Sunday, January 22, 2017

SOCIALISM | Who Funded the Brave Magazines in 1910-1922?

Art Young (1866-1943)
January 22, 2017–In today's New York Times a photo takes up nearly half of p. 10, the first page of a section called "The Inauguration". The photo is of Inez Milholland on horseback, about to set off 104 years ago, on March 3, 1913, from Capitol Hill up Pennsylvania Avenue to Lafayette Square, where there was a viewing stand in front of the Treasury Building.

She and her 5,000 or more (the National Park Service estimated 8,000) fellow suffragist marchers attracted the attention of the rest of Washington and a crowd of half a million people gathered around, many of the onlookers deeply hostile. Violence ensued that the D.C. police did little to break up until cavalry arrived from Fort Myer. When President-Elect Woodrow Wilson arrived at the VIP entrance at Union Station, no one was there to greet him except a White House driver and a staff member from the outgoing President (Taft).

The march alone established Inez as a brave woman. But little remembered is the role she played in directing funding to in-your-face socialist publications, especially The Masses. I have just been reading Art Young's long and interesting first (1928) autobiography, My Life and Times, available online ( – the download is slow because the file is large), and he has some interesting things to say in this connection.

Inez Milholland was the daughter of a newspaperman who became wealthy by investing in underground tubes for moving mail in big cities. Her socialist views deeply upset him.

These views motivated her to help her friend Max Eastman start The Masses, and after her death in 1916 influenced her widower, Eugen Boissevain, to fund other socialist publications.

Boissevain made a small fortune with two of his five brothers, importing coffee from Java in what was then the Dutch East Indies.

The socialist publications in the 1911-1922 period covered by Art Young coincided with the creation of the traditions and energy that emanated for the rest of the century from Greenwich Village.

These traditions were also wrapped up with the energy of New York University. Inez Milholland attended NYU Law School – and thereby became part of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company strike in 1909 and a witness to the fire in 1911 – because her application to Harvard Law School and other more prestigious school was rejected because of her gender. The Harvard Law School faculty decided she could do the work, but the administration did not admit women for another four decades–not until 1950.

1. The Masses, 1911-17

Art Young shows how The Masses got started with a $2,000 contribution (equal to about $50,000 today says the BLS inflation calculator) from Alva Belmont, whose support was enlisted by Inez. Max Eastman hadn't thought of approaching her, because he knew that Alva wasn't a socialist. But Inez knew that Alva was a supporter of suffragist causes and correctly perceived that she would be open to supporting other issues if properly presented. (See Young, previously cited 1928 Autobiography, p. 297.)

Inez explained to him that Alva was a "militant" – which would be enough for her to want to enable militancy of other kinds.

Alva's gift was quickly matched by $1,000 from popular novelist John Fox and then another $2,000 from civil rights lawyer Amos Pinchot. That was sufficient to get the magazine under way. Belmont made subsequent contributions.

The magazine was ended when Woodrow Wilson's Postmaster General invoked wartime laws against sedition and refused to mail it. The magazine was succeeded by another one led by Max Eastman, The Liberator, and later by The New Masses.

2. Good Morning, 1919-22

Cartoonist Art Young, a mainstay of The Masses, created his own magazine in 1919. He needed $4,500 to get it going, and received $1,000 of it (equal to about $25,000 today according to the BLS) from Inez's widower Eugen Boissevain. Eugen asked Art: "Are you sure this is enough?" (See his previously cited 1928 autobiography, p. 356.)

Art's magazine competed with Max Eastman's new magazine The Liberator. It only lasted three years. The value of these magazines is that they show an alternative point of view to the prevailing mood of capitalist acquisitiveness that lasted until FDR's election in 1932.

3. John Reed's Trip to Russia

Eugen Boissevain is credited by Max Eastman in his book Great Companions with contributing and raising the money that John Reed needed to go to Russia and write the book that became Seven Days that Shook the World.