Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Michael Gold's 1929 `Go Left, Young Writers!' New Masses' Essay: An Excerpt

In an article that appeared in the January 1929 issue of New Masses magazine, U.S. working-class writer and literary critic Mike Gold wrote the following:

“Literature is one of the products of a civilization like steel or textiles. It is not a child of eternity, but of time. It is always the mirror of its age. It is not any more mystic in its origin than a ham sandwich…

“There is…a left wing, led…in literature by the New Masses

“…The great mass of America is not `prosperous’ and it is not being represented in the current politics of literature…

“By default, the liberals have presented us writers and revolutionists of the left wing with a monopoly on the basic American mass. We have a wonderful virgin field to explore; titanic opportunities for creative work.

“Let us be large, heroic and self-confident at our task.

“The best and newest thing a young writer can now do in America…is to go leftward. If he gets tangled up in the other thing he will make some money, maybe, but he will lose everything else. Neither the Saturday Evening Post or The Nation can any longer nourish the free heroic soul. Try it and see…

“The old Masses was a more brilliant but a more upper class affair. The New Masses is working in a different field. It goes after a kind of flesh and blood reality, however crude, instead of the smooth perfect thing that is found in books.

“The America of the working class is practically undiscovered. It is like a lost continent. Bits of it come above the surface in our literature occasionally and everyone is amazed…The young writer can find all the…material he needs working as a wage slave around the cities and prairies of America.

“In the past eight months the New Masses has been slowly finding its path toward the goal of a proletarian literature in America…”

(New Masses, January, 1929)

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