Vladimir Maiakovskii’s “The Flying Proletarian”

This is what I’m planning to read at the Platypus Affiliated Society’s Prometheus in Drift: A Night of Modernist Readings event: Maiakovskii’s 1925 sci-fi piece, “The Flying Proletarian.” Here’s the description that Viktor Terras provided of it:

…set in the year 2125 and features a giant air battle, with death rays and such, between the Soviet proletarian and the American bourgeois air forces. The latter prevails until an uprising of New York workers against their government turns the tide. Maiakovskii’s communist future is all comfort and electric ease: electric razors, electric toothbrushes, everybody with his own private airplane (Moscow no longer has any streets, just airports). Labor is wholly mechanized, so that a worker merely operates a keyboard. Altogether, Maiakovskii’s utopia is written from the viewpoint of a laborer who is tired of backbreaking, dirty work…There are no kitchens, no housework. People eat in aerocafeterias and amuse themselves with cosmic cinemas, cosmic dances, and such — all nonalcoholic (alcohol is served by prescription only). The sport of the future is avio-polo — football has long since been abandoned as crude and boring.

The cartoon itself is a degenerate Khrushchev-era attempt to retrieve the contributions of the avant-garde movement that Stalinism crushed. Notice the space-age imagery, the cosmonauts. But something of the original futurism survives even still here. It’s something that’s been lost.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

So anyway, to plug the event taking place tomorrow, here’s the info:

Prometheus in Drift

G o e t h e   |   H ö l d e r l i n   |   R e n a r d   |   K l e i s t   |   W a l s e r   |   V a l e r y   |   B e c k e t t

|   K a f k a   |   S t e v e n s   |   E s e n i n   |   B a u d e l a i r e   |   M a i a k o v s k i i   |   C e l a n

friday, 03.02.12, 7pm | nyu kimmel, rm 909, 60 washington sq s

if you would like to volunteer to read one of the selections or have any questions about the event, please contact nyu@platypus1917.org.

One thought on “Vladimir Maiakovskii’s “The Flying Proletarian”

  1. “Labor is wholly mechanized, so that a worker merely operates a keyboard. Altogether, Maiakovskii’s utopia is written from the viewpoint of a laborer who is tired of backbreaking, dirty work…”

    Of course desk jobs are preferable in many ways to those of intense physical labor because of the deleterious health effects (leaving aside the multitude of stories about how sitting all day over the years is very bad, the eye strain, carpel tunnel, total fucking boredom, etc.). It *seems* though from the short description that “merely operat[ing] a keyboard” as characteristic of some sort of worker utopia, that the problem of alienating work (tied up with value being alienated from labor) was not considered in even the great visionary art produced shortly after the Russian Revolution. Ross you’re much more familiar with this stuff, and though they didn’t know about the 1844 Manuscripts or The German Ideology at the time, perhaps there was even a glimmer of an allusion (if that makes sense) that alienated labor was present then and would be a tough nut to crack even in the shiny gadget-filled future.

    “If then the product of labor is alienation, production itself must be active alienation, the alienation of activity, the activity of alienation. In the estrangement of the object of labor is merely summarized the estrangement, the alienation, in the activity of labor itself.” -KM

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