SHAKE OFF THE DUST 1936THE ANTI=

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And like the play authored by Odets, these images of violated and wounded bodies created a sensational and experimental language to describe transnational affiliations and bodies, linking violence in the United States to colonialism abroad. Rather than read California as part of the American nation, I continue in the following chapter to focus on the way three intellectuals, Emma Tena- yuca, Carey McWilliams, and Carlos Bulosan framed the state as imperial space, a site of conflict intersected by transnational flows of capital and labor.

Bulosan constructs California through travel, writing of the contact with the Pacific Ocean as a continuous imperial arc of U. This visual and rhetorical system of representation allowed both English- and Spanish-language activists in California to link their local struggles with struggles by connecting forms of violence directed against workers in the United States with those inflicted on raced subjects abroad.

In doing so, these writers, activists, and scholars produced a transnational, mod- ernist subject that shared a common history united through dislocation, mi- gration, and rupture. Chapter 6, my final chapter, investigates the way the Cold War both sup- pressed and reshaped the public imaginary of the transnational Popular Front, using film to explore the production of a sanitized, nationalist s nostalgia.

From Defeat to Victory 1930 - 1949

My argument centers on archived revisions of the blacklisted film Salt of the Earth, citing the way the constraints of the Cold War limited what was initially a film that was transnational in scope. At stake is a historical question about the meaning of the Popular Front as a political and aesthetic movement. Rewriting the cultural history of the s and s allows us to consider both the lineages and the precursors of current left movements, suggesting ways in which the Occupy Wall Street movement and opposition to the Iraq War and the World Trade Organiza- tion may have broadened analysis in some areas while narrowing them in others.

Such a reading also allows for often isolated or differentiated strands of analysis—the literary, the political, race, capitalism, the nation—to be placed within the pressure and test of political praxis.

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And recovering such movements also allows us to consider larger questions about the meaning of empire, precisely as many of the intellectuals and activists in this era were debating whether empire was reducible to capitalism; if fighting racism was equivalent to or a precursor to fighting empire; if the changing role of the U. That these questions This content downloaded from And the same could be said for modernism—that it was an artistic language of global liberation can suggest a more dialectical approach toward art and literature, and ask us if other aesthetic movements can also be seen as products of and responses to their imperial context.

Held by armed guards and refused consular attention, communication, or food for over twenty-four hours while being watched by an entire company of soldiers, Odets later reported that it was the experience of seeing the U. Finished in for the Group Theatre, it was never performed or published. The play also includes long monologues and scenes featuring otherwise peripheral figures who rep- resent various levels within the power structure that governs life on the is- land: U. The Cubans want a play about their national hero, Lorca, and the writer—something of a stand-in for Odets himself—becomes increasingly impatient with their de- mands.

What do I know about Cubans? I look at a face and I know them all. I know how he speaks, the American male.

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I know what he reads, what he eats, how he works. I know his opinions, I know his language. They go in the cafeterias—I know what they eat. Chekhov wrote about Russians. He was a Russian. Ibsen wrote about Swedes. He was a Swede. I want you to go home.

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Go to your committee. Tell them what I said. Miss Upjohn is going to make out a check for a hundred dollars. Given that Odets was considered, both in retrospect and at the time, the preeminent writer of realist drama of the Depression, his representational claims are This content downloaded from As Amy Kaplan writes in The Social Construction of American Realism, re- alism was imagined by its 19th-century practitioners to be a genre that medi- ated between classes that were bound by spatial and national proximity.

As a self-consciously democratic genre, realism represents an ocular world in which the members can and often do confront one another on the historical stage and, as importantly, on Main Street. What is thus significant is the extent to which realism is posed here as a genre of national belonging. The Author poses his intimate knowledge of New York working-class life—people who have bosses and eat in cafeterias— This content downloaded from Realism, argues the Author, is a national project, one based on the imaginary community of a coherent people who share a set of culturally specific values, habits, and language that are not easily translatable without site-specific knowledge.

The two Cubans point to a candy the Author unwraps, and tell him that the sugar produced for his candy was not only made in Cuba, but on a farm owned by U. The Cubans suggest the way in which the U. In complicating the relationship among genre, literature, and U.

Four of the most famous, and perhaps representative, writers of the s spent time in Cuba between and Josephine Herbst, Clifford Odets, Ernest Hemingway, and Langston Hughes. While their collective ac- counts differ in important ways, Cuba became a way for all four to narrate their relationship to the United States and their identities as subjects of a sovereign empire.


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For Odets, Herbst, and Hughes, Cuba offers a problem of representation and forces them into a self-conscious relationship to their own work and their role as writers—creators, one could say—of representa- tive acts, acts that are to represent a particular political and literary constitu- ency. Yet the question of representa- tion also forces Hughes and Herbst to consider the ways in which their work was based on racial and imperial notions of U.

For Ernest Hemingway, the novel To Have and Have Not was his one attempt, in his own words, to write a social protest fiction. At the same time, the novel is deeply implicated in reifying the racial, national, and gendered identities produced by the U.

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And all of these texts reveal the This content downloaded from All works, even those that tacitly embrace conceits of U. For many of these writers, Cuba became an important site in an antira- cist, Popular Front social imaginary. Equally, the play can be read as an allegory and celebration of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, as the racially integrated and trans-American Young Cuba bears many strik- ing resemblances to the International Brigades of Spain.

Additionally for Odets, Cuba stands as a site of racial defamiliarization. While Odets and other white-ethnic American writers like Louis Adamic, James Farrell, and Nelsen Algren actively wrote and campaigned against rac- ism in the name of multiethnic working-class culture, many of these writers themselves were embodiments of class advancement for certain segments of the working class. Yet as his own work in Hollywood—which I will discuss in greater detail below—attests, such at- tempts also met with larger structures of racialization from which Odets would ultimately not be able to escape.

Hughes presents Cuba as a place in which African American writers and intellectuals can receive recognition that is denied them in the United States. He also rep- resents Cuba as a site from which U. Rather than seeing U.


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Yet Hughes is also skepti- cal of the claims made by largely mestizo and creole Cuban nationalists about the color blindness of Cuba. Yet Cuba is also key for Hughes, and it is not an accident that he begins his transnational journey there in I Wonder as Wander. As much as Cuba becomes a site of a Popular Front political imaginary, This content downloaded from PEFSOJTN there was still a great deal of disagreement on the left about the best way to build an international, multiethnic socialist movement. The same year Odets began taking notes for the play, there emerged a heated debate within Popular Front liter- ary circles about the roles of nationalism and genre for committed writers.

This turn had drastic implications for cultural production, both within and outside of party circles. For those interested in questions of empire, the problem was as much one of patriotism as geography. The nation in many ways became one of the primary touchstones for imagining revolution- ary struggle, and indeed, became part of a radical common sense as a way to find solidarity with common people. Given that the Popular Front era is often remembered for its folk national- ism, Americana, and populism, the international concerns of central Popular Front figures like Odets, Hughes, and Herbst complicate dominant memories of s culture.

However, the centrality of sites like Cuba, which are not officially part of the United States and yet remain within U. And the antifascist journal Fight, the publication of the League Against War and Fascism, also carried numerous articles and edi- torials denouncing U. As historian Louis Perez writes, the history of Cuba has been very much shaped by how the United States chooses to represent itself as both a benevolent world power and a republican democracy.

The absence includes exclusion of Cubans from key roles in the final battles of the war, the treaty ceding Cuba from Spanish to U.


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  • All of these points contradicting the U. As opposed to the long and bloody occupation of the Philippines, resistance movements in Haiti and Nicaragua, or continued colonization of Puerto Rico, Cuba was supposed to stand out as a counterexample of U. Despite or perhaps because of this, U. In Mexico, Nicaragua, and Haiti, it was possible to show that the United States had either removed troops by or had resisted the ex- hortations of investment capital to intervene when the Cardenas govern- ment nationalized Mexican oil production.

    Marines; This content downloaded from According to Beals and Odets, what the Roosevelt government brought Cuba was in many ways simply a more sophisticated form of colonial control that relied on empty practices of sovereignty. Despite the overturning of the Platt Amendment, Batista, with the support of the United States, engineered puppet presidents throughout the s, giving the necessary veneer of de- mocracy. In the same way that antilynching campaigns served to highlight how liberal progress during the New Deal era produced an ever-returning same for many African Americans, so, too, the claims to the universality of democracy and self-determination were exposed as another conceit of modernity by these activists and writers.

    The selection of Cuba as a site to represent U. In greater and lesser terms, these writers, with the exception of Hemingway, sought to privilege an alternate form of national definition that critiqued the United States as an em- pire. As importantly, they also made multiethnic Cuban nationalism a model for their own social movements. In other words, these writers were part of a movement that tried to make transnational cultural connections as part of a self-consciously revolutionary project of international liberation.

    As a conse- quence, they self-consciously raised questions about the meaning of national identity within transnational bonds of affinity.

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    Modernisation vs. Secularisation

    Cuba thus offers to U. Popu- lar Front writers both a site of racialized, spatial dis-ease with the political frame of the nation and a site of new forms of solidarity. Odets, Herbst, and Hughes use the same basic structure of Pop- ular Front narrative, opening from a point of view that recognizes the United States as the immediate frame of reference—and yet that does so to draw at- tention to the limitation and artificiality of such a frame. As importantly, she articulates Cuba as a site of multiethnic or mestizo racial formation as against the racially bound United States.

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    For Langston Hughes, Cuba marks the beginning of an exploration of the diasporic meanings of race in I Wonder as I Wander and allows him to examine the ways in which the United States shapes his experience in the West Indies as a raced subject, as well as how easy binaries between black and white break down in the complex racial formations of the island. In this way, these four authors also suggest that Cuba destabilized the literary narrative as well.

    For Odets, his position as a social realist must be reexamined as Cuba reveals the national limits of his genre. For Hughes, the instability of the category of race also played an important role in his chang- ing poetics of the s and s. Ultimately, the presence of Cuba in all of these Popular Front narratives, outside of the borders of the United States and yet cited within circuits of U.

    Reading the antimilitarist struggle in The General Died at Dawn as a stand-in for other Popular Front concerns—especially the Spanish Civil War—is possible in part due to the fact that Odets proposed several films dramatizing the Civil War, all of which were rejected. Likewise, General Yang is portrayed as a fascist, complete with German advisers and mechanized troop transports, yet his final act— aboard a Japanese junk—is the cultish collective suicide of his entire band as he lies dying of a gunshot wound.

    Rather than suggest the modernity of fas- cism, Yang is portrayed as an Asiatic despot, ordering the death of his own soldiers and promising torture if he does not receive the information he de- sires. Yet one must also ask—if Odets felt uncomfort- able writing a play for Cuban revolutionaries on the premise that he was un- familiar with their lives, why did he agree to write a film about China? Wu, clothed in traditional Han robes, displays clever calculation but lacks courage and decisiveness.

    Odets does work to puncture the conceit of an honest West posed as a binary opposite to a degraded Orient. He poses Brighton, the American weapons dealer, as a double to Yang, as both are willing to trade lives for money, and do so through the sale or acquisition of modern weaponry. Many of the Asian characters were also played by Asian actors, which at the time was a rarity.

    Odets managed to tone down some of the worst elements of the genre, but at heart it is still a genre film that poses racial difference as the center of political meaning. Perhaps more than any other single individual, Odets represented the complex racial and social politics around inclusion and belonging of the United States during the Great Depression. As a writer of the s and s, he was part of a generation of socially progressive intellectuals who saw an assault on white supremacy as important—or a necessary precondi- tion for—a left-wing class consciousness.