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Einstein was a Socialist!
05.01.2014
12:51 pm

Topics:
Class War
Thinkers

Tags:
Socialism
Albert Einstein

image
 
Another May Day related post, comrades!

Albert Einstein’s famous essay on socialism was originally published in the first issue of Monthly Review in May 1949. It’s as relevant in 2014 as it was then, perhaps—especially in light of Thomas Piketty’s bestseller Capital—even more so.

Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism? I believe for a number of reasons that it is.

Let us first consider the question from the point of view of scientific knowledge. It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible. But in reality such methodological differences do exist. The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately. In addition, the experience which has accumulated since the beginning of the so-called civilized period of human history has—as is well known—been largely influenced and limited by causes which are by no means exclusively economic in nature. For example, most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples established themselves, legally and economically, as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood from among their own ranks. The priests, in control of education, made the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.

But historic tradition is, so to speak, of yesterday; nowhere have we really overcome what Thorstein Veblen called “the predatory phase” of human development. The observable economic facts belong to that phase and even such laws as we can derive from them are not applicable to other phases. Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future.

Second, socialism is directed towards a social-ethical end. Science, however, cannot create ends and, even less, instill them in human beings; science, at most, can supply the means by which to attain certain ends. But the ends themselves are conceived by personalities with lofty ethical ideals and—if these ends are not stillborn, but vital and vigorous—are adopted and carried forward by those many human beings who, half unconsciously, determine the slow evolution of society.

For these reasons, we should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.

Innumerable voices have been asserting for some time now that human society is passing through a crisis, that its stability has been gravely shattered. It is characteristic of such a situation that individuals feel indifferent or even hostile toward the group, small or large, to which they belong. In order to illustrate my meaning, let me record here a personal experience. I recently discussed with an intelligent and well-disposed man the threat of another war, which in my opinion would seriously endanger the existence of mankind, and I remarked that only a supra-national organization would offer protection from that danger. Thereupon my visitor, very calmly and coolly, said to me: “Why are you so deeply opposed to the disappearance of the human race?”

I am sure that as little as a century ago no one would have so lightly made a statement of this kind. It is the statement of a man who has striven in vain to attain an equilibrium within himself and has more or less lost hope of succeeding. It is the expression of a painful solitude and isolation from which so many people are suffering in these days. What is the cause? Is there a way out?

It is easy to raise such questions, but difficult to answer them with any degree of assurance. I must try, however, as best I can, although I am very conscious of the fact that our feelings and strivings are often contradictory and obscure and that they cannot be expressed in easy and simple formulas.

Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting, strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society. It is quite possible that the relative strength of these two drives is, in the main, fixed by inheritance. But the personality that finally emerges is largely formed by the environment in which a man happens to find himself during his development, by the structure of the society in which he grows up, by the tradition of that society, and by its appraisal of particular types of behavior. The abstract concept “society” means to the individual human being the sum total of his direct and indirect relations to his contemporaries and to all the people of earlier generations. The individual is able to think, feel, strive, and work by himself; but he depends so much upon society—in his physical, intellectual, and emotional existence—that it is impossible to think of him, or to understand him, outside the framework of society. It is “society” which provides man with food, clothing, a home, the tools of work, language, the forms of thought, and most of the content of thought; his life is made possible through the labor and the accomplishments of the many millions past and present who are all hidden behind the small word “society.”

It is evident, therefore, that the dependence of the individual upon society is a fact of nature which cannot be abolished—just as in the case of ants and bees. However, while the whole life process of ants and bees is fixed down to the smallest detail by rigid, hereditary instincts, the social pattern and interrelationships of human beings are very variable and susceptible to change. Memory, the capacity to make new combinations, the gift of oral communication have made possible developments among human being which are not dictated by biological necessities. Such developments manifest themselves in traditions, institutions, and organizations; in literature; in scientific and engineering accomplishments; in works of art. This explains how it happens that, in a certain sense, man can influence his life through his own conduct, and that in this process conscious thinking and wanting can play a part.

Man acquires at birth, through heredity, a biological constitution which we must consider fixed and unalterable, including the natural urges which are characteristic of the human species. In addition, during his lifetime, he acquires a cultural constitution which he adopts from society through communication and through many other types of influences. It is this cultural constitution which, with the passage of time, is subject to change and which determines to a very large extent the relationship between the individual and society. Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organization which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.

If we ask ourselves how the structure of society and the cultural attitude of man should be changed in order to make human life as satisfying as possible, we should constantly be conscious of the fact that there are certain conditions which we are unable to modify. As mentioned before, the biological nature of man is, for all practical purposes, not subject to change. Furthermore, technological and demographic developments of the last few centuries have created conditions which are here to stay. In relatively densely settled populations with the goods which are indispensable to their continued existence, an extreme division of labor and a highly-centralized productive apparatus are absolutely necessary. The time—which, looking back, seems so idyllic—is gone forever when individuals or relatively small groups could be completely self-sufficient. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that mankind constitutes even now a planetary community of production and consumption.

I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.

The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production—that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods—may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.

For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call “workers” all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production—although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is “free,” what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists’ requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.

Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job.

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

The situation prevailing in an economy based on the private ownership of capital is thus characterized by two main principles: first, means of production (capital) are privately owned and the owners dispose of them as they see fit; second, the labor contract is free. Of course, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist society in this sense. In particular, it should be noted that the workers, through long and bitter political struggles, have succeeded in securing a somewhat improved form of the “free labor contract” for certain categories of workers. But taken as a whole, the present day economy does not differ much from “pure” capitalism.

Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers’ goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?

Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service.

—Albert Einstein

See also:
Why Socialism? This Guy Einstein is an Idiot (a rebuttal)

The Question of Socialism (and Beyond!) Is About to Open Up in These United States

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Helen Keller was a militant anti-capitalist radical
05.01.2014
10:22 am

Topics:
Class War
Heroes
History

Tags:
Socialism
Helen Keller


 
Today is International Workers’ Day. Happy May Day comrades!
 

“The few own the many because they possess the means of livelihood of all ... The country is governed for the richest, for the corporations, the bankers, the land speculators, and for the exploiters of labor. The majority of mankind are working people. So long as their fair demands - the ownership and control of their livelihoods - are set at naught, we can have neither men’s rights nor women’s rights. The majority of mankind is ground down by industrial oppression in order that the small remnant may live in ease.”  — Helen Keller, 1911

This is taken from a short essay about Helen Keller’s political activism found at Dorian Cope’s On This Deity blog. It focuses on the parts of her life story that they didn’t teach us about when we learned about Helen Keller in school… Hey, the blind and deaf chick in The Miracle Worker was a commie!

But what the endless accolades and history books almost always fail to mention is that Helen Keller was a militant radical activist. Her views mirrored the likes of the era’s most notorious dissidents – Emma Goldman and Eugene Debs – who were respectively deported and imprisoned for ten years. “I don’t give a damn about semi-radicals,” she infamously proclaimed; indeed, she leaned so far to the left that the FBI kept a file on her for un-American activities. She was a co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union; a lifelong socialist who campaigned for Eugene Debs’ presidential candidacy; a member of the revolutionary Industrial Workers of the World; a suffragist and crusader for birth control; an anti-fascist (the Nazis publicly burned her books); and a pacifist, who condemned America’s imperialistic motives in both world wars. Having benefited from a privileged background, Helen recognised the social injustices facing those denied the same opportunities – and blamed industrialism and capitalism not only as the root of poverty but also disability-inducing disease. Her anti-capitalist and pro-worker stance was such that at the 1919 Hollywood premiere of a silent film about her own life, she refused to cross an Actors Equity Union picket line and joined the striking workers on their march.

I have to interrupt here. Ponder that last sentence for a moment. THAT is what you call a hero.

In her lifetime, Helen Keller was one of the most recognisable women in the world, and those who flocked to bask in the radiance of her fame were positively scandalised by her beliefs. After publicly supporting the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, admiring the Russian Revolution, and fearlessly lambasting the powerful John D Rockefeller for his role in the Ludlow Mine Massacre (“Mr Rockefeller is a monster of capitalism”), Helen’s radicalism became a source of extreme embarrassment to those who required her to be true to The Myth in order that they might gain:

“So long as I confine my activities to social service and the blind, they compliment me extravagantly, calling me ‘archpriestess of the sightless’, ‘wonder woman’, and ‘a modern miracle,’” Helen bemoaned. “But when it comes to a discussion of poverty, and I maintain that it is the result of wrong economics – that the industrial system under which we live is at the root of much of the physical deafness and blindness in the world – that is a different matter!”

Read the entire essay at On This Deity and watch this amazing footage:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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The best (serious) April Fools’ Day video (seriously!)


“Introducing Anti-Unional, a new, long-lasting anti-worker suppository…”

The anti-union push by the wealthy elites, the corporations and the reichwing politicians who do the bidding of the highest bidders is shameful. As someone raised in a union household, what went down in Tennessee recently made me feel heartsick. Mike Elk’s epic article “The Battle for Chattanooga: Southern Masculinity and the Anti-Union Campaign at Volkswagen” is a must-read if you want to understand the depths these middle-management class-traitor assholes will sink to and the psychological warfare they engaged in vs. the workers. One word for it: Shameful. (This is an important piece of journalism, absolutely worth your time.)

Why not ask the Germans how they feel about union membership? They have a strong economy. They have LOTS of union members. Their unions prevent them from getting screwed over by the oligarchs. They have good wages and can raise their families without struggling. They even get a month or more of vacation. Coincidence? I should think not.

Can’t have that here, now, can we? The wealthy might not like it. Look at this chart, it tells the story of what’s happened in America rather succinctly and as the saying goes, numbers don’t lie.
 

 
Utterly brilliant work, this video speaks for itself, so I’m just going to get out of its way:

Ten out of ten CEOs recommend Anti-Unional to their workers!

Time-released effects ensure that the 1% continue to take in a greater share of the nation’s wealth!

Fast-acting formula decimates wages and benefits and a secure retirement!

Certified and approved by Koch Brothers Laboratories.

If you approve of this satire, SHARE IT. So far they’ve only had a handful of views, this needs to go viral stat.
 

 
Via AFSCME

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Youth gone wild: San Francisco street gangs of the 1960s set to a bongo blasting beat
03.20.2014
12:50 pm

Topics:
Class War
Fashion

Tags:
Ask Me, Don't Tell Me


 
Ask Me, Don’t Tell is a very cool documentary that deals with San Francisco teen gangs of the early sixties and the Youth For Service organization that tried to tame their wild ways. It features some great proto-rapping backed by bongos and surf-a-billy guitars and absolutely beautiful black and white cinematography.

Overall, it’s a captivating glimpse into a world when being in a gang was more club-like than criminal.
 

 
Thanks Blackie
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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‘The Hunger’: An impressively repulsive computer-animated short from 1974
03.14.2014
07:31 am

Topics:
Animation
Class War

Tags:
animation


 
The availability of new technology usually inspires the artistic impulse to create something lovely and elaborate. But the pioneering 1974 short film, The Hunger (or La Faim, in the original French), feels—intentionally—both ugly and crude.  The art has the feel of rough sketches, and only in the movement of the animation can you see the computer technology at work. It’s a strange, eery effect that is intensified by an artfully unsettling soundtrack.

The film received a Special Jury Prize at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival, a BAFTA Award for Best Animation Film, and was the first computer-animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award. What’s more, it was actually produced by the National Film Board of Canada, an agency of The Canadian Federal Government (and we can’t even get our government to fund food stamps?)

The plot is simple: a piggish man eats too much and is eventually devoured by the starving masses. It’s all told in a sort of animated Kafkaesque expressionism, and while I’ve always scoffed at the “sinfulness” of gluttony (especially since world hunger has very little to do with actual scarcity, and even less to do with the dietary habits of fat Westerners), it did disturb me enough to eschew cookies for breakfast this morning.  It is grotesque, violent, nauseating, and truly stunning.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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A $3 million bulletproof diamond-studded suit, because safety and fabulosity first
03.13.2014
06:16 am

Topics:
Class War
Fashion
Science/Tech

Tags:
Suitart


 
This week, Luxury Launches heralded the arrival of Swiss haberdasher Suitart’s Diamond Armor bespoke men’s suit, made of bulletproof material and bedazzled with black diamonds.

The suit is not only bulletproof (certified by NATO standards) as mentioned before, it’s also waterproof due to nano-technological sealing and is equipped with an active cooling system. It’s the only suit of its kind that has an air conditioning system developed by EMPA built into it. The integrated technology can be activated at the push of a button and offers cooling through humidification of water. To add elegance and class to the suit, the Diamond Armor is encrusted with 880 black diamonds. The lapel and the contours of the Diamond Armor are graced with 600 black diamonds each with a diameter of four millimeters and a total weight of 140 carat and the buttons of the jacket consist of Swiss watch steel 316L with DLC coating and are graced with additional 280 black diamonds. To match the opulence of the suit, it can be accessorized with a 24 carat golden silk tie developed by fabric specialist Weisbrod from Zurich and EMPA and Carl F. Bucherer limited edition watch.

Wearing a suit encrusted with diamonds and a tie of spun gold? Goodness gracious me, why would anyone want to harm you?

So not only is the suit Elvis-y as all hell, it’s bulletproof, waterproof and air-conditioned? The piling of insane Liberace-isms atop the suit’s James Bond features, combined with Suitart’s refusal thus far to release a photo of the thing, gives this announcement the heady stink of hoax, but such fabrics DO exist. Non-spangly armored suits have already been available for years to heads of state and people conducting international business in conditions of civil unrest, as this CBS News video explains. (Apologies in advance if it runs an ad, I can’t make it not do that.)
 

 
Still, the lack of a simple photograph showing an item at which the world would surely love to get a gander is disheartening. What Suitart has shared is this video dramatizing how their fabric stops bullets.
 

 
This video demonstrates how bullets can be stopped with a Ted Nugent guitar solo.
 

 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Great idea: Bill Maher on a ‘maximum wage’ for the 1%


 
Bill Maher was on a roll last Friday with a “New Rules” rant about a—ahemmaximum wage. It’s an idea whose time has come.

Did you know that during World War II, FDR actually proposed a cap on income that in today’s dollars would mean that no person could ever take home more than about $300,000? OK, that is a little low. But wouldn’t it be great if there were Democrats out there like that now, who would say to billionaires, “Oh, you’re crying?  We’ll give you something to cry about. You don’t want a minimum wage?  How about we not only have a minimum wage, we have a maximum wage?”

That is not a new idea.  James Madison, who wrote our Constitution, said, “Government should prevent an immoderate accumulation of riches.”  Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, they all agreed that too much money in the hands of too few would destroy democracy.

Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison… those guys the Tea partiers are always (selectively) quoting…

This clip is not only worth watching, it’s worth sharing with other people and encouraging them to watch it and pass it on themselves if they deem it worthy. When “the situation” the United States finds itself in, at this point in history, can be summed up so succinctly and be understood so readily by the man on the street, real change is coming. Maher articulates this matter masterfully, indeed. A very few people at the top have engineered it so that the spoils of Wall Street and the capitalist system flow to THEM and ONLY TO THEM. These lucky, er, bastards then promptly kicked the ladder out from underneath the rest of us with the help of both political parties. (Clinton signed NAFTA, ‘nuff said.)

Writing at Daily Kos, Lawrence Lewis nicely summed up another facet of “the American predicament” which has become so incredibly obvious over the past few decades, the Republican Party’s transparent fealty to the wealthy to the detriment of the working man’s lot (mind you, not that the Democrats are all that much better. They’re just not Republicans.). It is an actual class war that they’re waging, and it’s becoming more and more difficult for them to deceive their base about what they’re up to with just the standard GOP tropes of pro-life, pro-gun, pro-Jesus and anti-gay, anti-immigrant rhetoric, when the lives of their constituents are crumbling:

The final piece of the puzzle is the Republican focus on making life more difficult for those who do have work. Republicans oppose increasing the minimum wage. They want even the employed to know economic want. Republicans oppose workplace safety regulations, and they want to destroy unions. They want workers completely subject to the whims of management, and unable to quit lousy jobs because there are no good alternatives and there is no social safety net to protect them. Under the Republican agenda, workers have to do what they’re told or suffer even worse consequences.

In short, the Republican agenda is to keep people desperate for work, with more people seeking jobs than can find them, with no laws or other forms of assistance or protection for those who can find jobs, and no safety net for those who can’t. Lack of opportunity ensures a glutted labor market, which drives down wages, forcing many of even those who do find work to seek more. Exhausting hours, inadequate pay, and broken unions ensure that workers are hungry and tired and incapable of defending themselves.

It could be called a new form of feudalism, but that feudalism actually made necessary more responsibility from the aristocracy toward the peasants and serfs than does unregulated bastard capitalism from owners and management toward labor. It is class warfare. Simple, straightforward, class warfare. For Republicans, poverty, hunger, and unemployment are not tributary outcomes of their economic model, they are deliberate means toward insidious ends. Make people hurt. Make them desperate. They will do what they are told. They will ask for no more than that they be allowed to survive another week.

Or so Republicans hope.

Everyone is starting to realize exactly—and if not exactly exactly, then CLOSE ENOUGH—what’s going down.

It simply can’t continue on like this. It’s not going to.

[And if you haven’t heard about this guy, he’ll blow your mind. Ladies and gentlemen, meet THE PERFECT Republican spokesperson, Josh Miller of Arkansas. Keep talking buddy, you are doin’ the Lord’s work…]
 

 
UPDATE: As posted on the Dangerous Minds Facebook page (thank you Eric Blahbson) Jello Biafra on the maximum wage:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘Soviet Toys’: The first Russian cartoon was (you guessed it!) commie propaganda!
03.03.2014
08:23 am

Topics:
Animation
Class War

Tags:
propaganda
USSR
Dziga Vertov

Soviet Toys
Filthy capitalist swine
 
My fascination with political propaganda has no partisan allegiance, but left or right, I can’t help but think they just don’t make ‘em like they used to. Those racist Tea party signs, the Shepard Fairey-designed beatification of Barack Obama—even the romantic filigree of Occupy Wall Street didn’t do much for me. My favored political propaganda is that rare combination of ambitious, angry, and optimistic—a trinity often achieved by the very coiners of the term “agitprop,” the Soviets.

Soviet Toys is the very first in a long and rich history of Russian animation, and while only a fraction those cartoons were explicitly political, the great Russian director Dziga Vertov made masterful use of the medium to produce some truly caustic revolutionary art.

Despite its explicit semiotics, the plot of Soviet Toys is a little bit of Russian history “inside baseball,” so I’ll sum up. During Lenin’s New Economic Policy (a period of liberalization where private citizens were allowed small entrepreneurial ventures to boost the economy after the Russian Civil War), a class of businessmen called “NEPmen” rose to prominence, much to the resentment of radicals like Vertov. Obviously, the fat glutton you see represents the NEPmen. Materialistic women and corrupt clergy (the church had experienced a contentious split) defer to him for favors. The industrial worker and the farmer both fail at bringing down the NEPman on their own, but eventually they literally merge (like the ole’ hammer and sickle!) to defeat him.

And as if that weren’t a happy enough ending, the Red Army comes along and forms a tree, from which all capitalists and conspirators are hanged. Though Soviet Toys might feel a little heavy-handed and technically crude by today’s standards, it’s an incredibly sophisticated little film for its time and place. Remember this is four years before Disney’s Steamboat Willie, and I don’t recall even one capitalist being hanged in that!
 

 
Via Open Culture

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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These appallingly low musician royalty checks are both amusing and depressing


 
Being a musician and trying to get paid can be a terrible chore. You can fill a club with drinkers and they’ll still stiff you at the end of the night. Your work—and your draw—will constantly be requested free of charge, as though the magic word “exposure” paid for rehearsal studio rental and gas in the van. Even deep-pocketed concerns will hose you. A band I was in in the ‘90s had a song that managed to grow some stubby little legs thanks to a compilation appearance, and a few years after the fact, a popular cable channel wanted to use it in an animated TV show. Thrilled, I filled out a small mountain of paperwork in 2003, and I’ve still not seen a check. The same song got used by a major clothing company, but not a cent found its way to my pocket for that, either. I have a good idea which of my former bandmates gave away that song for a song, but I’ve left it alone—I was livid about it at the time, but it’s long enough in the past now that there’s no sense in getting worked up about it anymore. I still play in a group that constantly records new original material and tours as often as it can, but if I was in this for money, I’d have been done after that fiasco.

But don’t think for a moment that this sort of heinous chicanery befalls only the obscure strivers who for obvious reasons are more vulnerable to it. Important and influential artists that you’ve heard of and enjoyed get the screws put to them all the time. The way radio royalties work against smaller artists is especially vile, but as radio diminishes in importance and new models emerge, innovative new ways to rob artists emerge alongside them. Right now, Pandora, ASCAP and BMI are in court arguing about exactly how songwriters will get hosed in the future. There are so many things to read online on the subject of how musicians do or don’t get paid it’s practically becoming a genre complete with its own classics, but just as a picture speaks a thousand words, money in the bank speaks more loudly still, and a recent piece in Aux that might startle you offered some pictures of musicians’ money in the bank.

How little does the music industry pay artists? Shockingly little. Spotify, the dominant streaming music source in the U.S., is leaking money. They reportedly dole out 70 per cent of their revenue to royalties, and while that number seems high, consider this: each song stream pays an artist between one-sixth and one-eight of a cent. One source claimed that, on streaming music services, an artist requires nearly 50,000 plays to receive the revenue earned from one album sale. Ouch.

 

 
This check was cut to the influential and respected post-metal band Isis by a company called Music Reports. No specific accounting was offered.
 

 
Lambgoat speculated that this check, also from Music Reports, may have been cut for one month’s worth of streaming royalties for the long running Washington D.C. death metal band Darkest Hour.
 

 
In the ‘80s, Camper Van Beethoven were a HUGE deal in the independent/college music scene. They split into Cracker and Monks of Doom in the ‘90s, with the former becoming very popular indeed. For over a million Pandora plays of one of their hugest hits, “Low,” Cracker got a little under $17.
 

 
OK, anyone wanting to could quibble as to the significance or popularity of Isis, Darkest Hour, or even Cracker, and by all means, that’s what the comments section is there for. But this is Janis Ian. Grammy winning, massively influential folk artist Janis Ian. “Society’s Child,” Between the Lines Janis Ian, hauling down some fat Darkest Hour cash, here.

More hiliarously depressing examples at aux.tv.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Vive la (stalled) révolution: Cinema subverted Situationist-style in ‘Can Dialectics Break Bricks?’


 
Taking a page from Woody Allen’s What’s Up, Tiger Lily? which re-dubbed humorous dialogue over a Japanese spy movie to make the plot about a recipe for egg salad, René Viénet’s 1973 film Can Dialectics Break Bricks? (“La Dialectique Peut-Elle Casser Des Briques?”) did the same sort of thing, but here the cinematic Situationist provocateur is less out for laughs (although there are plenty of them) and more about the political subversion.

The raw material for Viénet’s détournement is a 1972 Hong Kong kung fu flick titled The Crush (唐手跆拳道) directed by Tu Guangqi. In Viénet’s hands, the movie was turned into a critique of class conflicts, bureaucratic socialism, the failures of the French Communist Party, Maoism, cultural hegemony, sexual equality and the way movies themselves prop up Capitalist ideology, all in a manner that would turn such a product against itself, using Situationist aphorisms, arguments and in-jokes.
 

 
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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