“It is true that once upon a time, “Soviet” had a different meaning. It was without the indication it has now. But as time grew onward, and the war against the old ways raged on, it took on a new meaning. This is the problem today. People don’t understand what it means. Soviet doesn’t mean specifically Russian. Soviet doesn’t mean you were once a legal citizen of the USSR. It is a lifestyle. A culture. And a movement at the same time. To be a Soviet means you are a true, pure Marx Leninist who understands the dire situation and the need to form a Soviet Vanguard. That understands and credits the USSR for what it truly was. That seeks to re-establish the soviet system through workers revolution. Not many can call themselves soviet today. We have to search them out.” –Anonymous comrade on “Modern Soviets”.
In recent decades the idea of communism has become commoditized. Persons who advocate the destruction of the capitalist system eagerly purchase leftist themed T-shirts, stickers, coffee mugs, cell phone cases, jewelry, and anything else they can find. One will see not only teenagers wearing Che Guevara shirts but adults toting the beauty of their latest item if it has a revolutionary emblazoned on its body. Is this not the antithesis of what revolutionary Leftism is about; how did this happen?
A great reason for how this trend began when Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick cobbled together an image of Che Guevara based on Alberto Korda’s famous 1960 photograph titled Guerrillero Heroico. Once this image was produced its popularity skyrocketed. Thanks to the iconic nature of the image, and it’s easy to copy interface, it was quickly slapped on everything from clothing to mouse pads. Since then comrade Che’s image has been used in ways which would have disgusted him had he been alive to see it.
As counterproductive this was such blatant misrepresentation only grew worse as time marched forward. With the introduction of websites (Zazzle, Café Press, etc) where persons can create generic custom made products, the production reached a frenzy pitch. Gone were the days where Che was canonized now we see everyone from Lenin to Chomsky on backpacks, key chains, hoodies, posters and more.
As sad as it seems there seems to be no end to the madness.
The reason for this turn of events lies in a concept many on the modern Left are not aware of: recuperation. Though it is a Situationist concept it is important for its use to the bourgeoisie. Simply phrased Recuperation is where the bourgeoisie integrates a once dangerous factor into its own system so as to render it harmless. The revolutionary anti-capitalist icons of the past that are now being used to make money for the exploiting class are a perfect example of such modern usage.
So the question for our generation is this: is this commoditization a positive thing? Could it be used by Leftists to further the revolution, could it be used to inspire others, is it incompatible with being “good” revolutionists, or would it make us revisionist bourgeois sympathizers? But most importantly, does the commodification of such figures constitute a lifestyle and if it does should we encourage its growth or work towards its destruction?