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Herbert Kühn, "Expressionism and Socialism" (May 1919)

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1910 the revolution in art began. 1910 Picasso painted, 1910 Kandinsky, 1910 Die Aktion appeared.

Art is ahead of its time.

As is philosophy.

Husserl, Bergson, Eucken, Simmel—each name a rediscovery of the spirit, a rediscovery of humanity.

But still the time had not come.

Matter still had to carry out its last blow, the explosion, the destruction—then the way was also politically then completely freed for the belief in humanity—socialism.

[ . . . ]

Expressionism is—as is socialism—the same outcry against matter, against the unspiritual, against machines, against centralization, for the spirit, for God, for the humanity in man.

It is the same cast of mind, the same attitude toward the world, that has different names according only to different areas in which it appears. There is no Expressionism without socialism.

It is not by chance that the new art opens itself so strongly to politics, it is not by chance that there are periodicals for politics (Social Democracy) and Expressionism.

It is not by chance that the new art rises up just as much against war, against militarism, as the best of the Social Democrats do.

We want humaneness, unity of the spirit, freedom, brotherhood of the essentially human, and we despise border-post insanity, chauvinism, nationalism.

As with Tolstoy, patriotism is for us the most offensive form of meanness, of pettiness, of falsehood. Out of this false breed grows baseness of mind. Inevitably.

[ . . . ]

We greet you, thou French brothers, comrades, united—thou, Barbusse, and thou Romain Rolland, thou J. P. Jouve, and André Gide, Henri Guilbeaux, and Martinet, Duchamp and all the others.

We greet you Italians, you Czechs, Poles, Russians, Finns, British, and you, you Indians.

The artists are ahead of their times, they prepare the ground, they engrave the hearts, they sow the seeds.

[ . . . ]

We want a new world. A better world.

We want Humanity!

Source of English translation: Rose-Carol Washton Long, ed., German Expressionism, Documents from the End of the Wilhelmine Empire to the Rise of National Socialism. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1993, pp. 177-78.

Source of original German text: Herbert Kühn, "Expressionismus und Sozialismus," Neue Blätter für Kunst und Dichtung, no. 2 (May 1919), pp. 28-30.

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