2013-01-10

The Tragedy of Assembly Line

If the image of the "tank man" at Tiananmen Square protest of 1989 is so powerful isn't just because it depicts a man fighting against a state, or even totalitarian state, but above all because it symbolizes the confrontation of the man with the capitalist production as active subject in the class struggle. This confirms what Jean Baudrillard said (Symbolic Exchange and Death, 1976) concerning the Luddites, who destroyed the early capitalist machinery, not because they were "means of production" but because they embodied the dominant capitalist subject. In addition, the machines in Tiananmen reveal the fundamental essence of capitalist production as a violent mechanism of domination, not exactly that of the man against the man, but rather that of the capitalist system itself against the man. It is thus, to put it simply, the revolt of man against the assembly line.

Image after M-41 Walker Bulldog Tank's assembly line (c. 1953) [ua-fu/fd] and Jeff Widener/Associated Press's Tank Man (1989) [fu/fd].