The Fallacy of Industry

Both Vladimir Kirillov and Aleksei Gastev express their admiration of the growing collectivization of industry in revolutionary Russia through their free verse poetry. The poets envision industry as the cure to class struggles that plagued revolutionary Russia, for under a rational and efficient system of production, all workers will be equal. Kirillov tells his readers that the leader of Russian industry may be a common man, “From the suburbs,”1 with enough power and charisma to bring citizens “to eternal fraternity”2. Kirillov seeks to empower the average Russian worker, engaging in a form of mass politics to mobilize the working class.

Gastev paints the factory floor with images of heaven, rising Christlike out of the building to bring Russia to a new age of progress and pride. Rather than tire from work, Gastev boasts that “iron blood pours into my veins.”3 Kirillov and Gastev put their faith in Russian industry, worshipping work as a deity. But does their veneration neglect the true lot of the peasant? They make no note of how industry could continue to exasperate the struggle of the revolutionary-era peasant. In the face of this poetic naivety, is it any wonder that workers’ quality of life in the Soviet Union plummeted?

 

  1. Vladimir Kirillov, “The Iron Messiah,” in Popular Poetry in Soviet Russia, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1929), 216 []
  2. Kirillov, “The Iron Messiah,” 216 []
  3. Aleksei Gastev, “We Grow Out of Iron,” in A Treasury of Russian Verse, edited by Avrahm Yarmolinksy (New York: Macmillan Company, 1949), 252 []

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