Monday, 3 September 2018

PP # 39 The Sideways Glance

'Because things don’t appear to be the known thing; they aren’t what they seemed to be neither will they become what they might appear to become.'

Posted by Tessa den Uyl and Thomas Scarborough

‘Poster promoting the European workers revolution.’ *

Coordinated graphics serve a coordinated initiative. Marching feet resonate intentions towards a better future, in the name of the Proletariat. The large group of the poor, the workers, the people, is determined to proclaim its voice. 

What are those hats, strangely waved about? At root, a surplus labour that originates in a surplus value is subtracted by the rich, by subtracting the surplus value from those who produce. These marching men represent the possibility of an idea to overcome this alienation.

The idea is noble, except to the nobility, and all who have not truly lived up to the same—the idea of personal and social inclusion which rejects the asocial. Today these marching feet resound in our memory, ideas that could have revolutionised our way of thinking, of interacting, and of well-being.

For many it sounds like a (thankfully) lost cause. While it changed our perspectives, 'built the world in which we live', and brought lasting benefits for workers, it brought, too, destruction and carnage— the blood of the workers, and those who resisted them, symbolised in the red.

Do we understand Marxism after what has become of communism? Are Marx's warnings of individualism and atomism finally lost? Did we lose the dream? Between these historical red drapes and waving hats, the sideways glance of the man in the middle still speaks to us today. 'What do you think?'

* This poster appears on a Chinese website. Though Pi was not able to track down the source, it is typical of early Soviet propaganda, and the banner characteristic of International Workers’ Day.


Martin Cohen said...

Surely the idea of this image (rather briskly described in the footnote!), and not very subtly presented byt he artist, is that the workers, seen as all male, can march together to wards some better future under the spiritual guidance of the Red Flag.

I don't think the theory nodded at here - of surplus value - adds very much to the essntiallybogus nature of Marxist economics. We know it is bogus, we've seen it in Cambadoia under Pol Pot, in the Soviet Union - even in mini-form in the UK and Greece! One problem is that labour has no inherent value - try making a living writing comments for Pi for example! Value comes from the consumer's willingness to exchange something for a product. In economics, the consumer, not the producer, is king!

Keith said...

Armed with clubs, accompanied by oversized blood-red flags. Serious-looking men — no women in sight! — seem to anticipate a donnybrook with the police or military or employer-hired thugs. They mean business — even if their intent is mired and unclear. Is there risk in the image’s hackneyed propaganda; or is the message ‘hackneyed’ only when the scene is contextualized to today's world of work? Maybe the sameness of drab uniforms and of unconvincingly grim expressions is meant to symbolically underscore a collective movement. 'No deviation allowed — authoritarianism reigns here', the scene yells I wonder, however, if the image actually manages to inspire — either thought or action. If there’s no movement toward (re)action — toward improved workers’ conditions and greater sharing of capital — might the image still have meaning, or not? Perhaps predictability and repetition blanch the intended message: for workers to unite and mobilise and solidify change. There is irony in the image, given the weakening, and not uncommonly helpless dissolution, of today’s workers’ unions — at least in much of the developed world, where unions are more and more adrift.

Tessa den Uyl said...

Dear Martin,
In your comment does value mean wealth?

Ambition might mean: to accumulate more.
Aspiration might mean: to become more.
Where do we put the value?

Marxism never became a model, communism forgot the principles on which Marx' thoughts were built.

Tessa den Uyl said...

Dear Keith,
I think that today, this image represents a distortion. As it seems, for most mankind it is very difficult to not think of personal gain, and if these men in the picture could speak, what were they exactly thinking? To obtain better work conditions for themselves, or to obtain better life conditions for everybody?
I guess what is hackneyed, as always with everything, is an image of something that got distorted, and the unwillingness to clean the image of its distortions, that then is carried along deliberately for convenience?

Martin Cohen said...

Dear Tess, well, 'value' means 'value' really! Not money or wealth at all. What I meant was that it is people - consumers - who decide if something is important to them, if thye need it, and just how much they are prepared to give up in exchange for it. So, the latest iPhone or whatever is really not much different from any other portable phone, but consumers can be persuaded to think that some small difference is important. The new function likely involves no extra input of workers' labor, but the price of the phone is doubled. Where is the Marxist analysis of that? The workers have become irrelevant in production terms - but may yet be important as consumers.

Martin Cohen said...

And yes, I agree with Keith on the machismo element of traditional unions. As I'm sure Keith knows, it was women who pioneered many of the collective worker struggles though - like the strike of the 'match girls' in Victorian Britain.

Thomas Scarborough said...

It was an ill-fated movement, the one shown in the poster. At the same time, it changed everything. I fear, though, that we are 'back to square one' when one looks at the ragged state of labour today, in parts of the world. In my own country, one now sees slogans everywhere referring to the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. I forget which one of us phrased the question above: 'Did we lose the dream?' I think we did, although one wouldn't want to go back to revolution.

Tessa den Uyl said...

Quote from Martin above, 'The workers have become irrelevant in production terms', then yes, a dream was lost. New capitalists talk about tax charges for the consumer, and to get rid of income tax, is that the future?
Personally I remain that individualism is to be 'cured'. The mind, first of all has to become aware of other solutions but how when there is a misinformation and unwillingness to see how things actually are combined? Before money (made out of nothing) arrives to the largest group, prizes have increased, and who benefits are only the rich, acquiring at the lowest prizes initially. Trapped in a criminal system that passes as legal, what should the worker do?

Martin Cohen said...

"...what should the worker do?"

What do you suggest?

Tessa den Uyl said...

Become aware of how things are intertwined. ( Like food and business f.e.! ) To put yourself at risk, (questioning the luggage with which you are born) is the only way to evoke change, for every reality is a fragile reality after all. I guess it starts with the courage of the recognition - and then to let go, off rigid ideas.

Post a Comment

Recent Comments