‘Workers Art In Summer Camp’ by A.B. Magil from New Masses. Vol. 6 No. 2. July, 1930.

ARTEF play at Camp Nitgedaiget, 1929.
‘Workers Art In Summer Camp’ by A.B. Magil from New Masses. Vol. 6 No. 2. July, 1930.

The scene is the social hall at Camp Nitgedaiget, a workers’ summer camp at Beacon, N.Y. A drum beats out a rhythm and on the stage a group of workers go through staccato motions — slaves on the belt. A boss with a cigar in his mouth speeds up each worker while the drum beats faster. On the wall is a sign: $16. A worker drops out; from the unemployed workers who answer the Help Wanted sign another takes his place at $14 a week. So it goes on — speedup, wagecuts, unemployment. And then the revolt. The mannequins spring to life. Strike! An A.F. of L. faker to the rescue. The boss and the faker embrace. But the Trade Union Unity League leads the workers, both employed and unemployed — the Trade Union Unity League and the Communist Party. The two moving groups of factory workers and unemployed workers join and the boss and A.F. of L. fakers are crushed be- tween them. The audience bursts forth in spontaneous applause while actors and audience join in singing Solidarity Forever and the Internationale. Out of the singing group of actors a speaker for the TUUL steps forth. Make believe merges into reality and the speaker makes an appeal for the TUUL.

It is pantomime, simple, elemental, amazingly effective. The occasion was the beginning of Trade Union Unity League week at Camp Nitgedaiget, for the benefit of the militant trade union center of the American working class. The pantomime, the central feature of the evening’s program, was arranged by V.I. Jerome, educational director of the camp. The rhythms were the work of Lahn Adohmyan, a member of the John Reed Club, who is in charge of library and musical work. The actors were drawn from the campers. Among them were six hard proletarians from Seattle, who only a few hours before had driven into camp in their third-hand car on their way to the Seventh National Convention of the Communist Party. They were tired and hadn’t had a decent night’s sleep for two weeks, but they were glad to take part in the pantomime. Later one of them, a lean lumberjack with graying hair, addressed the crowd and told of conditions in Seattle.

There will be many more such evenings at Camp Nitgedaiget this summer. Cultural work is regular part of the camp activities. “Artef”, the remarkable Jewish workers’ dramatic organization, is going to produce plays and Fritz Brosius, another member of the John Reed Club, will do the scenery. And this year, more than ever before, cultural activities in the English language will occupy a leading place.

A.B. MAGIL, Beacon, N.Y.

The New Masses was the continuation of Workers Monthly which began publishing in 1924 as a merger of the ‘Liberator’, the Trade Union Educational League magazine ‘Labor Herald’, and Friends of Soviet Russia’s monthly ‘Soviet Russia Pictorial’ as an explicitly Communist Party publication, but drawing in a wide range of contributors and sympathizers. In 1927 Workers Monthly ceased and The New Masses began. A major left cultural magazine of the late 1920s and early 1940s, the early editors of The New Masses included Hugo Gellert, John F. Sloan, Max Eastman, Mike Gold, and Joseph Freeman. Writers included William Carlos Williams, Theodore Dreiser, John Dos Passos, Upton Sinclair, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Day, John Breecher, Langston Hughes, Eugene O’Neill, Rex Stout and Ernest Hemingway. Artists included Hugo Gellert, Stuart Davis, Boardman Robinson, Wanda Gag, William Gropper and Otto Soglow. Over time, the New Masses became narrower politically and the articles more commentary than comment. However, particularly in it first years, New Masses was the epitome of the era’s finest revolutionary cultural and artistic traditions.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/new-masses/1930/v06n02-jul-1930-New%20Masses.pdf

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