Revolutionary Poetry

With the rise of literacy in Russia, literature became a more effective way to spread ideas throughout the people. Poetry stands out from the other forms here due to it’s rhythm. It is easier to remember stanzas of poetry than prose. This makes poetry a fantastic way to spread revolutionary ideas as well as the cost of the revolution.

Maksimilian Voloshin writes about how often progress is reached by some sort of sacrifice. In his poem, “Holy Russia” he describes the destruction that has come as a result of the revolution. “You yielded to passion’s beckoning call, And gave yourself to bandit and to thief, You burned your barns and fired your mansions, Pillaged your ancient house and home, And went your ways reviled and wretched, The handmaid of the humblest slave.” (( Voloshin, Holy Russia, )) Voloshin tells of a Russia that has been torn apart by revolution, but that has the ability to make tremendous progress, something that would be positive to hear after years of brutal civil war.

Meanwhile, poets such as Kirillov and Gastev wrote on the glorious aspect of the revolution that came out of industrialization. In the poems, “Iron Messiah” and “We Grow Out of Iron” a new, magnificent future is made possible by the revolution, which was made possible by the machine. The machine allowed the proletariat to rise, and it will continue to allow for equality. Kirillov writes, “All of steel, unyielding and impetuous; He scatters sparks of rebellious thought,” this emphasizes the importance of technology in the minds of the revolutionaries. ((Kirillov, Iron Messiah, )) The machine represents power, equality, and progress, all which were goals of the revolution. This can be seen in the writing of Gastev, “I shall not tell a story or make a speech, I will only shout my iron word: “Victory shall be ours!”” ((Gastev, We Grow Out of Iron)) The use poetry to expand this message to the people emphasizes the importance of continuing to produce for the state using the technology that set them free.

These poets help to inspire the people that this suffering during the revolution is for a greater cause, but also that the very machines that made their lives harsh were the ones that liberated them. I think it is very interesting how the description and imagery of heavy machinery would fit right into a Western capitalist propaganda ad, but it can also be used to inspire the workers.–53)

“The smoke of chimneys is the breath of Soviet Russia”–53)

American propaganda poster

American propaganda


Blut und Boden — Primordialism in Schivelbusch’s Three New Deals

Primordialism is an ancient form of nationalism that is rooted in mono-ethnic relations. As opposed to modernists who promote an imagined, mental conception of nationalism that is possible between multiple ethnic groups, primordialists assert that nationality is based on a common gene pool which creates physical attachments in a singular people. Beyond imagined community asserted by modernists, primordialists believe blood relations tie individuals together through the bonds of kinship, clanship, and tribalism founded on communal inheritance. Do you believe primordialism (mono-ethnic groups connected through blood ties) or modernism (multi-ethnic groups that feel an affinity for each other through created traditions, e.g. The Pledge of Allegiance) is a more cohesive form of nationalism?

As Schivelbusch discusses in his 4th chapter, “Back to the Land”, ((Wolfgang Schivelbusch, “Back to the Land,” in Three New Deals – Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany, 1933-1939) (New York: Picador, 2006), 104)) primordial nationalism played a large part in the rise of authoritarian regimes of the 20th century. After liberal politics and laissez-faire capitalist economies seemed to lead to the crash of 1929, rejection of industrial and international mechanisms that went along with them was the norm thereafter. To Schivelbusch, loss of public trust in democracies because of the Great Depression was essential for charismatic leaders like Mussolini and Hitler to establish rule through authoritarianism in the 1930s. ((Schivelbusch, Three New Deals, 106)) Nations turned inward instead of outward during national revivals in place of imperialist expansions. The quest for Lebensraum and Fascist colonization would only seem possible after domestic rebuilding and communal reconnection.

In an attempt to imitate the past successes of simpler, pre-modern times regionalism, decentralization, reagriculturalization, and the “organic citizen and society” were all promoted as a return to primordial ties of the homeland in the ‘back-to-the-land’ movement. The Nazi ideology “Blut und Boden” (blood and soil) epitomized this ideology — eugenic authenticity of a naturally superior Volk living on collectively-worked territory. ((Schivelbusch, Three New Deals, 112)) Handicrafts and labor tied to the land were promoted as the basis of an autarkic economy. Mechanical and artificial constructions of industrialization were deemed part of a ‘pseudo-community’ that must be reversed for a return to a more elemental, natural national life. ((Schivelbusch, Three New Deals, 120)) After a complete return to pre-industrial ways of life was eventually rejected as industrialization was increasingly seen as an irreversible mass movement, “a Utopian vision of a new, crisis-resistant synthesis of town and country, industry and idyll” ((Schivelbusch, Three New Deals, 126)) was promoted, espoused particularly by the concept of a non-specified laborer (farmer-factory worker) and Roosevelt’s term ‘rural-urban industry’ which he believed “would be crisis-proof and crisis-resistant”. ((Schivelbusch, Three New Deals, 127)) Do you agree with Roosevelt’s assertion that the most stable, balanced, self-sufficient industry would effectively maintain a bureaucratically controlled equilibrium of natural and artificial products?