Friday, October 24, 2014

New Yorker supermen in costumes before "Superman" : Fascists, the Bund and Popular Front organizations

 New York City has always been filled, will always be filled , with organizations advocating changes that they see as reforms, to what they see as an ongoing malaise.

But in the 1920s and 1930s , some of these organizations took to putting on colourful costumes and uniforms and engaging in deliberately provocative street marches , as a leading part of their efforts to effect reform.

These colourful street efforts were most successful if they ended in violent clashes between rival reform groups , where the strongest fists won the field.

Because the resulting media publicity benefitted both winners and losers in the fist fight.

Some of these groups were on the Right - sympathetic to the Fascist or Nazi view of reality.

Others were part of the Popular Front, comprising a wide spectrum of Centre and Leftish opinion.

The Popular Front was important historically because it was one of the first political movements to claim that political creations based upon popular art and culture could be the singly most effective way to affect political and social change.

Besting even the political ballot box or the revolutionary bomb.

Against all this ferment, is it really any surprise that an individual in costume, using violence to do good, was created , in these same years, in the very downmarket (popular) cultural medium of the comic book ?

Superman's origins, I submit , lay not just in an reaction against the Silver Legion's ideology but also in a tacit acceptance by Siegel and Shuster that the League's use of colourful distinctive uniforms and street violence was seemingly the only effective way to effect reform.

But as fellow New Yorkers Dorothy Day or Dr (Martin) Henry Dawson insisted , there was another less violent way to change hearts and minds ...

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