Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Who Needs Springtime For Hitler When The Mother Is A Real Thing?

That quote about those who struggle I gave the other day is cited in various places as being from Bertolt Brecht's 1930 Cantata-play Mother, not to be confused with Mother Courage And Her Children.  I'd never seen it or heard it before going to look for the quote in the original.   I read through the scores of some of the songs which Hans Eisler wrote for the production at IMSLP and listened to a number of Youtubes of the music.  It's easy to see why it didn't catch on.  I couldn't locate the original version of the quote in the play but it is about as awful a piece of musical theater as I've ever heard.   And I've heard some real junk.  If you want a good example of how bad it is, here's a Youtube from a production in English, with new music,  of one of the less absurd songs,  Praise of Learning.   In addition to that there is Praise of Communism and, if that's whetted your whistle, Praise of the Dialectic (in the original, I couldn't find it in English).   Really, "Praise of the Dialectic" just an idea that sings out of great musical theater, isn't it.   It wasn't until fairly recently that I read some of Brecht's thoughts in advocating his "materialist, anti-metaphysical. non-Aristotelian" dramas, of which The Mother, may be the quintessential example.  I have to say, most of his theorizing is total crap, You have to twist words and go through a lot of dishonest contortions to pretend that such make believe entities as the dialectic aren't metaphysical, not to mention everything else about this most non-realistic presentation of a pretend reality.  Theater is inescapably metaphysical, it isn't physical reality, its representation of time, alone, is a complete violation of physical reality. But such is the pretense whenever materialist ideologues pretend that their ideologies are not metaphysical in any way because materialism has to be false if there is any reality in any metaphysical entity.

This work was mounted in Germany in the struggle against the Nazis, who, predictably, closed down the production and jailed the actors.  Which probably had nothing to do with much of anything political  or real life.  The pretense that a theatrical production, one seen by several thousand people, at most, would have a political effect is absurd.  But even in the most attractive production imaginable The Mother is so unrelentingly awful and absurd in presenting Soviet style communism as THE alternative to Nazism that I can't imagine it as being anything but counter productive.  That anyone would produce it, seriously, today, with what is known about the Soviet Union, especially in the period when Brecht wrote the thing and Eisler set them in his dreadful political style, it has a real Springtime for Hitler quality to it.  It's not as if the reports of atrocities and mass killing were unknown in 1930, those were available from the most anti-capitalist of sources as well as the accurate reports of anti-communists.

I wasn't exactly brought up to adore Bertolt Brecht, I doubt my parents talked about him even once, though I would guess they'd heard of him.   It was my reading and education that inculcated my former affection for him and his writing.  Some of it I still do like, the anti-Nazi stuff, though even the experience of that has to be mitigated by his promotion of some of the worst of communism.  I always thought his fleeing the bumbling American fascists of the House American Activities Committee for the grim and far more efficiently oppressive regime in East Germany had to count against his proclaimed love of freedom and the dignity of humanity.   He outlived Stalin by three years, he must have heard about at least some of the tens of millions of murders under Stalin's workers "paradise" the grim reality of it was certainly all around him in his last years.

In contrast he lived in the United States enjoying, no doubt, his celebrity and some of the profits available to those who are involved in movie production.  In terms of the experience available to Brecht, America had not only achieved a level of material prosperity unheard of in human history but had also produced such the manifestations as near universal public education, including the land grant university system, the GI Bill, and other, unprecedented and unheard of anti-capitalistic redistribution of wealth that he had never seen anywhere else.   With all of the massive faults of the United States in the late 1940s early 1950s, the racism and other evils that had yet to be overturned,  the "dialectic" at work in the United States had produced nothing to rival the evils that the competing "scientific" ideologies of fascism-Nazism and communism had produced in Germany and the rest of Europe.   It produced the far more generalized material prosperity that he experienced when he fled Europe for here.

Marilynne Robinson, in her essays points out that no less an expert than Marx did not consider the United States a capitalist country, she joins in the observation that the United States has not, in fact, until recently been a classically capitalist country, despite what Marxists here and abroad have deplored about us, along with our alleged vulgarity.  That is an attitude that became fashionable among the educated elite here as it yearned for some imagined level of sophistication achieved in Europe.  Which, by the way, produced vulgar junk that could rival anything produced here, and which had already produced evil in ways and in amounts that the United States had not yet rivaled.

The casual anti-Americanism that has become a required character trait among educated people has certainly not helped endear that class to the majority of Americans.  The absurdity of that might account for how, in Chicago, in 2013, with the full range of the mass murders of the Soviet Union, those countries it occupied before and after the Second World War, the as massive mountain of murdered people in China under Mao and in other, smaller countries under communism fully documented and known, someone thought it was a good idea to mount a production of Brecht's lying, awful. dreary piece of "materialist, anti-metaphysical, anti-Aristotelian"  agit-prop.   Every word of it being false is not only proven by the historical record of Soviet communism and communism elsewhere, but also in its total and absolute impotence in fighting fascism and Nazism.   We know that now beyond any rational doubt.  It is as absolutely known as the massive crimes of the Nazis.   Only, for some reason, we're supposed to pretend we don't know it.   It's worse than insane, it's a lie.


  1. Methode der Dialektik!
    Nein, Feuerbach...

    1. I wonder how sequins and feathers and tap shoes figure into Brecht's dialectic. The music was pretty dreadful, the instrumentation would probably block the words for most of it.

      Can you imagine that Chicago production doing anything to convert anyone? It makes the original production of Sweeny Todd look like a jolly good time.

    2. Hey! "Sweeney Todd" is my favorite musical!

      I don't go in for "uplifting" musicals. Until Sondheim, I didn't like musicals at all.

      He writes for misanthropes like me....

    3. But did it make you want to go out and buy a meat pie right after?

    4. Only the ones without fingernails in 'em.

      (Speaking of meat pies, I'm enjoying the comments at Salon about Paglia. I'm no fan of I am the Cosmos Camille, but in this installment she lacerates Hitchens and Dawkins and defends the validity of religion while proclaiming her atheism.

      And almost none of the comments want to touch it. It's cheap entertainment.)