Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Masses was a journal founded in New York in 1911 by Piet Vlag . Another important financial backer was Amos Pinchot , a wealthy lawyer who supported a wide variety of progressive causes.
Organised like a co-operative, artists and writers who contributed to the journal shared in its management. Vlag edited the socialist journal for a year but in 1912 appointed Max Eastman, a Marxist, to carry out this task. Articles and poems were written by people such as John Reed, Sherwood Anderson, Crystal Eastman, Hubert Harrison, Inez Milholland, Mary Heaton Vorse , Louis Untermeyer, Randolf Bourne , Dorothy Day, Helen Keller, William Walling , Carl Sandburg, Upton Sinclair, Amy Lowell, Mabel Dodge , Floyd Dell and Louise Bryant.
The Masses also published the work of important artists including John Sloan, Robert Henri, Alice Beach Winter , Mary Ellen Sigsbee , Cornelia Barns , Reginald Marsh , Rockwell Kent,Art Young , Boardman Robinson , Robert Minor , K. R. Chamberlain , Stuart Davis, Cornelia Barns , George Bellows and Maurice Becker .
Max Eastman believed that the First World War had been caused by the imperialist competitive system. Eastman and journalists such as John Silas Reed who reported the conflict for The Masses, argued that the USA should remain neutral. Most of those involved with the journal agreed with this view but there was a small minority, including William Walling and Upton Sinclair, who wanted the USA to join the Allies against the Central Powers. When Sinclair failed to convince his fellow members he resigned from the Socialist Party and ceased to contribute to The Masses.
After the USA declared war on the Central Powers in 1917, The Masses came under government pressure to change its policy. When it refused to do this, the journal lost its mailing privileges.
In July, 1917, it was claimed by the authorities that articles by Floyd Dell and Max Eastman and cartoons by Art Young , Boardman Robinson and H. J. Glintenkamp had violated the Espionage Act. Under this act it was an offence to publish material that undermined the war effort. The legal action that followed forced The Masses to cease publication. In April, 1918, after three days of deliberation, the jury failed to agree on the guilt of the men.
The second trial was held in September, 1918. John Reed, who had recently returned from Russia, was also arrested and charged with the original defendants. This time eight of the twelve jurors voted for acquittal and the defendants walked free on October 5, 1918.
Documents related to the magazine The Masses
(1) John Sloan, Gist of Art (1939)
The night the first copy of The Masses (under Max Eastman's editorship) came out, I sold seventy-eight copies. It was at a Suffrage parade. I went up to people, sometimes got on the running board of a car, saying, "Buy it. It will be worth ten dollars some day."
(2) In his autobiography, Homecoming, Floyd Dell wrote about joining The Masses in 1914.
I was paid twenty-five dollars a week for helping Max Eastman get out the magazine. My job on The Masses was to read manuscripts, bring the best of them to editorial meetings to be voted on, send back what we couldn't use, read proof, and 'make up' the magazine - all duties with which I was familiar; and also to help plan political cartoons and persuade the artists to draw them. I could submit my stories and poems anonymously to the editorial meetings, hear them discussed, and print them if they were accepted.
At the monthly editorial meetings, where the literary editors were usually ranged on one side of all questions and the artists on the other. The squabbles between literary and art editors were usually over the question of intelligibility and propaganda versus artistic freedom; some of the artists held a smouldering grudge against the literary editors, and believed that Max Eastman and I were infringing the true freedom of art by putting jokes or titles under their pictures. John Sloan and Art Young were the only ones of the artists who were verbally quite articulate; but fat, genial Art Young sided with the literary editors usually; and John Sloan, a very vigorous and combative personality, spoke up strongly for the artists.
Nobody gained a penny out of the things published in the magazine; it was an honour to get into its pages, an honour conferred by vote at the meetings. Max Eastman and I did get salaries for editorial work; but that was regarded as dirty work, which ought to be paid for. We were actually a little republic in which, as artists, we worked for the approval of our fellows, not for money.
Food is as important to armies as ammunition - but more important than either is an unfailing supply of lies. You simply cannot murder your enemy in the most efficient manner if you know he is in every essential the same kind of a man as yourself.
Governments have tried to lay up a sufficient stock of lies before the war start, but always in vain. The progress of popular intelligence scraps such lies almost as fast as they are manufactured. The only safe way is to produce an entirely new stock in the panic days immediately before the war, when the people have no time or inclination to think, and are cut off from all communication with the other side. After the war starts, of course, the industry may be indefinitely continued.
This should be bourne in mind in reading tales of the barbarous atrocity of soldiers, now on one side and now on the other.
(4) John Reed, The Masses (September, 1914)
No recent words have seemed to me so ludicrously condescending as the Kaiser's speech to his people when he said that in this supreme crisis he freely forgave all those who had ever opposed him. I am ashamed that in this day in a civilized country any one can speak such archaic nonsense as that speech contained.
More nauseating than the crack-brained bombast of the Kaiser is the editorial chorus in America which pretends to believe - would have us believe - that the White and Spotless Knight of Modern Democracy is marching against the Unspeakably Vile Monster of Medieval Militarism.
What has democracy to do in alliance with Nicholas, the Tsar? It is Liberalism which is marching from the Petersburg of Father Gapon, from the Odessa of Progroms? Are our editors naive enough to believe this?
We, who are Socialists, must hope - we may even expect - that out of this horror of bloodshed and dire destruction will come far-reaching social changes - and a long step forward towards our goal of peace among men. But we must not be duped by this editorial buncombe about Liberalism going forth to Holy War against Tyranny. This is not our war.
(5) John Reed, The Masses (March 1915)
The French Army has not been fighting well. But it has been fighting, and the slaughter is appalling. There remains no effective reserve in France; and the available youth of the nation down to seventeen years of age is under arms. For my part, all other considerations aside, I should not care to live half-frozen in a trench, up to my middle in water, for three or four months, because someone in authority said I ought to shoot Germans. But if I were a Frenchman I should do it, because I would have been accustomed to the idea by my compulsory military service.
I could fill pages of horrors that civilized Europe is inflicted upon itself. I could describe to you the quiet, dark, saddened streets of Paris, where every ten feet you are confronted with some miserable wreck of a human being, or a madman who lost his reason in the trenches being led around by his wife.
I could tell you of the big hospital in Berlin full of German soldiers who went crazy from merely hearing the cries of the thirty thousand Russians drowning in the swamps of East Prussia after the battle of Tannenburg. Or of the numbness and incalculable demoralization among men in the trenches. Or of holes torn in bodies with jagged pieces of melanite shells, of sounds that make people deaf, of gases that destroy eyesight, of wounded men dying day by day and hour by hour within forty yards of twenty thousand human beings, who won't stop killing each other long enough to gather them up.
I have lived in Germany and know its language and literature, and the spirit and ideals of its rulers. Having given many years to a study of American capitalism. I am not blind to the defects of my own country; but, in spite of these defects, I assert that the difference between the ruling class of Germany and that of America is the difference between the seventeenth century and the twentieth.
No question can be settled by force, my pacifist friends all say. And this in a country in which a civil war was fought and the question of slavery and secession settled! I can speak with especial certainty of this question, because all my ancestors were Southerners and fought on the rebel side; I myself am living testimony to the fact that force can and does settle questions - when it is used with intelligence.
In the same way I say if Germany be allowed to win this war - then we in America shall have to drop every other activity and devote the next twenty or thirty years to preparing for a last-ditch defence of the democratic principle.
(7) The Masses (September, 1917)
The Post Office was represented by Assistant District Attorney Barnes. He explained that the Department construed the Espionage Act as giving it power to exclude from the mails anything which might interfere with the successful conduct of the war.
Four cartoons and four pieces of text in the August issue were specified as violations of the law. The cartoons were Boardman Robinson 's Making the World Safe for Democracy, H. J. Glintenkamp 's Liberty Bell and the conscription cartoons, and one by Art Young on Congress and Big Business. The conscription cartoon was considered by the Department "the worst thing in the magazine". The text objected to was A Question, an editorial by Max Eastman; A Tribute, a poem by Josephine Bell; a paragraph in an article on Conscientious Objectors; and an editorial, Friends of American Freedom.
(8) Floyd Dell , Homecoming (1933)
The Masses harassed by the post-office authorities, was suppressed in October, 1917, by the Government, and its editors were indicted, myself among them, under the so-called Espionage Act, which was being used not against German spies but against American Socialists, Pacifists, and anti-war radicals. Sentences of twenty years were being served out to all who dared say this was not a war to end war, or that the Allied loans would never be paid. But the courts would probably not get around to us until next year; and we immediately made plans to start another magazine, The Liberator, and tell more truth; we would stand on the pre-war Wilsonian program, and call for a negotiated peace.
(9) In his autobiography, Homecoming, Floyd Dell explained his thoughts on being charged with breaking the Espionage Act.
While we waited, I began to ponder for myself the question which the jury had retired to decide. Were we innocent or guilty? We certainly hadn't 'conspired' to do anything. But what had we tried to do? Defiantly tell the truth. For what purpose? To keep some truth alive in a world full of lies. And what was the good of that? I don't know. But I was glad I had taken part in that act of defiant truth-telling.
Rumours began to perculate. "Six to six." Next morning the debate in the jury-room grew fiercer, noisier. At noon the jury came in, hot, weary, angry, limp, and exhausted. They had fought the case amongst themselves for eleven vehement hours. And they could not agree upon a verdict.
But the judge refused to discharge them; and they went back, after further instructions, with grim determination on their faces.
At eleven o'clock the jurors reported continued disagreement, but were sent back. The next noon, hopelessly deadlocked, the jury was discharged, with all our thanks. And so we were free.
(10) Max Eastman, Love and Revolution (1964)
There was one big difference between the Masses and the Liberator; in the latter we abandoned the pretense of being a co-operative. Crystal Eastman and I owned the Liberator, fifty-one shares of it, and we raised enough money so that we could pay solid sums for contributions.
The list of contributing editors, largely brought over from the Masses, reads as follows: Cornelia Barns , Howard Brubaker , Hugo Gellert , Arturo Giovannitti , Charles T. Hallinan , Helen Keller, Ellen La Motte , Robert Minor , John Reed, Boardman Robinson , Louis Untermeyer, Charles Wood, Art Young .
Later Claude McKay, the Negro poet, became an associate editor. At a New Year's party in 1921, we elected Michael Gold and William Gropper to the staff - two opposite poles of a magnet: Gropper as instinctively comic an artist as ever touched pen to paper, and Gold almost equally gifted with pathos and tears.
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