by Chapman, Chris
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Upon the conclusion of the twenty-fifth volume of The New Age in the column “Readers and Writers” Orage (in the person of R.H.C.) forecasts two directions by which The New Age will continue, buoyed by its financial return to “a small balance in favor” and a staff “willing to write for love”. Page twelve of the first issue, published on November 6 1919, reads:
Orage uses these ands to point out in the “Notes of the Week” (his convalescence between January 1st and February 5th allowed other writers to establish their interpretations of the theme, for example, Hilaire Belloc examined and critiqued the composition of democracy as it was represented by the House of Commons and Frances H. Low attended to changes in the work place), the common blood between Guild Socialism and Major C.H. Douglas’s theory of “Social Credit”. Orage viewed them each as forms of a catholic and organic socialism that emphasized cooperation between Labour and Capital. In 1912 with S. G. Hobson, G. D. H. Cole and A. J. Penty, Orage helped construct Guild Socialism as an alternative seeking to avoid the punctual intransigencies between the collectivist ideologies of the Labour movement as it met the foreseeable needs and desires of the owners and governors of Capital. The practical consequences of “Economic Democracy”, Douglas’s published tract explaining the causes of war and unrest, form the valence under which the conjunctions of simplicity and analysis, radicalism and synthesis are seen spinning in the modern industrial society The New Age and its contributors took as its subject. The 26th Volume can have most of its essays, social and psychologic, safely lumped together as experiments in the exegesis of “Social Credit”.
The most tangible example of the focus on the dangers of collectivist economics is found in “Letters from Russia”. Paul Leon translated P. Ouspensky’s letters for The New Age audience, whom he addressed directly on November 27th, 1919:
In retrospect, the essays by Orage called “Notes of the Week” look less like deft explorations of these inaugural themes than designed counters, comments and refinements upon similar ideas found recorded in their immediate context. For example, in “Notes” of that fourth issue, Orage whistles back a minor refrain in Ouspensky’s analogy between Russia and England located in the note of gratitude he appends. Ouspensky thanks the English for their generous humanitarian aid — the enjoyment of which he claims gave him his let to write his warning to The New Age audience. Coincidently in this week’s “Notes” Orage pillories Mr. Roberts, the Minister of Food, by accusing him of having abrogated his greater responsibility within Lloyd George’s mandate to reconstruct the English economy. Orage laments painfully over Mr. Roberts’s policy of artificially stimulating low food prices through the expedient of relaxed international levies. Orage’s ire is piqued by Roberts’s facile attempt to cope with the cyclic nature of the depression economy which he sees aided by the policy and takes as a greater signal of the style by which Lloyd George’s government is intending to deal with rising inflation. Orage goes on to read into the fact that Roberts “ceased to reflect on currency”(26.04:49) a violent accusation by the government against those very persons whom elected it to the end of economic reform. Persons who made their complaint over the high price of living at the end of the war through their vote for Lloyd George are now being treated, Orage writes, as if they were doing “the work of Bolshevik agents.” Ouspensky could be speaking Orage’s bitter sense of betrayal by Lloyd George and his government when he describes his own ire towards Russia’s real Bolshevik bullys, “In the moment when you have begun to fight the robbers and succeeded in liberating some of the people, you are advised to make peace with the intruders.”The New Age’s rhetorical universe and the kinds of arch fears it played upon — Bolshevism and impoverishment — left little alternative to the solutions it valued and hoped for in “Social Credit”.
What is “Social Credit”? Wallace Martin offers a fairly limpid explanation:
Once credit as the measure of cultural interest has been established as the source of wealth, Douglas diagnoses threats. Centralization of choice, or the pre-establishment of the significance of a thing, by a capital that rules by policy is labelled robbery. Robbery by policy is the theme that Douglas explores in the series “Credit-Power and Democracy” in Volume 26. In 26.15:232 he puts his insights to work by repeating an accusation he held against organized Labour in Economic Democracy, that it is the centre and miraculous creator of wealth, ignoring the historical heritage on which Labour rests. In 26.16:248 he looks at the disparity between potential and actual production in American factories. Extrapolating on the findings of the industrial engineer, Mr. H. L. Gantt, he concludes that about a half hour’s worth of real work each day is all that is required by the current American work-force to maintain the standard national output. Douglas takes Gantt’s work as evidence that the policy of wage-slavery is necessary to the current economic system because it is virtually the only manner by which purchasing power may be acceptably distributed to consumers. Labour, as such, is by and large ornamental to the mechanical production of goods and the growth of capital. In 26.17:264 Douglas adjusts his focus slightly from robbery by policy and takes on the latent hypocrisy entrenched in the legal distinctions between cash and credit.
But the important point to notice is that this “overdraft” is just as absolutely new money as if the banker had coined it or printed banknotes for the amount. None of his other clients have the figures of their credit accounts altered by the transaction, and the title deeds deposited as security are returned unaltered when the “overdraft” is balanced. This new credit, however, dilutes the purchasing power of all other money as soon as it becomes operative as a demand for goods.
Another important series of essays, “Women in Industry” (26.09:133) by Frances H. Low, begun while Orage took ill, also explores the effect of policy on communal wealth. Low’s articles are aimed at separating the policy of co-operation of the current government from the demands of wealthy “Suffragists” such as Lady Aston, whose election marks her as the first woman in British Parliament. Low calls the act “folly as snobbery”. Low takes the Spectator’s interest in Lady Aston as a sign of British feminism’s cooptation by aristocratic parliamentary attentions. Low moves on in these essays to explain her fears for the outcome of the jaded cooperation among aristocrats on working women. The thought that single women could be expected and potentially legislated to work in factories gives her pause to shudder. Low stands grandly on her own twenty years of working experience to declare the conditions of factory work anathema to women’s constitutions and the thought of its being made appropriate by the aristocrats repugnant. Low, in spite of her exception (we do not learn of her own office), tells us that women’s relationship to work is different in kind from men’s by virtue of its historical transitionality and cultural assay and ought not be tampered with.
If Low’s articles mark one of the ways the operations of “society” were coming to be synthesized and analysed within The New Age’s vision of Douglas’s So-Cred thesis, then the “Arts” in The New Age collated its concern for psychology by focussing on the presence or absence of an artist’s aesthetic choice in the works reviewed.
Impressionism and Realism. Through its reviewers these are the two major modes of artistic production that The New Age entertained. Impressionist technique rendered its subject through precisely arranged details complimenting and enhancing the body of the work. Realism effected no balance or recovery in Impressionism’s deliberations but sought to see life in all corners, providing its viewers “with a sociological emphasis and very often a social thesis as its theme” (81 Martin). Arnold Bennett, the author of “Books and Persons” in The New Age between the years 1908 — 1911, is credited by Wallace Martin with having discovered a workable synthesis of these two literary modes: shining reality’s light into life’s unseemly places according to the promises of fidelity to a theme while also insisting on reserving the graces of composition attendant upon the operation of choice within an Impressionist technique. Choice over subject and interpretive detail remains paramount in Bennett’s novels however their eccentric subjects.
Bennett’s synthetic advance past these ways of thinking and producing art came at a cost. He retained the latitude of subject matter of Realism and the Impressionist dictum of control and choice but lost reference to either a natural or abstract thesis that could be thought to form any cogible bridge between them. Benett retained in himself the sovereignty of Impressionist choice over the conclusivity and explanatory value inherent in meeting the set terms of a theme. His work then helps signal the end to the implicit dream of Realism that adaptation, either of the literary word to an imagined reality or of the pretended reality of fiction to the inspired language of literature, remained an immanently possible activity between these potentially communicable structures. Extreme realism, “Naturalism”, includes in itself the thesis that language partakes of the same phenomenal reality it represents and as such is subject to the same pressures of change. When Bennett represents a natural world in which people choose and interpret their conscious belonging to it without recourse to a theme he is confronting and subverting the thesis that the language of Realism implies the potential for this communication directly.
The rudiments, Wallace Martin tells us, of Bennett’s “Post-Impressionism” implicit to this challenge were noticed in a perspicacious review of Clayhanger by J.E. Barton in The New Age #7 of December 15, 1910:
The Art Theatre’s choice to present the London public with a December evening of experimental drama struck John Francis Hope (A.E. Randall) as defeat simply and without splendor (26.07:108). Being a theatre that must have existed for reasons other than drama, Hope explains how a dramatized interpretation of H. G. Wells’s “Outline of History” (with Futurist scenery composed of geometrically pure shapes, patterns and symmetries), a “philosophic” ballet, and a modern morality play (personed by mute actors prancing about in imitation of high-stepping horses) remind him of Matthew Arnold’s solemn warning to non-conformist religious sects — get with it lest you atrophy and die. “B.H. Dias” (Ezra Pound), as excited as he was at Matisse’s Leicester Gallery show for how it revealed the psychology of its subjects in Portraits de femmes through their uniquely drawn eyes placed within milieus of suggestive geometries and curves, was yet to see or describe an analogous post- Impressionist synthesis in painting to Clayhanger (26.04:60). William Wadsworth’s maquette for an eight story high Vorticist high-rise, full of ridges and flying buttresses, elicited Dias’s civic thank-you for its
Ironically this year, at the age of twenty five, the philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin moves to Vitebsk from Nevel in Russia and publishes “Art and Answerability”. This work weighs the implications of the Post-Impressionist advance, the impossible attempt to include a representation of choice within the artwork, and finds that with the new direction came new responsibilies. “For it is certainly easier to create without answering for life, and easier to live without taking art into consideration.” T.J. Clark describes this year and place in the path of describing how Post-Impressionism and Abstract took hold in Russia (Suprematism) even as its fabric was being frayed beyond recognition by its self appointed keepers. (Bukharin was welcoming “anarchy in production” as a world-historical necessity, “an historically inevitable stage which no amount of lamentation will prevent” (Economics of the Transition Period, 1920 in T. J. Clark). Clark points out how choice and interpretation effected Lazar Mordukhovich Lisitskii’s (El Lissitzky), painting in honor of Rosa Luxemburg, the leader of the left Socialist group “Spartacus” who was martyred in Berlin on January 5 1919 by disbanded German soldiers, “Freikorps”, for her unpopular opinion of how German Socialists were returning to Capitalism. Clark points out the significance of the lettering of the text “Rosa Luxemburg” carefully framed within its big black square and red circle. His help shows us how psychology and art, painting and poetry, were beginning to be refracted in the stuff of words themselves. Words, or more precisely painted, made, etched, and scribbled signs could now be used as tokens to represent the act of choice. Clark helps us to see exactly where the avant-garde in the arts was lying in 1919 — 1920 and what its preoccupations were. “Modernism at this moment turned on a fine-tuned balance between text as transparency and text as a particular (mysterious) form of the visual. It had to be balance and not outright warfare” (Farewell to an Idea 249). One of the poets in The New Age at the moment of which he speaks reveals the truth in Clark’s portrait of that time as the motive for this balance also held influence in London — the need to represent the mystery of choice.
Ink, and a quill some rare bird gave
That I may write what I must sing
Of Life and Sin and a Harlot’s grave…
An Image of divinest grace
I'll take and twist and punctuate,
Throw mud into the Muse’s face,
Eschew all metre, cultivate
A scorn for capitals and rhyme,
Damn any line with measured tread,
Split rhythm every time,
Until it hiccups like the dead…
” -from “Sunday Morning: Lines in the Modern Method”. Fred Kay. (26.16:260)
If I have spent too much time rehearsing the facts as Martin and Clark help to present them it is because they frame the centrality of choice and the mind of the artist as the single most important concern throughout the aesthetic criticism in Volume 26 and how they connect to the wider discussion of “Social Credit” in the journal at this time where choice, decision and interpretation is made similarly central to its wider cultural vision. Kay’s poem casts a sardonic eye on the avant-garde preoccupation with interpretation and decision here but it does serve to demonstrate my claim that Volume 26 can be safely considered, in all of its aspects, as an exegesis of “Social Credit” and that “Social Credit” is an economic and social philosophy that values the interesting moment of choice.
Names to Know When Reading Volume 26
- Nancy Witcher Astor, Viscountess Astor
- Born Nancy Witcher Langhorne in Dangville, Virginia, 1879. Divorcing Robert Gould Shaw II she moves to England in 1906 and marries Waldorf Astor. Waldorf inherits the title of Viscount and is automatically a member of the House of Lords. The inheritance meant forfeiting his seat in the House of Commons for which Nancy became the candidate and recipient on Novemebr 28, 1919. She became the second woman elected, and the first to take a seat, in the House of Commons. Christabel Pankhurst
- Born in Manchester in 1880 to the Suffragist and liberal thinkers Dr. Richard and Emmeline Pankhurst. Eva Gore Booth convinced Christabel to join the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. Christabel’s self- possession won her many admirers and even more detractors. At one rally she is said to have pushed authority by spitting on an officer. The attention she garnered in martyrdom helped radicalize the suffragist movement, its members becoming “suffragettes”. Christabel became one of the seventeen women candidates that stood in the post-war election. Christabel represented the Women’s Party in both the 1918 and 1919 elections but was defeated both times, undoubtedly to Frances Low’s pleasure as she chastises Christabel in her articles for her impertinence. Gilbert Keith Chesterton
- Born in London, 1874. Published 69 books in total on literary and political figures. Chesteron considered himself to be a journalist which is undoubtedly why Ezra Pound saw fit to call attention to his servility to fashion in “The Revolt of the Intelligence IV” in issue #9 (26.09:139). Robert Alfred Hardcastle Collier, 3rd — Baron Monkswell
- Ezra Pound reports that Lord Monkswell displayed arrogance in his faith in capitalism in an article he penned for The Globe in its last issue of 1919. Monkswell is quoted as writing there, “A man without any tools can produce nothing” to which Pound replied, in #12, January 22 1920, “Loophole being that one can make poems out of mere words, and that many have done so; but lacking speech one can say nothing”26.12:186. Alfred Adler
- Born in Vienna, Austria on February 7, 1870. He originated the ideas which have been incorporated in the mainstream of present-day theory and practice of psychology. He looked at man in an environmental context which is why A.S. Neill prefers his work over Freud’s when trying to discuss mob psychology. In “Psychoanalysis and Industry” (26.05:69) Neill discusses the logic of the railwaymen in their strike formation. Robert Smillie and Frank Hodges
- After the police in 1918, some estimates put 100,000 English workers on strike every day of 1919. The principle catalyst for the different strikes were the movements of the “Triple Alliance” of miners, railwaymen and transport workers. Robert Smillie was the president of the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain. Frank Hodges was its secretary. Lloyd George negotiated against the prospect of a million worker “Triple Alliance” strike with the “Sankey Commission” designed to hear grievances. Smillie and Hodges acquiesced to Lloyd George’s desire that they behave “constitutionally” and promised Lloyd George relief from the prospect of a general strike. Orage spent the year venting his spleen at the imbecility. Joseph Albert Pease — Lord Gainford of Headlam
- Gainford worked in the family coal and iron business before entering parliament as a Liberal. He served in Lloyd George’s government as Postmaster- General. After the British Broadcasting Corporation was formed he continued there as Vice- Chairman, and then left the corporation for British Industries.
Dates to Know When Reading Volume 26
- 19 January 1919
- At the Palace of Versailles the Paris Peace Conference begins. The Big Four - the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, the French Premier Georges Clemenceau, Vittorio Orlando of Italy and the U.S. President Woodrow Wilson leave Germany out of the negotiations that reform Europe and construct the League of Nations. 12 September 1919
- Gabriele D’Annunzio takes Fiume from Serbo-Croatia for Italy. The poet’s supporters adopt blue shirts for their uniform. Fiume (Rijeka) will become independent upon the treaty signed at Rapollo, Italy. 19 November 1919
- Led by Senator Lodge, the U.S. Senate refuses to ratify the Versailles Treaty. 10 March 1920
- Ireland divided in two parts by the Home Rule Act passed in British Parliament. Sinn fein controls the 26 southern counties and Loyalist Ulster controls six in the north. The ruling is ignored in the south where the Anglo- Irish war continues for another year.
Works Cited / Consulted
- Bowman, John S. and Robert H. Ferrell eds. The Twentieth Century: An Almanac. London: Harrap, 1986.
- Clark, T.J. Farewell To An Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism. New Haven: Yale, 1999.
- Gilbert, Felix. ed. The End of the European Era, 1890 to the Present, Third Edition. New York: WWNorton, 1984.
- Martin, Wallace. The New Age Under Orage: Chapters of English Cultural History. Manchester & New York: Manchester University Press, 1967. http://www.modjourn.brown.edu/Martin/martin.htm
- Phillips, Melanie. The Ascent of Woman: A History of the Suffragette Movement and the Ideas Behind It. London: Little, Brown, 2003.