33 Revolutions

There is a particular challenge to reading Canek Sanchez Guevara’s 33 Revolutions from a Marxist viewpoint.  The examples of art we’ve examined in class have all been produced under capitalism (and late capitalism).  33 Revolutions comes out of a revolutionary Cuban society that is presumably closer to the Marxist ideal.  So: how would a Marxist critic approach this complex text?  What would he/she do in order to get a better sense of how the “base” operates in relation to the “superstructure”?  Please respond in 100 words by Tuesday morning at 9:00 am.  Feel free to refer to each other’s posts.

29 thoughts on “33 Revolutions

  1. I found it easier to examine 33 Revolutions through a Marxist lens when considering the underlying repression which is expressed in the text, primarily when addressing how the main character sees his fellow citizens as almost trapped in their cyclic society. Although the society’s economic base is close to the Marxist ideal, there is still evidence that inequality and class division are present. Some of the clearest examples of this are the people trying to escape (and being repressed by the government) and the division seen in police action against certain groups. Additionally, there are still signs of further inequality, like how the main character can afford small luxuries only because of his mother’s money, and how the managerial class are called “masters.” Finally, the society is also shown as being under a type of false consciousness where the people simply accept things as they are, although this is disrupted further in the text.

  2. While the society set in 33 Revolutions may be closer to the ideal order set by marxists, it is apparent within the text that it is far from it. The difference between the working man and the managers shows a disparity of class, the working man living a desperate and depressed life, while the “masters” are lavish, rich, and hardly working at all. This shows an inherent class struggle still present within this society, which allows a Marxist critic to shine light on the evils of it. The endless repeating of the record could therefore be seen as a further message, that class struggle is bound to repeat itself unless one pushes past the greed of wealth. This story and its base of dystopia, in what should by all means be utopia from a Marxist view, shows us that evil is present in many societies that focus on wealth. Until one breaks beyond the “repeating record”, then the evils are bound to re-occur.

  3. I think analyzing Guevara’s “33 Revolutions” with a Marxist scope is only difficult to do since the text pretty much hits the nail on the head (as the prompt points out sort of) with its narrator’s exploration within a repressive class division (as mentioned in previous responses) and the firsthand account of the isolation that brings upon him. It’s almost one of those “where do we even begin” situations since the text is relentless with exemplifying how broken—or at least twisted—the system is. Interesting to note is that the narrator’s father would technically fall within the “superstructure” section (being family and all) but his ideals, and distrust of intellectuals (art, Etc.) make him part of the “base”… Which of course is what the shape/maintain aspect of the cycle is all about… so pointing that out was merely to make word count I suppose. But that also goes along nicely with Braden’s response mentioning the repeating record and the message that it could stand for.

  4. In “33 Revolutions,” Guevara weaves a tale of an idealistic man living in a repressive, almost Marxist, society. In this story, we see a constant struggle of class and race within a society that harshly judges a man for the color of his skin or what he does for a living, without regard to his intelligence. When looking through a marxist lens, it is easy to identify each instance of class or race struggle because Guevara highlights them so candidly. He expertly represents the lives of the lower class as a “scratched record,” a metaphor that he refers to again and again.

  5. In reading “33 Revolutions”, by Sanchez Guevara, Marxists would utilize the ideals of “He”, the main character, to shape the relationship between the base and infrastructure. As an illegal citizen, “He” is forced to live in working class standards- like the proletariat. This forms the base and the repetitious ideas of the “scratched record” portrays the monotony of the working class. “He” also shows how the base influences the ”superstructure” by his own love for music and literature, which, in turn, influence his life and own personal choices. However, the Marxist would also have to note the things that “He” was conditioned to hold important such as the nation (82), money (20), and alcohol (21).

  6. When reading “33 Revolutions”, the novel is discussing a man’s working class structure along with his race. He mentions in the novel, “He dances alone in the midst of a commotion that isolates him as it surrounds him, and he wonders what it means to belong, to be united” (Guevara 23). That statement itself points out that even in a crowd of people he feels isolated and doesn’t feel like he belongs to any type of group because of his race and class. He mentions a few lines down the “scratched record” symbolism again, meaning that he believes other people are normal records that play beautiful music, whereas, he is part of a group that is worn out, scratched and is never heard.

  7. A Marxist criticism is easily applied to a ”33 Revolutions.” In “33 Revolutions,” Sanchez Guevara discusses the struggles of class and race that a working man in Cuba endures. The class struggle is demonstrated through the working man whose life is full of oppression, whereas the “masters” are living rich lives and relying on others to work. This class struggle makes me think of the class struggle in “Maggie’s Farm.” The scratched record that Guevara refers to throughout the book as well as the cover page is symbolically and metaphorically talking about the working class. The art (music) and literature that is shown are a superstructure of society, which influences his decisions. The base is demonstrated in the power of the social class.

  8. “33 Revolutions” and the Marxist lens seem to go hand-in-hand. The entire text is a harsh critique of the class system in place in Cuba told by a member of the working class. The main character sees through the hypocrisy of his society and feels the hardship of the working class and the numbing repetition of the life it leads through the metaphor of a scratched record. Chapter 11 stood out to me the most when the author describes the class system as “two worlds in one”. This portrayal goes along with the Marxist belief that a classless economy would prove most efficient.

  9. In Canek Sánchez Guevara’s 33 Revolutions, the base and the superstructure are influenced by its setting in post-revolutionary Cuba. However, they have more in common with those of a capitalist society than might be assumed: income inequality, for instance, is prominent. The narrator juxtaposes this fact with the revolutionary spirit the society around him promotes: “come out with a few Vivas!, and everybody’s happy” (15). A Marxist critic could view this as an insufficient degree of loyalty to their ideal; for example, the narrator rejects the classical Marxist conception of history as a linear progression; the belief that history is “like a scratched record, always repeating itself” (10) is the text’s most prominent theme. Alternately, however, a Marxist critic could argue the novel’s condemnation of economic inequality and political repression to be adapting Marxism to an era dealing with its imperfect application.

  10. A Marxist critic would approach this text by first looking into the main character’s situation. From reading the text alone, it suggests a class system divided by what you can “provide for the country,” income level, and race. Then the Marxist critic should take the information gained from the characterization and look at it from a historical context. This is not a text one could completely understand without any background/historical knowledge. For example, the main (unnamed) character lives in an impoverished neighborhood, with food rations and older technology. A Marxist critic could see the text as a criticism of Marxism and its faults. However, that does not mean the text is necessarily pro-capitalist. A Marxist could interpret this as perhaps a critique of Marxism as a whole or this particular form of Marxism in Cuba. Example: How under this form of Marxism does the system fail its people?

  11. A Marxist critic could view “33 Revolutions” as a product of a 90’s literary movement that was caused by the crisis in Cuba following the Berlin Wall destruction. To understand the author’s personal ideology apart from the collective, it is important to note his anarchist tone which reflects the inhibiting censorship issues present in Cuba at the time. Besides this, his grandfather, Che Guevara, and his legacy could haunt the voice of his work. Within the work, one could view the “scratched record” as a metaphorical manifestation of the base, showing the despair and alienation present in Cuban socialist society.

  12. Sanchez Guevara’s “33 Revolutions,” if viewed in the Marxist perspective, is a perfect example of the superstructures reaction to a faulty base. The base of this society is one controlled and censored by the government in certain ways. The reaction to this base, as observed by Guevara, is one of anarchist tendencies and also fear of death by the government. People, unable to conform to the corrupt class structure and limited resources, choose to risk death at sea and deportation once in America in order to leave this society (which is ironically a society that Karl Marx had advocated for). Guevara also observed in his own life the dullness and lack of creativity among the people of Cuba, and how gossip was the only way to hear the truth behind the government censorship (ironically). The base’s response to this insubordination is to silence the rebels and the anarchist in away that the public will never here about “officially,” and will most likely be taken over by a new base over time that will lead to a new superstructure and the cycle will start all over again.

  13. “33 Revolutions”, a novel by Sanchez Guevara, lends itself well to the perspective of Marxism. Set in Cuba after the Castro Revolution, Guevera depicts a base of a country that is rooted in the economic system of capitalism, which has slowly begun to deteriorate through the eyes of the novel’s narrator. Out of this unstable base comes a superstructure of fleeting nationalism, as well as friction from both the social and economic aspects of the narrator’s day-to-day life. An example of such friction can be seen in the narrator’s work life, as he comments on feeling “slightly more subordinate” (3) after being spoken to by his boss, highlighting the social hierarchies of the society that are much against the typical capitalist system. It is also important to note the physical differences between the narrator and his boss, as the narrator is described as skinny and nervous, and is often associated with the color black, as he is racially described. His boss, on the other hand, is described as having a double chin and a trombone-like voice, often associated with the color white as he wears a white button-up shirt to work. These differences would be important to a Marxist because they believe that a person is a direct reflection of their ailments, which would, in this case, suggest that the narrator is seen as weaker in his social role and could be seen as a more grimy, dirty person, whereas the boss is seen as in a more large, powerful role in society that is more crisp and clean.

  14. Applying a Marxist view to 33 Revolutions was a challenge that I believe I conquered. 33 Revolutions talks a lot about the working man and the working man’s struggles with race and social class because he is from Cuba. What stood out to me the most was reading this passage “Work, radio, news bulletins, meals, free time: I live in a scratched record, he thinks, and every day it gets a bit more scratched. Repetition puts you to sleep, and that sleepiness is also repeated; sometimes the needle jumps, a crackling is heard, the rhythm changes, then it sticks again. It always sticks again” (Guevara, 5) you can see Guevara uses a scratched record player as a metaphor in his daily life. Lastly, I believe the superstructure he incorporates is the music and art which he lets influence his life.

  15. When “33 Revolutions” is viewed through a Marxist lens, it takes a seemingly critical stance against the sort of politics Canek Sánchez Guevara grew up experiencing. He experiences being stereotyped because of his skin, the cops stopping him while running to the bus stop, with their reasoning being, “You know how it is. A black man running in the dark is always suspicious…” (28) Because of the oppression he faces based on his race and class, he views his and others in the the same position as being a “scratched record,” meaning their position in this socialist society is causing their days to be monotonous, repetitive, and stuck. They are stuck in the groove of this “record” and unable to move out of it and advance. This is a highly critical look at the Cuba the author grew up in, and shows the discontent of the normal citizens who had to experience this socialist government themselves.

  16. In reading Canek Sanchez Guevara’s “33 revolutions” a Marxist critic would approach the text in viewing the main character “he” to form the relationship between the base and infrastructure. “He” is a man used by Guevara to display the struggles of class and race whose life is far from that of the “masters” who are living wealthy lives depending on those of the lower class to do their work for them. The main character lives his life in troubling repetition of hardship which the scratched record is a metaphor of in a sense that history is always repeating itself. The fact that these people of color and lower class are having to experience this kind of socialist government first hand. a Marxist critic would view the text as a criticism to Marxism and its faults.

  17. Analyzing “33 revolutions” by Canek Sanchez Guevara shows a man who goes through class struggle and sees things as a “broken record”, a common theme throughout the book. In a Marxist point of view, you can begin to see differences in class rank and conditioned ideas of needing materialistic things. There are people who think they deserve a better life, and bosses who dictate their workers’ lives, an idea of a “master” who oversees a “slave to monotony”. The main character’s view allows us to see this superstructure of music and drinking he connects to which allows him to get away from his monotonous life in his community.

  18. In Guevara’s “33 Revolutions”, the base is revealed through the mind of a black Cuban man in the Castro Revolution. Because of his race and role in society, he is overlooked personally by others. We know that because of what the cops told the man in the 8th chapter, “You know how it is. A black man running in the dark is always suspicious.” The man is discouraged by humanity and constantly is reassured by the actions that he encounters is like a scratched up record. A scratched up record is seen as this constant distraction, waste of time, and an on-going pain. This man is clearly lacking hope in everything: in humanity, beauty in life, and in himself.
    From the very beginning we infer that the speaker is living a worrisome life through a “storm.” He sees himself as empty while everything around him is falling apart.
    People are also being heard like records but every “record” is too loud, too noisy, and unpleasing to hear all at once. Politically, we see an uprising: communism.

  19. When viewing Guevara’s 33 Revolutions as a marxist critic, an identifiable base would be the Communist society of Cuba. The descriptions and dialect used by the narrator leads readers to believe that this society is causing the superstructure, or the lack of individuality within the society’s people. Guevara’s use of repetition relays the idea that Cuban people at this time were drained of themselves and simply going through the motions, as set up by the base idea of all people being equal in the Communist society. The narrator notes, “Everyone talks at the same time, more than usual, echoing the buzzing of bumblebees…” (Guevara, 21). The comparison of people talking in the streets to the buzzing of bees evokes a feeling of unity and indistinguishable ness, which adds to the idea of lack of self within the society. The frustration that the narrator feels for this way of life is evident in the description he gives, and his feeling would not exist without the implementation of the Communist system.

  20. For me, both a Marxist and a formalist perspective worked well within their own individual spheres. From a formalist perspective, I took 33 Revolutions as the character’s cry to be heard: his desires for independence and thoughts of freedom make a boisterous sound in the world of a revolving record. From a Marxist perspective, I saw the class struggles of indifference, poverty, inequalities, and blatant racism: indeed, 33 Revolutions leaves a powerful message, whether aesthetic or a cry for social equivalence, no matter which lens one views it from.

  21. For me, both a Marxist and a formalist perspective worked well within their own individual spheres. From a formalist perspective, I took 33 Revolutions as the character’s cry to be heard: his desires for independence and thoughts of freedom make a boisterous sound in the world of a revolving record. From a Marxist perspective, I saw the class struggles of indifference, poverty, inequalities, and blatant racism: indeed, 33 Revolutions leaves a powerful message, whether aesthetic or a cry for social equivalence, no matter which lens one views it from.

    Note: I did not know if my last comment posted correctly; I apologize if this is repetitive.

  22. In what I have gathered from Marxist theory, it has everything to do with the world around the author in relation to the text. In that understanding, Marxist Theory on “33 Revolutions” would focus heavily on the race and social inequality in Cuba during the period discussed. It would be critical of the near Marxist system that was in place during the period, but would not necessarily be for a capitalist system. As others around me have stated, a lot of this novella looks at and critiques the inequalities of post-revolutionary Cuba, and a Marxist may look at that with critiques of their own.

  23. A marxist critic would love “33 Revolutions”. The author, Canek Sanchéz Guevara, is a critic of totalitarian regimes, specifically Castro’s regime in Cuba. He believed that the people should not be under the oppression of any sort of government. You see this in “33 Revolutions” when the protagonist launches a counter revolution and says he isn’t “going to suppress anyone”. Speaking of the protagonist himself, he seems to be the ideal marxist hero. We know he’s black and cuban, which makes him a minority, so we know he’s definitely not in a position of power. We know he doesn’t have a very prestigious job, so that also means he’s not an elite member of society. But we don’t know his name, which means he could really be anyone. This protagonist is trying to fix the broken record which keeps repeating itself, as Guevara repeatedly says, and from a Marxist perspective, that makes him a hero.

  24. Reading Guevara’s “33 Revolutions” in a Marxist perspective was not at all difficult as it was to read as though you are the narrator. This perspective fully envelops the tone of a gray and repetitive day as described by the “scratched record”. Guevara uses this to refer to the habituation of waking up, going to work, and repeat. The modern perspective of Cuba is a labor driven society that has oppressed the lower middle class. Ironically, the character’s parents had put their full beliefs into a new Cuba hoping for a change and instead are stuck inside the ideals of an oppressive government.

  25. In 33 Revolutions, Canek Sanchez Guevara, defines the base as the Cuban people and the superstructure as the Cuban government, showcasing this ever present class conflict. Incorporating these elements allows the reader to gain a better understanding of the Marxist elements within the text. Within the text, Sanchez Guevara uses symbolism of the “scratched record” that constantly repeats, which sheds light on the repetitive and continuous negative situation Cubans are in. Sanchez Guevara writes “Repetition puts you to sleep”, highlighting this idea that the cyclical nature of everyday Cuban life leads to a lack of full understanding regarding the injustices they face.

  26. Reading this gave me a sense of reaching, in that the main character was not a clearly defined person at the beginning especially since the main character is referred to as He. This could hint that the society does not view him as a person further supported by the blatant racism he faced from the police and the attitude in which the manager behaved toward He. I, also, found it interesting the emphasis put on books in the first half of the work. It seemed as though his education allowed him to see past the superstructure in which he dwelt to the distorted base that could no longer support a sense of complacency. The text was pregnant with frustration to the point of angst. His ears had not only grown tired of the record’s monotony, but also the sound had begun to offend him like any extraneous repetition tends due to no matter the circumstance or context.

  27. Through this text you could see the clear economic divisions that were played out in the literature. While comparing this to Howl there was a clear understanding of the Marxist view in 33 Revelations. It should how the economic divide in society can not only be displayed through economic means but also through race. While Marxist does immediately touch on this topic, the viewer understands how it can move towards it easily.

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