Friday, May 26, 2006

Monuments? You want MONUMENTS?!

For those young chaps who visited North Korea as guests of the Democratically-Starving People's Republican Korean Government and who returned to write about with misty-eyed awe (reported at DPF's yesterday and right here at Not PC a month ago) and who were so impressed by those monuments - and for whatever other monument-fanciers there might be out there - here's a brief resume of monumental Muscovite architecture from the thirties and forties. You have to admit, they sure knew how to build monuments.

Shown here is the 1934 project for the Palace of the Soviets, which (thankfully) remained unbuilt:

That would have been an awful long way for that large statue of Lenin to have to fall, wouldn't it. But it would have made an almighty crash, one that was heard around the world -- and that perhaps might have been its only real value. Ayn Rand, who grew up in Soviet Russia, skewered the mentalities who build and admire such things in 'The Monument Builders' (found in this collection of essays). Here's a longish excerpt:
Socialism is not a movement of the people. It is a movement of the intellectuals, originated, led and controlled by the intellectuals, carried by them out of their stuffy ivory towers into those bloody fields of practice where they unite with their allies and executors: the thugs.

What, then, is the motive of such intellectuals? Power-lust. Power-lust—as a manifestation of helplessness, of self-loathing and of the desire for the unearned. The desire for the unearned has two aspects: the unearned in matter and the unearned in spirit. (By "spirit" I mean: man's consciousness.) These two aspects are necessarily inter-related, but a man's desire may be focused predominantly on one or the other.

The desire for the unearned in spirit is the more destructive of the two and the more corrupt. It is a desire for unearned greatness; it is expressed (but not defined) by the foggy murk of the term ‘prestige’ ...

There are two ways of claiming that ‘The public, c'est moi’: one is practiced by the crude material parasite who clamors for government handouts in the name of a ‘public’ need and pockets what he has not earned; the other is practiced by his leader, the spiritual parasite, who derives his illusion of "greatness"—like a fence receiving stolen goods—from the power to dispose of that which he has not earned and from the mystic view of himself as the embodied voice of ‘the public.’

Of the two, the material parasite is psychologically healthier and closer to reality: at least, he eats or wears his loot. But the only source of satisfaction open to the spiritual parasite, his only means to gain ‘prestige’ (apart from giving orders and spreading terror), is the most wasteful, useless and meaningless activity of all: the building of public monuments.

Greatness is achieved by the productive effort of a man's mind in the pursuit of clearly defined, rational goals. But a delusion of grandeur can be served only by the switching, undefinable chimera of a public monument—which is presented as a munificent gift to the victims whose forced labor or extorted money had paid for it—which is dedicated to the service of all and none, owned by all and none, gaped at by all and enjoyed by none.

This is the ruler's only way to appease his obsession: ‘prestige.’ Prestige—in whose eyes? In anyone's. In the eyes of his tortured victims, of the beggars in the streets of his kingdom, of the bootlickers at his court, of the foreign tribes and their rulers beyond the borders. It is to impress all those eyes—the eyes of everyone and no one—that the blood of generations of subjects has been spilled and spent.
I wonder if the wide-eyed innocents being shown around the North Korean monuments gave any thought to any of that, or to which variety of parasite their visit and their craven apologia supports, and indeed which type of parasite they are themselves?

LINKS: Living it up in the DPRK - Not PC (April 27)
Visit to North Korea -
Kiwiblog (David Farrar, May 25)
The Architecture of Moscow from the 1930s to the early 1950s. Unrealised projects - MUAR

TAGS: Architecture, History-Twentieth_Century, Nonsense, Socialism, Politics, Objectivism

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3 Comments:

Blogger Gman said...

Yes very Soviet.

a huge monsterous ugly gawdy building built by near-slave labour, which would probably fall apart after a couple of years.

But what lets you know it's soviet is the fact that right at the top is a fat politician giving everyone the finger.

5/26/2006 12:10:00 pm  
Anonymous Simon said...

Series of NK photos including monuments

http://tema.ru/travel/choson-1/

5/26/2006 05:53:00 pm  
Blogger libertyscott said...

Czechoslovakia was building an enormous monument of Stalin when he died - and it got blown up up two years later, it nearly bankrupted the war-ravaged place. In the 1950s half the homes in Prague were leaking and crumbling - there is a museum in Prague about all this - not that the cheerleaders of socialism acknowledged that.

5/26/2006 10:00:00 pm  

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