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James M. Fenwick

A Chorus of Mixed Voices

(October 1941)

From The New International, Vol. VII No. 9, October 1941, p. 255.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the ETOL.

The Pocket Book of the War
edited by Quincy Howe
Published by Pocket Books, Inc., New York City, 1941. 372 pages, 25 cents

What a torrent of scribbling the war has let loose upon the land! Typical of this new and booming “defense” industry is The Pocket Book of the War. The book is an anthology composed chiefly of selections from the writings of leading bourgeois journalists. Included are several articles by some of the higher paid but less endowed amateurs such as Roosevelt, Churchill, and Hitler. The book’s avowed aim is to give a panoramic view and interpretation of the current war from the Munich agreement of September 30, 1938, through the Roosevelt-Churchill eight-point program of August 14, 1941.

The following titles and authors taken from the table of contents give a sampling of the field covered: The Tragedy of Munich, by Dorothy Thompson; Stalin, by John Gunther; Poland – The First Victim, by Otto D. Tolischus; How England and France Were Separated, by André Maurois; Behind China’s Lines, by Edgar Snow; Britain’s Revolution by Consent, by Edgar R. Murrow; Propaganda and Organization, by Adolf Hitler; The Eight-Point Program, by Roosevelt and Churchill.

The most that can be said about the book is that occasionally it rises to the level of good bourgeois reportage. Whether it be the refined hysteria of Dorothy Thompson, the embarrassing belated bohemianism of Vincent Sheean, the barely controlled casualness of Alsop and Kintner revealing to a presumably bug-eyed public what the pajama-clad Roosevelt said to that lucky devil Berle late one evening after having drafted a message to Congress, or the penetrating psychological insights of John Gunther exposing that poor dupe Trotsky, “an incorrigible romantic,” wanting “permanent revolution as a perpetual honeymoon” – it all comes down to the same thing: the best of the bourgeois journalists writing today are neither willing nor able to see beyond the most superficial aspects of the tremendous events which are recasting the entire world.

The Method and Its Conduct

Lacking an understanding of historical materialism, they can neither understand the origins of the war nor can they envisage any alternative to the barbarism of Hitler other than a tremendous war – with whose consequences they dare not confront either their readers or themselves. Consciously or unconsciously they are literally only the hired hands of monopoly capital. War exposes many shams, among them the myth of bourgeois individuality.

The best sections of the book are Edgar Snow’s Behind China’s Lines, Otto D. Tolischus’ Poland – The First Victim, and a valuable chronology of the Second World War. Snow’s article reveals very dearly the opportunist Stalinist policy applied in the “Red areas” in China. There are good passages on the economic structure of these areas and on the guerilla warfare. Snow’s article is the only one which deals at all directly with the proletarian masses. Tolischus’ article is interesting in being an early and detailed account of the blitzkrieg tactic-confirming again the now apparent fact that only the ignorant should have been surprised by it. Buried throughout the other articles lies confirmation after confirmation of the Marxist analysis of the pre-war and the war period – the complete absence of chauvinism among the masses, the fear of revolution endemic among the bourgeoisie, etc. – but so buried beneath journalistic rubble as not to be worth the labor of extracting it.

After nearly 400 pages of this fluff, how refreshing it is to re-read the documents of the recent convention of the Workers Party! In a few brief pages the whole anatomy of a dying social order is laid bare. Logic emerges from what seems to be but the play of blind forces.

Daily the unique superiority of the Marxist method once again demonstrates itself. One is proud to belong to a party whose animating force is revolutionary Marxism.

And these bourgeois journalists with their slick style and vapid content?

Buffon once said, “The style is the man.” And one might add, “And the man is the product of his class.” The bourgeois class is a body fallen into decay. Bourgeois journalists can only articulate its corruption.

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Last updated: 29 October 2014