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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 9, No. 8 July, 3, 1946

Fascism and Culture—What is the Record?

Fascism and Culture—What is the Record?

The statement by a Nazi leader that, on the mention of the word "culture" he loosened the catch of his Browning, is well enough known to most people. But it is not so well known that in the first few weeks of Nazi rule in Germany 20,000,000 books were burnt, and 12,000 paintings and engravings were removed from the picture galleries and museums as not being in harmony with the "Aryan spirit." It is generally known that non-Fascist and Jewish writers and scientists were forced to leave Germany; it is not so well known that 2,500 professors were expelled (50% ) and that the number of students in higher educational establishments was reduced by half.

In Poland all educational establishments were closed, the number of newspapers was reduced by 90% monuments to Kosciusko, Chopin and Mickiewicz were destroyed, and 170 members of the staff of Cracow University were sent to concentration camps.

In Czechoslovakia 6,000 students and professors suffered the same fate. The hooks of Benes and Masaryk were banned.

In France the works of Balzac, Hugo, Zola, Anatole France and llomain Holland were burnt and the art treasures of the nation were rifled.

In the USSR municipal libraries all over the country were destroyed, schools and cinemas and clubrooms were wrecked. Tolstoy's house was converted into a barracks, and the homes of Tchaikovsky, Chekhov and Rimsky-Korsakov were ruined.

This is the record of destruction. There is also the record of distortion: the re-writing of text-books to give them the "Aryan twist," the deliberate construction of the whole "destiny of Germany" theory, the conscious turning of all the resources of culture—literature, sculpture, painting, cinema, radio, science, history, law religion—to the enforcement of the dogmas of Nazism.

Why is culture of such importance? Why spend so much energy in the distortion of a form of human activity which, when pursued from a different viewpoint by democratic peoples, arouses only the desire to destroy? Why did the anti-democratic-culture merchants so sedulously cultivate their own form of culture? Because culture is a weapon, both of enlightenment and of suppression. The culture of a democratic people leads the way forward, that of fascism leads backwards. Always, in any land, when a period of reactionary rule sets in, the normal course is for all the progressive features of culture to be attacked. Under fascism they are not merely attacked, they are systematically destroyed, and those writers, artists, scientists and professional men who are willing to be bought, immediately set about building a "new" culture to help enforce the fascist regime. This, too, we saw in occupied Europe.

What is the contemporary record, the record at this moment, in the struggle between democratic culture and fascism? In Spain, fascism still reigns, and the only culture is the official culture of the Falangists. In the USA, where the anti-democratic strike legislation of President Truman has been passed, the role of the Infamous Dies Committee has passed to a new House Committee, that on "Un-American Activities." The dominant member of this committee is Senator Rankin of Mississippi, who openly espouses the cause of racial prejudice in regard to Negroes. News and other American minorities.

Do these factors matter to us? We are remote from the USA and even further from Spain. But if six years of war have not convinced us that the struggle against fascism is international, what will? The struggle of Spanish Republican and American writers, artists, scientists and members of all cultural bodies against the suppression of democratic culture is as much our struggle as the fight of the American Maritime Unions is the concern of the World Federation of Trade Unions and of our own Maritime Unions.