In honor of our good friends over at MIM Notes Movie Reviews We offer this contribution to the growing body of anti-Imperialist interrogations of the superstructure. We review Iron Man 2.
As we complete our “scientific review of each existing work in the whole world” you might be surprised at how often the story of our class is told. The storytellers know what we, the oppressed, the workers, and the hungry want to hear our story: the story of how we will win.
We will be the triumphant victors of the future and we will defeat all counter-revolutionary forces in the creation of a stateless, classless society. True Communism. Lovely Anarchy!
And how, pray tell, does the second story of Iron Man fit into this trajectory? It is our story through its daring use of metaphor.
Tony Stark is the proletariat, the intelligence of the working class, under siege from the bureaucratic forces of the existing order as represented by Senator Stern, who would control the forces of revolutionary violence. He represents the contradiction between loyalty to the class-in-itself (the fruits of the workers labor), and the-pressure-of-nationalism-on-the-most-reactionary-element-of-the-class-by-the-bourgeoisie.
Pepper Potts is the voice of the libertarian proletariat: nervous that the historical moment for TS (aka the people) is quickly passing while the concerns of oppressed minorities haven’t been reconciled. Potts, USAF Lt. Col. James Rhodes, Nick Fury, and Natalie Rushman are all expressions of the work that the people need to do to reconcile the power of the oppressed with the mission of the class as a whole. As one they demand the victory of the future commune through sobriety, historical revision, political challenges to bureaucratic forces, and class consciousness through clear identification of class enemies and their lackeys.
In Iron Man 2 these forces of counter-revolution are represented by Justin Hammer and his puppet Ivan Vanko. These “whites” demonstrate the kinds of coalitions that the forces of repression are willing to endure (American style crony-ism and the backward Soviet-era strongman) to suppress the forces of the future commune. The combination of high-tech wizardry (Hammer being a Pentagon funded arms dealer) and traditional social roles (Vanko representing the alpha male of a patriarchal fairy tale) develop important themes in recognizing reactionary elements in apparent working class characters.
The story of Iron Man 2 is a simple and ancient one. When the proletariat demonstrate their power-as-a-class in the first film the internal counter-revolution begins, first by the attempted commandeering of the Iron Man prosthetic by the Senate. By the attack of the proletariat from within due to the contradictions of leadership during times of crisis (as represented by palladium poisoning in the arc reactor of Tony Stark). Finally by the external forces of repression as represented by “old style socialism” (Vanko) that has not learned to embrace the contradictions of late Capitalism and technological centralism.
The attempted co-option of the Iron Man suit is defeated through the course of the film by the clear demonstration of the class as the actual active agent of social order. The contradictions of Hammer as Capitalistic excess and Vanko as the one-dimensional socialist realist heir to the Soviet regime cannot compete against the power of the reconciled class. The power of Tony Stark as proletariat and James Rhodes aka War Machine aka the oppressed people of the third world aka the internalized colonies of the first world combined tears asunder the forces of combined counter-revolution.
The poisoning of the proletariat is resolved through the disciplined study of the canon of liberation (Tony Starks father’s film) and the scientific inquiry that only the proletariat is capable of. The creation of Ununoctium, of which only a few atoms have been synthesized to date, is portrayed in the film as the seeming magical combination of technics and inspiration but should instead be seen as the probability of what proletarian design is capable of if it were not fettered by the condition of exchange value extraction on behalf of the moneyed classes. Ununoctium is the expression of how the people’s science is the only way to resolve the capitalist math of resource extraction, information control, and repression of the social body.
Finally the new proletariat and coming commune are shown to resolve the contradictions of Socialism as capitalism recomposition and of Capitalism as crony Capitalism. Vanko demonstrates his disdain for his own class interests by personifying his critique of the existing order in terms of Tony Stark (the people) rather than recognizing the systematic ways in which he and his family were exiled from their power. Similarly Hammer demonstrates that Capitalism IS crony capitalism by his ever-present representation in the halls of power and the slap on-the-wrist nature (high profile, media manicured, but ultimately empty) of his punishment. The class meets this combined foe through cooperation, a disciplined analysis of current conditions, and truly democratic centralism. The commune has the strength of the collective, the intelligence of genius, and the will of a thousand years of chained spirit.
If any weakness of Iron Man 2 exists it is that the forces of counter-revolution show themselves to be too weak. We know that repression sets the terms of conflict, hides its contradictions, and attempts to ally itself with the weakest elements of the proletariat through its own organizational intelligence. The lesson to draw from this is the same lesson to draw from any super-structural form. Our dialectical prowess and ability to dissect the contradictions and communicate that knowledge to the class-as-a-whole is our greatest strength and our greatest weakness. As the commune of one we grow and become the commune of all!
2 thoughts on “All Power to the Commune of the One!”
My impression of the film was completely different. It seems strange to even attempt to make Stark into a communist hero when he clearly is (on the surface) a cruel capitalist. Anyway, I won’t attempt to make a counter-review, but I will say where I think the main point of the film is. Towards the end when Vanko (a Russian fighting against State and capital) is fighting Stark (American capitalist) and Rhodes (American military), we can see the main conflict. Vanko represents the anarchists fighting the dual-power of State and capital. While every piece of space is dominated by private property, protected by armed guards, and not even remotely visible beneath layers of bureaucracy (Potts), the anarchist must carve out his own space. Rather than running away to collectives or anarchist coffee shops that conform to the demands of State and capital, Vanko shows that mere servitude is impossible if the anarchist really wants to realize their goals. For me, Vanko was the hero, not the counter-revolutionary.