Viewing posts tagged state capitalism

Red Kangs Are Best

I very much enjoyed the latest episode of the Pex Lives? Podcast, which looks at 'Paradise Towers'.  During it, Kevin and James' guest Jane (of achairforjane? and many fascinating comments - and an amazing guest post on Lost - at Phil Sandifer's blog) suggests a Marxist reading of the story in which the Rezzies are the consumerist bourgeois who ascend a few levels via the system which later consumes them.  Totally valid and satisfying reading.  (And I'm grateful for the lovely shout-out, as always.)

I think, however, that it illuminates a certain interesting ambiguity about what constitutes a  'Marxist reading' or a 'Marxist analysis'.  I know Jane and the Pex Lives boys already know this, so this isn't in any way meant as a criticism of any of them, but I think a 'Marxist analysis' would really have to constitute more than finding some way in which aspects of the narrative function as an allegory of some aspect of the class struggle.  I hold my hands up: that's often what I do here, and it doesn't really cut the mustard.

To do that is to bring Marxist categories to a text, but still to treat ...

Koba the Ape

Post-Spoilerocalyptic.


I went to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  Banalities first:  A well-crafted film.  Cogent and coherent in terms of aesthetics and plot (though there is a pleasingly bathetic moment when, following lots of atmospheric shots of apes engaged in social interaction, one ape suddenly addresses another in sign language as "Maurice").  Nicely acted by the principles. 

Now.

In The Dark Ape Rises, the 'good' ape leader is Caesar and the 'bad' ape leader is Koba.

Caesar is the reasonable one, the compromiser, who wants peace with the humans.  Koba is the nasty one who can't let go of his resentment of humans, who doesn't trust them, who betrays Caesar and launches an all-out war against the humans.

Thing is, Koba is fucking awesome.  Because, unlike Caesar, he understands that when you have the oppressor on the floor, you don't help him up and dust him down.  No.  You stand on his neck.

Here's Koba, riding straight at the enemy (who are armed with rocket launchers by this point) while simultaneously holding (and firing) two machine guns instead of the reins of his horse ...

9

Wow.  Single figures.  Okay, time for some fun.


"I'm asking you to help yourselves," says the Doctor. 

Revolution isn't about everyone suddenly becoming altruistic and angelic.  It is, as Marx saw it, "the movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority".

"Nothing will change round here unless you change it," says the Doctor.  Here is 'freedom and necessity'.  It must be done, but they can choose to do it or not to do it.

"What will we do with two guns against all those guards?" asks Veet.

"You can't do anything, but there are fifty million people in this city. Think how the guards will react to that number."

"It's crazy talk," says Goudry, "Rebellion? No one would support you."  Capitalist realism.

"Given the chance to breathe clean air for a few hours, they might. Have you thought of that?"

The Company pumps a chemical fug into the air that makes people anxious and weak.  That's how it works on Pluto.  Here we call it ideology, or hegemony.

The Doctor and Bisham discuss ways of knocking out the gas pumps.

"I was ...

14

"I've known many times," says the Doctor, "some of them much more pleasant than others."

"Well, I quite like it here, I must say," interjects Jo to cover the awkward moment, "Everyone's been most kind."

The Controller (what a giveaway that title is) nods in appreciation of her remark.

The Doctor, however, is unimpressed.  He swills more wine.  He looks like an sozzled, opinionated guy at an unsuccessful party, spoiling for a fight.

"Well, I met some people today who were far from kind," he says.  He spent the earlier part of the day taking a forced tour of the Controller's utopia, being subjected to the tender mercies of a surprisingly well-sketched terror state.

"That was a simple mistake, Doctor, I assure you," says the Controller, his voice as smooth and silvery as his strange, quasi-robotic face, "You must not jump to conclusions."

"Better than jumping from the crack of a whip from some security guard," snaps the Doctor, "Do you run all your factories like that, Controller?"

We have been granted an unusual thing earlier in this episode: a glimpse into the productive centres of a Dalek-ruled regime.  It looked like a ...

Maximum Utility

The literature of terror is born precisely out of the terror of a split society and out of the desire to heal it. 
- Franco Moretti


People often compare the Borg, the cyborg gestalt from the Star Trek franchise, to Doctor Who's Cybermen.  Both races were conceived as humanoids physically augmented with technology, hence a certain superficial visual resemblance, particularly between the Borg and the earliest Cybermen, from 1966's 'The Tenth Planet'... which has just been released on DVD, if you want some way for this post to be halfway relevant to anything.

Borg
Cyberman
But the Cybermen were written by various different writers, under different conditions, with different levels of interest and different levels of knowledge of past depictions, over the course of nearly five decades.  The Borg, by contrast, were written by a small number of tightly associated people, under the aegis of a carefully controlled franchise, over the course of just under 15 years.  The two 'races' differ markedly in the circumstances of their production and in cultural profile.  As noted, the Borg's various appearances weren't separated by the same kinds of time-lags, and weren't a product of ...

What's in a Name?

Why do some monsters have names while others don't?

The best place to start may be with the Cybermen.  After all, they went from having names to not having names.  Moreover, they did it more or less within one particular story, 'The Moonbase' (if I remember rightly, they had names in the script but these were not mentioned on screen).

The first thing to mention is that this is the story in which they went from being threatening because they are emotionless and logical to being threatening because they're one of those "terrible things" bred in those "corners of the universe" that "we" have to fight, when they were no longer fighting to save their planet but to steal ours, when they lost their human hands, when they started (so early!) saying things like "Clever, clever, clever!", i.e. when they became overtly and deliberately evil.  But there has to be more to it than that.  After all, vampires keep their names.  Loss of humanity and the acquisition of evil intent are not enough to strip them of their names.

Moreover, the Cybermen are not the only Doctor Who monsters to lose their ...

Homage to the Future

I'm currently re-reading George Orwell's best book Homage to Catalonia.  It's one of those books I re-read every few years.

I came across this lovely, compact, resonant passage:


I am well aware that it is now the fashion to deny that Socialism has anything to do with equality. In every country in the world a huge tribe of party-hacks and sleek little professors are busy 'proving' that Socialism means no more than a planned state-capitalism with the grab-motive left intact. But fortunately there also exists a vision of Socialism quite different from this. The thing that attracts ordinary men to Socialism and makes them willing to risk their skins for it, the 'mystique' of Socialism, is the idea of equality; to the vast majority of people Socialism means a classless society, or it means nothing at all.


Orwell saw the essential nature of Stalin's Russia better even than Trotsky.  A state-capitalist bureaucracy, with the role of private capitalists taken instead by an equally-exploitative class of managers.  He also saw that Stalin's Russia was not socialist, since the essence of socialism is the abolition of an exploiting class, not its replacement by a new set of exploiters.

However ...

Skulltopus 11: Changing States

Before the Skulltopus series moves on to the Baker years (and beyond), I feel the need to settle accounts with the Pertwee era, particularly with Peladon.  Also, I need to clarify something about the way capitalism is portrayed and perceived in - and by - Doctor Who.


The maggots in 'The Green Death' are the Pertwee era's last gasp of the Weirdesque.  'Green Death' is also the last Pertwee story to properly notice capitalism.

Admittedly, there is some riffing on 'greed' in 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs'; and 'Monster of Peladon' regurgitates (in a reduced form) the political semiotics of its parent story.  However, in these stories, while class is in evidence... class struggle even!... there is no tracing it back to anything recognisable as capitalist social relations.

I'll get to this, but first I want to loop back to address something about 'Carnival of Monsters' that I should've mentioned previously: Vorg as an entrepreneur and how this relates to the society in which he finds himself.  Firstly, Inter-Minor isn't recognisably capitalist.  The latent revolution in 'Carnival' - the imminent revolt of the Functionaries that President Zarb (the panicky social democrat) is trying to placate and Kalik (the fascist ...

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