Saturday, 12 October 2013

SOCIALISM AND GENIUS.

Mr. Frederic Harrison, in his new book, 'Realties and Ideals,' "bewails the decadence of literature and art ; and pointing to the fact that the constellation of stars of the first magnitude that illuminated the Victorian age has now vanished, gives way to a fit of despondency, so raven-black does the firmament now appear to him and so pitch-dark the outlook." Mr. J. F. Mills, in the "Labour Leader" thus answers Mr. Harrison : —    
A New Constellation.
"If Mr. Harrison had only turned his gaze in the opposite direction his eyes would have beheld a prospect sufficiently radiant to gladden the eyes of even a mournful and gloomy-browed pessimist — the spectacle of a new and brilliant constellation, the harbinger of brighter stars yet to appear. Mr. Harrison's failure to recognise all this appears the more singular when, we note that the conspicuousness of the phenomenon has caused even the historian to note it.  
"Thus Mr. A. W. Benn, in his recently-published "Modern History," after lamenting, like Mr. Harrison, the disappearance of the old galaxy of stars, points with unerring finger to the direction in which genius now reappears.
"In accordance with this law, genius, where it still exists, is chiefly to be found among the collectivists or the anarchists, to whom our whole society is hateful as an organised spoliation of the working classes ; an organised defilement of the sexual relations ; an organised and useless torture, inflicted under the name of justice, on those unhappiest victims whom we call the criminal classes.
Causes of Decadence.
"As to the causes of this decadence of genius,of the old school,all sorts of reasons have been assigned except the true one, which is that the old realisms and idealisms which gave birth to the genius are now either dying or dead. Conversely, the explanation of the appearance of a new school of genius lies in the fact that a new cause has arisen, and that a great movement is in the ascendant, to which the new school owes its life and its inspiration. In other words, a new revolutionary epoch has dawned, and the socialist movement is now in full blast.      
"Revolutions, whether pacific or warlike, whether religious or political, social or scientific, artistic or literary, from the landmarks of history, and revolutionary epochs (using the term in its widest, sense) are the generators of genius. And it is to the movements and men who pioneer or inaugurate or establish a new and triumphant era that the term epoch-making truly belongs. In the march of a great movement and in devotion to a soul-stirring cause humanity soars to sublimity.  
Divine Discontent.
"When the soul of the people begins to flame with divine discontent and with a passion for a wider and freer and nobler life, then it is that the inspiration of genius gives utterance to the aspirations of the people. Then it is that the poet with his word magic voices the agony and yearning and passion of the human heart; the seer beholds a vision, of a new heaven and a new earth; the artist depicts the tortures of the social hell, the pains of purgatory, and the glories of paradise; the philosopher propounds a new synthesis ; the politician organises and marshals the hosts for the combat; and the orator inspires the multitude to heroic deeds.  
"Thus has it been during the revolutionary epoch which began in the latter part of the eighteenth century, and which has continued for over a hundred years past. France, England, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Russia— all the great countries in Europe — have felt the force of the democratic movement, and have witnessed the uprising either in peace or in war of the many.  
Some Great Names.
Inseparably linked with this movement are the names of men of world-wide fame : Rousseau and Danton, Shelley, Byron, Burns, Heine, and Hugo, Mazzini and Garibaldi, and John Stuart Mill. Amongst challengers of the existing social order must be mentioned Carlyle, Ruskin, Zola, Ibsen, Wagner, Whitman, and Tolstoi, whose writings are a trumpet-call to a higher spiritual life and a nobler civilisation.
"Socialism is in the hereditary line of succession to the movement of political democracy. It marches in the van of progress. It leads the new crusade. Its trumpet peal is heard round the whole world. It numbers amongst its pioneers Fourier and Louis Blanc. Robert Owen, Lassalle, Marx, and Engels. Though the organised socialist movement as we find it to-day is little over a quarter of a century old, yet on its head roll of fame are inscribed the names of men who are making history and adding lustre to literature and art. For a movement which is still in its infancy, the list of its eminent men is at once brilliant and striking.    
English Socialists.
"To begin with our country. On the list of English socialists more or less famed in literature, science, and art are the names of William Morris and Edward Carpenter, Oscar Wilde, Bernard Shaw, and Granville Barker, H. G. Wells, Sidney Webb, Alfred Russel Wallace, the late Grant Allen, Walter Crane, Richard Whiteing, John Galsworthy, and Belfort Bax. On the American list are Upton Sinclair, Jack London, Charlotte Perkins, Stetson, and the late Edward Bellamy, Edward Markham, and Ella Wheeler Wilcox. To these we might almost add the names of W. D. Howells and F. P. Dunne.
French Socialists.
"On the French list figure Anatole France, one of the most prominent names in contemporary French literature, and the artists Steinlen, Grandjonan, Delannoy, and Naudin. In Belgium there are Maurice Maeterlinck, the mystical prose writer, the artist Van Biesbroeck, and the sculptor Charles Degroux ; in Holland, Mrs. Roland Holz, the poetess ; in Germany the dramatists Gerhart Hauptmann and Herman Sudermann : in Norway, the fiction writer Alexander Kielland; in Russia, Maxim Gorki ; in Italy, the poets Guerrini, Giovanni Pascoli, Ada Negri, the poetess, Matilde Seroa, the novelist, Giovanni Verga, the Gorki of Italy, and the late Edmondo de Amicis, who was one of the most brilliant descriptive writers in Europe. The name of Gabriele d'Annunzio, the great Italian dramatist, comes to mind. To these must be added the names of three Italian scientists, Lombroso, Zanarelli and Enrico Ferri.
Socialist Leaders.
"Truly this is a brilliant list. Poetry, fiction, the drama, science, and art are all well represented ; but to give a complete list of writers in various departments many other names would have to be added ; and if to these were added the names of those touched by the socialist spirit, the list would overflow our columns.  
In the political field also socialism counts in its leaders some of the most prominent men in Europe today — our own leaders in England. Jaures, who is also the greatest of orators, in France, Vandervelde in Belgium, Bebel in Germany, Adler in Austria. Ferri in Italy, to say nothing of others.

Kalgoorlie Miner 3 March 1909, 

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