|En Masse: an Introduction and an
Throughout Patrick Anderson's Montreal years, principally 1940-1946, he was active as poet, editor, schoolmaster and political activist. During 1945 he edited the little magazine En Masse. Although only four issues ever appeared, this Labour Progressive Party publication is perhaps Anderson's most obvious testimony of political conviction.1
Convinced that a progressive cultural magazine could be both a vehicle for political change and a document of artistic merit, Anderson gave over considerable time to the design and content of En Masse. Shunning jargon as well as overt propaganda, he sought to produce a magazine that would address not only the Communist but also the social democrat and the liberal. He was at least to some degree successful, as can be seen from the fact that he managed to persuade men such as Hugh MacLennan, Alexander Brott, and Roger Stanier to contribute comments to En Masse. Indeed many well-known names dot the pages of En Masse: Dorothy Livesay, Goodridge Roberts, Allan Harrison and Ghitta Caiser man,2 for example. These persons represented ideological positions ranging from the radical (Livesay) to the thoroughly apolitical (Roberts), as well as the arts of poetry and painting.
Not only artists appeared in En Masse. Scientists such as Raymond Boyer,3 the son of a distinguished Montreal family and an explosives expert at the Montreal laboratory of the National Research Council, and David Landsborough Thomson, biochemist and Dean of Graduate Studies and Research at McGill, 1942-63, commented in the magazine on the crucial 1945 general election. Boyer, identified as active in the Association of Scientific Workers, wrote that: "By defeating the Tories in every country we can make sure that Fascism will not rise in Canada and that the democratic march to progress will continue strong and free."4 In the same issue Thomson regretted that: "In health, in housing, in research, in social legislation, and in education, [Canada] has not achieved that leading position which her wealth makes possible and her prestige demands of her" (pp. 2-3).
As fascinating as En Masse is, even some forty years later, it is generally not a well-known item in Canadian literary history. Anderson makes no mention of the publication in his various books of autobiography, and passed over it rather lightly in his interview with Seymour Mayne:
In his review of Search Me, F.R. Scott recalled that Anderson had "produced for a brief time and almost single handed a 'proletarian' magazine called En Masse".6 On the occasion of Anderson's visit to Canada in 1971, the Sir George Williams University newspaper observed that:
Other than Michael Gnarowski's article, "New Facts and Old Fictions: Some Notes on Patrick Anderson, 1945 and En Masse,"8 little attention has been paid the magazine. This situation is hardly surprising, considering that only four issues appeared, and that the subscription list never exceeded fifty names.
Yet what En Masse lacks in renown it makes up for in its substance and in its own, albeit limited, consequence. It represents a dignified attempt to draw together the social conscience and the artistic impulse of a remarkable Canadian in Montreal's war years. While a poor thing to look at, mimeographed as it is on cheap wartime paper, its drab appearance belies its compelling contents. The writing is passionate and vigorous; the editor is forthright in presenting his view that an attempt should be made in the magazine's pages to "draw closer together workers in the arts and sciences." Anderson affirms his belief in social and political reform in his opening editorial (unsigned):
True to his word, Anderson printed articles such as Roger Stanier's essay "The Culture and Method of Science" (En Masse, No. 2, [April, 1945], pp. 1-4), a sensible piece advocating the teaching of the "scientific method" in schools in an attempt to eradicate the superstition and ignorance surrounding science, attitudes which, Stanier maintains, lead to the sort of thinking that permitted the debasement of science under the Nazis, when pseudo-scientific methods were used to "prove" abhorrent racial theories.10 Stanier, one of Canada's most distinguished microbiologists, and a CCF supporter, also added his comments on the election; in calling for unity on the left, he recommends: "concentrating in each constituency on the most likely left-wing candidate CCF, LPP or progressive Liberal" (En Masse, No. 3, [May, 1945], p. 3).
The editorial "Art, Science and the Elections" (En Masse, No. 3, [May, 1945], p. 1) introduces not only scientists such as Boyer, Thomson, and Stanier, but also artists, a teacher, a musician and a writer, as commentators on the upcoming election. The "editor" (no doubt Anderson, although the piece is unsigned) states that: "Many of these contributors have no connection with the Labour Progressive Party but are Liberal, CCF or 'non-political.' " The editorial is a direct call to the intelligentsia to play their political role: "We believe that many intellectuals and cultural workers realise that it is only through their taking sides with the working class that their own interests will be preserved and richly expanded."
Always deeply interested in painting and the graphic arts, Anderson included in the first number of En Masse the temperate comments of Goodridge Roberts, who, while admitting his lack of political involvement, moderately suggests "the elimination of unemployment . . . the care of the nation's health through good housing and medical care for all who need it." Henry Eveleigh, artist and designer, advocates support of the LPP, while Allan Harrison, painter and designer, calls for a common front of all progressives to "work together for a happier, united Canada, generous and progressive." Frederick B. Taylor, a prominent figure in the Federation of Canadian Artists, a painter of workers and war production efforts, and for many years a supporter of Marxist-Leninism, writes of his belief that "the welfare of the arts is inseparably connected with the fortunes of labour . . . ." He affirms his view that the "social potential of the arts is proportional to the power of progressive elements in society." Beryl Truax, former President of the Canadian Teachers' Association and LPP candidate in Mount Royal represents education: "We believe that civilisation can be saved for future progress only by a raising of the general cultural level of the masses. The means of achieving this lies in the growth and development of the workers." Alexander Brott, violinist, composer and conductor, gracefully represents musicians: Throughout the years, music as well as the other arts has been related to the history of man in his environment. It was largely the product of conditions and social circumstances and had its reflection in the evolution of style and form, character and content. At this time Canada's creative artists must prove conscious and active citizens of a true democracy." Letters are represented by Hugh MacLennan, who states his view that Canadians are unlikely to elect "the parties of the left": "The parties of the left have had so little parliamentary experience that the public is at present probably as leery of giving them power as they are of accepting it" (a view, naturally, not supported by the introductory editorial, which finds MacLennan's view all too pessimistic). MacLennan's most important statement, however, refers not to partisan politics but to national unity:
While the party purpose of En Masse was to assist in the election of LPP candidates to the House of Commons, little of the magazine's content is narrowly political. The sole essay devoted exclusively to the election is Lieutenant Gordon McCutcheon's "The Electoral Position of the L.P.P.". Not surprisingly, McCutcheon's essay, and the comments on the election provided by the artists, writers and so on, are included in the third issue, that of May, 1945. The general election had been called for June 11th. Being himself a candidate, standing for the LPP in St. Lawrence-St. George, McCutcheon quite naturally advocates the election to parliament of persons who would deplore "rugged individualism" and advocate the collective good, material and cultural:
En Masse printed several drawings of interest; those of Anderson's wife Marguerite ("Peggy") Doernbach, are directly political, showing workers at their tasks and soldiers at rest. In contrast, two of Goodridge Roberts' drawings are charming sketches of Allan Harrison, while the third is of a humorously portrayed "artist" (long hair, beret and mad-eyed) at work on a bare hillside where he paints a lone tree and a grazing animal that seems to resemble a musk ox more than any other possibility that comes to mind. There is an anonymous political cartoon satirizing the Nazis; although signed "M", this drawing is most certainly not in Peggy Doernbach's style.
Artists not only drew for En Masse, but wrote for it as well. Fred Taylor's "The Arts in War-Time, Subject: Industry" describes the artist's satisfaction in painting the workers in arsenals, foundries, aircraft plants, shipyards, mines, smelters, and steel mills. Taylor vividly describes his visit to the steel mills and his going underground for a few days with gold and copper miners:
Other artists wrote criticism. Ghitta Caiserman and her then husband Alf Pinsky contributed "The Work of Allan Harrison at the Art Association". Caiserman and Pinsky describe Harrison's one man show held September 28-October 13 at the Art Association of Montreal, an exhibition encompassing both the commercial art he was forced to produce to support himself and the fine art he chose to create. Ethel Hughes, a Party member, wrote "Prelude to Progressive Art" which presents a discussion of briefs submitted by artists to the Committee on Reconstruction. She writes that "our artists are no vague idealists but consider themselves part of the social and cultural development of the Canadian people . . . . [The artist] believes that his future as a creative artist is bound up with the program of the working people of Canada and that labour will be leading in the fight for a better way of life."
The first issue of En Masse included a comprehensive review of the Montreal art scene, "Art", signed "Critic". The writer12 offers a useful overview of current and upcoming exhibitions by such as Jacques de Tonnancour, Goodridge Roberts, John Lyman; as well as a description of a show of historical interest "Development of Painting in Canada" held at the Art Association in February 1945. Music was "covered" by the inclusion of regular calendars of upcoming events as well as by Miriam Kennedy in "Music", an essay-review in number four. Kennedy, estranged wife of the poet Leo Kennedy, and active in LPP circles in Montreal, wrote competently if not stylishly. Drama, both film and radio, was reviewed by Ralph Novek, a member of the New Theatre Group. His essay-review, "Spotlight on Stage 45" is a thoughtful discussion of radio as a means of communication and as an art form. He writes enthusiastically of the CBC's "Stage 45" series of radio plays and of the programme's producer, Andrew Allan. He has words of praise for the work of Fletcher Markle and Lister Sinclair, but reserves his accolades for the plays of Len Peterson: "His characters are real and live. They speak, act and react like the people you meet on street cars or at union meetings. And through most of his work there runs the theme of determined optimism that leaves the listener with confidence in the future of society." In spite of his sharply utilitarian bent, Novek wrote enthusiastically and well in support of the CBC's efforts to provide drama for its listeners, and playwriting opportunities for its writers. An anonymous review, "Theatre", (En Masse #2) draws the reader's attention to a new venture, "the Contemporary Theatre Group directed by Howard Osten . . . and working on puppet plays, skits and musical numbers, all for the coming election, and also on a radio play by Norman Corwin" and advises interested persons to "come to the weekly classes held at 5 Mount Royal West . . . or get in touch with Dorothy Boyaner."
In the first issue of En Masse, social welfare was addressed in the essay "The Heart of a City" by "Social Worker". This analysis of the people and institutions of the constituency of St. Lawrence-St. George in downtown Montreal is sympathetic to the plight of the residents who suffer from the indignities of poor housing, illegitimacy, prostitution, illness and chronic unemployment. The author describes how the St. Lawrence-St. George Club of the LPP can assist the quarter's residents by providing a friendly atmosphere at meetings and directing "their attention not to escapist entertainment but to the serious consideration of their immediate problems and the relation of those problems to city and national affairs. . . ."13
While the greater part of En Masse reflects the specific concerns of wartime Montreal, one exception is the report from The Labor Arts Guild of Vancouver in "The Arts in Wartime-2" (En Masse, No. 4). The Guild reports on the People's Concert Series, the competitive art exhibition "British Columbia at Work", a Dramatic Sketch for May Day, and "Six Performances of Shakespeare's Hamlet" explained as follows: "Our theatrical policy is to present a discreet alternation between plays of social significance and the established classics . . . . [The production] was Labor-Art at high tension."
Quite naturally, with Anderson as editor, a good deal of the emphasis of En Masse was placed on literature. Miriam Chapin reviewed books and contributed both a short story and an informative article on Latin American fiction. Dorothy Livesay's lament for the war-dead, "V-J DAY: Improvisation on an Old Theme" graces the fourth issue, and Evan Drury's dramatic dialogue with a returned Canadian soldier, rather in the form of a "documentary short story" is found in En Masse, No. 4 as well.
It is, however, Anderson's prose his viewpoint and his style that marks the magazine. He published only one poem in En Masse, "St. Henri", an overtly Marxist statement about the notorious Montreal slum:
En Masse, No. 1 (March, 1945), p. 9.
Apart from his editorals and including virtually all the anonymous items in En Masse Anderson's prose is derived from his Journals kept during the Montreal years.14 "The Problem of the Middle-Class Intellectual" (No. 1, 7-8) laments the defection of such as Christopher Isherwood, Aldous Huxley and Stephen Spender from the cause of social reform to the pursuit of individual enlightenment. As Anderson writes: "the fact remains that there is altogether too much silence and too much prayer." When Anderson glumly regards the state of British and American writing his eye fixes briefly on Canada: "Our own Morley Callaghan has turned out to be a journalist." He continues in rather conventional terms to contrast the decadent romanticism and individualism of the intellectual with the idealistic and politically acute collectivism of the Marxist:
While Anderson finds this situation to be "a very real tragedy", he cautions against a hasty dismissal of the intellectual's concerns, lest his potential contribution be overlooked in irritation at his individualistic attitudes; Anderson thus attempts to explain the intellectual to his readers, and to point out his utility to the political cause:
The tone of these words, while indicating Anderson's political convictions, avoids mindless polemic and doctrinaire attitudes. The artist in him, the man who deplored mere socialist realism, sought that elusive détente between reformist principle and aesthetic satisfaction.
"Notes from the City" in the second issue of En Masse (April, 1945) is a series of meditations on urban life. This essay continues the dialectic between the artist's role, creative and political, and the demands of activism: "The artist feels a sense of unity with life, but how often that feeling becomes mystical and subjective and can even separate him from the people. And yet the greatest art always gives us the fullness of humanity." Anderson then goes on to muse about the specific situation of Montreal itself the artistic rather than the social dilemma:
Now Anderson is here certainly revealing more than a little ignorance about our literature, in both French and English, and betraying his foreign origins all too clearly, but while his attitude appears arrogant, it seems unconsciously so. His tone is regretful rather than dismissive, and, indeed, there was a good deal in what he was saying at the time. One ought to keep in mind that in 1945 Two Solitudes had just appeared; the "naming" of the modern Canada had hardly begun. Anderson's ruminations on life in the city, his speculations about Lampman's work, now read more as exercises in description or tentative criticism than as conclusive work. These samples of his work do, however, reveal his broad interest in almost any topic, as well as his almost obsessive writing habits. He wrote continually, daily, and fully.
Anderson's final significant work in En Masse was the essay "Notes on Poetry and the War". While this article appeared in the fourth and final issue of En Masse (October, 1945), when the magazine was no longer sponsored by the LPP, there is no discernible alteration either in Anderson's principal subject matter or in his views. His convictions about art and society were not dependent upon his current "patron". "Notes on Poetry and War" is a scholarly essay of about two thousand words examining the question: "Has the war produced any great poetry? and what sort of poetry has been produced?" Restricting himself to poetry written in English, and acknowledging that any answers he might offer are tentative, Anderson then launches into an impressive discussion of post-war verse as that genre stood in the autumn of 1945. Finding the poetry often "vague and inconclusive," Anderson attributes its weakness to a failure to integrate into its form and matter a sense of the "happiness attainable in a socialist society." While acknowledging the limitations imposed by the circumstances of war the exhaustion, the lack of privacy and leisure, the loss of stimulation provided by an intellectual circle, and most especially the involvement in the suffering of one's fellows "as in the Blitz or the jungles of Guadacanal [sic]" the poet should nevertheless resist the inclination to facile response, to thinking that "the mere evocation of an experience titled 'Lidice' or 'Belsen' or 'Stalingrad' can of itself become a poem." Anderson goes on to regret that the "vast majority of poetry is still being written by the middle class." He concludes that the conflicted middle-class poet too often manifests an attitude that is both pathetic and neurotic, hardly a wonder given his views of such a poet's dilemma:
Anderson perceives that the middle-class poet's sense of "aloneness," all too evident in his work, precludes the desirable "triumphant grasp of the idea of a People's War or of the United Nations." Plagued by paradox, the intellectual (and for Anderson this class of person includes the poet) finds himself on the one hand "a far better artist than the beginners amongst the proletariat," and on the other, a far less competent person to comprehend the struggle of the "people's war".15
In his attempt to examine the status of war poetry in 1945, Anderson turns for context to the poets of the Great War, particularly to his special favourite, Wilfred Owen. Anderson reviews the reaction against violence and propaganda inherent in poetry and novels between the wars, in works such as Siegfried Sassoon's Counter-Attack, while also moving into a discussion of the poets of social awareness of the 'thirties. In support of his own opinion that Communism was, and remains even in 1945, the appropriate response to capitalist society, Anderson writes:
While Anderson's concluding analogy is so tenuous as to be hardly acceptable as valid argument, he does describe with conviction the disillusionment felt by many of the writers of the 'thirties and 'forties, sensing and even sympathizing with the confusion and ambivalence of the middle-class writer. In final judgement, however, he concludes that while good and progressive poetry can and will be written, much verse will "reveal the bourgeois lack of positive qualities". He sees little to encourage him either in British or in American war poetry, and he glances around at his fellow Canadians in equal dismay: "and young Canadians, binding themselves into groups and magazines, with the violence of Ray Souster, the calm gawky liberalism of Earl[e] Birney, the desolate sensitiveness of P.K. Page." Finding the British Eighth Army's Poems from the Desert "unoriginal in form" and "conventional in emotion", Anderson is equally dismayed by the Poetry London collection, a collection "largely Georgian or worse." He finds only a "little band" of five hundred poets, shared between the United States, Britain, Australia and Canada, deserving of the "title of 'good poet.' " Many of these he finds represented in Oscar William's anthology The War Poets. He particularly admires Karl Shapiro's "Troop Train," but maintains that while it is encouraging to observe these solo voices, "it is still up to the masses and their leadership to show the advantages of a choir."
True to Patrick Anderson's principles that a cultural magazine could serve a social purpose while avoiding the excesses of polemic, En Masse is unmistakably a reflection of his personality. While he cooperated fully with the group effort to produce the magazine, his own middle-class background, his cultivated mind and sensibility, "betray" an individualism at odds with the collectivism of the loyal Communist. Always aware of this conflict, Anderson nevertheless strove to produce for the LPP a journal that would adhere sufficiently to the Party to support the election of Communist candidates to the House of Commons in June, 1945, while also establishing and maintaining a level of artistic accomplishment pretty well free from the embarrassments of what has been called "vulgar Marxism." On the whole he was successful; En Masse shows us, yet again, the creativity, even the daring of this expatriate Englishman. It was good that he was here.
Ghitta Caiserman-Roth is still an active artist, having had a show at the Robertson Galleries in Ottawa during October 1985.[back]
Following the Gouzenko revelations, Boyer was convicted of having given agents of the Soviet Union information about RDX, a potent explosive. In consequence, Boyer was sent to penitentiary.[back]
En Masse, No. 3 (May, 1945), p. 5.[back]
Seymour Mayne, "A Conversation with Patrick Anderson, "Inscape, XI, No. 3 (Fall, 1974), p. 66.[back]
F.R. Scott, "Patrick Anderson," rev, of Search Me, by Patrick Anderson, The Tamarack Review, 6 (Winter, 1958), p. 95.[back]
An article "on the return of Patrick Anderson" based on an inteview with F.R. Scott (unsigned), Issues & Events, 15 (October, 1971), p. 11.[back]
See Canadian Poetry, No. 6 (Spring/Summer, 1980), 61-68.[back]
"Introduction," En Masse, No. 1 (March, 1945), [p. 1].[back]
Roger Stanier, a CCF supporter, was a biologist and expert on the drug penicillin.[back]
Gordon McCutcheon, "The Electoral Position of the L.P.P.," En Masse, No. 3 (May, 1945), p.6.[back]
While it is not possible to prove without doubt that this review, and indeed other anonymous writings in En Masse, was written by Anderson, my conclusion, reached after careful study of Anderson's papers at the Public Archives of Canada, and of Anderson's writing style (including spelling idiosyncrasies), is that virtually all the anonymous pieces in En Masse were composed by Patrick Anderson[back]
My persistent efforts to discover the identity of "Social Worker" have led to naught. It is quite possible that the writer was Miriam Kennedy (née Schlein) who was a social worker and an active member of the LPP.[back]
Anderson's Journals are held at the Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa; see finding aid for MS collection MG,30D,177.[back]
The reader will note that Anderson frequently uses the terms "artist" or "poet", "intellectual" and "middle-class poet" as interchangeable; therefore, some of the logical connectives one would expect in scholarly persuasion are lacking. He is untroubled by such matters; Anderson's prose is usually reflective, intuitive, even meditative, as well as ideological. It is typically not rigorous, logical, or deductive. [back]