What is the best most metaphorical poem

Aleksey Gastev was a political actor who saw his artistic work as political action. Seen in this way, it is a forerunner of Beuys' idea of ​​social sculpture. A decisive verse is at the center of the manifesto - in Order 05: "Destroy literature." This is a utopian thought: The solution of social contradictions with the help of a mind supported by machines according to reason, which manifests itself in communist ideology, should make all arts superfluous. Gastev sees literature only as a compensation for suffering from social conditions. Such literature is therefore the opium of the people and must be abolished. A PACKING OF ORDERS makes use of artistic means one last time - but actually only in the external forms: structure (based on the biblical decalogue), verse form, and a certain metaphor, which, however, is subordinate to a clear reason and offers little room for interpretation. In a short foreword Gastev sees his "Libretto acute processes" as a "signal" for the departure of mankind "out of the confused chaos of these days". The ten-page long poem is a manifesto with commands (orders) that go far beyond postulates and that are to be expressed without expression and without pathos; This is what it says in the “Technical Instructions”, a reading guide, after the short foreword. The lecture should resemble the relentlessly precise and standardized machine work.

Aleksej Gastev, born on September 26, 1882 in Suzdal, a protégé of Lenin, founded the Central Labor Institute (ZIT) in Moscow in 1920, which he described as his “last work of art” and which he headed until his arrest in 1938. In the course of the Stalin Purges he was sentenced to death for “counter-revolutionary terrorist activities” and shot on April 15, 1939.

A PACKING OF ORDERS is a revolutionary political imperative program, not a literary manifesto. It was only logical that Gastev later gave up this form as well. He follows his own orders, as it were. In her short afterword, which is well worth reading, Cornelia Köster writes: “The hymn to the worldwide amalgamation of mass and machine achieved enormous fame and has repeatedly been cited as a unique identification of a new genre in the historical context of literature. Military lacony and machine poetry form the martial postulate of a future social order. ... 'A pack of orders' is both the zenith and exhaustion of this new genre of literature that is working towards the revolution. ... The revolutionary reorganization of society sparked and demanded radical forces. With his biography Gastev embodies the dissolution of the boundary between art and science. He was attacked many times for the realization of his revolutionary ideas. His credo was: 'The machines are no longer objects of control, but their subjects.' Lunacharsky [People's Commissar for Education] accused him of 'idolizing machines' for this reason. "

The aesthetic appeal of the order is low for me, not only because I grew up in the West in a climate of sometimes monstrous individualism. I find the intellectual side frightening, the commands are not a game. I read all the ideological overload with the fear of the dictatorship of a Robespierre or Hitler. Reason cannot be enforced with the guillotine or decreed with orders. There is no such thing as one reason, because there is also no one reality, and certainly not one perspective. I can mentally succumb to the aesthetics of a seemingly self-contained philosophical system for a while - that's what happened to me in 1967ff., When I read Marx and Lenin and rejected the Vietnam War and the double standards of the West German regime that adhered to Shah's visit revealed as clearly as this year in view of the Arab freedom movement. But my (self-) seduction through the simplicity of closed thought systems was at the same time broken by an inextinguishable awareness that only an individual life can make me happy, an open life that does not obey any system except temporary and changeable. I wanted my life to be an open process. My study of literature showed me that the best approaches to the Enlightenment degenerated over time. I loved Lessing, and later also the balance between reason and feeling in the classical period, but I remained critical. Nothing convinced me more than Hegel's law of dialectical movement, which I recognize in general and my individual history - only I do not share the belief in progress, at most I can see a partial and relative perfection here and there. But the belief in a tangible fixed reality (as a state) or reality (as a process) has long been shaken to my mind after a long childhood, and that also has something liberating. In connection with Gastev's PACKEN VON ORDERN, I think back to a damn important book that I read when I was 16 years old, yes, I devoured this book with a hot head: Wolfgang Leonhard's autobiographical description DIE REVOLUTION DISCHARTS HER CHILDREN (1955). I did not understand everything in the passionately written book, but I understood that ideology very quickly leads to mendacity and the distortion of feelings, that the justification of the individual from the super-individual makes sick.

I am Janus. I look back at my GDR life, which I only experienced as a child, but which continued to affect me through the separation from my mother. If my father had not returned from captivity: I would not have come to the West. I have often wondered which constraints are worse: The political lack of freedom and external determination in the East or the social contradictions in the West - my answer remains clear: Freedom is more important to me than social security.

The historical situation in 1921 was completely different. It is therefore clear that my judgment as a reader today is different from that of a progressive reader 90 years ago in a country where people as subjects were treated like animals before the revolution. The fundamental questions remained the same, however, the question of the function of art and the right politics and the possibility of logically functioning machines.

Notes on the individual commands.

Order 01
Military orientation of the workers (“Stand still!”), Who may be seen here as representatives of the whole of society. The collective as a machine. Aligned to a machine (“manometer”), helmeted (“cast iron eye tape”), so one single perspective? But who commands? The party? The Secretary General? Or does the party ideology give orders in each individual at the same time, so that the order is a self-order?
"Fire along the line." A metaphor for prohibition and punishment: "Flat to the forehead ..." "Thirty caught - waste." A low error rate. Like an army, “Thousand A to the East.” And “Column 10 to the West.” The army and workers' collective become one, perhaps not only in thought, but also in concrete terms. The last line is puzzling: "Twenty-nine thousand, - how dead." Is the army exhausted from work, from fighting, from marching, or should it serve the socialist goal without will? - Metaphors as comparisons, not always clear.

Order 02
The work begins: “To the machines.” Man and machine work together, are one unit. Everything is going as planned. - Hardly metaphorical.

Order 03
Increase in the labor force by medical means, increase in the number of workers (ten, hundreds, one thousand, million) and places of work (thirty cities, twenty states). I read “agit cannonade” as propaganda. Everything is subject to the great goal, which is never given very concrete. - Clear structure

Order 04
Massive construction of settlements, roads and cities, as it were in machine production. - Similar description as in 02.

Order 05
World revolution. Looking back, the goal of the work in 01-04 becomes clearer: The whole world, the whole universe is the goal of conquest and is subject to the communist goal.
One last funeral mass should be for the opponents who fell in battle (the term mass is probably ironic here, almost cynically meant as a farewell to a world that has been overcome). The "howling of the world in the catacombs" means perhaps, alluding to the later victorious Christians, the victory of the oppressed proletarians, who are called: "Millions, into the hatches of the future", they should become weapons. The non-ideologically organized mind should be locked up, as well as individual feelings that are directed against collective reason. The bourgeois is repurposed (lines 7-10).
The whole world should revolt against oppression (line 11). Then follows the unification of the language (s) and their terms; only one language left, Russian - or Communist.
"Sentences in the decimal system. / Factory forge of speech. “The language should be clear, understandable and practicable for everyone - thus simplification and standardization, i. H. then, however, also stagnation of language and thinking, thus also stagnation of social development. Together with the following command ("Destroy the literature."), The greatest contradiction of the entire text is at the center of the command system. Because the goal of completion reveals itself here as a standstill of movement (“Standstill!”), And that is the actual graveyard of movement - man makes himself superfluous when he becomes a perfect machine.

“Turn tunnels into throats. / Make you speak. ”The imagery is difficult to interpret. I think that this does not mean the individual unconscious, but rather the social oppression that is supposed to be articulated (cf. the catacombs in line 2).
Heaven - here now clearly ironically addressed - is supposed to be angry ("... into the red to get excited."), A clear blow against church and religion.
The end of the longest command (lines 19-23) once again evokes unity in the precision and intensive performance of man and machine.
Gastev writes in the "Technical Instructions" that the 5th order can be read out parallel to the other orders. It is the 'heart' of the manifesto, because it contains the motivations that should accompany the courageous fight: "Arterial pumps, get started."

Order 06
The world becomes a global symphony of the future. Asia, America and Africa. Here the music becomes a metaphor for the harmony, the beauty and the power of movement. However, the final verse says: "Close the orchestra pit." This corresponds to the sentence in Order 05: "Destroy the literature."

Order 07
Worldwide work of the movement again: building new technology: infrastructure, traffic and communication. A revolution in health is to be set in motion: "Bring 20 million cripples to their feet." This is followed by the glorification of the worldwide sports movement (lines 10, 18), which here is perhaps only an image for the functionality and health of the body, and finally the apotheosis of the body in the last line: “Listen to the athletes, their body is poetry.” That goes well with the synchronization of man and machine, but the concept of poetry, which has just yet to be overcome, is revived : That is the abolition of the old poetry in a new poetry. In other words, a world that no longer needs poetry will become even the purest poetry ...
In Gastev's command: "Switch off the sun for half an hour ... switch on the sun again.", The belief in progress and the omnipotence fantasy of victorious communism seems rather comically exaggerated.

Order 08
The most metaphorical command: the history of the last twenty centuries is mixed up anew in images of machine processing, a million centuries per minute are cooked anew, as it were, and administered to all of humanity: the world revolution creates the new man.
The order captivates with its relapse into poetic language, which postulates the dynamism and speed of the revolutionary movement as the reversal of the apocalypse with contrasting expressive colors and images.

Order 09
Once again the order for the final battle - militarily, mentally, mechanically. The pictures for the spiritual battle are again interesting: “Battle of the syllogisms. ... Wash your brains through. ”A new language, yes, a new (ideological) logic is needed, a new, prescribed unity of thinking!
It is unbelievable how the crowds are instrumentalized:

“Get rid of your orientation in space.
Turn on a sense of time.
Letting darkness fall on the masses.
layers of dams of people. "

Here the human being is sacrificed to the unconscious material of those in command and in a material battle - that sounds like a premonition of the later period of Stalinism.
The conclusion of the 9th order culminates in a biologism that is not atypical for the time of totalitarianism: “Women free of the brain, gives birth. / Give birth on the spot, it's urgent. ”The woman becomes a birthing machine for new birthing machines and the soldiers of the future.

Order 10
In keeping with the idea of ​​a battle of materials in the interests of questionable progress based on a unified world ideology, the last command reads:

"Make a report: six hundred cities - test passed.
Twenty cities there - rejects. "

We already had that in the 1st order: A relatively small error rate. But a maximum of dehumanization.

Gastev overestimates the power of the mind and machines and ideological algorithms. He underestimates the feelings and individuality of the individual. His Decalogue is the attempt to initiate a Second Enlightenment, which, more powerfully than the Enlightenment in the 18th century, helps the now socially accentuated reason to victory. In fact, some passages seem involuntarily funny because our belief in the completion of social utopias has been shaken after the failure of the French Revolution, the failure of the National Socialist and Soviet dictatorship, but also in view of the growing inadequacies of bourgeois democracy, so that a pathos of passion for progress alienated. This pathos also contradicts Gastev's philosophical foundation of a dispassionate orientation towards understanding and reason.

Aleksey Gastev
Epilogue: Cornelia Köster
1999 32 pages 5.00 euros

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