Description of and lyrics to

Art is a Weapon (1931)

(performed by the Prolet-Büehne in German; and then the Workers' Laboratory Theatre adapted it into English, which is what follows):


          Art is--between ourselves,

           quite confidentially . . . 

          Art is a weapon--

          Art is a weapon in the fight for my interests. 

          This may sound strange coming from me,

          However, it is a fact.  And of course facts cannot be . . . 

          Oh yes they can. 

          One can deny facts

          One can distort facts

          One can juggle facts

          One can do with facts whatever--I want. 

          That is, art is a weapon. 

           Art is a weapon in the fight for my interests. 

      The Capitalist then talks of the tens of thousands of various forms of art‑‑"all non‑political"‑‑presented to various people.  All these works of art, he says:

          do not state

          but imply,

          and hammer and hammer away

          as though it were a fact . . . 

          That the United States is the free-est country in the


          That the laws of the country are made for the benefit of

              the workers,

          That the workers must fight and die for their country,

          That every worker not born here is inferior and suspicious,

          That every worker not born white is inferior and despicable

          And so on and so forth . . . 

           Now then--


           is a weapon

           in the fight

           for my

           interests.  Of course . . . quite confidentially . . .

              between ourselves . . . 

      A mass of workers march on singing.  Flanagan claims that at the production she saw "a score of workers marched up the aisle singing, and argued with another workers whose silk topper and over‑refined accent proclaimed him to be a capitalist."  "The song `Left' is heard off stage and a mass of workers march on singing," say the stage directions:


          The bugles are calling to fight,

          Left, Left, Left, Left. 

          We'll answer the call to unite. 

          We're marching hand in hand with the mass,

          We dramatize the fight of the classes

          With powerful melody. 

          Our work will weld our strength and might

          And what we play is dynamite

          To the culture of the bourgeoisie. 

          Hello comrades.  We greet you comrades:

          We raise our fists to the fight. 

          Workers of the nation, build our federation,

          For victory comes with might. 

          The bosses' onslaught is steady

          And we are bearing the brunt. 

          PROLETARIANS, Let's get ready!


      The Capitalist asks who they are, and the workers respond:

          United Workers' Theatres of New York;

          Workers' Laboratory Theatre, New York;

          Prolet Buehne, New York;

          Agit‑Prop troupes in New York.

      The Capitalist asks them what agitprop is and is told that agitprop is agitation and propaganda for the class struggle against him, and the workers point to him.  The Capitalist says that a misunderstanding has developed:  "First you introduce yourselves as a theatre group. . . and now you talk about political propaganda.  These are two distinctly different subjects.  Art has nothing to do with politics.  Art is free.  Art for art's sake."  The workers respond:

          Art is a weapon

           theatre is a weapon

           Workers' Theatre is a weapon

           Workers' Theatre is a weapon in the class struggle. 

          A weapon in the class struggle. 

       But art, says the Capitalist, is above the "daily routine, above politics, above party strife.  Art is the expression of our yearning for beauty and harmony."  The workers agree that art is the expression of our yearning, but for workers that yearning is not for beauty but for:

           yearning of slaves (for) freedom

           yearning of the hungry for bread

           yearning of the homeless for shelter

           yearning of the persecuted for rest

           yearning of the unemployed for work

           yearning of the victims of capitalist brutality for


           yearning of the mistreated negroes for equality

           yearning of the suppressed class for the abolition of all


           yearning of the rebellious for the final conflict

           art is a weapon

           theatre is a weapon

           theatre is a weapon in the class struggle. 

      The Capitalist declares their ideas false:  "Art is impartial.  Art belongs to us all.  Art makes us forget."  The workers again take what the Capitalist says and modify it for their own view:

           It makes us forget that you are our oppressors and


           it makes us forget that we the producers of all

              commodities are starving

           it makes us forget that you enjoy the fruits of our labors

           it makes us forget that we sacrifice our strength, health

              and time for your pleasure

           it makes us forget that there's a way to freedom

           it makes us forget that there is one way to

              freedom--through fight. 

      When the capitalist says that their conception contradicts the age‑old definition of art, a worker declares:  "This conception of ours contradicts the age‑old definition of BOURGEOIS art."  The Capitalist says that this means the destruction of culture, but the worker claims that it means "the destruction of a decayed culture of oppression and exploitation."  The Capitalist asks if the workers want destruction by means of the theatre, and the worker says that they want "destruction by all weapons‑‑including theatre."  The Capitalist calls it revolution, and the worker responds:

           That is revolution

           the theatre of the future is the theatre of revolution





           every working man

           every working woman

           every young worker

           all proletarians

           the masses

           to action. 

           We do not play

           for your and our entertainment

           we play

           because participation in the class struggle

           is your

           and our


           We show

           the exploitation of the workers. 

           We show

           the way out. 

           We show the way out--

           mass organization

           mass action

           organized mass action. 

           That's what we pray for

           and fight for


    Group: United Workers' Theatres of New York. 

             Workers' Laboratory Theatre, New York. 

             Prolet Buehne, New York. 

           Theatre of Revolution. 


Hallie Flanagan, "A Theatre is Born," Theatre Arts Monthly 15, no. 11 (November 1931), 910.

Raphael Samuel, Ewan MacColl, and Stuart Cosgrove, eds., Theatres of the Left, 1880-1935: Workers' Theatre Movements in

                  Britain and America (Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985), 259-279.

Workers Theatre (June 1931): 15-17; the play has been recently reprinted in Samuel, MacColl, and Cosgrove, 301-305.

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