(c) 2000 Theodore Watts.
Rights later transferred to Tamiment Library.
Permission for the Riazanov Library Digital Archive Project and Marxist Internet Archive to reproduce digitally and distribute freely in a not for profit fashion granted by Theodore Watts and by Chela Scott Weber, acting director, Tamiment Library, in January of 2013.
Martin Goodman, director, Riazanov Library project
Originally published in the United States by:
116 Pleasant St., East Hampton, Massachusetts 01027
Foreword The handful of years leading up to America's entry into World War I was Socialism's glorious moment in America, its high-water mark of energy and promise. This pregnant moment in time was the result of decades of ferment, indeed more than 100 years of growing agitation to curb the excesses of American capitalism, beginning with Jefferson's warnings about the deleterious effects of urbanized culture, and proceeding through the painful dislocation of the emerging industrial economy, the excesses of speculation during the Civil War, the rise of the robber barons, the suppression of labor unions, the exploitation of immigrant labor, through to the exposes ofthe muckrakers. By the decade of the ' teens, the evils of capitalism were widely acknowledged, even by champions of the system.
Socialism became capital ism's logical alternative and the rallying point for the disenchanted. It was, of course, merely a vision, largely untested. But that is exactly why the socialist movement was so formidable. The artists and writers of the Masses didn't need to defend socialism when Rockefeller's henchmen were gunning down mine workers and their families in Ludlow, Colorado.
Eventually, the American socialist movement would shatter on the rocks of the Russian revolution, when it was finally confronted with the reality of a socialist state, but that story comes later, after the Masses was run from the stage. So this book spotlights that magical moment in the history of the American left, when it was resolute in its fight against evil and pregnant with glorious possibility. During these heady days, the Masses was the movement's flagship.
By all measures except the most mundane (profitability, advertising pages, circulation figures), the Masses was a great magazine: beautiful, intelligent, surprising, deadly serious, laugh-out-loud funny, hard-edged and frivolous. Nothing like it had ever been seen in America before. It was an arts and letters magazine that thoroughly embraced a political agenda of radical reform and pacifism. And it managed to do this, unlike all of its predecessors in the field of political thought and opinion, with wit and style. The result was then and remains today a joy to behold, an ever-evolving experiment in publishing and a supremely entertaining intellectual high-wire act.
In the pages of the Masses, art predominated. It was not an adornment or mere illustration used to break up fields of gray type. Artwork in the Masses appeared, well printed and large, on its own terms. This explains why some of America's finest talents - John Sloan, George Bellows, Stuart Davis, Boardman Robinson, Frank Watts, among many -contributed art to the Masses for no remuneration. While the Masses was a child of America's leading political satire magazines, Puck, Judge, and Life, in that it built on the visual and comedic vocabulary they had popularized, it was more interested in subverting tradition than on extending it. For that task, the Masses artists drew their inspiration from the satire magazines of Europe, Simplicissimus and L 'Assiette au Buerre, and succeeded in bringing the visual bravura of those unconventional publications to America.
The Masses letterpress was a happy jumble of essays, short stories, poetry, and humor. Max Eastman contributed rousing and lucid editorials that set forth perhaps the most radical agenda of the day. Floyd Dell conducted what was arguably the finest review of the arts in the American press. Except for Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, excerpts, the Masses fiction was not particularly distinguished. But the poetrv was of a fairlv high caliber, as can he sensed simplv bv reviewing the names of the poetry contributors in the index.
Many valuable books have appeared that treat various aspects of what was the Masses. The best are Rebecca Zurier’s Art for the Masses (1988), a cogent and well-illustrated scholarly assessment of the magazine and William O'Neill's Echoes of Revolt (1966), which collects much of the best from the magazine's pages. My personal favorite is Richard Fitzgerald's Art and Politics (1973), a vigorous and surprisingly opinionated appraisal of the men and women who created the magazine's graphics. This book, Ted Watts' index., belongs on the shelf beside them. More than any of the others, his index unlocks this treasure trove ofart and prose for future study and analysis.
With this book as a guide, I am convinced that the more we examine the Masses in all of its splendor the more certain we will be that this David of the magazine world was the Socialist movement's greatest tangible gift to American culture.
Richard Samuel West
AAA A., F. P. “The Italics, Words and All, Are Ours” V, 3, p-17 (Dec 1913)
Abbott, Leonard D. “Is William Sanger to Go to Jail? “ VI, 12, p-19 (Sep 1915)
Adams, Francis. “Defeat” (poem) I, 8, p-15 (Aug 1911)
-. “One Among So Many” (poem) I, 8, p-15 (Aug 1911)
Adams, Samuel Hopkins. “Public School Education” III, 3, p-5 (Mar 1912)