rebelled against it. He rarely laughed at the literary rule which caused tragedy to depict its heroes only as kings and others illustrious in this world, and which, on the other hand forced comedy to whip in people of the lower estate.
   "To depict the weal and woe of people of the Third Estate! Fi donc! One can only laugh at these! Ridiculous citizens and unfortunate kings—this is all that can be permitted on the stage. Very well, we shall remember that.” [5]
This sharp exclamation of one of the most outstanding ideologists of the Third Estate apparently proves, therefore, the psychological attitude of Brunetière. But Beaumarchais not only desired to portray the people of the Third Estate in their unfortunate situations. He protested also against the custom of choosing actors from the heroes of the ancient world.
  "What interest have I, a peaceful citizen of monarchial empire of the eighteenth century, with the events of Rome or Athens? Can 1 be intensely interested in the death of some Peloponnesian tyrant or in the sacrificing of a young princess in Aulis? All this does not concern me in the least; from all this I derive no significance." [6]
(Translated by Bessie Peretz for the 
“Modern Quarterly.")

(To be continued.)

[1] M. Herness remarks that the art of primitive decoration could develop only by depending upon industrial activity, and that those peoples who, like the Ceylon Vedas, as yet know nothing of industrial life, have no decoration. (Urgeschichte, der billenden Kunst in Europa. Wien, 1898, Page 38.) This conclusion is similar to the one made above by Bucher.
[2] Historie de la litterature francaise. Page 415
[3] Ibid.
[4] We will remark at this point that it was mainly this side of Voltaire's view-point that made him so repulsive to Lessing, the ideologist who adhered to German burgher-dom. This is well explained in F. Mering's book, Die Lessings Legend.
[5] Lettre sur la critique du Barbier de Séville.
[6] Essai sur le genre dramatique sérieux. Oeuvre 1. Page 11.

Sociology of Eighteenth Century French Drama. by G. V. Plechanov. (1928)

From the December 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

Part II.
The choice of heroes from the ancient world was one of the numerous manifestations of the passion for the old, which itself was an ideological reflection of the struggle of the newly blossoming social state with feudalism. From the time of the Renaissance this love for the old civilisation passed over to the age of Louis XIV, which, as we know, has been compared to that of August. But when the bourgeoisie began to be imbued with an antithetical frame of mind, when in its heart “hatred together with a thirst for justice” began to grow, then the fascination of ancient heroes— fully shared by its educated representatives —appeared antedated, and the events of ancient history seemed to be insufficiently instructive. The hero of the bourgeois drama is “the man of the middle state,” more or less idealised by the ideology of the bourgeoisie. This characteristic case, of course, could not harm the portrayal.

Let us go further. A true creator of the bourgeois drama in France was La Chaussee. Now what do we see in his many productions. An opposition to this or other sides of aristocratic psychology, a struggle with these or other prejudices—or, if you choose, vices—of the nobility. The contemporaries valued, above all, the moral preaching these productions embodied. And from this point of view the tearful comedy was true to its origin.

It is known that the ideologists of the French bourgeoisie who aimed to give its portrayal in their dramatic productions, did not display much originality. The bourgeois drama was not created by them, but was carried over to France from England. In England this kind of dramatic production sprang up at the end of the seventeenth century as a reaction against the awful looseness which then predominated on the stage, and which was a reflection of the moral fall of the English aristocracy. The bourgeoisie—struggling with the aristocracy—wanted the comedy to become “worthy of the Christians,” and began to preach in it the mores of its class. The French literary innovators of the eighteenth century, borrowing extensively from English literature everything which corresponded to the conditions and feelings of the French bourgeoisie, carried to France this characteristic of the English tearful comedy. The French bourgeois drama, no less than the English, preaches the virtues of the bourgeois family. This is one of the secrets of its success. At first glance, it seems entirely inconceivable that the French bourgeois drama, which, around the middle of the eighteenth century, appeared to be an established literary production, fell to the background even before the classic tragedy, which, from all logic, should have receded before the bourgeois tragedy.

We shall shortly see how this strange circumstance is explained, but, before, let us say this;

Diderot, who, thanks to his passionate desire for innovation, could not but be attracted to the bourgeois drama, and who, as we know, participated in the new literary field (recall his Le fils naturalle in 1757, and his La pere de famille in 1758) demanded that the stage give a representation, not of a character, but of a condition—particularly a social condition. He was replied to in the following manner: Social conditions do not define a person.  "What is,” he was asked, “a judge in himself (le jugen soi)? What is a merchant in himself (le negociant eti soi)?" But here was a wide misunderstanding. Diderot talked not about the merchant en soi, but about the merchant of that time, and especially about the judge of that period. And that judges gave much of instructive material for very realistic scenic representation is best seen in the famous comedy, Le marriage de Figaro. Diderot’s demand was only a literary reflection of the revolutionary aims of the French “middle state” of that era.
(To be continued.)

Sociology of Eighteenth Century French Drama. by G. V. Plechanov. (1929)

From the January 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

Part II—continued
A child of the aristocracy, the classic tragedy, unlimitedly and indisputably reigned on the French stage while the aristocracy predominated socially in the bounds assigned by the constitutional monarchy, which itself was a historic result of the lasting and embittered struggle of classes in France. When the supreme position of the aristocracy began to be a subject of dispute, when people of “the middle state” were possessed of a rebellious frame of mind, the extant literary conceptions began to appear to these people unsatisfactory, and the old theatre not instructive, enough. And then, simultaneous with the gradual fall of the classic tragedy, the bourgeois drama made itself evident. In the bourgeois drama the French “man of middle state" set his family virtues against the deeply-spoiled aristocracy. But that social contradiction, which France then had to solve, could not be decided by the aid of moral preaching. The subject was then not about the removal of aristocratic vices, but the removal of the aristocracy itself. It is understood that this could not come to pass without embittered struggle, and it is not less clear that the father of the family, in all fervent esteem of his bourgeois morality, could not serve as the model of an untiring and intrepid martyr. The literary portrayal of the bourgeoisie did not inspire heroism. And yet the opponents of the old order felt the need of heroism, were conscious of the necessity of the development of civic virtues in the Third Estate. Where was it possible, then, to find models of such virtue? There — where they searched before for standards of literary taste : in the ancient world.

So again the reversion to heroes of the old civilisations. Now the opponent of the aristocracy says no more — like Beaumarchais—“Of what concern to me, a citizen of a monarchical state of the eighteenth century, are the events of Athens and Rome?” Now the Athenian and Roman events re-awakened in the public the liveliest interest. But this interest took on another character.

If the young ideologists of the bourgeoisie were interested now in sacrificing a young princess of Aulis, they were interested in it mainly as a source of material for revealing superstition; if their attention could be attracted by the “death of some Pelopennesian tyrant,” then this attraction was due, not so much to its psychologic as its political side. Nor were they attracted by the monarchical age of August, but by the republican heroes of Plutarch. Plutarch became the text-book of the young bourgeois ideologists, as the memoirs of Mme. Rolland show. And this love for the republican heroes once more revived an interest in ancient life. Imitation of antiquity became the fashion, and it put a deep imprint upon all French art of the time. We shall note that, in addition, this same imitation weakened the interest in the bourgeois drama, because of the prosaicness of its substance, and for a long time delayed the death of the classic tragedy.

Historians of French literature frequently have asked themselves in surprise: what is the explanation of the fact that the plotters and workers of the great French Revolution remained conservatives in the domain of literature? And why did classicism fall only a long time after the fall of the old order? But in reality the literary conservatism of the innovators of that time was only external. If tragedy did not change as a form, then it suffered a necessary change in the matter of content.

Let us take Spartacus, the tragedy of Sorraine, which appeared in 1760. Its hero, Spartacus, is full of yearning for freedom. For the sake of his great idea he even refuses to marry the girl he loves, and all through the play he continues to talk about freedom and humanity. In order to write such tragedies and praise them, it was absolutely essential that one be not a literary conservative. An entirely new and revolutionary substance was poured into the old literary leather flasks.

Tragedies like those of Sorraine and Lemverre exemplify one of the most revolutionary demands of the literary innovator Diderot: they depict, not characters, but social conditions, and especially the revolutionary social tendencies of the time. And if this new wine was poured into old leather flasks, then it is to be explained by the fact that these leather flasks were overshadowed by the same antiquity, the general love for which was one of the most significant, most characteristic symptoms of the new social mood. Side by side with the diverse types of the classic tragedy, according to Beaumarchais, the bourgeois drama could not but seem too poor, too insipid, too conservative in its content.

The bourgeois drama was brought to life by the opposite attitude of the French bourgeoisie, and no longer was suitable for the expression of its revolutionary inclination. The literary portrayal accurately defined the transition of the bourgeois; therefore the characterisations ceased being interesting when the bourgeoisie’ lost these features and when these features ceased to seem pleasant.

The classic tragedy existed close to the time when the French bourgeoisie finally triumphed over the defenders of the new order, and when the love for the republican heroes of antiquity lost all social significance for the bourgeoisie. And when this time came, the bourgeois drama received new impetus, and suffered some necessary changes according to the peculiarities of the new social condition, but these changes were not important nor definite enough to prevent the drama’s asserting itself on the French stage.

Even those who refused to acknowledge any consanguineous relation between the romantic drama and the bourgeois drama of the eighteenth century would have to agree that the dramatic productions of, for instance, the son of Alexandre Dumas represent the bourgeois drama of the nineteenth century.

In the productions of art and literary tastes of a given time is expressed the social psychology; and in the psychology of a society which is divided into classes much will remain vague and paradoxical to us if we continue to ignore—as the historical idealists do, despite the best intentions of the bourgeois historical scientists—the mutual relation of classes and the class struggle.
(Translated for Modern Quarterly by Bessie Peretz.)