Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 12, No. 10. September 20th, 1949
Culture goes West
Culture goes West
Our western culture, our values, our civilization, are threatened. In the east, there rises the "looming shadow of totalitarianism," and even in our midst we find "red-eyed monster in the shape of men." Despite the cloistering of our brick tower, we can still hear the war-cry.
"In Communism I see a dangerous enemy sworn to destroy the very things which we cherish, willing to wreck our country and the British Commonwealth. . . . I see it as a sacred duty to fight this thing." Thus our local Churchill and latter-day Cicero, Mr. R. Semple, warns us in his great work "Why I Fight Communism."
"The very tilings we cherish"—our western way of life, our cultural heritage. After all, we had Homer, and Shakespeare, and Goethe (even if we don't read them), and—and—ah, yes, and Brick Bradford, and the late Al Capone, and juke-boxes, and John George Haigh, and Lord Haw-haw, and, of course, the atom bomb. And—oh yes. I almost forgot. The good old Nazis are on our side now. In the Hibbert Journal not long ago, Dean Inge, after referring to the execution of the quisling traitor Amery as "a national disgrace," stated:
"Hitler and his colleagues were a vile gang, but we might have dealt with them. We can never deal with Russia."
Hitler Mit Uns
And the new Premier of Western Germany, Dr. Conrad Adenauer, ' states that, while he is "inviting the near-Nazi German Party to join his Cabinet," and "holding his fire on the Americans because of Marshall Aid and the prospect of the invest- ment of foreign capital in the Ruhr Industries," he most emphatically places himself on our side, because he "hates everything Soviet Russia stands for." (Evening Post, 17/8/49).
While Colonel - General Franz Haider, Nazi Chief-of-Staff until 1942, says "he was in touch with several hundred former German officers who would be willing to begin training a West German army immediately" (Dominion, 23/1¼8).
But then, if these men share our. opinions about the barbaric Slavic despots, why shouldn't we let them in? Mr. Semple's call to arms is echoed with remarkable similarity by this:
"Communism denies the individual worth of the human personality, impugns the teaching that nationhood has a primary significance, and by doing this it takes away the very foundations of human civilization. ... In standing guard against this menace, I believe my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator." Thus the late Mr. A. Hitter in his great work "Mein Kampf."
"The diabolical doctrine of Marxism must perish miserably . . ." seem to have heard that before somewhere. Read on. . . . must perish miserably on the battlefield of the National Socialist revolution." Those were the words of Dr. Ley, in the Nazi "Labour Manifesto" of 2nd May, 1933. Except for the last phrase, it might have been an excerpt of any of the speeches of Messrs. Attlee, Truman, or Fraser.
In His Steps
It is as well to recall some of the things that happened in Hitler's days:
"Today it is reported from Oldenburg that a Communist Deputy of the State Diet was taken from his home, hit over the head, and shot with five bullets"—Times. 4/3/33.
"At Schweinfurth a Nazi shot dead his brother, whose political sympathies were with the left."—Times, 14/3/33. And John Strachey lists many more such specimens in his book "The Menace of Fascism."
That's the way to treat them! I can see many New Zealanders taking it with great calm and even satisfaction when they see these reports appearing in our own papers, with Palmers ton North instead of Oldenburg, and Petone for Schweinfurth.
Already it has begun in other Western countries, in a small way. But it began in a small way in Germany. "Malayan Communist Party banned by British Government" read headlines in the "Dominion" of 24/7/48. "Communist Strike Leaders at Dunkirk Arrested" (23/11/48). "Communist Leaders on Trial in New York; Charged with Conspiracy" (18/1/49—shades of the Reichstag Fire?). "German Communist Gaoled" (2/2/49). Collectively, an alarming picture, because the history of Hitler's. Germany teaches us what comes next.
The persecution of the Jews is sufficiently well known. Professor Einstein and Thomas Mann bear witness to the expulsion of honest intellects from their homeland. Less well known are the arrest and torture of Dr. Felix Boenheim, of the scientist Hermann Duncker, the writers Egon Erwin Kisch, Karl Witterfogel and von Ossletzky; the dismissal of Nobel prizewinner James Franck and Professor Arthur Korn; the persecution and final flight of the world's greatest sexologist. Magnus Hirschfeld.
And who has read the list of banned authors, whose works were burned publicly in Berlin that May night in 1933?
Not only Marx and Lenin, out Mann, Freud, Zweig, Piivier and Jacob Wasserman; Wilde, Havelock Ellis, Edward Carpenter; Andre Gide, Proust, Loti Zola, Henri Bar-busse; Ilya Ehrenburg and Arthur Schnitzler. . . . While the uniformed incendiaries stood to attention, their uniformed minds closed, their uniformed mouths opened, singin:
"Lift high the flag: and keep the ranks together!"—the song of the brownshirt brute-hero, Hoist Wessel.
Already in the United States, as Mr. Zilch has shown, the process has begun. And now the very Adenauers and Haiders who once commanded the vandal crusade on culture, are the allies of our crusade to the save the "culture of the west."
"Not a Wedding-Cake"
What is this "western culture" of ours? At the much-debated Peace Congress in Paris last April, the Russian writer Ilya Ehrenburg (who has the excellent qualification of having been banned by hte Nazis) spoke very forcibly on this question:
"The men who are plotting a new war are only too ready to talk of culture. According to them, they are compelled to defend "Western Culture' against the East. This, of course, is a plagiary, and if Goeb-bels had not poisoned himself, he might have demanded royalties for the performance of his act by the 'Atlantic' virtuosos. Who is supposed to represent 'Western Culture'? The Ku Klux Kiansmen of Alabama, Yaicin the Turk, Iise Koch, the Japanese Samurai, the slaveowners of Johannesburg, King Abdullah, Hitler's Munich friends, the big businessmen of Seoul, Chiang Kai-shek, Mr. FarneU Thomas, and, of course. Sir Victor Kravchenko.
"From whom are the aforementioned gentlemen to protect "Western Culture'? From the 'East.' And with the 'East' are classed Louis Aragon and Pablo Neruda, Abbe Soulier and the Dean of Canterbury, J. B. S. Haldane and the workers of the Paris suburbs, the Mayor of Florence and Howard Fast. Picasso and Thomas Mann, Joliot-Curle and the citizens of Oradour-sur-Glane.
"Those that talk most about defending 'Western Culture' are the American upstarts. They in general have not grown to an understanding of culture. They may discuss what will be left of the Louvre after the atom bomb has finished with it, they may even dream of acquiring the Louvre, but as for understanding what the Louvre signifies—no, they haven't grown to that. Let them think of their age and be modest, let them stand with uncovered head before the Acropolis, before the Capitol, before St. Sophia of Kiev, before Chartres. Culture is not a wedding-cake on the table of a Mississippi planted; culture cannot be cut into slices. You may draw up any diplomatic document you like, and proclaim Italy an Atlantic country, but you cannot proclaim the Kleagle of Atlanta and the members of the Un-American Activities Committee to be representatives of culture—Western or Eastern, Northern or Southern.
"The sources of our civilization go back to ancient Greece. Myths, knowledge and aesthetic standards came from there to Italy via ancient Rome, and to Russia via Byzantium. Italy gave the world Cimabue and Giotto; Russia gave it Andrei Rub-lev. World culture is not Berlin; you cannot cleave it in two.
The Property of The World
"Empty nation made its contribution to the treasure-trove of world culture. Leonardo da Vinei and Dante, Balzac and Corot, Cervantes and Goya, Shakespeare and Dickens, Beethoven and Goethe are linked with the lands which gave them birth, but they have enlarged and enriched the minds of all mankind. How impoverished European culture would be if from it were severed the Russian novel, which revolutionized the conscience of the world, Russian musicians, the work of Russian scientists, and, lastly, that discovery of a new world which was made in 1917 by the Russian people. People often argue about whom a particular invention belongs to—it has happened time and time again, that scientists in different countries have worked simultaneously on one and the same problem, but It is unlikely that anyone will venture to contest Russia's priority in the building of socialism.
"He who treasures universal culture will treasure the national features, the specific genius of each and every people. There is the profound realistic satire of Cervantes, there is the biting irony of Swift, there is the merry wit of Moliere and there is the laughter through tears of Gogol. Certain American doctrinaires love to extol the 'American way of life.' Well if they are satisfied with drug stores, gangster films, divine service advertisements and the Un-American Activities Committee, that is their affair. This is not the trouble; the trouble is that the dollar has gone to their heads, they seriously believe that a Broadway picture palace is a more splendid thing than' the Parthenon, and that the 'Readers' Digest' is superior to Leo Tolstoy. They want to put one face on the whole, world, to Implant their standards everywhere. To them, the peoples of Europe are so many recruits, whose heads have to be promptly shaved and who have to be put into uniform.
"There is nothing more loathsome than racial or national arrogance. World culture has its blood vessels, which cannot be cut with impunity. Peoples have learned, and will continue to learn, from one another. I think one can respect national peculiarities, yet discountenance national excluslveness. The real patriot loves humanity, and the real internationalist is devoted to his people."
Culture Hits Chicago
And finally, just a few newspaper clippings:
"The accidental shooting of 15-year-old Stanley Fox has uncovered a blood-shedding vendetta between juvenile gangs in New York City slums. . . . Police say that teenagers follow the example of gangster movies and comics and have regular 'gun-girls' who join the gangs to seek excitement." (Southern Cross, 15/3/49).
"A crowd of 8,000 watched as the police set fire to a young negro's home in Chicago last night and killed him with sub-machine-gun fire as he tried to leave the burning building." (Evening Post, 20/8/49.)
"The chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission told the House Appropriations Committee today that the U.S. was making better atomic bombs and making them faster than ever before." (Evening Post, 13/4/49).
That is the "culture" we are going to defend, against that represented by Mr. -Ehrenburg and his barbarian fellow-countrymen. Anyway, it Is certain that we can't defend the culture of G. M. Trevelyan, Olaf Stapledon, Paul Robeson, Sir John Boyd Orr, Prof. Lucien Cornil, Picasso, the Dean of Canterbury, J. G. Crowther. ex-President Cardenas Dr. Gabriel d'Arboussler, Howard Fast. Father Dozza, Bishop Bereczki, James Endfcott, Prof, Cosyns, General Cordon, Pablo Neruda and the Victoria College Students' Association. These horrible monsters support peace and co-operation with Soviet Russia. They had the impudence to support the so-called "commo-dominated'' Paris Peace Congress. Doubtless we will find a place for them in our tomorrow. In concentration camps, perhaps.