Artists and and “Fighting Age”. A Socialist’s Comments

“Many of the artists, like Mr. Edgar Bundy, Mr. A. T. Nowell, Mr. J. R. K. Duff, and Mr. Wynne Apperley, continue their work as though they had never heard of the war which is now raging. If an artist is not of the fighting age it is difficult to suggest anything better for him to do.”—A. J. FINEBERG in “The Star.”

The above gem of reflection has been carefully preserved ever since it was culled from “The Star” for its unconscious humour and its twisted philosophy. It evoked laughter then, and has since. In an unguarded moment the critic has unwittingly revealed himself, and incidentally, the working of the mind of many others. Let us examine it from the point of view thus expressed, and then from a Socialist’s.

The art critic is evidently rather surprised, and slightly shocked. “What would happen if everyone stayed at home, like you?” (as the hoardings had it) is the question he mentally asks. The artists “continue their work as though they had never heard of the war which is now raging. If an artist is not of the fighting age it is difficult to suggest anything better for him to do.”

Evidently the main idea in Mr. Fineberg’s mind is, “Get on with the War !” If you are an artist of the “fighting age” then GO he would say ; he thinks the paramount purpose is the prosecution of the war. But if you are not of the “fighting age,” Mr. Finberg finds it difficult to suggest to the artists anything better than the pursuit of their art. Ye gods !—it is difficult. A very little frankness goeth a very long way. Let us see the logical effect of this argument.

Evidently, at the present juncture, when central Europe has been turned into a series of vast cemeteries through millions of peaceful workers, having been compelled by their masters to maim and destroy each other, the all-important thing in pro-war people’s minds is the continuance of War ! Like Lloyd George, they want to win the war ! But “there are some more concerned about ending the war than about winning it.” (Lloyd George at Queen’s Hall, Aug. 4, 1917). Yes, there certainly are ; and what is of supreme importance, there are some very much more concerned with preventing future wars by abolishing root and branch the present system that produces them than with winning this one.

The great motto for the workers should be “Let us mind our own business” ! Had the workers of Europe “continued their work” when their masters—the war-creating class—declared war, and told their rulers “To hell with you and your wars: go fight it amongst yourselves” ! then, truly, there would have been no war. It would have been stayed at the onset by “the men who stayed at home.”

Oh for class conscious solidarity of the workers, with the one aim of capturing political power, and with one goal : International Socialism ! Lacking those they have become the dupes and pawns of those who exploit and oppress then. Cajoled, deceived and driven like sheep, they have confused their own interests with their masters’. So Europe finds itself to-day in a sanguinary welter of racial hate and fratricide, with smiling fields turned into a desolate arena by the most hellish warfare the world has ever seen.

The demand for men of “fighting age” has been colossal. The glory of young manhood, its health and vigour, has been incessantly sought by the master class. The peremptory call for men to destroy their capitalist-made enemies has been enormous. All the fine qualities, and abilities to do things worth doing, have been spurned as of no worth: to be a soldier was the all in all. The world will never know what men of talent, of genius, who probably would have contributed their quota in the realms of Art and Literature, Poetry and Science, have, through their masters’ orgy of futile organised slaughter, been crushed and destroyed in the ruthless progress of the “Great War.” It is indeed a tragedy for the individuals and for Humanity also. Militarism is in truth the valet of capitalism ! Everything has been subjugated to the needs of capitalism’s brute force. “No sacrifice,” they told us, was “too great when honour and liberty were at stake.” The “honour” and “liberty” of plutocratic thieves ! Many of the men above “fighting age” have also “done their bit,” for have they not goaded others to go ? Have not some of them sat on Tribunals and “administered” the Military Service Act ?

Where also should we have been if all the art critics had joined up ? The artists, free from their attentions would be at a loss, and the Press would find it somewhat difficult to fill its columns with stereotyped art-jargon in their absence, and the art-gallery proprietors would not have their shows boomed quite so much.

To a Socialist it is pleasant to know that certain artists “continue their work as though they had never heard of the war which is now raging.” The spirit of Art and that of the Warrior are frankly antagonistic. One is creative and contemplative ; the other is destructive, and thinks in terms of force. When Socialism becomes the established system of society, then, and not till then, will the workers of the world kave abundant opportunity to do the work they wish, and as a “labour of love,” no matter what it be, whether expressing themselves in poetry, prose, or paint, or shaping their dreams of beauty in metal or in the marble of Carrara, or in seeking by scientific research to alleviate human pain. Then war will be a thing of the uncivilised past. Men will work for the World’s Commonwealth. Men of “fightong age” will not be considered from as potential warriors, but will be considered from the view-point of usefulness to humanity !

That is the crux of the position. “Warriors” ! is all the cry to-day—”Men, Money and Munitions” ! “Men, and yet more men” !—production for ultimate destructive purposes.

All this, workers, is the outcome of this system of producing for private profit. Every thing goes into the melting pot when the capitalists’ interests are at stake. No matter what your abilities are or your skill in any sphere of work, when capital calls you to fight in its own hellish wars you have to respond, and if necessary, make “the supreme sacrifice”—your very life !

Workers, organise class-consciously for the capture of the political machine and the establishment of Socialism to end these things once and for all.

Yours is the power and the ultimate victory ! The emancipation of mankind from the thraldom of the present system of wage slavery will result.

You desire peace ? You wish to abolish warfare? You as a class can alone end it for ever by your concerted efforts : by establishing INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM under which the means of the world’s wealth-production will be in the hands of and controlled by the Workers of the World, for the benefit of the multitudes of all nations.


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