A rather disheartening (if predictable) exchange between Corey Robin, Doug Henwood, and myself on Christopher Hitchens and the post-9/11 Left (from Facebook)

A younger Christopher Hitchens

A younger Christopher Hitchens

Ross Wolfe:

I think I tried posting this entire thing on your recent blog post on Hitchens, but here’s a link to the article by Spencer Leonard that I feel actually provides the most adequate leftist appraisal of Hitchens’ legacy.

Corey Robin:

Sorry, tried to read this a few weeks ago when someone posted it on Doug Henwood’s site.  Couldn’t make it past the second paragraph: so God-awfully written, filled with windy claims about “History,” and even windier claims about Hitchens’ role in either shattering the left or announcing the shattering of the left. Couldn’t tell from those two paragraphs whom the writer was more intoxicated with: Hitchens or himself.  I don’t know who this author is, but you might want to tell him: the one — and perhaps only — thing he should or could learn from Hitchens is how to write a clear, clean sentence.  That first sentence alone — it has more stops and starts, herks and jerks, than the 7 train on during rush hour on a bad day.  Don’t these people believe in editors?

Doug Henwood:

Adequate? Pure gasbaggery.

Corey Robin:

Ross Wolfe: If you do want to post this to the blog, that’s fine. Just post a link with perhaps a paragraph-long teaser. But please don’t post the whole thing; it takes up way too much space and makes it hard for people to figure out where things are in the comment-thread.

Ross Wolfe:

Corey: Sadly, you yourself succumb to the same shallow moralism that was Hitchens’ greatest weakness. To psychologize an author’s alleged shortcomings — whether it’s Hitchens or Spencer — as mere “narcissism” or simple “self-intoxication” is a glib, facile, and ultimately dishonest procedure. It’s all too easy to evade the real difficulties posed by a figure like Hitchens by attributing motives in this fashion.

If you’re able to make it past your objections to his writing style, Spencer aptly notes this moralistic tendency in Hitchens’ own writings (which is, oddly, replicated in your articles on him):

The insights Hitchens develops respecting the history of the Left with reference to Orwell are valuable and, in many instances, merit further elucidation. The difficulty arises in trying to address such matters in the moral terms on which Hitchens bases his analysis, as for instance when Hitchens attempts to characterize the European fascism of the 1930s and ’40s in terms of “arrogance,” “bullying,” “greed,” “wickedness,” and “stupidity” [WOM, 7]. Such moral and intellectual flaws have, after all, plagued humankind throughout its history, and for this reason they provide an inadequate basis for conceptualizing something so distinctly and exclusively modern as fascism.  Similarly, leftist politics, while it may be rooted at the individual level in a certain moral impulse, can never be guided by that impulse alone.  While Hitchens’ expressions of moral disapproval are in themselves unobjectionable and indeed often rhetorically powerful, they hardly suffice as categories of political analysis.

The most horrifying aspect of fascism is that it does not admit of explanation on the basis of mere moral faults.  As problematic as Arendt’s analysis of “the banality of evil” in her reflections on the Eichmann trial may have been, at least it was able to move beyond the shallow attribution of the Nazi’s “evil” to some underlying diabolism.  Certainly, a number of the members of the Nazi leadership were thuggish goons, and many of the guards at the concentration camps were confirmed sociopaths, but this by itself does not explain the industrialized murder of European Jews, gypsies, communists, homosexuals, and so on.

Similarly, to try and dismiss Hitchens’ arguments and apologia for the war by reducing them to mere symptoms of his own personal vanity is insufficient.  The more troublesome question is to ask why this former leftist, in siding with naked U.S. aggression and militarism against the undeniably despotic Ba’athist regime, eventually succumbed to the same “lesser-evilism” of which he had earlier accused supporters of Bill Clinton.

Sure, everyone knows Hitchens was an arrogant prick.  But is this fact alone enough to account for what later “led Hitchens to shill for the American warmongers,” as Spencer put it?

Corey Robin:

Wow, I should wade through all that heavy-breathing in order to find out that Hitchens’s insights are “valuable”? Yet limited b/c he thinks fascism is reducible to bullying and wickedness? Sorry, dude, you’re not making that piece any more enticing. Now, I recognize that the notion that politics is about more than easy moralism must seem like some kind of blinding insight to you, but for many of us, it’s just one of many and obvious rules of the road.  If we don’t apply it to the Case of Christopher Hitchens — in the way, say, Adorno applied it to his analysis of Beethoven or Lukács did when he discussed Walter Scott — it’s b/c we don’t see Hitchens as a symptom of world-historical importance.  He was, in the end, a symptom of himself, which is why I thought a brief blog post was sufficient to the topic at hand.

I will add, because you seem so interested in these questions of History, that there is a long history of liberal-ish/left-ish intellectuals, at moments of political retreat, taking precisely the route Hitchens did.  It actually goes back to the French Revolution — read up on the Girondins’ decision to declare war on Austro-Hungary — and is a fairly familiar story to anyone who knows that history.  So I guess if there’s a second reason I didn’t feel the need to get myself all worked up about the man’s trajectory, it’s because it’s such a tried and true path.  Again, not of interest to anyone interested in History, but fairly familiar to anyone who knows some history.

Ross Wolfe:

Gasbaggery, Doug? As you were someone who so astutely helped point out some of the most shallow and theatrical aspects of the anti-war “activistism” of the ’oughts, I find it surprising that you would not be more sympathetic to the angle Spencer’s article takes.  Because it by no means tries to mount a defense for Hitchens’ tasteless and one-sided apologia for U.S. military aggression, but rather tries to frame these as the products of his disillusionment with the same degenerate Left that you yourself described in “Action will be Taken.”

Whether Hitchens’ radical enlightenment opposition to “every form of tyranny over the mind of Man” — namely, religion and superstition — served simply to mask some form of deep-seated Islamophobia is a matter of interpretation.  In my personal opinion, nearly all religion at this point in history is hideously reactionary, sexist, and homophobic.  It is only able to survive as a severe anachronism.  Religion, along with all forms of occultism and superstition, should by all rights be eradicated from the earth, no matter where it originated — so that humanity can be free from ignorance and irrationality.

By shamelessly siding with the aggressor in the U.S.’ and the U.K.’s invasion of Iraq (along with the host of other countries in the “Coalition of the Willing,” who they’d bought), Hitchens fell beneath his own threshold of criticism. Both sides of the conflict were miserable and worthy of contempt.  But Lenin, who is so often mindlessly invoked when it comes to conversations of imperialism, was himself far more balanced when it came to such matters.  For example, from chapter five of his 1916 work, A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism:

Imperialism is as much our “mortal” enemy as is capitalism.  That is so.  No Marxist will forget, however, that capitalism is progressive compared with feudalism, and that imperialism is progressive compared with pre-monopoly capitalism.  Hence, it is not every struggle against imperialism that we should support.  We will not support a struggle of the reactionary classes against imperialism; we will not support an uprising of the reactionary classes against imperialism and capitalism.

Consequently, once the author admits the need to support an uprising of an oppressed nation (“actively resisting” suppression means supporting the uprising), [Kievskii] also admits that a national uprising is progressive, that the establishment of a separate and new state, of new frontiers, etc., resulting from a successful uprising, is progressive.

Or later, if Lenin didn’t make himself clear enough on this score here, he spelled it out even more explicitly in 1920 in his “Draft Theses on National and Colonial Questions”:

With regard to the more backward states and nations, in which feudal or patriarchal and patriarchal-peasant relations predominate, it is particularly important to bear in mind:

first, that all Communist parties must assist the bourgeois-democratic liberation movement in these countries, and that the duty of rendering the most active assistance rests primarily with the workers of the country the backward nation is colonially or financially dependent on;

second, the need for a struggle against the clergy and other influential reactionary and medieval elements in backward countries;

third, the need to combat Pan-Islamism and similar trends, which strive to combine the liberation movement against European and American imperialism with an attempt to strengthen the positions of the khans, landowners, mullahs, etc.

Ross Wolfe:

Corey: If you’re half as familiar with Adorno’s work as your casual aside would suggest, you’d know that Adorno’s critical engagements of contemporary figures were not limited to figures who represented “symptom[s] of world-historical importance.”  Hitchens was easily a more important public figure and thinker in the last couple decades than, say, the anti-Semitic radio preacher Martin Luther Thomas, to whom Adorno devoted more than a hundred pages of analysis, was in his day.

Hitchens was indeed symptomatic of the widespread tendency of former leftists to devolve into empty moralism and hawkish apologia for U.S. militarism. Of all the moralizing pro-war leftists who spoke out or signed the deplorable and misguided Euston Manifesto, Hitchens was easily the most visible. If not Hitchens, then indeed who would qualify as sufficiently emblematic or “symptomatic” of this tendency? Nick Cohen? “Harry Hatchet”?

Adorno, as you’ll no doubt recall, found some things of merit in the writings of the archconservative Oswald Spengler, and found plenty to criticize in the writings of ostensibly leftist figures like Bertolt Brecht or Thorstein Veblen [in Prisms].  Things are not so clear-cut as one would imagine.

Ross Wolfe:

Corey: Hitchens is easily a more interesting subject of analysis than someone so straightforwardly vacuous as Sarah Palin, a figure you deemed worthy of consideration for your study on “the reactionary mind” (even appearing on the cover of your book [The Reactionary Mind]). So I’m not really sure what you’re objecting to in Spencer’s book review.

Doug Henwood:

Yeah, gasbaggery.  I was sadder about Hitchens’ death than many on the left, but his apologetics for imperial war over the last decade of his life were revolting.  I found them tragic and depressing compared to his earlier work, which was part of the sadness.  But I don’t need to read any elaborate fantasies about how there was something radically progressive about his mancrush on Paul Wolfowitz.

Ross Wolfe:

Doug: There was nothing “radically” (or even remotely) progressive about Hitchens’ justifications for the invasion of Iraq — his mancrush on Wolfowitz notwithstanding (this was, by contrast, an irreproachably revolutionary position).  If you’d bother to read the article, you’d know that Spencer makes no such claims.

In fact, we also take Hitchens’ post-9/11 trajectory to be tragic.  We see it as indicative of a deeper despair with the recent state of politics on the Left and the practical impossibility of revolutionary transformation in the immediate future.  The Left was in such a sorry state in the opening decade of the twenty-first century that many so-called “radical” celebrities had resorted to third-worldist support for backwards, repressive dictators like Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, Muammar Gaddafi, or reactionary groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.  These figures and groups were celebrated simply in the name of anti-imperialism or anti-Zionism.  They fell into the simplistic sophistry of the old “enemy of my enemy” logic.

Regardless, what do you make of statements by Lenin, the Ur-theorist of the Marxist account of modern imperialism, such as the following:

No Marxist will forget, however, that capitalism is progressive compared with feudalism, and that imperialism is progressive compared with pre-monopoly capitalism. Hence, it is not every struggle against imperialism that we should support.  We will not support a struggle of the reactionary classes against imperialism; we will not support an uprising of the reactionary classes against imperialism and capitalism.

Spencer A. Leonard:

‎@Doug – What’s more telling is that after 2 years you still can’t bring yourself to articulate this piece’s theme, however well or poorly expressed: That Hitchens’ break with the “left” was at least instructive of the wretched condition (not just weakness!) of that left.  I placed that decline in a historical frame stretching back to the 1960s at the very least. Doug’s invocation of what’s “progressive” persuades me that I ought to have pushed it back to the original draft of the 1960s, namely the 1930s, since we have the New Left (and Doug Henwood) to thank for extending the currency (as more than just words) of such Stalinoid concepts as “progressive.”  The only thing different is that, at this point, these faint echoes of a Left that was are scarcely sufficient anymore to provoke anyone to such much as interest themselves in investigating that history, much less to discover how and why it keeps happening to them.

Doug Henwood:

I never thought I’d say this, but: Next to this stuff, give me Stalin.

Ross Wolfe:

Yeah, Doug, I also don’t know why you hold such a grudge against people like Hitchens when you’re close buddies with Louis Proyect, a self-described “solid supporter” of the miserable Venezuelan petro-dictatorship of Chávez — the “postmodern Bonapartist” — and the repressive regime of lifelong strongman Fidel Castro in Cuba.  Come to think of it, you’re also fairly chummy with Tariq Ali, another thinker who includes backwater authoritarian hellholes like Cuba and Venezuela (along with that third great bastion of proletarian revolution, Bolivia) as part of his “Axis of Hope.”  Castro and Chávez, outspoken supporters for Gaddafi to the bitter end.  If countries like these, along with Bolivia, are the only hope remaining for the Left, I think it’s fair to say that the it has failed in carrying out its revolutionary and world-historical mandate.

How you find these political beliefs somehow more justifiable, tolerable, or even understandable than Platypus’ critical position vis–à–vis the existing Left (to my knowledge, none of our members have at any time supported the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan) will always be a mystery to me.

Despite these unfortunate personal associations, however, I continue to admire your writing and certain of your contributions to the anti-war discourse of the past ten years or so.  It’s unfortunate that you still refuse to engage with Platypus, since it still seems to me that your own political beliefs are far closer to some of those entertained by our members than they are to, say, Proyect’s.

Ross Wolfe:

I never pegged you for a Stalinist, Doug.  But I suppose it makes sense.  Abandoning criticism, you fall back on the most plebian, garden-variety sort of dogmatism.

While I realize that you’ll probably say that you’re joking, the mere fact that you’re willing to peddle this schoolboy shit in order to avoid engaging in open political dialogue is telling.  I present you with an unambiguous statement from Lenin regarding the Left’s justified apathy when it comes to reactionary anti-imperialism, and you prefer to sidestep it because it doesn’t fit neatly into your prefabricated categories of heroic third-world “resistance” against U.S. military chauvinism (though I don’t deny for one moment that it is chauvinism).

An open letter to Jodi Dean on leftist melancholia

On “leftist melancholia”

Image: Albrecht Dürer’s “Melancholia” (1514).



Dear Dr. Dean,

I noticed that you recently appeared on my friend Douglas Lain’s “Diet Soap” podcast.  As I’d heard of you before this, I thought I’d look up some of your writings and papers on OWS (as well as on other topics).

One of the results that came up almost immediately was the transcript to your recent talk on “Communist Desire,” which you presented on October 11 alongside Žižek at The Idea of Communism conference.  I found this piece to be especially interesting.  The diagnosis that you develop through your reading of Freud and Benjamin, as well as the subsequent critique you level at some of the more problematic and transhistorical statements made by Rancière, Badiou, and Negri, are valuable.

As a member of the Platypus Affiliated Society and an advocate of its political/critical project, I felt a particular affinity with the following lines from your talk:

If this left is rightly described as melancholic, and I agree with Brown that it is, then its melancholia derives from the real existing compromises and betrayals inextricable from its history, its accommodations with reality, whether of nationalist war, capitalist encirclement, or so-called market demands.  Lacan teaches that, like Kant’s categorical imperative, super-ego refuses to accept reality as an explanation for failure.  Impossible is no excuse — desire is always impossible to satisfy.  So it’s not surprising that a wide spectrum of the contemporary left have either accommodated themselves, in one way or another, to an inevitable capitalism or taken the practical failures of Marxism-Leninism to require a certain abandonment of antagonism, class, and revolutionary commitment to overturning capitalist arrangements of property and production.  Melancholic fantasy — the communist Master, authoritarian and obscene — as well as sublimated, melancholic practices — there was no alternative — shield them, us, from confrontation with guilt over this betrayal as they capture us in activities that feel productive, important, radical.

I would even go so far as to say that the Left’s compulsive engagement in seemingly “productive, important, radical” (pseudo-)activities and (pseudo-)practices — the pious gestures of a Left wracked with feelings of helplessness and melancholic self-hatred — is almost the exact inverse of what Herbert Marcuse described as “repressive desublimation.”  Though it the phrase might almost seem redundant, the recourse to naïve actionism (as Adorno termed it) or “activistism” (Henwood’s word for it) is symptomatic of a sort of repressive sublimation that has taken place on the Left.  What I mean by this is that the redirection of unsatisfied desire in apparently productive activities comes to serve as a way to repress the overwhelming sense of futility that has come to surround the Left’s hopes for radical social transformation. Continue reading

What is the #Occupy Movement?: Part II of the roundtable political discussion series hosted by The Platypus Affiliated Society

What is the #Occupy Movement?

A series of roundtable discussions hosted by The Platypus Affiliated Society. This is the second part of the discussion series held in New York City.

Speakers: Hannah Appel (Columbia, OWS Think Tank working group), Erik Van Deventer (NYU, OWS Demands working group), Nathan Schneider (Waging Nonviolence, OWS Occupy Writers), and Brian Dominick (Z Media Institute).

Held on December 9, 2011 at New York University.

The recent #Occupy protests are driven by discontent with the present state of affairs: glaring economic inequality, dead-end Democratic Party politics, and, for some, the suspicion that capitalism could never produce an equitable society. These concerns are coupled with aspirations for social transformation at an international level. For many, the protests at Wall St. and elsewhere provide an avenue to raise questions the Left has long fallen silent on:

What would it mean to challenge capitalism on a global scale? How could we begin to overcome social conditions that adversely affect every part of life? And, how could a new international radical movement address these concerns in practice?

We in the Platypus Affiliated Society ask participants and interested observers of the #Occupy movement to consider the possibility that political disagreement could lead to clarification, further development and direction. Only when we are able create an active culture of thinking and debating on the Left without it proving prematurely divisive can we begin to imagine a Leftist politics adequate to the historical possibilities of our moment. We may not know what these possibilities for transformation are. This is why we think it is imperative to create avenues of engagement that will support these efforts.

Towards this goal, Platypus will be hosting a series of roundtable discussions with organizers and participants of the #Occupy movement. These will start at campuses in New York, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia but will be moving to other North American cities, and overseas to London, Germany, Greece, India and South Korea in the months to come. We welcome any and all who would like to be a part of this project of self-education and potential rebuilding of the Left to join us in advancing this critical moment.

The Platypus Affiliated Society

December 2011


Discussants were asked to consider the following questions:

1. In light of the recent series of coordinated and spectacular evictions that took place on November 15th, as well as the international Day of Action that followed two days later, is it fair to say that the #Occupy movement has entered into “phase 2”? If so, what is the nature of this new phase of the movement’s development? How has the occupation been forced to adapt to a changing set of conditions on the ground and what sorts of fresh difficulties do these new conditions pose for the occupiers? A moment of crisis can often be a moment of opportunity—what direction do you feel the movement should take in order to remain viable and relevant?

2. There are striking similarities between the Occupy movement and the 1999 anti-WTO protests in Seattle. Both began in the last year of a Democratic presidency, were spearheaded by anarchists, were motivated by discontents with neo-liberalism, and were supported by organized labor.

What, if anything, makes this movement different? How is it a departure from Seattle? What are the lessons to be learned from the defeat of the anti-globalization movement?

3. Some have characterized the #Occupy movement as sounding the tocsin for “class war” (e.g., of the 99% vs. the 1%). Others recognize the fact of dramatic inequality, and want the #Occupy movement to spearhead a set of economic reforms. Others see #Occupy as transforming something revolutionary beyond the “economic”. These perspectives point to radically different directions for this movement.

Would you characterize this movement as “anti-capitalist”? (Should it be?) If so, what is the nature of these “anti-capitalist” politics? In what way does the #Occupy movement affirm or reject the political ideas of anti-capitalist movements before it?

4. Some have become wary about the role of labor organizations in the #Occupy movement. Concerns point to the possibility of eventual “co-optation” into Democratic Party politics. Others worry that the “horizontal,” leaderless structure cultivated by the occupiers might be undermined by the decidedly top-down, hierarchical organization of labor unions. Certain of these collaborations, for example between the labor activists and occupiers in Oakland, have been seen as highly fruitful. Still, the broader call for a general strike that some organizers have hoped for has so far not been met.

What role should organized labor play in the #Occupy movement?

5. One division that emerged early on among the occupants concerned the need to call for demands. Some took issue with the content of the demands, arguing that if these are to be truly “representative of the 99%” they cannot assume a radical stance that would alienate a large section of the population. Others worry that demands focused on electoral reform or policy would steer the movement in a conservative direction. Some call into the question the call for demands in the first place, as these would limit — even undermine — the open-ended potential for transformation present in the #Occupy movement and could only close revolutionary possibilities.

What, if any, demands do you think this movement should be calling for? And, more importantly, what kind of social transformation would you like to see this movement give rise to?

6. What would it mean for the #Occupy movement to succeed? Can it?

Roundtable Participants’ Bios

Brian Dominick has nearly 20 years’ experience as an activist, organizer, and journalist. In his writing and lecturing, he has largely focused on questions of strategy and tactics for far-reaching social change. Forming and consulting alternative institutions has been a specialty of Brian’s, from affinity groups to worker coops to 501(c)(3)s to international activism networks. He is a former co-founder of NewStandard News and instructor at the Z Media Institute.

Erik Van Deventer is a doctoral student at NYU in the Department of Sociology, presently working on the political economy of finance. He has been active at OWS and in the Demands working group.

Hannah Appel earned her Ph.D. in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University. With research interests in the daily life of capitalism and the private sector in Africa, in particular, Hannah’s work draws on critical development studies, economic anthropology, and political economy. Her current project — Futures — is based on fourteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in the transnational oil and gas industry in Equatorial Guinea.

Nathan Schneider is an editor for Waging Nonviolence. He writes about religion, reason, and violence for publications including The Nation, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The American Prospect, and others. He is also an editor at Killing the Buddha.

***Unless otherwise stated by the participants, their comments today do not necessarily reflect the overall opinion of their respective Working Groups.

The ultra-Taylorist Soviet utopianism of Aleksei Gastev

Including Gastev’s landmark book
How to work/Как надо работать

Image: From the USSR to America,
the chronometric revolution (1925)


Futuristic drawing of Aleksei Gastev by Tolkachev (1924)

Download Алексей Гастев - Как надо работать (1923) [Aleksei Gastev - How to Work]

The following are excerpts from my thesis on the scientific management of labor and psychotechnics in the Soviet Union during the 1920s and 1930s.

NOTist time-motion experiment with hammer, from the Central Institute of Labor [TsIT] (1925)

The Constructivists’ goal to rationalize artistic labor and thus enter life can be traced to the early Soviet intellectual fascination with the Taylorist industrial theory of scientific management. As was covered in the previous section, American Taylorism exerted an influence throughout the European world of modernist art and architecture. However, the especially central role it played through its reception and dissemination in the Soviet Union warrants further contextual reflection. For the Soviet architectural avant-garde did not simply absorb the influence of Taylorism through its mediation by the Constructivists in art, but also directly from a number of academic sources as well. Taylorism was enthusiastically embraced in the USSR by many in the revolutionary intelligentsia and even some leading Bolsheviks, including Trotskii and Lenin himself[562] (despite his 1914 article “Taylor’s System: The Enslavement of Man to the Machine”). It was mostly popularized by writers like Osip Ermanksii[563] and later advocates of the Scientific Organization of Labor (abbreviated NOT [for Nauchnaia organizatsiia truda]) like the poet and factory worker Aleksei Gastev. Gastev was the founder and, from 1920 to 1937, the director of TsIT (Central Institute of Labor). TsIT was dedicated to the improvement of industrial efficiency. Under Gastev, its official philosophy was that of Taylorism. He was doubtless the most passionate exegete of Soviet Taylorism. For Gastev, Taylor was modern industrialism’s greatest theoretician, and Henry Ford its greatest practitioner. Ford was a heroic figure for many in the Soviet Union during the 1920s for his contribution to assembly-line production and his rationalization of labor practices. Gastev, however, took this much further, going so far as to align Ford with Karl Marx as compatible (and indeed complementary) thinkers in his 1927 article “Marx and Ford.”[564] For reasons that will be discussed later, Taylorism and machine-worship was stronger in Russia than in Western Europe. As the Hungarian academic René Fülöp-Miller keenly observed, “[i]n contrast to the intoxicated enthusiasm with which Russians speak of the application of the mechanizing process to the whole of existence, Europeans describe the invasion of their life by technical elements in a completely skeptical fashion.”[565]

Motion tests, TsIT (1924)

Motion tests, TsIT (1924)

The choreography of labor: TsIT cyclograph testing motive efficiency

The Constructivists’ artistic and architectural appropriation of Taylorism in large part came by way of Gastev. Indeed, Gastev’s significance as an interlocutor can hardly be overstated, since it was his own distinctive interpretation of Taylor that so lent itself to modernist aesthetics. It was his fanatical promotion of its aspects of automation and mechanization, emerging out of a decidedly Futurist Weltanschauung, that made it a vital contribution to the early Soviet cult of the machine. He advocated “systematic planning,” the “chronometration [khronometrirovanie] of time” through the introduction of time cards, and an “automated uniformity of labor” through that standardization of the most efficient laboring motions.[566] Addressing the workers’ relation to industrial machinery, Gastev wrote:

The modern machine…possesses its own laws of pulsation, functioning, and relaxation — laws that do not stand in conformity with the rhythm of the human organism. The world of the machine, the world of mechanical equipment [oborudovaniia] and urbanized labor [trudnogo urbanizma], produces specially connected collectives, begets certain types of people. These are people who we must accept, just as we accept the machine, though we must not smash their heads on its gears. We must bring some kind of equalizing coefficient into the machine’s iron disciplinary pressure, though history insistently demands we pose these not as petty problems of the social protection of the individual personality [lichnosti], but rather the bold engineering [proektirovaniia] of human psychology according to such an historical factor as machinism.[567]

Motion tests, TsIT (1923)

Motion tests, TsIT (1923)

Cover page of Aleksei Gastev’s “Kultures” (Kharkhov 1923), along with a futuristic representation

In training workers, reasoned Gastev, “[w]e begin with the most primitive, the most elementary motions and carry out the mechanization of man himself. This mechanization we understand in the following manner: the less perfect the motion, the greater the element of deceleration and the less kinetic automatization. The perfect mastery of a given movement implies maximum automatization.” Furthermore, “[t]his principle of the mechanization or biological automatization [of man] must go very far, all the way to his so-called mental activity.”[568] Notice also, then, that here psychology is encompassed by biology (or physiology). Continue reading