Marx & Engels, cubed (1971, 2011)

Marx & Engels2

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Cubist statues of Marx and Engels in Budapest, Hungary.

György Segesdi |
// Marx — Engels (1971) |
// Boedapest | Budapest | Будапешт. Granit from Mauthausen, 1971.
// Original location: V. Jászai Maritér.

Capitalist unrealism: Norman Bel Geddes’ Futurama (1939)

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Even capitalism used to be more futuristic.

Unreal City…

— T.S. Eliot, “The Wasteland” (1922)

Horizons

ENTER a new era. Are we ready for the changes that are coming? The houses we live in tomorrow will not much resemble the houses we live in today. Automobiles, railway trains, theaters, cities, industry itself, are undergoing rapid changes. Likewise, art in all its forms. The forms they presently take will undoubtedly have kinship with the forms we know in the present; but this relationship will be as distinct, and probably as remote, as that between the horseless buggy of yesterday and the present-day motor car. We live and work under pressure with a tremendous expenditure of energy. We feel that life in our time is more urgent, complex and discordant than life ever was before. That may be so. In the perspective of fifty years hence, the historian will detect in the decade of 1930-1940 a period of tremendous significance. He will see it as a period of criticism, unrest, and dissatisfaction to the point of disillusion when new aims were being sought and new beginnings were astir. Doubtless he will ponder that, in the midst of a worldwide melancholy owing to an economic depression, a new age dawned with invigorating conceptions and the horizon lifted.

Critics of the age are agreed upon one thought: that what industry has given us, as yet, is not good enough. Another plea of critics hostile to the age is that machines make automatons of men. They fail to see that the machine age is not really here. Although we built the machines, we have not become at ease with them and have not mastered them. Our condition is the result of a swift industrial evolution. If we see the situation clearly, we realize that we have been infatuated with our own mechanical ingenuity. Rapidly multiplying our products, creating and glorifying the gadget, we have been inferior craftsmen, the victims rather than the masters of our ingenuity. In our evolution we have accumulated noise, dirt, glitter, speed, mass production, traffic congestion, and the commonplace by our machine-made ideas. But that is only one side.

We have achieved the beginnings of an expression of our time. We now have some inkling of what today’s home, today’s theater, today’s factory, today’s city, should be. We perceive that the person who would use a machine must be imbued with the spirit of the machine and comprehend the nature of his materials. We realize that he is creating the telltale environment that records what man truly is.

It happens that the United States has seized upon more of the fruits of industrialism than any other nation. We have gone farther and more swiftly than any other. To what end? Not the least tendency is the searching and brooding uncertainty, the quest for basic truths which characterize the present day. Never before, in an economic crisis, has there been such an aroused consciousness on the part of the community at large and within industry itself. Complacency has vanished. A new horizon appears. A horizon that will inspire the next phase in the evolution of the age.

We are entering an era which, notably, shall be characterized by design in four specific phases: Design in social structure to insure the organization of people, work, wealth, leisure. Design in machines that shall improve working conditions by eliminating drudgery. Design in all objects of daily use that shall make them economical, durable, convenient, congenial to every one. Design in the arts, painting, sculpture, music, literature, and architecture, that shall inspire the new era.

The impetus towards design in industrial life today must be considered from three viewpoints: the consumer’s, the manufacturer’s, and the artist’s. In his appreciation of the importance of design the artist is somewhat ahead of the consumer, while the average manufacturer is farther behind the consumer than the consumer is behind the artist. The viewpoint of each is rapidly changing, developing, fusing. More than that, the economic situation is stimulating a unanimity of emphasis, a merger of viewpoints. Continue reading

Malcolm Harris, “pseudo-celebrity,” and kulaks

“Écrasez l’infâme!”
[“Crush the infamous!”]
— Voltaire

So it looks like I am coming really late to this latest piece of juicy gossip concerning Malcolm Harris and Rachel Rosenfelt of The New Inquiry, appearing largely on Doug Henwood‘s wall. I have no idea whether there is any truth to these claims, or whether this is a fabrication (with Harris, you never know, it might just be a publicity stunt). Mark Ames of the eXile wrote up a scathing, albeit rambling, indictment of Harris on the Not Safe for Work Corporation — preserved in its entirety here.

Certainly I don’t want to perpetuate a baseless rumor. I’m all too familiar with the kind of deliberate distortions, smears, and empty insinuations that go on amongst knitting circles on the Left.

Still, the original write-up Rachel did promoting the talents of her young writer friend (I always thought he was her boyfriend?) is pretty shocking to read through, in terms of the ridiculous hyperbole with which she inflates his meager abilities and accomplishments:

From: Rachel Rosenfelt Date: October 25, 2011 1:04:42 PM PDT
To: …@gmail.com
Subject: Malcolm Harris

Kathleen,

It was great chatting with you yesterday! Here’s the write up on Malcolm Harris:

Malcolm Harris is one of the most talked about young writers today. He has been on the vanguard of the #occupywallstreet movement well before day one of the Zuccotti part encampment began. His social media savvy and tactics flips the equation when it comes to the so-called influence of media on the youth. With Malcolm Harris at the helm, we are witnessing a new media movement where it’s the youth that’s influencing — and manipulating — the mainstream media to enact what has become a global uprising of youth demanding the change that was promised to them in 2008.

As an editor at Sharable.net, Harris brought politically savvy coverage of the protest movements in Spain and Greece to the attention of the young digerati who would eventually work alongside Harris in New York City to facilitate the first planning meeting for #occupywallstreet. In the intervening months, Harris has earned the reputation he has today as the Naomi Klein of the 21st century, with his instant-classic article, “Bad Education,” which went viral in April of 2011 and remains the most cited article on the student debt crisis today (listen to Harris debate the issue on NPR here).

Once the occupation was underway, Harris’ article in the Jacobin Magazine, “Occupied Wall Street: Some Tactical Thoughts” spelled out a strategy that has since helped to give the movement the force and coherence it needed to self-sustain, even without the benefit of mainstream media attention. The turning point, however, was when Harris and a group of his collaborators posed as Radiohead’s manager, notified the media the band would play Zuccotti park, and caused tens of thousands of youths — as well as news cameras and big media attention — to turn out. Read Harris’ reflections on the tactic here.

Harris’ forthcoming book, (title TBD) is about the student debt crisis, global uprising, new media and #occupywallstreet (title TBD) and he acted as editor of the book, Share or Die: Youth in Recession.

He speaks for $5,000, not including travel and accommodations. Let me know if you have any futher questions. :)

Regards,
Rachel Rosenfelt

The Lavin Agency
Making the World a Smarter Place
rrosenfelt@thelavinagency.com
www.thelavinagency.com
————————————————————————
Follow me on Twitter:
http://www.twitter.com/TheLavinAgency
http://www.twitter.com/RachelRosenfelt

Now I have nothing against Rachel, who I barely know, but about this breathtaking bit of exaggeration (or delusion), Anthony Galluzzo hit the nail on the head: “That piece of fiction was the funniest thing I’ve read in years. She [Rachel] should drop the saloniste act and go into PR. Harris single-handedly fulfillled the dashed expectations of 2008: anarcho-Obama.”

Bhaskar summarized the incident in a blog post that appeared over at In These Times, while also providing something in the way of a critique of the “pseudo-celebrity” status some activists and commentators have attained through their involvement in recent political movements. The activist/analytic pseudo-celebrity, a term introduced in this context by Doug Henwood and then taken up by Bhaskar, finds its apotheosis in a figure like Malcolm. I have nothing really to add to their comments besides what Bhaskar already wrote about the significance of Harris’ insignificant but highly-publicized political persona to radical movements today. While I agree that this is whole affair is hardly a legitimate argument against Malcolm Harris’ politics or thought (does he have either?), I must admit that I’ve found this all is pretty funny.

Rather than try to ascertain the political content of this overblown hullabaloo, which I am convinced is zilch, all I have to add is a personal anecdote recounting one encounter (it feels more like a “run-in”) I had with “the Naomi Klein of the 21st century.” This may be a little gossipy, but oh what the hell: Continue reading

Ernst May and the May Brigade in the Soviet Union (1930-1937)

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From Das Neue Rußland, vol. VIII-IX.  Berlin, 1931:

City Planning in Evolution

If there is any one area of endeavor in the USSR where the Revolution is still in full motion, then city building and dwelling construction must be considered first.  This is not surprising, for the replacement of a thousand-year-old social system by a new one is a process that will take more than just a dozen years to complete, or even to provide a clear and unequivocal direction.  Moreover, since the thorough reorganization of the the entire social life of the USSR, which covers on sixth of the land area of our globe, will vitally affect city development and housing everywhere, it follows that within the context of this general process of change it is at the present moment impossible to offer a panacea that would suddenly cure all the many ills accumulated over centuries and bring about immediate mature results.

Nevertheless, a number of theories have been advanced and are in hard competition with each other.  Some have been published abroad, and this in turn may have led to the impression that it is only these that represent the mainstream of Russian city planning.  Nothing could be more misleading!

So far there has been no firm commitment to one or the other system of city planning, and by all indications no such commitment should be forthcoming in the near future.  This does not mean that the field is dominated by a lack of planning or by arbitrariness.  The basic precepts of modern city planning, which in the past years have found wide acceptance in Europe, and which are now being implemented, have become the A to Z of planning in the USSR as well.  Clear separation of industry and residence, rational traffic design, the systematic organization of green areas, etc., are considered as valid a basis for healthy planning there as here; similarly, open-block planning is giving way to single-row building.

The Central Problem of the Socialist City

However, even though the general principles for the planning of Socialist cities have been established, the real problem is only beginning.  In other words, a city structure will have to be developed that in terms of its entire genesis as well as in terms of its internal articulation and structuring will be fundamentally different from the capitalist cities [189] in the rest of the world.  While our own cities in most cases owe their origin to commerce and the market place, with private ownership of land largely determining their form, the generating force behind the development of new cities in the Soviet Union is always and exclusively industrial economic production, regardless of whether in the form of industrial combines or agricultural collectives.  In contrast to prevailing practice in Europe, and with particular reference to trends in the USA, building densities in Soviet cities are not influenced by artificially inflated land values, as often happens in our case, but solely by the laws of social hygiene and economy.  In connection with this it should be pointed out most emphatically that the word ‘economy’ has taken on an entirely new meaning east of the Polish border.  Investments, which in a local sense may appear to be unprofitable, become convincingly [190] viable when seen from the vantage point of over all national planning by the state.

At this point I should like to point out most emphatically that among the innumerable misjudgments made abroad, none is more incorrect than that which assumes that work in the field of city planning and housing in the USSR is done without rhyme or reason, and that the ground has been cut out from under their feet.  The truth is that the economic and cultural reconstruction of all life in the USSR has no parallel in the history of mankind.  It is equally true that this reconstruction is being accomplished by a sober evaluation of all the realities, and it should be obvious to any observer that in each successive stage, matters recognized as desirable and ideal are being consciously subordinated to matters that are feasible and possible within the limitations of the present.  In the course of this discussion I shall return to this point on appropriate occasions.

The Overall Form of the Socialist City

As far as the general size of the city is concerned, the decision has been made to avoid in the future urban centers with populations larger than 150,000-200,000.  Reference is made to Lenin, who said: “We must aim at the fusion of industry and agriculture, based on the rigorous application of science, combined with the utilization of collective labor, and by means of a more diffused settlement pattern for the people.  We must end the loneliness, demoralization, and remoteness of the village, as well as the unnatural concentration of vast masses of people in the cities.”

Based on the above, the Five-Year Plan proposes decentralization of industrial production and thus automatically prevents the formation of excessive human concentrations.  As mentioned earlier, opinions vary widely concerning the methods by which these new settlements should be implemented.

Street-Aligned Single-Story Buildings

A proposal has been advanced to construct single-story buildings on pylons à la Corbusier, placing them at certain intervals along both sides of roads leading to kolkhozy.  The Soviets do not take this idea too seriously and tend to toy with it in the theoretical sense only.  It has never been tried in practice, and indications are that the concept will never actually be realized; generally it must be considered exceedingly uneconomical, particularly in terms of over-all state economic planning. Continue reading

Soviet avant-garde submissions for the 1929 memorial to Christopher Columbus in Santo Domingo

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The controversy surrounding the celebration of Columbus Day notwithstanding, the various radical Soviet avant-garde project submissions for the 1929 international competition to design a memorial to Christopher Columbus in Santo Domingo were pretty incredible.

Engels’ 1847 speech on Columbus’ accidental journey to what would become known as the Americas is appended below. After that, there are a couple excerpts from Franz Mehring’s 1895 text On Historical Materialism.

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Minutes of Engels’s Lecture to the London German
Workers’ Educational Society on November 30,1847

The discovery of America


Written: November 30, 1847;
Source: MECW Volume 6, p. 627;
First published: in Archiv für die Geschichte des Sozialismus und der Arbeiterbewegung, jg. 8, Leipzig, 1919.


Citizens! When Christopher Columbus discovered America 350 years ago, he certainly did not think that not only would the then existing society in Europe together with its institutions be done away with through his discovery, but that the foundation would be laid for the complete liberation of all nations; and yet, it becomes more and more clear that this is indeed the case. Through the discovery of America a new route by sea to the East Indies was found, whereby the European business traffic of the time was completely transformed; the consequence was that Italian and German commerce were totally ruined and other countries came to the fore; commerce came into the hands of the western countries, and England thus came to the fore of the movement. Before the discovery of America the countries even in Europe were still very much separated from one another and trade was on the whole slight. Only after the new route to the East Indies had been found and an extensive field had been opened in America for exploitation by the Europeans engaged in commerce, did. England begin more and more to concentrate trade and to take possession of it, whereby the other European countries were more and more compelled to join together. From all this, big commerce originated, and the so-called world market was opened. The enormous treasures which the Europeans brought from America, and the gains which trade in general yielded, had as a consequence the ruin of the old aristocracy, and so the bourgeoisie came into being. The discovery of America was connected with the advent of machinery, and with that the struggle became necessary which we are conducting today, the struggle of the propertyless against the property owners. Continue reading

Soviet avant-garde architectural journal Izvestiia ASNOVA [Известия АСНОВА] (1926)

Me reading one of the original printings of Izvestiia ASNOVA, formatted and designed by El Lissitzky in 1926

My comrade Brian Hioe reading one of the original copies of Izvestiia ASNOVA

Download the full-text, PDF version of Izvestiia ASNOVA/Известия АСНОВА (1926)

I recently happened across a copy of the Soviet architectural avant-garde group ASNOVA’s sole publication, Izvestiia ASNOVA (Известия АСНОВА), from 1926. Unlike their rivals, the architectural Constructivists in OSA, the Rationalists of ASNOVA were never able to maintain a steady periodical of their own. Still, it’s a beautifully designed text; none other than El Lissitzky worked on its layout. It has some interesting theoretical pieces by Nikolai Ladovskii on architectural pedagogy and the insights of Münsterburgian psychotechnics into the effects of various formal combinations on the mind. Also, it includes the article in which El Lissitzky unveils his famous Wolkenbügel proposal, describing some of the specifics of the project. Continue reading

Platypus primary Marxist reading group, Fall 2012–Winter 2013

Fall 2012 – Winter 2013

I. What is the Left? — What is Marxism?

Sundays, 2–5PM EST

Eugene Lang College Building
The New School for Social Research
65 West 11th Street, Room 258
New York, NY 10011

• required / + recommended reading

Marx and Engels readings pp. from Robert C. Tucker, ed., Marx-Engels Reader (Norton 2nd ed., 1978)


Week A. Aug. 4–5, 2012

Whoever dares undertake to establish a people’s institutions must feel himself capable of changing, as it were, human nature, of transforming each individual, who by himself is a complete and solitary whole, into a part of a larger whole, from which, in a sense, the individual receives his life and his being, of substituting a limited and mental existence for the physical and independent existence. He has to take from man his own powers, and give him in exchange alien powers which he cannot employ without the help of other men.
– Jean-Jacques Rousseau, On the Social Contract (1762)

• epigraphs on modern history and freedom by James Miller (on Jean-Jacques Rousseau), Louis Menand (on Edmund Wilson), Karl Marxon “becoming” (from the Grundrisse, 1857–58), and Peter Preuss (on Nietzsche)
+ Rainer Maria Rilke, “Archaic Torso of Apollo” (1908)
+ Robert Pippin, “On Critical Theory” (2004)
• Jean-Jacques RousseauDiscourse on the Origin of Inequality (1754) PDFs of preferred translation (5 parts):[1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
• Rousseauselection from On the Social Contract (1762)


Week B. Aug. 11–12, 2012

• G.W.F. HegelIntroduction to the Philosophy of History (1831) [HTML] [PDF pp. 14-128]


Week C. Aug. 18–19, 2012

• Friedrich NietzscheOn the Use and Abuse of History for Life (1874) [translator’s introduction by Peter Preuss]


Week D. Aug. 25–26, 2012

Human, All Too Human: Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil (1999)
• Nietzscheselection from On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense (1873)
• NietzscheOn the Genealogy of Morals: A Polemic (1887)


Week E. Sep. 1–2, 2012 Labor Day weekend

• Martin Nicolaus“The unknown Marx” (1968)
• Moishe Postone“Necessity, labor, and time” (1978)
• Postone“History and helplessness: Mass mobilization and contemporary forms of anticapitalism” (2006)
+ Postone, “Theorizing the contemporary world: Brenner, Arrighi, Harvey” (2006)


Week F. Sep. 8–9, 2012

• Juliet Mitchell“Women: The longest revolution” (1966)
• Clara Zetkin and Vladimir Lenin“An interview on the woman question” (1920)
• Theodor W. Adorno“Sexual taboos and the law today” (1963)
• John D’Emilio“Capitalism and gay identity” (1983)


Week G. Sep. 15–16, 2012

• Richard Fraser“Two lectures on the black question in America and revolutionary integrationism” (1953)
• James Robertson and Shirley Stoute“For black Trotskyism” (1963)
+ Spartacist League, “Black and red: Class struggle road to Negro freedom” (1966)
+ Bayard Rustin, “The failure of black separatism” (1970) 
• Adolph Reed“Black particularity reconsidered” (1979)
+ Reed, “Paths to Critical Theory” (1984)


Week H. Sep. 22–23, 2012

• Wilhelm Reich“Ideology as material power” (1933/46)
• Siegfried Kracauer“The mass ornament” (1927)
+ Kracauer, “Photography” (1927)


Week 1. Sep. 29–30, 2012

• epigraphs on modern history and freedom by Louis Menand (on Marx and Engels) and Karl Marxon “becoming” (from the Grundrisse, 1857–58)
• Chris Cutrone“Capital in history” (2008)
• Cutrone“The Marxist hypothesis” (2010)


Week 2. Oct. 6–7, 2012

• Immanuel Kant“Idea for a universal history from a cosmopolitan point of view” and “What is Enlightenment?”(1784)
• Benjamin Constant“The liberty of the ancients compared with that of the moderns” (1819)
+ Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the origin of inequality (1754)
+ Rousseau, selection from On the social contract (1762)


Week 3. Oct. 13–14, 2012

• Max Horkheimerselections from Dämmerung (1926–31)
• Adorno“Imaginative Excesses” (1944–47)


Week 4. Oct. 20–21, 2012

• Leszek Kolakowski“The concept of the Left” (1968)
• MarxTo make the world philosophical (from Marx’s dissertation, 1839–41), pp. 9–11
• MarxFor the ruthless criticism of everything existing (letter to Arnold Ruge, September 1843), pp. 12–15


Week 5. Oct. 27–28, 2012

• Marxselections from Economic and philosophic manuscripts (1844), pp. 70–101
• Marx and Friedrich Engelsselections from the Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848), pp. 469-500
• MarxAddress to the Central Committee of the Communist League (1850), pp. 501–511


Week 6. Nov. 3–4, 2012

• Engels, The tactics of social democracy (Engels’s 1895 introduction to Marx, The Class Struggles in France), pp. 556–573
• Marxselections from The Class Struggles in France 1848–50 (1850), pp. 586–593
• Marxselections from The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852), pp. 594–617


Week 7. Nov. 10–11, 2012

+ Karl Korsch, “The Marxism of the First International” (1924)
• MarxInaugural address to the First International (1864), pp. 512–519
• Marxselections from The Civil War in France (1871, including Engels’s 1891 Introduction), pp. 618–652
+ Korsch, Introduction to Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme (1922)
• MarxCritique of the Gotha Programme, pp. 525–541
• MarxProgramme of the Parti Ouvrier (1880)


Week 8. Nov. 17–18, 2012

• Marxselections from the Grundrisse (1857–61), pp. 222–226, 236–244, 247–250, 282–294
• MarxCapital Vol. I, Ch. 1 Sec. 4 “The fetishism of commodities” (1867), pp. 319–329


Week 9. Nov. 24–25, 2012 Thanksgiving break


Winter break readings

+ Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate / A&Z, Introducing Lenin and the Russian Revolution / Lenin for Beginners (1977)
+ Sebastian Haffner, Failure of a Revolution: Germany 1918–19 (1968)
+ Edmund Wilson, To the Finland Station: A Study in the Writing and Acting of History (1940), Part II. Ch. (1–4,) 5–10, 12–16; Part III. Ch. 1–6
+ Tariq Ali and Phil Evans, Introducing Trotsky and Marxism / Trotsky for Beginners (1980)
+ James Joll, The Second International 1889–1914 (1966)


Week 10. Dec. 1–2, 2012 / Jan. 5–6, 2013

• Georg Lukács“The phenomenon of reification” (Part I of “Reification and the consciousness of the proletariat,”History and Class Consciousness, 1923)


Week 11. Dec. 8–9, 2012 / Jan. 12–13, 2013

• LukácsOriginal Preface (1922), “What is Orthodox Marxism?” (1919), “Class Consciousness” (1920),History and Class Consciousness (1923)
+ Marx, Preface to the First German Edition and Afterword to the Second German Edition (1873) of Capital(1867), pp. 294–298, 299–302


Week 12. Dec. 15–16, 2012 / Jan. 19–20, 2013

• Korsch“Marxism and philosophy” (1923)
+ Marx, To make the world philosophical (from Marx’s dissertation, 1839–41), pp. 9–11
+ Marx, For the ruthless criticism of everything existing (letter to Arnold Ruge, September 1843), pp. 12–15
+ Marx, “Theses on Feuerbach” (1845), pp. 143–145

Models of Soviet avant-garde architecture

Some gorgeous models I found of Soviet avant-garde architecture (both realized and unrealized structures) designed by Australian students.

Яков Чернихов, «Архитектурные фантазии: 101 композиция» (1925-33) — Along with fully searchable, downloadable PDFs of the original Russian texts

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Forty-five sketches by the brilliant former Suprematist painter and visionary architect Iakov Chernikhov, all composed between 1925-1933 and published together in his book Architectural Fantasies: 101 Compositions.

For any of my readers who know Russian, please feel free to download the full-text, searchable PDFs of these brilliant texts: