Направления, течения >> Эстетические концепции 1920-х гг. >> Гастев А. Контуры пролетарской культуры >> Gastev A. Сontours of Proletarian Culture

It is necessary to approach to the defining of proletarian culture with the greatest care. Courage of some thinkers in this question mostly turns to banality.
They say this is a culture of labour first of all. But labour exists since the creation of the world. This is the psychology of hired labour. But here it is very difficult to distinguish the slave mentality from the proletarian one. Psychology of struggle, revolt, revolution... But were there little revolutionary classes during the all history? Finally, the last decisive characteristic – is collectivism. And again, «but». An artel is a collectivity, a commune is a collectivity, there are the religious collectivities, political, social... There were thousands of them...

In vain would we draw the material for proletarian culture out of different forms of workersʼ organizations political, professional and co-operative. All these organisations present themselves as the organisation of one form only – the form of democracy, parliamentary or direct suffrage as a referendum. Do not think the soviet type of an organisation opens new horizons in revealing us the proletarian culture. The «soviet» constitution is not nothing but the democracy with the restrictions for voters of propertied classes, and besides, why, the Soviets – is a political block of proletariat, poor peasants and even middle peasants. Somewhere far away, somewhere to go up from these time constructions to sound out the possibilities of the rising culture of the proletariat.

For the new industrial proletariat, for his psychology, for his culture is typical the industry itself. Buildings, chimney-stalks, pillars, bridges, hoisting cranes and complex design of all constructions and factories, catastrophic and inexorable dynamics – this is what penetrates the everyday consciousness of the proletariat. All the life of the contemporary industry is impregnated with the movement, catastrophy, which at the same time are strictly ordered and regulated. Catastrophy and dynamics, fixed with the grandiose rhythm, – there are the main, blessing moments of the proletarian psychology.

Methodically more and more growing exactness, cultivating the muscles and nerves of the proletariat, gives a peculiar, alert sharpness to the psychology, which is full of the distrust to any feelings of a person, which trusts only to an apparatus, instrument, mashine.

The mechanizing if not only gestures, workers-production methods, but ordinary and everyday thinking, connected with extreme subjectivism, astoundingly normalizes psychology of the proletariat. Boldly assert, neither class nor old nor the modern world does not contain such a normalized psychology as proletariat. no matter where proletariat worked: in Germany, San-Francisco, Australia, Siberia – it has only common psychological formulas, which perceive with rapidity of electric current the first productional hint and transform it into the complicated stereotyped complex. We have not the international language yet, but we have international gestures, international psychological formulas, which the millions possess. It was this trait imparts  striking anonymity to the proletarian psychology, allowing to qualify the separate proletarian unit as A, B, C or as 325, 075 and 0, etc. The key to the greatest spontaneity of proletarian thinking is in this normality of psychology and its dynamism. This does not mean the proletariat is elementary spontaneous as peasantry, artisanal, wild, blind, – not, it means in his psychology from end to end of the world mighty, unwieldy psychological streams are going, for which there are not as though the millions of voices, but there is a one World's head. In the future this tendency imperceptibly will create inability of individual thinking, converting in objective psychology of whole class with the systems of psychological inclusions, stoppings, lockings.

Near the marked normalised psychology it is necessary to mark its peculiar social constructiveness.

Proletariat gradually divided by the new industry on definite types, «kinds», on persons of definite «operation», on persons of definite gesture, on the other side absorbs in his psychology all this mighty montage of enterprise, which is going before his eyes. This is mainly the opened to all and apparent for all montage of itself factory, sequence and subordination of the operations and fabrications, at last general montage of all production, expressing in subjection and control one operation – another, one «type» – another, etc. Psychology of the proletariat here already turns into new social psychology, where one human complex works under another  and where often «controller» in his professional skill is lower than the controlled and very often personally nobody knows. This psychology uncovers the new worker collectivism which shows itself not only in connections between persons, but groups of persons or mechanisms. One may call such a collectivism a mechanized collectivism. The manifestations of this mechanized collectivism are alien to the personality as anonymous, so the movement of this collectiv-complex nears to the movement of things, in which as if there is no the persons individual faces, but regular normalized steps, there are the faces without expressions, a soul, devoid of lyrics, the emotion, measured not by cry, but laughter, the manometer and taximeter.

It is not clear whether in the person of the proletariat we have the growing class, which is deploying simultaneously and alive working force, and iron mechanics of his new collectiv, and new mass engineerism, changing the proletariat into an unexampled social automat.

This is not so easy, as many specialist in proletarian culture would like to think many.

Not with such a simplicity, we would like to approach to the of the proletarian Art.

Usually, speaking on the proletarian Art, the ideologists answear so simply the very question, but the main characteristic of Art they consider its intentional simplicity. Such an approach to the greatest problem of modernity we regard as a big misunderstanding. If not even speak about the proletariat, but about contemporary people in general, passed through the crucible of technics, war, revolution, to approach now to them with a virginal simplicity is impossible, which is peculiar to our popular artists-classics. As for the proletariat, the approach to it with a certain simplicity means, from our point of view, the preaching of sanctimony.

Of course, one must not grimace intentionally and doing a stylisation, and also revel cheap popular works.

From the direction of inner content of the new proletarian Art we will have to go to the detection all complex growing psychological experiences, which we tried to expose above. And if we were only pious Lubochniki [the artist who works in cheap popular style of Art], we of course would try only to pour new wine into old bottles. But such an enterprise will be doomed to failure. The class, opening the unknown psychology, sooner or later will call for new methods of revealing, for new artistic style.

We do not want to be new prophets, but in any case, we have to accompany the proletarian Art with the staggering revolution of artistic methods. In particular literary artists will have to solve other than the task put for themselves the futurists, but significantly higher. If the futurism push the problem of «slovotvorchestvo» (creating of word), proletariat inevitably will push it too, but it will not reform the word grammatically, but will risk, so to speak, to mechanize the word. The word taken in its everyday expression is evidently insufficient for the workers-industrial purposes of the proletariat. Will it be enough for such a subtle and new creations as proletarian Art? We do not predict the forms of the mechanizing of words, but it is clear that it will be not only sound strengthening, it will be separating gradually from its alive bearer – person. Now we are nearing to some really new combined Art, where the evident human demonstrations, miserable contemporary mummery and chamber music will recede into the background. We are walking to the neverseen before unbiased demonstration of things, mechanized crowds and tremendous public grandiosity, not knowing anything intimate and lyrical.

A. Gastev
«Proletarskaya kultura» («The Proletarian Culture»), 1919, №9–10.