‘The Work of Maximilien Luce’ by Aristide Pratelle from International Socialist Review. Vol. 11 No. 9. March, 1911.
CAPITALISM is doomed. Grounded on mere brute force, on the authority of man upon man; reeking with selfishness and greed, showing only to our conscious eyes a disgusting spectacle of plunder and assassination, rapid or slow, ferocity and cowardice, capitalism is doomed to perish in a good deal less time than has been necessary for it to reach its prime. It is doomed to die of violent death, not only because, in accordance with a well-known economic principle, it carries in its own bosom the very evil that will destroy it, but also, and over all, because the humanity of tomorrow, free-minded and freedom-loving will no longer endure the heavy burden of wage-slavery on its shoulders.
Look at these pictures. And tell me what a lesson they will teach to the rising generations, to these healthy, wise, fraternal generations ‘which will be no longer the slaves of the machines. Indeed, they will put before their eyes some strange sights, quite uncommon to them, some weird life—scenes never to be found by them in their ambience; they will give them insight into the past which will fill them with the greatest astonishment; they will tell them a tale which mere words are powerless to convey, a tale of bondage and tyranny, a tale of deprivation of all these joys which make life worthy to be lived. Here the very features of capitalism are seen in their glaring contrasts. Like as many mushrooms, ugly wooden and brick buildings, geometrical derricks, heavy furnaces, lofty chimney-stacks, have sprung up from vast areas of land which are no longer green and flowing. Here, the polluted waters are no longer lively with silvery fish. Here the atmosphere, darkened with soot and smoke, is no longer bracing and sweet-smelling. Capitalism is not good to breathe. Indeed, if such a nightmare were to survive only one or two centuries more, our humanity would certainly evolve into quite another animal species: with all the germs of decrepitude and death running into its veins. With no more air to breathe, pure water to drink and good food to eat, it would rapidly pass away, victim of its own folly. Then, away with Capitalism, away with Greed and Authority, if we want to go on living!
It is the magic pencil of the draughtsman, which, better than any other artist, can find beauty in the life of these industrial lives of the present day, in these hells created by man, from which beauty seemed to have been banished once for all. Since many years, with his usual passion and perseverance, our good friend and comrade Maximilian Luce has steadily noted for the future generations the pitiful landscapes of our industrial cities, during that period of realism in which we life. Here is a series of first-rate black and white sketches which will show to our American comrades how sincere is the artistic skill of Luce. As can be seen, Luce excels in dealing with “the turmoil of the countries of fire and coal” in giving us a glimpse of the activity of the producers of wealth, in mills, factories and workshops. No doubt his sketches of furnaces and coke-ovens can hold comparison with the best pencil-productions of Constantin Mennier. No doubt that his admirable, astonishing drawing: “rapping melted steel” shows us a group of human bodies as beautiful and impressing as Rembrandt’s “Night watch.”
But, it is in the various attitudes of his workingmen, either at work, in their rhythmical motions, or at rest, when standing erect or sitting to eat a meal, that the art of Luce seems to reach the acme of its simple grandeur, nobleness and harmony. Indeed, these are exquisite documents on the shelves of capitalism which the generations of today will bequeath to their descendants. To our eyes, these drawings have the serene majesty of Greek Art. But, better than Greek Art, these durable, definitive sketches of our era of transition fill our hearts with endless hopes in the future progress of the human race!
The International Socialist Review (ISR) was published monthly in Chicago from 1900 until 1918 by Charles H. Kerr and critically loyal to the Socialist Party of America. It is one of the essential publications in U.S. left history. During the editorship of A.M. Simons it was largely theoretical and moderate. In 1908, Charles H. Kerr took over as editor with strong influence from Mary E Marcy. The magazine became the foremost proponent of the SP’s left wing growing to tens of thousands of subscribers. It remained revolutionary in outlook and anti-militarist during World War One. It liberally used photographs and images, with news, theory, arts and organizing in its pages. It articles, reports and essays are an invaluable record of the U.S. class struggle and the development of Marxism in the decades before the Soviet experience. It was closed down in government repression in 1918.
PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/isr/v11n09-mar-1911-ISR-gog-Corn-OCR.pdf