In, The Poetics, Aristotle's treatise on the art of literature, he says:"...most important by far is it to have a command of metaphor. This is the one thing the poet cannot learn from others. It is the mark of genius; for to coin good metaphors involves an insight into the resemblances between objects...(p. 74 )."


Another classic of literary criticism, Carolline Spurgeon's, Shakespeare's Imagery, examines this command of metaphor in Shakespeare's plays. The author  explains: "...1 believe we can draw from the material of a poet's images definite information about his personality...a  poet will...naturally tend to draw the large proportion of his images from the objects he knows best, or thinks most about...each writer has a certain range of images which are characteristic  of him...with Shakespeare, nature...animals

...and what we may call (the) every day and domestic...easily come first...(p. 12, 13)."


In this essay I will apply Spurgeon's method to Trotsky's, History of the Russian Revolution.   Not only is it the greatest history with which I am familiar, but it is also a major work of literature, and for

numerous reasons.  It is guided by the most advanced social theory, Marxism; written by one of history's supreme masters of that theory and practice; and inspired by his gift for incandescent prose.  I will concentrate on one virtue of that work, its imagery.


Already, in the Preface, the author introduces his boldest and most original image. A major theme of the History is the psychology of classes: "...The fundamental political process of the revolution thus consists in the general comprehension by a class of the problems arising from the social crisis...Only by a study of political processes in the masses themselves can we understand the role of parties and leaders...They constitute not an independent, but nevertheless a very important, element in the process. Without a guiding organization, the energy of the masses would dissipate like steam in a piston box. But

nevertheless what moves things is not the piston or the box, but the steam." (p. xvi).


Trotsky likens the masses (i.e. the working class and petite-bourgeoisie) to the steam that drives the engine of a locomotive; and the party to the piston box, which focuses that steam to propel the pistons. It is the masses who provide the real source of power; but they require a party to concentrate and leaders to focus that force. Trotsky's choice of metaphor assumes our knowledge that the steam engine was the crucial source of power for the industrial revolution, and the railroads were the most important form of transportation that spread it across vast continents. But what is it about this metaphor that impresses itself so deeply on our imagination? Firstly, it is the reduction of social forces to a single mechanism: a small black box in which pistons propel steam to drive a huge iron horse. A locomotive dynamo  of wheels, rods and gears-- its huff and puff, the blasting screech of its whistle-- and smoke pouring  in black plumes behind it. (One is reminded of J.M.W. Turner's late masterpiece, the painting, "Rain, Steam and Speed- The Great Western Railway".)



In a second metaphor, the party is likened to a laboratory, whose influence is transmitted through other organizations:


"...the party is a complicated laboratory in which these slogans have been worked out on the basis of collective experience...There are over 20 million people represented by the soviets. The party, which had on the very eve of the October Revolution only 240,000 members, was more and more confidently leading these millions, through the medium of the trade unions, the factory and shop committees, and the soviets...   (p. 564)."


The morale of the Russian army in French territory is also likened to a laboratory experiment, in which the army's revolt is the outcome:


" experiment in the "resurrection" of the Russian armies was carried out on a laboratory scale (p.

556)...This dramatic  episode at La Courtine is significant; it was a kind of consciously arranged ideal experiment, almost as though under a bell-glass, for testing out those inner processes in the Russian army (p. 558)."


Another stunning pair of images is used to illustrate how extreme causes have similar effects on different individuals:


"To a tickle, people react differently, but to a red hot iron, alike. As a steam hammer converts a sphere and a cube alike into sheet metal, so under the blow of too great and inexorable events resistances are smashed and the boundaries of "individuality" lost (p. 70)."


In this case it is the psychological with is reduced to a mechanism, a steam hammer. This powerful machine crushes both spheres and cubes of steel in to metal sheets. Similarly, the royal pairs at the head of the French and Russian Revolutions were robbed of their individuality by the crush of historic events.


Trotsky's satiric description of the Czar and Czarina (and comparison with Louis XVI and Marie

Antoinette), continues with another  metaphor:


"...great historical forces are refracted through a personality (p. 70)."

Here we have the process of history likened to the image of light filtered by a crystal. Nevertheless: "...The scripts for the roles of Romanov and Capet were prescribed by the general development of the

historic drama; only the nuances of interpretation fell to the lot of the actors...{p. 71).


Once again, these royal nonentities are limited by the historic story line to the inflections of their feeble voices and gestures.


One of the highlights of Trotsky's History is his description of the meeting of the Erikson workers and

Cossacks on the Sampsonievsky Prospect, and its crowning metaphor:


"The workers at the Erikson, one of the foremost mills in the Vyborg District, after a morning meeting came out on the Sampsonieevsky Prospect, a whole mass, 2,500 of them, and in a narrow place ran into

the Cossacks. Cutting their way with the breasts of their horses, the officers first charged through the crowd. Behind them, filling the whole width of the Prospect, galloped the Cossacks. Decisive moment! But the horsemen, cautiously, in a long ribbon, rode through the corridor just made by the officers. "Some of them smiled," Kayurov recalls, "and one of them gave the workers a good wink." This wink was not without meaning. The workers were emboldened with a friendly, not hostile, kind of assurance, and slightly infected  the Cossacks with it...ln spite of renewed efforts from the officers, the Cossacks, without openly breaking discipline, failed to force the crowd to disperse, but flowed  through it in streams...standing stock-still in perfect  discipline, the Cossacks did not hinder the workers from "diving" under their horses. The revolution does not choose its paths: it made its first steps toward victory  under the belly of a Cossack's horse (p. 77,78)."


The events of the revolution- meetings, demonstrations, strikes- separate the hesitant and tired from the daring, the vanguard of the proletariat. Once again, the social process is reduced to the physical, the flow of water through a sieve:


"Here a revolutionary selection takes place of itself; people are sifted through the sieve of events (p.



The workers rushing into the barracks send the soldiers out into the streets. These social streams unite to destroy the social structure:


"The revolutionary pressure of the workers on the barracks fell in with the existing revolutionary movement of the soldiers to the streets. During the day, these two mighty currents united to wash out clean and carry away the walls, the roof, and later the whole groundwork of the old structure (p. 92)."


What appears chaos in the streets of Petrograd is really workers, soldiers and students developing a hatred of the regime and their will to fight back; so that when new troops arrive, they are instantly infected by their mood.  Social psychology is reduced to the image of an industrial forge melting raw ore into metal:


"After the February Days, the atmosphere of Petrograd becomes so red hot that every hostile military detachment arriving in that mighty  forge, or  even coming near to it, scorched by its breath, is transformed, loses confidence, becomes paralyzed, and throws  itself upon the mercy of the victor without a struggle (p.96)."


The thought processes of those in factories, companies and villages  gradually approaches the actual structure of events and enables the masses to shape those events:


"In every factory, in each guild, in each company...the molecular work of revolutionary thought was in progress...Their class instinct was refined by a political criterion...Elements of experience, criticism, initiative, self-sacrifice, seeped down through the mass and inner mechanics of the revolutionary movement as a conscious process...Thoughts are scientific if they correspond to an objective process and make it possible to influence that process and guide it (p 110,111)."


Much of Trotsky's imagery needs no explanation or paraphrase:



"But bloody acts of retribution were as inevitable as the recoil of a gun (p. 185)".


"But nevertheless the army was like a system of communicating vessels, and the political mood of the soldiers and sailors gravitated toward a single level (p.186)".


"To keep up the war hypnosis and the mood of chauvinism was the only possible way the bourgeoisie could maintain their hold upon the masses - especially upon the army (p. 195)".


"The chief function of the Compromisers was to short-circuit the revolutionary energy of the masses into patriotic wires (p. 199)".


"It is clear that the arriving soldier played the part of the first crystal in a saturate solution (p. 272)".


"The response of the masses to the action of the anarchists sometimes served the Bolsheviks as a gauge of the steam pressure of the revolution (p.307)".


"...the troops deployed against Petrograd by Kornilov were defeated without a fight, capitulated without an encounter, went up in vapor like a drop falling on a hot stove lid (p. 331)".


Trotsky returns to dramatic scene painting when he depicts a terrifying demonstration of war victims:


"On April17 there took place in Petrograd the patriotic nightmare demonstration of the war invalids. An enormous number of wounded from the hospitals of the capital, legless, armless, bandaged, advanced upon the Tauride Palace. Those who could not walk were carried in automobiles. The banners read:

"War to the end." That was a demonstration of despair from the human stumps of the imperialist war, wishing that the revolution should not acknowledge that their sacrifice had been in vain... (p. 245)."


Later, he describes the climax of the demonstration:


"These wounded, shell-shocked, mutilated people stood like two walls, one facing the other. Crippled soldiers against crippled officers, the majority against the minority, crutches against crutches. That nightmare scene in the amphitheater foreshadowed the ferocity of the civil war (p. 245)".


Trotsky's admiration for Lenin (lion in Russian) is evident in his many descriptions of his hero: "Lenin was raging in his Zurich cage, seeking a way out (p. 211)".

The role of individuals in history is likened to links in a chain of events:


"...Lenin was not a demiurge of the revolutionary process, that he merely entered into a chain of objective historic forces. But he was a great link in that chain...It is necessary only to understand that role correctly, taking personality as a link in the historic chain (p. 238)".


The psychology of classes - earlier described as molecular motion or currents in a river - is here likened to the swings of a pendulum:



"What lies underneath the dramatic events of a revolution? Shifts in the correlationof class forces. What causes these shifts? For the most part oscillations of the intermediary classes, the peasantry,the petty bourgeoisie, the army. There is a  gigantic amplitude of oscillation between Kadet imperialism and Bolshevism...Our task is still for the time being to "patiently explain"- to prepare the next swing of the masses to our side... (p. 257)".


The concept of Bonapartism, a regime balancing itself between two classes, is likened to a childish device made up of a cork and two forks:


"This idea of a master of destiny rising above all classes, is nothing but Bonapartism. If you stick two forks into a cork symmetrically, it will, under very great oscillations from side to side, keep its balance even on a pin point: that is the mechanical model of the Bonapartist superarbiter. The degree of solidity of such a power, setting aside international conditions, is determined by the stability of equilibrium of the two antagonistic classes within the country (p. 469)".


The conspiratorial relationship between leaders of the bourgeois regime - Kerensky, Savinkov and

Kornilov - against the masses, is described as a mathematical formula: "Such was that peculiar equation with three unknown quantities. (p. 503)". The author reduces social forces to the physical science of fluids:

"These receding waves in the flood of the revolution developed an overwhelming force. It seemed as though they were obeying the fundamental laws of social hydrodynamics. You cannot conquer such a wave head on- it is necessary to give way to it, not let it swamp you (p. 547)".


"The mood of the front  was leveling out in one direction, but in that colossal political flood which took the trenches for its channels there occurred many whirlpools and backwashes, and there was no little turbidity.(p. 565)".


And, where he earlier described the dissolution of the army as an experiment in an historical laboratory, he now likens their demoralization to an infectious disease:


"But in just a few weeks the second brigade which had bombarded the first was seized with the same disease...The Russian soldiers had carried this dreadful infection with them across the sea in their canvas knapsacks, in the linings of their coats, in the secret places of their hearts (p. 557. 558)".


The polar classes- the bourgeoisie and the proletariat- are likened to actors entering and exiting a revolving stage:


"The bourgeois classes had expected barricades, flaming conflagrations, looting, rivers of blood. In reality a silence reigned more terrible than all the thunders of the world. The social ground shifted noiselessly like a revolving stage, bringing forward the popular masses, carrying away to limbo the rulers of yesterday (p. 788)".



We arrive at the conclusion of Trotsky's History.  And, as he opened the Preface with the extraordinary metaphor of the steam engine, so he closes it with the equally compelling one of the clockwork:


"The party set the soviets in motion, the soviets set in motion the workers, soldiers, and to some extent the peasantry. What was gained in mass was lost in speed. If you represent this conducting apparatus as a system of cog-wheels- a comparison to which Lenin had recourse at another period on another theme- you may say that the impatient attempt to connect the party wheel directly with the gigantic wheel of the masses- omitting the medium-sized wheel of the soviets- would have given rise to the danger of breaking the teeth of the party wheel, and nevertheless not setting sufficiently large masses in motion (p.825)".


The clockwork image is extended to the party and its Military Revolutionary Committee:


"However, the task of the revolution still remained unachieved. The spring and the whole mechanism of the watch were in the hands of the Military Revolutionary Committee, but it lacked the hands and face."


And finally the metaphor serves to conclude the argument:


"A revolutionary conception without a revolutionary will is like a watch with a broken spring (p. 209)".





Let us summarize our discussion of Trotsky's imagery by contrasting it with Shakespeare's. Unlike the latter -- whose imagery is of nature, animals, the everyday and domestic -- Trotsky's consists of the world of the scientific laboratory, the machinery of industry and the physical processes of nature. This imagery is used to depict the development of the revolution, its conflicting classes and their respective organizations. Refraction of light, crystallization in a solution, a vapor drop on a stove, and the fluid dynamics of rivers represent the natural processes. The oscillation of a pendulum, the crushing of metal by a steam hammer or its melting in a forge, the mechanics of clocks, the recoil of a rifle, a gage of steam pressure, and the sifting of water through a sieve represent mechanical or industrial processes. And there is a miscellany of more general scientific terms: the spread of infectious disease; the war hypnosis of the ruling class over the army; equations, statistical curves, molecular movements, and electrical currents running through circuits. But what does this tell us about Trotsky's personality, about what he knew best or thought most about?


Trotsky's entire life was devoted to the working class. It was itself the heroic protagonist of his History. To experience the world of the working class, learn from it, and help them organize to fight was his destiny. Naturally, he would write with the imagery of the factory, incorporate the industrial processes of that world, and the science that explained it. A lifetime's experience of the theory and practice of Marxism went into the making of his masterpiece, History of the Russian Revolution. And in that History is distilled Trotsky's genius for metaphor.







In a previous essay I applied Spurgeon's method to Trotsky's, History of the Russian Revolution, and concluded that, in contrast to Shakespeare, Trotsky's imagery largely consists of the world of the scientific laboratory, the machinery of industry and the physical processes of nature. This imagery is used to depict the development of the revolution, its conflicting classes and their respective organizations. In this essay I will focus on Marx's, Capital, Volume 1. Spurgeon tells us that in her examination of Shakespeare: "...the images form, when thus collected, a world in themselves, for they mirror the richest experience and the most profound and soaring imagination known to man."(p. x, xi, Shakespeare's Imagery, by Caroline Spurgeon.) I believe that Marx reveals a no less "soaring imagination" in his masterpiece, Capital, Volume 1. Let us now turn to its imagery.


Already in his Preface to the First Edition, Marx likens the social body, capitalism, to the human body, and the commodity to its cell-form, thereby introducing us to his method:


"...the complete body is easier to study than its cells. Moreover, in the analysis of economic forms neither microscopes nor chemical reagents are of assistance. The power of abstraction must replace both. But for bourgeois society, the commodity-form of the product of labour, or the value-form of the commodity, is the economic cell-form. (p. 90)"


In another of his Prefaces, he warns us that the literary journey we are about to undertake will require the stamina of an assault on Everest:


"There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits. (Preface to the French Edition)"


In Chapter 1, we examine the cell-form, the commodity, and discover its crystalline essence: labor­



"If we disregard the use-value of commodities, only one property remains, that of being products of human labour...human labour-power has been expended to produce them, human labour is accumulated in them. As crystals of this social substance, which is common to them all. (p. 128)"


Capital, Volume 1, is not only a critique of capitalism; it also illustrates Marx's general theory of historical materialism, a component of which is the "labor process". The "labor process" is common to all societies: a universal fact of life. Marx employs the biological metaphor of metabolism:


"Labour, then, as creator of use-values, as useful labour, is a condition of human existence which is independent of all forms of society, it is an eternal natural necessity which mediates the metabolism between man and nature, and therefore human life itself. (p. 133)"



Marx employs a variety of metaphors for labor-power. It is "embedded", "coagulated", "congealed" (p.

142)  in commodities. The imagery of metamorphosis -- from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly-- is another variation:


"The physical form of the linen counts as the visible incarnation, the social chrysalis state, of all human labour. (p. 159)"


Labor-power is also described as the kernel within the shell:


"...In this sense every commodity is a symbol,  since, as value, it is only the material shell of the human labour expended on it...(p. 185)"


The imagery of the deciphering of the Egyptian hieroglyphics, accomplished by the great French linguist, Champollion in the 1820s, is used in the following passage:


"Value, therefore, does not have its description branded on its forehead; it rather transforms every product of labour into a social hieroglyphic. Later on, men try to decipher the hieroglyphic, to get behind the secret of their own social product...The belated scientific discovery that the products of labour, in so far as they are values, are merely the material expressions of the human labour expended to produce them, marks an epoch in the history of mankind's development...(p,167)"


Compared to previous societies (what Marx calls modes of production), in  which there was a transparent relationship between the laborer and his product, under capitalism that relationship is hidden within the commodity-form. He likens this to primitive man's creation of gods that hide, or are projections of, his own hopes and fears:


"...It is nothing but the definite social relation between men themselves which assumes here, for them, the fantastic form of a relation between things. In order, therefore, to find an analogy we must take flight into the misty realm of religion. There, the products of the human brain appear as autonomous

figures endowed with a life of their own, which enter into relations both with each other and the human race. So it is in the world of commodities, with the products of men’s hands. I call this the fetishism

which attaches itself to the products of labour as they are produced as commodities...(p. 165)"


Capitalist production, with its fetishism of commodities, is also likened to a spider's web that ensnares and hides from the worker his own relation to the products of his labor:


"...but the division of labour is an organization of production which has grown up naturally, a web which has been, and continues to be, woven behind the backs of the producers if commodities...(p. 201)"


From process of production we proceed to the circulation of commodities and money. Once again, the formation and dissolution of crystals is Marx's choice of metaphor:


"...So too money appears in the first phase as a solid crystal of value into which the commodity has been transformed, but afterwards it dissolves into the mere equivalent-form of the commodity...(p.




The process of circulation is variously described. It is likened to the butterfly's "metamorphosis" (p. 206)

from its "chrysalis state" (p. 207):


"The money-owner, who is as yet only a capitalist in larval form, must buy his commodities at their value, sell them at their value, and yet at the end of the process withdraw more value from circulation than he threw  into it at the beginning. His emergence as a butterfly must, and yet must not, take place in the sphere of circulation...(p. 254)"


The circulation of commodities is also likened to "the alchemist's retort" (p. 208) in which lead is transmuted into gold:


"...Circulation becomes the great social retort into which everything is thrown, to come out again as the money crystal. Nothing is immune from this alchemy...(p. 229) "


But the origins of capitalism predate the circulation of commodities. Only with the establishment of what Marx calls the "capital relation" is the foundation of this society - the separation of the worker from the means of production - firmly laid:


"...It is otherwise with capital. The historical conditions of its existence are by no means given with the mere circulation of money and commodities. It arises only when the owner of the means of production and subsistence finds the free worker available, on the market, as the seller of his own labour-power. And this one historical pre-condition comprises a world's history. Capital, therefore, announces from the outset a new epoch in the process of social production...(p. 274)"


Once more employing the biological imagery of metabolism, Marx produces one of his most eloquent passages about the "labor process" as the basis of historical materialism:


"...Labour is, first of all, a process between man and nature, a process by which man, through his own actions, mediates, regulates and controls the metabolism between himself and nature. He confronts the materials of nature as a force of nature. He sets in motion the natural forces which belong to his own body, his arms, legs, head and hands, in order to appropriate the materials of nature in a form adapted to his own needs. Through this movement he acts upon external nature and changes it, and in this way

he simultaneously changes his own nature. He develops the potentialities slumbering within nature, and subjects the play of its forces to his own sovereign power...A spider conducts operations which resemble those of the weaver, and a bee would put many a human architect to shame by the construction of its honeycomb cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is that the architect builds the cell in his mind before he constructs it in wax...(p. 283, 284)"


Marx emphasizes the universality of the "labor process"; and Marxism, itself, defines man as the producer and product of society:


"...The labour-process, as we have just presented it in its simple and abstract elements, is purposeful activity aimed at the production if use-values. It is an appropriation of what exists in nature for the requirements of man. It is the universal condition for the metabolic interaction...between man and



nature,  the everlasting nature-imposed condition of human existence, and it is therefore independent of every form of that existence, or rather it is common to all forms of society in which human beings live..."


But whereas the "labor process" is common to all modes of production, under capitalism it takes the deadly form of the extraction of surplus-value from the working class. Marx has no hesitation in describing this process of exploitation of labor-power in terms of the most horrifying creatures of the occult:


"...Capital is dead labour which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks...(p. 342) "


"...So far, we have observed the drive toward the extension of the working day, and the werewolf-like hunger for surplus labour...(p. 353)"


And in a passage of breath-taking power he summarizes the capitalist Frankenstein:


"...But in its blind and measureless drive, its insatiable appetite for surplus labour,  capital oversteps not only the moral but even the merely physical limits of the working day. It usurps the time for growth, development and healthy maintenance of the body. It steals the time required for the consumption of fresh air and sunlight. It haggles over the meal-times, where possible incorporating them into the production process itself, so that food is added to the worker as to a mere means of production, as coal is supplied to the boiler, and grease and oil to the machine. It reduces the sound sleep needed for restoration, renewal and refreshment of the vital forces to the exact amount of torpor essential to the revival of an absolutely exhausted organism. It is not the normal maintenance of labour-power, no matter how diseased, compulsory and painful it may be which determines the limits of the worker's period of rest.


Capital asks no questions about the length of life of labour-power. What interests it is purely and simply the maximum of labour-power that can be set in motion in the working day. It attains this objective by shortening the life of labour-power, in the same way as a greedy farmer snatches more produce from the soil by robbing it of its fertility...


By extending the working day, therefore, capitalist production, which is essentially the production of surplus-value, the absorption of surplus labour, not only produces a deterioration of human labour­ power by robbing it of its normal moral and physical conditions of development and activity, but also produces the premature exhaustion and death of this labour-power itself. It extends the worker's production-time within a given period by shortening his life...(p. 375, 376, 377)"


In one of his greatest chapters Marx summarizes the history of the working day:


"The establishment of a normal working day is therefore the product of a protracted and more or less concealed civil war between the capitalist class and the working class...(p. 412, 413)"



The working day is the basic unit of time of the capitalist process of production. But this process is one in which a monstrous system of machinery, controlled by capital, exploits, exhausts and eventually

destroys the worker:


"...It is no longer the worker who employs the means of production, but the means of production which employ the worker. Instead of being consumed by him as material elements of his productive activity, they consume him as the ferment necessary to their own life-process, and the life-process of capital consists solely in its own motion as self-valorising value...(p. 425)"


The process of production, likened to an organism with the workers as its organs, also reduces work to exhausting and repetitive specialization. It converts the worker into a part of a machine:


"...The one-sidedness and even the deficiencies of the specialized individual worker become perfections when he is part of the collective worker. The habit of doing only one thing converts him into an organ which operates with the certainty of a force of nature, while his connection with the whole mechanism compels him to work with the regularity of a machine...(p. 469)"


And within the large scale factory,  the worker  is dwarfed  by '...machines of Cyclopean dimensions" (p.

506), mythological giants:


"...Here we have, in place of the isolated machine, a mechanical monster  whose body fills whole factories, and whose demonic  power, at first hidden by the slow and measured motions  of its gigantic members, finally burst forth in the fast and feverish whirl of its countless working organs...(p. 503)"


Marx describes some of these mechanical behemoths, likening one to the mythical god, Thor:


"...the tool of the shearing machine, which shears iron as easily as a tailor's scissors cut cloth, is a monster  pair of scissors, and the steam-hammer works with an ordinary hammer  head, but of such weight  that even Thor himself could not wield it...(p. 507)"


But the most terrible effect of the large-scale employment of machinery within the factory is what it does to the family, especially to women and children. Modern machinery, which could be used to shorten the hours and diminish the misery of factory work, is, on the contrary, used to exploit all members of the worker's family:


"...The labour of women and children  was therefore the first result of the capitalist application of machinery!...Compulsory work for the capitalist  usurped the place, not only of children's play, but also of independent labour at home...machinery, while augmenting the human material that forms capital's most characteristic field of exploitation, at the same time raises the degree of exploitation...Previously the worker  sold only his own labour-power, which he disposed of as a free agent, formally  speaking. Now he sells wife and child. He has become a slave-dealer...(p. 517)"


The imagery of war, armies and battle is a favorite of Marx's. From the fundamental dialectic of the class struggle, to the exploitation of the worker in the process of production, it appears throughout his writings:


"...The technical subordination of the worker to the uniform motion of the instruments of rise to a barrack-like discipline...dividing the workers into manual labourers and overseers, into private soldiers and the N.C.O.s of an industrial army...(p. 549)"


And within this world at war fall whole armies of workers in every form of exhaustion, maiming and death:


"...Every sense organ is injured by the artificially high temperature, by the dust-laden atmosphere, by the deafening noise, not to mention the danger to life and limb among machines which are so closely crowded together, a danger which, with the regularity of the seasons, produces its list of those killed and wounded in the industrial battle...(p. 552)"


In another of his great indictments of capitalist production, combining mechanical and mythological imagery, Marx summarizes:


"...all the means for the development of production undergo a dialectical inversion so that they become means of domination and exploitation of the producers; they distort the worker into a fragment of a man, they degrade him to the level of an appendage of a machine, they destroy the actual content of his labour by turning it into a torment; they alienate...from him the intellectual potentialities of the labour process in the same proportion  as science is incorporated in it as an independent power; they deform the conditions under which he works, subject him during the labour process to a despotism the more hateful for its meanness; they transform his life-time into working-time, and drag his wife and child beneath the wheels of the juggernaut of capital...(p. 799)"


But the clockwork mechanism of capitalist society encompasses even the capitalist himself. Marx emphasizes that it is the system that is the ultimate enemy, not the individual capitalist, who, himself, is at the mercy of its terrifying logic:


"...But what appears in the miser as the mania of an individual is in the capitalist the effect of a social mechanism in which he is merely a cog...competition subordinates every individual capitalist to the immanent laws of capitalist production, as external and coercive laws...(p. 739)"


In the conclusion, Part Eight, "So-Called Primitive Accumulation", Marx describes the historical origins of capitalism. One highly esteemed comrade of mine suggests that this chapter be read first, before beginning Part One. I hardily agree.


"...The capital relation presupposes a complete separation between the workers and the ownership of the conditions for the realization of their labour...So-called primitive accumulation, therefore, is nothing else than the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production...And this history, the history of their expropriation, is written in the annals of mankind in letters of blood and fire...(p. 875)"


"...The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines

of the indigenous population of that continent, the beginnings of the conquest and plunder of India, and



the conversion of Africa into a preserve for the commercial hunting of black skins, are all things which characterize the dawn of the era of capitalist  accumulation...(p. 915)"


And in this, the finale of the greatest work of social science in all of world literature, Marx rises to very heights of Old Testament prophecy:


"...the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation and exploitation grows; but with this there also grows the revolt of the working class, a class constantly increasing in numbers, and trained, united and organized by the very mechanism of the capitalist process of production. The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production which has flourished alongside and under it. The centralization of the means of production and the socialization of labour reach a point at which they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated...(p.929)"





Let us conclude with an examination of the imagery of Marx's Capital, Volume 1, and what it tells us about its author. In, Shakespeare' Imagery, Carolineene Spurgeon describes that author's characteristic imagery as concerned with nature, animals and the everyday and domestic world. In my, "Trotsky's Imagery", I suggested Trotsky's imagery was of the scientific  laboratory, the processes of industry and of nature. With these, Trotsky described the revolution, its conflicting classes, and their respective parties and leaders. Capital, Volume 1, is a critique of the capitalist system, the process of production, and the history of working-class exploitation. He situates this critique within the general theory of historical materialism and the labor process. Marx was a doctor of philosophy, a man with a classical education, possessed of immense learning. This education embraced Greek philosophy, literature and science; the works of Shakespeare, Moliere, Goethe; and the scientific  developments of his time. As a result, the imagery he employs ranges far and wide.


He reaches backward into the Greek mythology of the Cyclopes, to describe monster machines, like a gigantic hammer that even Thor could not wield; and into Hindu mythology, to allude to the proletariat being crushed beneath the wheels of the chariot of Juggernaut. He digs deep into the grave of the occult, conjuring vampires and werewolves, that suck the blood of workers and devour their flesh. Along with the occult, there is the alchemist's retort, into which lead is transformed into gold. He employs the imagery of the processes of nature: the biological metabolism of man and the physical world; the metamorphosis of the larva in a chrysalis, to emerge as a butterfly. There are nature's flora and fauna: the body with its members, organs and cells; the nut and its kernel, spider and its web, honey bee and

its hive. There is the world of machinery, like the clockwork with its cogs and wheels. And man crippled

by this same machine, consumed by it ,and is transformed, himself, into a machine for the production of surplus-value. Our search for knowledge is likened to the scaling of a mountain peak. The secret of exploitation is likened to a discovery, like the decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphics. Our fetishism of commodities is compared to an ancient tribe's creation of a fetish to worship as a god. And finally, there is the metaphor of war, beginning with the class struggle between the working class and the capitalist class that lies at the heart of capitalism. There are its battles and armies; its barrack-like discipline; its unending list of working-class casualties. And this is to mention only the major categories of Marx's imagery.


If you read nothing else, read the final, Part Eight, "So-Called Primitive Accumulation". Try to see and - more importantly -- feel the centuries-long suffering of generations of working-class families it depicts. Then turn to the capitalist world of today -- with its multiple crimes against humanity-- and try to view it through Marx's eyes. If you can only see with the "eye of anguish" (that Shakespeare speaks of, in King Lear), then, Capital, Volume 1, will plant the seeds of revolution in you.







In previous essays I  have applied Spurgeon's method to Trotsky's, History of the Russian Revolution, and to Marx's, Capital, Volume 1. Here, I will examine the imagery in the writings of Freud. A favorite of his was archaeology. He was a devoted collector  of the relics of ancient civilizations. His office over­ flowed with statuettes and objects d'art. Here, he likens an individual's lack of memory of his early sexual activity  to a period in his own pre-history:


"I believe,then, that infantile amnesia, which turns everyone's childhood into something  like a prehistoric epoch and conceals from him the beginnings of his own sexual life, is responsible for the fact that in general no importance is attached  to childhood in the development of sexual life. (p. 260)"


But what the child routinely forgets, his loving parents cannot help but observe.  Another  typical example of Freud's imagery involves the picture, model or prototype- what he calls the imago- on the basis of which each of us chooses his love-objects. They form a series that inevitably leads backwards in time to the very first love-object, the mother's breast:


"At a time at which the first beginnings of sexual satisfaction are still linked with the taking of nourishment, the sexual instinct has a sexual object outside the infant's own body in the shape of his mother's breast...There are thus good reasons why a child sucking at his mother's breast has become the prototype of every relation of love. The finding of an object is in fact a refinding of it. (p. 288)"


And in one of Freud's most beautiful passages, he paints the portrait of a child's first experience  of love:


"No one who has seen a baby sinking back satiated from the breast and falling asleep with flushed cheeks and a blissful smile can escape the reflection that this picture  persists as a prototype of the expression of sexual satisfaction  in later life. (p. 263)"


From the mother's breast the infant  proceeds to next seek pleasure in thumb-sucking. Here is another instance of Freud's likening of the individual's development to archaeology and the clues it leaves behind  for us:


"A relic of this constructed phase of organization, which is forced upon our notice by pathology, may be seen in thumb-sucking, in which the sexual activity, detached from the nutritive activity, has substituted for the extraneous  object one situated  in the subject's own body. (p. 273)"


As the mind develops, the child begins its investigation of the world with the question 'Where  do babies come from?' It is often the pregnant  state of its mother  and the arrival of a new competitor for her love that initiates this inquiry. And its probing  of its parent's  with endless questions often lead to their responding with the fable of the stork.  This often discourages further inquiry, and results in the beginnings of the child's critical attitude toward its parents:


"It therefore follows  that the efforts of the childish investigator are habitually fruitless, and end in a renunciation which not infrequently leaves behind it a permanent injury to the instinct  for knowledge. The sexual researches of these early years of childhood are always carried out in solitude. They constitute a first step towards  taking an independent attitude in the world..." (p.272)"


Once again Freud returns  to the metaphor of the picture, or imago,that forms a series in each individual's history of his choice of love-objects. To this he adds the image of the echo of a voice:


"It often happens that a young man falls in love seriously for the first time with a mature  woman, or a

girl with an elderly  man in a position of authority; this is clearly an echo of the phase of the development that we have been discussing, since these figures are able to re-animate pictures of their mother or father. There can be no doubt  that every object-choice whatever  is based, though less closely, on these prototypes. A man, especially, looks for someone who can represent his picture of his mother...(p. 292)"


"These new objects will still be chosen on the model (imago) of the infantile ones, but in the course of time  they will attract to themselves the affection that was tied to the earlier ones. A man shall leave his father  and his mother-- according to the biblical command {Genesis ii, 24}- and shall cleave unto his wife; affection and sensuality are then united...(p. 396)"


Imagery from both the currents  of a river and the engineering of a tunnel are employed to explain the development of our sexuality:


"A normal sexual life is only assured by an exact convergence of the affectionate current and the sensual current both being directed  towards  the sexual object and sexual aim...It is like the completion of a tunnel which has been driven though  a hill from both directions. (p. 279)"


Freud next turns to our fantasies. Life inevitably disappoints  us; we wish it might be otherwise. Our fantasies- which are constructed out of these wishes-- fall into two closely related categories: the ambitious and the erotic. A student of Renaissance painting (and author of studies of Michelangelo's "Moses"  and Leonardo's "Virgin  and St. Anne"),Freud employs the image of a church painting commissioned by an aristocratic patron, which included his portrait in a corner of the picture:


"The motive  forces of phantasies are unsatisfied  wishes, and every single phantasy is the fulfillment of a wish, a correction of unsatisfying  reality. These motivating wishes vary according to the sex, character and circumstances of the person who is having the phantasy; but they fall naturally into two main groups. They are either ambitious wishes, which serve to elevate the subject's personality; or they are erotic  ones...But we will not lay stress on the opposition between the two trends; we would rather emphasize the fact that they are often united. Just as, in many altar-pieces, the portrait of the donor is

to be seen in a corner of the picture, so, in the majority of ambitious phantasies, we can discover in

some corner or other  the lady for whom the creator of the phantasy performs  all his heroic deeds and at whose feet all his triumphs are laid...(p. 439)"


Another  metaphor is used to tie the fantasy to the wish that originally motivated it:


"The relation of a phantasy to time is in general very important... Thus past, present and future are strung together, as it were, on the thread of the wish that runs through them." (p.439)"


Once more, Freud's employs the image of the picture, or imago, to describe how our wishes are connected  to our choice of love-objects:


"You will see from this example the way in which the wish makes use of an occasion in the present to construct, on the pattern of the past, a picture of the future. (p. 440)"


Freud's own use of personification in the characterization ofthe ego, super-ego and id (which  we will examine next), enabled him to recognize its use in religion, mythology and folklore. In the following example he suggested that it is our inner projections which lie behind our construction of creatures of the occult. (One of his English followers, Ernest Jones, would later write  an entire  book, On the Nightmare, on the depth-psychology of devils, demons, and witches):


"...the devil is certainly  nothing else than the personification of the repressed unconscious instinctual life...(p. 296)"


A major concern of Freudian theory  is to construct  a model of the mind and its agencies. These are personified in the ego,the super-ego and the id, and are subject to the rule of the Pleasure and Reality Principles. Each is a character, the author's dramatis personae, as it were, and their interaction evokes some of his most humorous descriptions. We are first introduced to His Majesty, the ego (one is reminded of another  use of the horse-and-rider imagery in Trotsky's, History):


"The functional importance of the ego is manifested in the fact that normally control over the approaches to motility devolves upon it. Thus in its relation to the id it is like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior  strength of the horse...(p. 636)"


Next we are introduced to the villain of the piece, the super-ego. The development of this mental agency is the process by which the child internalizes  ethics (i.e. forms a sense of right and wrong). This process begins with the model of its father, but often continues  in a later series of adults that remind it of him:


"As a child grows up, the role of father is carried on by teachers and others in authority; their injunctions and prohibitions remain powerful in the ego ideal and continue, in the form of conscience, to exercise

the moral censorship. The tension between the demands of conscience and the actual performances of the ego is experienced as a sense of guilt. Social feelings rest on identifications with other people, on the basis of having the same ego ideal. (p. 643)"


The super-ego is further described in the imagery of the common law of property and of Kantian ethics:


"The super-ego owes its special position in the ego, or in relation to the ego, to a factor  which must be considered from two sides: on the one hand it was the first identification and one which took place while the ego was still feeble, and on the other hand it is the heir to the Oedipus complex...It is a memorial of the former weakness and dependence  of the ego...As a child was once under a compulsion to obey its parents,so the ego submits to the categorical imperative of its super-ego. (p. 651)"


The super-ego acquires some of the characteristics  of a tyrant:


"We know that as a rule the ego carries out repressions in the service and at behest of its super-ego; but this is a case in which it has turned the same weapon against its harsh taskmaster...(p. 653)"


"...the excessively strong super-ego which has obtained a hold upon consciousness rages against the ego with merciless violence...(p. 655)"


We return to the ego. It is now portrayed as the victim of the more  powerful super-ego and the id. It is a creature bullied by both,and torn  between their demands:


"...Helpless in both directions, the ego defends itself vainly, alike against the instigations of the murderous id and against the reproaches  of the punishing conscience...(p. 655)"


"From the other  point  of view, however, we see this same ego as a poor creature owing service to three masters and consequently menaced by three dangers: from the external world, from the libido of the id, and from the severity of the super-ego...As a frontier-creature,the ego tries to mediate  between the world and the id, to make the id pliable to the world and, by means of its muscular activity,to make the world fall in with the wishes of the is not only a helper to the id; it is also a submissive slave who courts his master's love.(p. 656)"


The imagery of archeology is once again employed to describe the structure and history of the mind. A favorite of Freud's, he likens it to the Eternal City of Rome, which was of great importance in his life.It is "excavated and brought to light", 'restored",consists of "ruins" (p. 726), and is deployed in "strata"(p.



" mental life nothing which has once been formed can perish- that everything is somehow preserved...Let us try to grasp what this assumption involves by taking an analogy from another  field. We will chose as an example the history of the Eternal City...


Now let us,by a flight of imagination, suppose that Rome is not a human habitation but a psychical entity with a similarly  long and copious past- an entity, that is to say,in which nothing that has once come into existence will have passed away and all the earlier phases of development continue  to exist alongside the latest one...(p. 726)"


Finally, we arrive at Freud's great essay in social philosophy,Civilization and Its Discontents. Here, he addresses questions  that have concerned mankind throughout the ages. First and foremost is "How to achieve happiness?":


"What  do they demand of life and wish to achieve in it? The answer to this can hardly be in doubt. They strive after happiness;they want to become happy and remain so.This endeavor has two sides,a positive  and a negative aim. It aims, on the one hand, at an absence of pain and unpleasure, and, on the other, at the experience of strong feelings of pleasure...(p. 729)"


"...Unhappiness is much less difficult to experience. We are threatened with suffering from three directions: from our own body, which is doomed to decay and dissolution and which cannot even do without pain and anxiety as warning signals; from the external world, which may rage against us with overwhelming and merciless forces of destruction; and finally from our relations  to other men...(p. 729)"


Next, he examines the various methods  men have employed for achieving happiness. First, comes work:


"No other technique for the conduct of life attaches the individual so firmly  to reality as laying emphasis on work; for his work at least gives him a secure place in a portion of reality,in the human community...(p. 732)"


Next, comes love and its perils, which he describes as a path to happiness:


"What  is more natural than that we should persist in looking for happiness along the path on which we first encountered it? The weak side of this technique  of living is easy to see; otherwise no human being would  have thought of abandoning this path to happiness for any other. It is that we are never so defenseless against suffering  as when we love, never so helplessly unhappy as when we have lost our loved object or its love...(p. 733)"


Freud warns us that no technique, programme or path is a guarantee  against unhappiness:


"...The programme of becoming happy, which the pleasure principle imposes on us, cannot be fulfilled; yet we must not- indeed, we cannot- give up our efforts to bring it nearer to fulfillment by some means or other. Very different paths may be taken in that direction...By none of these paths can we attain all that we desire...(p. 733,734)"


Reminding one of Marx's conception of the labor process in, Capital, Volume 1, Freud evokes the history of man and his development of technology:


"With every tool man is perfecting his own organs, whether  motor or sensory, or is removing the limits to their functioning...Man has, as it were, become a kind of prosthetic God. When he puts on all his auxiliary organs he is truly magnificent...(p. 737,738)"


He examines other  fruits of civilization- beauty, cleanliness and order:


"...We soon observe that this useless thing which we expect civilization to value is beauty. We require civilized man to reverence beauty wherever  he sees it in nature and to create it in the objects of his handwork...We expect besides to see the signs of cleanliness and order...(p. 738, 739)"


Freud makes use of the imagery of astronomy to describe our need for order or what we might call habit:


"Man's observation of the great astronomical regularities not only furnished him with the model for introducing order into his life,but gave him the first points of departure for doing so. Order is a kind compulsion to repeat  which, when a regulation has been laid down once and for all, decides when, where and how a thing shall be done, so that in every similar circumstance  one is spared hesitation and indecision. The benefits  of order are incontestable. It enables men to use space and time to the best advantage, while conserving their psychical forces...(p. 739)"


It is Freud's conviction that the instinct  of aggressiveness is the chief threat  to civilization.It leads him to a pessimistic conclusion  about the possibility  of socialism. As a socialist,I am convinced that he is wrong. The October Revolution of 1917 is,to my mind,historical proof  that the beginnings of the construction

of socialism can be accomplished under the worst of historical circumstances. And I believe Freud's own doubts, occurring at several places in,Civilization, provide  further evidence for my belief.  His theory, above all,provides us with the most powerful counter-argument against his pessimistic conclusions. It is especially in the development of the super-ego that we find the chief means of taming the threat of aggression. Freud crowns this great passage with the image of the garrison of imperial Rome:


"What means does civilization employ  in order to inhibit the aggressiveness which opposes it...aggressiveness is introjected,internalized;it is...taken over by a portion of the ego, which sets itself over against the rest of the ego as super-ego, and which now,in the form of 'conscience',is ready to put into action against the ego the same harsh aggressiveness that the ego would  have liked to satisfy upon other, extraneous  individuals. The tension between the harsh super-ego and the ego that is subjected to it, is called by us the sense of guilt. It expresses itself as a need for punishment. Civilization, therefore, obtains mastery over the individual's dangerous desire for aggression by weakening and disarming it and by setting up an agency within him to watch over it, like a garrison in a conquered city.(p. 756)"


Let us conclude with a summary of Freud's imagery. First, there is his beloved science of archaeology. Heinrich Schliemann,the discoverer of ancient Troy, was one of his heroes. Like his hero, he searched long and hard to find the buried city of our mind, excavate its ruins, and classify its relics. Next, is his insight into human character that allowed him to personify  the agencies of the mind: the ego, id and super-ego. His knowledge of the scientific  process led him to dramatize  the child's first quest for the knowledge of "Where babies come from?"  as a program of scientific research,with its experiments, successes and failures. His love of the history of painting may well have led to the image of the imago, a portrait in a gallery of the series of the love-objects in the life of each individual. Like Marx,he saw man's development of technology as the extension of his limbs, organs and senses. These extensions allowed him to explore and control the natural world around him. Marx's critique of capitalism  viewed the exploited worker  as the "appendage  of a machine", while Freud saw mankind  as an "appendage  to (its) his germ-plasm". And, once again, Freud employs the English common law of property to liken man's relationship to his germ-plasm to the temporary inheritance of an estate:


"...The individual does actually carry on a twofold existence: one to serve his own purposes and the other as a link in a chain, which he serves against his will, or at least involuntarily. The individual himself


regards sexuality as one of his own ends, whereas from another  point  of view he is an appendage to his germ-plasm, at whose disposal he puts his energies in return for a bonus of pleasure. He is the mortal vehicle of a (possibly) immortal substance -like the inheritor of an entailed  property, who is only the temporary holder of an estate which survives him...(p. 548, 549}"


Finally, the imagery of astronomy  is again employed to liken the dual life that each of us leads (i.e. as both  an individual and member of our species-being, as Marx would say):


"...Just as a planet revolves around a central body as well as rotating on its own axis, so the human individual takes part in the course of development of mankind  at the same time as he pursues his own path in life...(p. 768)"

© 2015 By Mark Dickman