ANTI-WAR & ANTI-IMPERIALIST CARTOONS
In the December 1915 issue of The Masses, Art Young, created a new character in the visual vocabulary of the radical movement. The cartoon (above), aesthetically and politically simplified even by Young’s austere standards, fills only a quarter page below an article on U.S. intervention in the Mexican Revolution. The image is an allegorical portrait of a lone, towering man, his arms laden with cannon and bombs, spewing poison gas and clutching a sword between his teeth. With one enormous step, he boldly strides across the surface of the curving earth “Looking for Peace.”
Through its very simplicity, Art’s image holds the power of a complex critique. It gives visual shape to the political and economic forces behind American "militarism” that between 1914 and 1919 combined to drive the U.S. into the First World War and unleash a wave of counterrevolutionary violence that not only ran The Masses and Appeal to Reason out of business, but also effectively outlawed the Socialist Party, violently dismantled the IWW, and destroyed the Haymarket generation of American radicalism. So when Art Young drew his vision of the militarist in 1915, he already seemed to know that posed a real threat to peace and that it was coming after him and his friends.
While all the socialist and social democratic parties of Europe capitulated to the war demands of their nations in 1914, the radicals of the Haymarket Generation opposed American entry into the First World War. For some younger radicals this was a bold new direction: opposing the class politics of war, exposing the financial interests behind war profiteering, resisting the organization of a military draft. For older radicals, resistance to World War I mirrored their opposition to the Spanish American War of 1898 and the moral authority of the anti-imperialists.
This page collects some of the best anti-war and anti-imperialist cartoons from the Age of Monopoly.
RESISTING THE PUSH FOR WAR
In this cover for The Blast appeared a few weeks after a bomb exploded on the streets of San Francisco during the a "Preparedness Day" parade on July 22, 1916. Preparedness advocates, especially in the business community, wanted to militarize the United States by expanding the army and calling up a military draft. To the Preparedness groups in San Francisco and elsewhere, this push for militarization had more to do with destroying organized labor and radical organizations under the cover of patriotism than it did with any kind of foreign policy. So when the advocacy of aggression and violence celebrated by the parade exploded into their very midst, the city arrested and framed radical labor leader Tom Mooney and his friends and tried to execute them. This set off the longest legal defense campaign in the history of the American left.
The Blast was the newest magazine edited by famed anarchist Alexander Berkman in San Francisco. The cartoon drawn for the cover by artist Robert Minor illustrated the issue's lead editorial: “Militarism is the worship of the mailed fist, of force and violence, of wholesale slaughter by powder, lead and dynamite.”
Click image to enlarge.