Stephen Spender

Stephen Spender’s Political Writings and View’s of the Twentieth Century

Stephen Spender was truly an influential writer of the twentieth century. The greatest part of Spender’s life was spent voicing his political opinions through his literary works. Stephen Spender’s political views have changed through out his life. During the time he was a young adult, Spender’s political opinions were radically liberal, however he gradually migrated his viewpoint to become more moderate in nature. Stephen Spender was labeled as a political writer and was credited with “bridging the gap of between pre-WWII modernism and all that came after”. (Sternlicht P.115) Much of Spender’s works took a personalistic approach as he documented his political ideas and theories.
Politics took center stage in many of Spender’s writings. Political views and events are illustrated in the following works. “Stephen Spender earned the reputation of a radical writer of concern, addressing the polically conscience-striken Left of his time (Sternlicht P.127). “In Forward From Liberalism, Stephen spender records the uncertainties in his attempt to find and support a position left of liberalism, the political creed he was born into” (Sternlicht P. 115). He also discusses his theories on political group dynamics with regards to the different political agendas existing in individual loyalty, which differentiates the dynamics groups. According to Sanford Sterlicht, a critic of the political writings of Steven Spender, Spender’s book The God That Failed was proclaimed to be one of the most
Kennedy 2
important books of the cold war. The novel describes the journey of six intellectuals into communism, and their return. The four gentleman were searching for a better humanity, however; what they found was personal agony, revulsion, and disillusionment, which affected their political view of communism. Stephen Spender was a witness to the two periods in the twentieth century, in the West, when capitalism was shaken. Throughout his life, his personal experiences helped to shape and develop his own political theories and ideals.
Stephen Spender developed a very personalistic approach to his political writings. During the process of documenting his political views into novels, Spender “learned that the personal sense of the social guilt that had caused him to take sides could not cause him to abandon his ideals of individualism and artistic freedom. To give up his individualism was to give up his soul” (Sternlicht P.117). This statement from Sanford Sternlich, embodies the true essence of Stephen Spenders writings and ideals. Spender was very idealistic, and a part of expressing those idealistic opinions was through his politics. He, as always, is totally truthful about himself. That candor remains a cause for admiration. In Citizens In War-and After Spender discusses what he had seen while working as a fireman in London during the war. Much of this essay was a tribute to the workers that gave their lives to help protect the survival of others. This writing is one example of Spender’s ability to take his personal experience and incorporate his political opinions into literary writings. Spender also was once a student radical, so when the western universities exploded into rebellion, he wrote a book defining the underlying causes. The Year of the

Kennedy 3
Young Rebel establishes the significance of the student rebellions. Spender brought out his personal views as he informed the world of the political changes taking place. Stephen Spender also wrote many journals documenting his opinions and theories based upon his experiences, which were developed during the twentieth century. Stephen Spender also used poetry to express his personal opinions with regards to politics. Although he is not held high regards, in literary standards as a poet, the works he produced were very visual to his experiences. Spender’s desire to express himself through poetry, is the strongest example of his ability to personalize his writings based upon his personal history.
Spender’s views on politics have changed through out the years. He has had his own personal and moral struggles with the sides that he has supported. Stephen Spender spent much of his times writing and documenting his thoughts in journals on a daily basis. The most familiar journals were compiled into a text titled, The Thirties and After. In this text, Spender admits that his political views changed over time, with direct relationship to what