Picasso and the Anti-Vietnam War Movement 1969

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I recently came across an interesting poster (thanks to a thoughtful reader) which was used in the 250,000 person “March against death : march on Washington” anti-Vietnam War protest march which took place on Nov. 13-15, 1969. You can read the front page story about the march on the NYT’s “On This Day” website and more details can be found in the memoirs of one of the organizers, Ron Young, Crossing Boundaries in the Americas, Vietnam, and the Middle East: A Memoir (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2014).

Picasso donated a pen and ink drawing for the protesters to use in their promotional material which shows one of his “machines of war”.

(see a larger version 1828 px wide

A view of just the image:

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These “engines of war” first appeared in his anti-Korean War pictures from the early 1950s which marked a break from his earlier anti-war drawings which showed primarily the victims of war such as the women, children, and horse in “Guernica” (1937) or the apparently unfinished (or unfinishable) “The Charnel House” (1944-45) depicting the victims of WW2.

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For two or so decades after WW2 Picasso drew many images which were used for posters for various peace congresses. These consisted mainly of his classic peace dove images, or images of flowers.

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With the Korean War he changed tack and drew a series of works showing the actual killing rather than the aftermath of attacks. In “Massacre in Korea” (Jan. 1950) he shows a group of women and children facing immanent execution by a group of faceless, helmeted soldiers with rifles, very much in the style of Francisco Goya’s classic “The Third of May 1808”.

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This was followed a a pair of paintings in 1952, “War” and “Peace”, with the war painting showing a chariot with a warrior with a bloody sword and a group of silhouettes committing unseen atrocities in the background.

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During 1951 Picasso drew a series of works which showed various “machines of war” or tank-like vehicles attacking soldiers who look like classical Greek warriors. It was one of these tank-like vehicles which he drew for the 1969 anti-Vietnam War march in Washington.

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Another poster from the same year as the anti-war march shows the enduring relevance of the “Guernica” painting for anti-war protesters. It depicts a close-up of the head and arm of the fallen warrior/statue.

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For further information and images see:
– my Guide to the War Art of Picasso
Picasso: Peace and Freedom, ed. Lynda Morris and Christoph Grunenberg (London: Tate Publishing, 2010).
Picasso and the War Years, 1937-1945, ed. Stephen A. Nash, with Robert Rosenblum (New York: Thames and Hudson, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1998).

Slavery and the Hypocrisy of July 4

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A useful corrective to the unthinking patriotism usually on display on July 4th is to read Frederick Douglass’s great “July 5th Oration” which he gave in 1852. He asks his listeners the following important question and then gives a devastating answer to it:

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which lie is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.” (p. 20)

Douglass does admit that in its rhetoric, in the philosophical ideas it articulates, “as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT. Read its preamble, consider its purposes. Is slavery among them? Is it at the gateway? or is it in the temple? it is neither.” (p. 36)

Given the sad history of how the ideas of the Declaration of Independence were actually, and are now currently, being put into practice, one can only agree with his conclusion that “America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future.”

Source: Oration, Delivered in Corinthian Hall, Rochester, by Frederick Douglass, July 5th, 1852 (Rochester: Printed by Lee, Mann, and Co., American Building, 1852).

Very few know, or want to know, that twelve American presidents owned slaves at some point in their lives and that eight of them owned slaves while serving as President (see list below). Thus, for 50 years during the pre-Civil War period a slave-owner was in the White House. It is also the case that although the slave trade had been abolished in Washington D.C. in 1850, slave owning was still permitted for another 15 years. This meant that the “great emancipator” Abraham Lincoln lived in the White House when it was still using slave labour as household help.

Presidents who owned slaves (in caps if they owned slaves while in office):

  1. GEORGE WASHINGTON (Pres. 1789-1797) (owned between 250-350 slaves)
  2. THOMAS JEFFERSON (1801-1809) (about 200)
  3. JAMES MADISON (1809-1817) (more than 100)
  4. JAMES MONROE (1817-1825) (about 75)
  5. ANDREW JACKSON (1829-1837) (fewer than 200)
  6. Martin Van Buren (1837-1841) (one)
  7. William Henry Harrison (1841-41) (eleven)
  8. JOHN TYLER (1845-1849) (about 70)
  9. JAMES POLK (1845-1849) (about 25)
  10. ZACHARY TAYLOR (1849-1850) (fewer than 150)
  11. Andrew Johnson (1865-1869) (probably eight)
  12. Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877) (probably five)

Here is an interesting image of Washington the slave owner from 1851 – “Washington as Farmer at Mount Vernon”, 1851, part of a series on George Washington by Junius Brutus Stearns. Located at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

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And an advertisement placed in The Pennsylvania Gazette, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 24, 1796, which offers a reward of $10 for the capture of one of his run-away slaves.

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Source: Mary V. Thompson, “William Lee & Oney Judge: A Look at George Washington & Slavery ,” Journal of the American Revolution, June 19, 2014.

Another useful corrective for patriots is Jeffrey Rogers Hummel’s article “The Constitution as Counter-Revolution: A Tribute to the Anti-Federalists,” Free Life. The Journal of the Libertarian Alliance, Vol. 5 : No.4. (no date) PDF

Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica” (1937)

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The Spanish painter Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) painted a mural depicting the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by the German air force in 1937 during Spanish Civil War. It depicts the victims of war, such as suffering women, children, and a horse. It is perhaps the greatest painting about war ever made as it focuses on the victims and is timeless and universal in its themes.

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So-called New Socialist Ideas in the 1848 Revolution

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While working on my talk on the French Economists’ battle against Socialism I came across this marvelous contemporary cartoon by the political caricaturist Amédée de Noé (known as Cham) (1818-1879) entitled “Ce qu’on appelle des idées nouvelles en 1848” (What are called “New Ideas” in 1848). In the cartoon he mocked the leading socialist figures of the 1848 Revolution in this panel of 6 cartoons. He ridicules their claims that their ideas were new and original by pointing out the true origins of their ideas for reform. It turns out they “borrowed” all their ideas from other people. His panels depict socialist thinkers such as Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Victor Considerant; utopian socialist activists such as Pierre Leroux and Étienne Cabet; as well as socialist politicians such as Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin and Louis Napoléon Bonaparte.

I have posted an “illustrated essay” on this cartoon on the OLL website where some historical background is provided and the individual cartoons explained.

See “”New” Socialist Ideas in 1848: An Anti-Socialist Cartoon by Amédée de Noé” <http://oll.libertyfund.org/pages/new-socialist-ideas-in-1848>.

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