Brecht’s verses say uncomfortable truths rather than toe party lines and so offer us a still vital critique of the economic forces behind war, of how wartime rhetoric becomes a lie machine unfairly demonising and dehumanising our foes.
In Stop Making Sense Huw Lemmey looks at "the image as political tool" through the works of Hannah Höch, John Heartfield, and Bertolt Brecht's War Primer — a series of photo-epigrams revealing the truth of war.
"The power of the work lies in that dynamic relationship between text and image. These are not illustrations. The text reveals the material nature of the image, cast in sorrow, rage, cruelty and pity. Like Heartfield, Brecht leads the reader to draw an unavoidable political conclusion: the rich and the brutal can only realise themselves in barbarism and death, with their senseless fist-fights conducted on the mounting bodies of the poor."
Brecht considered War Primer part of “a satisfactory literary report on my years in exile,” as he wrote in a 1944 journal entry. Since this first English language reception of War Primer on the centenary of Brecht’s birth in 1998, what are we now to make of his poignant modernist epic of four-liner lyrics and scrapbook photos? Today, in our post-crash era, with its renewal of Marxism, Brecht the formalist can be freed from a series of postmodern qualifications. War Primer’s historical intervention can be seen in a new way today. With the far right politically relevant again, Brecht’s image-by-image analysis of social democracy, America, and fascism, which is the veritable heart of War Primer, possesses fresh relevance.
40% off all our Brecht reading until June 11
"I am a city still, but soon I shan’t be –
Where generations used to live and die
Before those deadly birds flew in to haunt me:
One thousand years to build. A fortnight to destroy."
Bertolt Brecht's War Primer is a terrifying series of short poems by one of the world’s leading playwrights, set to images of World War II.
Obama had a dismal record of expanding the US drone program and killing civilians in the name of US security. His expansion of executive power to authorize drone attacks around the world has set a dangerous precedent for Trump to continue the US policy of war from above, in which innocent civilians are seen as collateral damage. The defense budget of the US ($622 billion spent on the military in 2016) accounts for almost 40 percent of the global total.
From Trump’s further militarization of our borders, trying to build a wall between the US and Mexico, banning people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the US, and increasing funding to militarize local police departments, now more than ever the administration’s embrace of military tactics at home and abroad must be resisted.
Start by learning about the history of US imperialism and militarization with 40% off all books on the Militarization of Everything Reading List, with bundled ebooks where available and free shipping worldwide.
The sale ends Sunday, February 12 at midnight UTC.