A little older and a little cultier, I’ve now given up on the fantasy of space colonisation. Despite a childhood filled with Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein, and Adams, I now see that humanity is too short on von Brauns and too long on repeating the mistakes of
history socialism for extra-planetary habitation to be a realistic objective this millennium, never mind this century. What I do foresee is the USSA cribbing every single last page from the USSR playbook,iii which brings us to, before long, 2086. So let’s put this in the perspective of automotive manufacturing with a few lines from the holy logs :
BingoBoingo: ;;google chevy bolt
gribble: Bolt EV Concept Car: The Future of EV | Chevrolet: http://www.chevrolet.com/culture/article/bolt-ev-concept-car.html; The Electric Chevrolet Bolt: This Is It Before You’re Supposed To See It: http://jalopnik.com/the-electric-chevrolet-bolt-this-is-pretty-much-it-1751258676; I drove the Chevy Bolt, GM’s electric car for everyone | The Verge: (1 more message)
BingoBoingo: ^ Tesla’s over
pete_dushenski: “Chevy Bolt to start at $37,500 before rebates.” Tesla is still ZiL,iv Bolt is now Trabant.v There’s room for both.
asciilifeform: Kinda funny how Americans laughed in ’50s-’60s re: Soviet cars costing a year of pay of average labourer there. Whereas now…vi
pete_dushenski: How the tables have turned.
In case you’ve ever wanted a crystal ball but were never much for gypsies with money braided into their hair, here’s a little preview of what the Tesla factory (NUMMI in California, specifically) will look like in 70 years. This Russian ZIL limousine factory circa 2013 is exactly, and I do mean exactly what Tesla workers have to look forward to in 2086vii :
And, of course, the obligatory robot readviii transcript :
The Last Russian Limousine – A film by Daria Khlestkinaix
Narrator : The first and largest carmaker in the Soviet Union, ZIL, made trucks by the millions for the socialist bloc. Its factories remain a city with the city of Moscow with its own railway and bus lines between the sites. One department produced limousines for Stalin, Brezhnev and other Soviet elite. ZIL limousines led the parades on Red Square ad their silhouette was known the world over.x In the 20 years since the collapse of the USSR, ZIL has not produced a single limousine.
Worker I : We show up, don’t really produce anything, just 2`000 trucks but still they pay us. We’re a bit like guards here. We come to work, don’t do anything just create an illusion of activity. It’s a miracle in itself that we’ve survived. The country is no more but ZIL is still alive ! Really, you should say this. The country is no more, but ZIL is alive. Alive, thanks to its people. Really, thanks to its people.
Vladimir, Chief Design Engineer : In January we assembled just one truck and even that is mine, a small order. In February and March, twenty. That’s a disaster really.
Mikhail Sattarow, Head of Custom Designed Automobiles : Good Morning. Everybody’s here already. First, back it up ! Turn, turn, turn ! Push and turn ! Push carefully, no rush ! Watch out for the bus !
Worker II : This drawing shows one of our limousines. A cabriolet. This car opened the Victory Day Parade on Red Square for 20 years… but here’s a model no one’s ever seen. They wanted to make one like this… with four doors.
Narrator : Now, unexpectedly, the Ministry of Defence order three new limousines for the Victory Day Parade. But the factory is a shadow of its former self, in no condition to fill such an order so fast.
Mikhail Sattarow : Of course we try not to change the appearance of the ZIL automobile. Even Nixon and Reagan admitted that of all government cars… the Soviet Union’s ZIL is the most recognisable. When a ZIL appears everybody knows, here comes a head of state. Of course the factory has declined and the economic situation in the country as a whole. so this really is a tremendously hard task… but we will reach our goal.
Narrator of old news reel clip : On national holidays, when Moscow workers display their achievements to the motherland… Moscow carmakers are the first to march in Red Square. “ZIL.” On 7 November 1924 the first ten Soviet trucks paraded on this square. Today workers at ZIL provide the motherland with a new truck every 108 seconds.
Andrei Demianov, Head of Foundry Number Two : So we worked and we produced and then… after Perestroika there was no demand any more. Everything fell apart. We supplies all the socialist countries, you see. Look at it objectively, Russia alone just doesn’t need so many car factories. How did the supply system work in Soviet times ? The factory didn’t make spare parts. That was policy.xi When your car breaks down, you get a new one. Friends at the warehouses told me this. But now, who needs these trucks ?
Nina, Foreman, Foundry Number Two : Hey you ! What are these ? “Rockets” ?
Worker III : Yes, “rockets”.
Nina : Good, I’ll take them to Misha then ! Let’s go ! Misha ! I’ll bring you a big crate of “rockets”. But don’t forget to count them ! Hey guys ! No slacking down there. You cannot imagine how hard it is to work with these Uzbeks.xii There used to be 40 people a shift working here. Three shifts a day ! In Soviet times, of course. And now there’s only Misha Sushkin here, hanging around like he owns the place. As long as I don’t see he’s not doing anything. Sushkin will do “rockets” tomorrow. Sergey, tell the boys to finish these “sockets”.
Sergey : Sure, sure they’re working on it.
Nina : Hey, and why there are so many discards ?
Sergey : It’s not our fault, there are holes in the metal.
Nina : Holes ? Or porosity ?
Sergey : Yes, holes. Yes, porosity. Yes Nina.
Nina : Ugh, the men are a bit slow here.
Liuda, Office Clerk, Foundries One, Two & Three : Hello.
New employee : Hello. What papers do you need from me ?
Liuda : Tomorrow is your first day at work, right ?
New employee : Right.
Liuda : Umed-Chon ?
New employee : Yeah, Umed-Jon.
Liuda : Chon ?
New employee : Jon.
Liuda : Here it says “Chon” !
New employee : Yes, Chon.
Liuda : Your boot size ?
New employee : Size 42, I think. 41 !
Liuda : Sure ?
New employee : Sure.
Friend of new employee : He doesn’t know himself.
Liuda : Oh Lord.
New employee : Fuck, I don’t know.
Liuda : You know what’s interesting. No matter what nationality… the all swear only in Russian ! Whatever nationality, they only swear in Russian !
New employee : Yes. You took the small paper, yes ?
Liuda : Yes, the small one stays with me. Tomorrow you all have to be here at 10:30. No, at 10:00. You all have to come here and I will give you vouchers for food and milk. But if you’re late, I will not give you any vouchers.
New employee : We’ll go hungry ?
Liuda : Yes, because I need to close the books.
Andrei Demianov : Hello ! What’s been sent out ? Yes, that’s me ! All right then ! I am not sleeping, I’m working, fuck it ! It’s your cocksuckers who are sleeping, fuck it ! Good to know it’s been sent ! No doubt they’ve sent us complete shit again. We’ll test it now. OK.
Assistant : What was that ?
Andrei : Our colleague, Bodrov.
Nadia, Supplies Clerk, Foundries One to Three : Do you have permission for new boots ? No ! Why come to me then ?
Worker IV : Look here, Senorita, these boots hurt my feet. You said when a new pair came in, you’d give me them.
Nadia : I can’t give you new boots just like that ! They must be issued.
Worker IV : But I brought you the old ones. Showed you my raw feet. Remember, my size wasn’t in. The old ones, not the new ones. I brought you the old ones, the used ones I got… they hurt and I brought them back.
Nadia : I have new boots but you need a ticket for them, I can’t give them as a present !
Worker IV : I’m not asking for new boots, I just brought you the old ones and you said…
Nadia : And now what, you want the old ones back ?
Worker IV : Yes ! No, they were like wood.
Nadia : You’ve tried all my boots already ! Your feet are non-standard, what can I do ? What is your time card number ?
Worker IV : 5703
Nadia : I’m fed up with you. Boots ! You received boots in January, used ones, it’s true. Why doesn’t Liuda give you a ticket for new boots ? He got boots in January, isn’t he entitled to new ones yet ?
Liuda : no, only every six months or I won’t get anything else approved.
Worker IV : But these used ones tore up my feet. I returned them but there weren’t any others.
Nadia : What’s your size anyway ?
Worker IV : 42.
Nadia : I don’t have a used 42 now, not even temporarily. But I can give you a 43.
Worker IV : 43 will be too big. I’ll just come back another time. [Tries boots on.] I told you they wouldn’t fit. These non-standard feet of mine. Non-standard.
Engineer I : Yesterday, when we lifted the cab and started the engine… the truck took off. Just put itself in gear. It’s a good thing no one was standing in front of it. That’s how we work !
Engineer II : Don’t frighten people !
Our trucks drive all by themselves.xiii
Engineer : I’m not making excuses but you can hardly call it our design. It is not us engineers who design them, but the factory management.xiv They tell us what engine and cabin to use.
Engineer I : They should be just managers but they decide how the car will be made. They tell us, “We bought such-and-such, so you have to use it.”xv That’s how it goes.
Mikhail Sattarow, Head of Custom Designed Automobiles : Good morning. He looks like a dwarf in that hat.
Aronych, Foreman : Vladimir, today you will deal with the filter… and be sure to correct the mistake by the engineer.
Vladimir : Yes, I’ll correct it.
Aronych : Nikolai and Andrei, you take care of the trunk. I think it ought to be ready after lunch. OK, it’s time to work now ! Let’s roll !
Aronych : We used to have five years to make such a car, now they’ve given us only two. And on top of those five years I had 120 people working here in this section ! Whereas now I have only four. That’s why we recalled five of our best workers to help us build these limousines. This is Vladimir Vasilich. He has been working here over 30 years. Am I right ?
Vladimir : Since 1977.
Aronych : Yes 1977. He makes these parts. They’re unique, you really couldn’t make them yourself. Now look at this shape. It’s part of the window frame. Please have a closer look ! The shape, do you see this shape ? We used to get them from the press room. But since everything has collapsed now, we make them ourselves. You see ? It’s unique, this shape.
Foreman : He invented this part himself. He invented it. This is for the bumper. The engineers couldn’t come up with anything… so Vladimir Vasilich [pointing to Vladimir Nekhoroshev] invented it himself. This here is Andrei Potapov. His photograph is in the ‘Hall Of Fame’. When we asked him to come back, he came. Thanks to him the whole body was assembled. And here we have Victor Malikov. We could talk about him for two days, three days. He’s very unique. We have a lot of unique workers here but he is the most unique.
Nadia : You really think I can carry all those sacks ? What are we, labourers ? Listen, I have 50 pairs of shoes there and 1`000 gauntlets… and 500 gloves ! You think I’m a packhorse ?
Admin : Are you planning to do any work ?
Worker V : We are, if you’ll give us some work clothes. Where would I get them, if there aren’t any ?
Admin : I don’t care ! If there is something in the laundry room, I’ll dress you. If not, complain to your boss. There are no boiler suits left and they still hire new people. What can I do ? Dressing these pretentious guys is no easy task. Of course I’ve already given away everything I had. If I could only find a jacket that looked good with these trousers.
Nina : Don’t you understand Russian at all ?
Worker VI : No, he doesn’t.
Nina : He doesn’t understand ? And how is he going to take this check-up ? How is he going to manage ?
Worker VI : We’ll go together.
Nina : Have you already started working ? No ? I thought I’d seen you before. Mind you, the doctors aren’t going to pamper him. They’ll probably read him the riot act.
Work has got hard here. Compared to the way things were, it’s hard now. No drivers, no crane operators, no nothing. There are hardly any real workers left, most of them are just temporary migrants. They live from one day to the next, picking up the odd job. We’re lucky if they turn up at all. Back home, they’re made to believe they’ll earn a 1`000 USD a month. 1`000 USD ! That’s 30`000 roubles and for that you’d have to work a full shift, five days a week !xvi But here they find out things are different. And then it starts : “We don’t feel well today.” “I have a pain here, a pain there.”
Worker VII : Great job !
Worker VIII : Liuda, give me some lunch vouchers, please.
Liuda : No. 2711. How many vouchers shall I give you for the rest of this month ?
Worker VIII : Give me five. Yes, five.
Liuda : Will you be able to eat them before the end of the month ?
Worker VIII : I’ll eat them. Yes. I’ll eat them.
Liuda : I don’t want any vouchers left over at the end of the month. All right ?
Worker VIII : You’re not going to take them back ?
Liuda : Who’s that ?
Worker VIII : The left over vouchers.
Liuda : Lunch vouchers ? Read what’s written there. You can exchange them for bread. No 2802. Did you come by youself ?
Worker IX : Yes.
Liuda : No. 2802. One, two…
Worker X : Thank you.
Liuda : No. 2819. You’re here with a group, right ?
Worker XI : Yes.
Worker XII : I didn’t get any vouchers for milk this month.
Liuda : Time-card number ?
Worker XII : 3417.
Liuda : No. 3417. And ? […]
Worker XIII : We’re all dirty, don’t film.
Worker XIV : Here’s my food voucher.
Kitchen staff : Good. Next one. Next one. Ok…two more…three.
Mikhail Sattarow : Good morning ! Ah, well done. Can we take this apart by two or three o’clock ? Don’t interrupt ! I am asking him ! Yes or no ? Look, if you do it like this, it gets stuck here.
Worker XV : I know, I know.
Mikhail Sattarow : Wait, wait. What connects with what ? This must be fixed today. Look, this dashboard goes in there. And you see ? Is there something to hold on to here ? If not, we have to redo it. Tomorrow ? It must be painted tomorrow.
Worker XVI : I told him. He said all will be ready tomorrow.
Mikhail Sattarow : Tomorrow or by tomorrow ? I’ve been pressing him for two days already. today is the very last day. [On the phone] Tomorrow the car has to be painted, otherwise we just won’t make it in time ! Hello ! That’s him ! Sanych, what’s this about finished tomorrow ? Tomorrow the car has to be painted already !
Sanych : No, no, no, Mikhail, wait ! I’ll be there in 10 minutes !
Mikhail Sattarow : I’ll see you there in 10 minutes. Let’s put a mark here. Yes, on both sides. So that we don’t forget.
Worker XVII : Is this the cable for the rear gear or not ? Where is the end of the cable, I can’t see it. You won’t get any lunch today.
Worker XVIII : No, he already had bananas for lunch.
Worker XVII : I haven’t had my bananas yet today.
Worker XVIII : What’s it again ? There are six thing you should eat when you’re old to improve your eyesight. Grapefruit, pistachios, blueberries, carrots. Now what’s this ?
Worker XVII : I don’t have a clue.
Andrei Demianov : No sand ? You should have thought of that before ! Silence, silence, silence and now suddenly, when you have to start working, no sand ! What are you waiting for? Take a shovel to the basement, there’s as much sand as you want !
Worker XIX : But it’s all frozen there, the shovel is no use.
Andrei Demianov : No use ? You’re no use !
Narrator : PAYDAY
Worker XX : This girl should get more.
Worker XXI : Hooray !
Worker XXII : Advance : 3`050 roubles (100 USD)
Worker XXIII : And now the city of Moscow has given us money to cover our debts. Which is also bad. Becase when they owe us money, it’s difficult for them to kick us out. But when they’ve paid our wages, they can say… “OK guys, what are you still doing here ? Bye-bye !” Chief Engineer of small production lines !
Mikhail Sattarow : Good morning. [In a meeting] I just don’t understand how this is possible. There are only four people on the job and yet we manage to get a scratch on a car that needs to be finished in a rush. Nobody, apart from the painters, should even come near it. Yesterday morning there was no scratch on the read left. We are ruining our own work but want to be paid every day ! And now we have to paint it again. Another week’s delay !
Narrator : AUTHORISED PERSONNEL ONLY
Mikhail Sattarow : Larissa, tape this to protect it from the glue. Today you’ll stay overnight !
Worker XXIV : Yesterday you had a rest. Now it’s your turn !
Worker XXV : OK then.
Worker XXIV : I was planning to go out of town.
Worker XXV : I’ll stay with him too.
Mikhail Sattarow : I’ll buy you a couple litres of energy drink and you’ll hope around like Asterix and Obelix.
Worker XXIV : No, I prefer beer and a little feta cheese.
Worker XXV : Ha, he likes his feta !
Mikhail Sattarow : No, beer makes you sleepy !
Worker XXIV : Not me.
Head Designer : I fall asleep after the third beer.
Worker XXIV : After the third already ?
Mikhail Sattarow : Yes, especially after lunch.
Worker XXIV : I could understand if you’d said three litres.
Mikhail Sattarow : Look, I can drink ten litres if I want. Do you want to test me ? When the car is finished, we’ll have a party.
Worker XXIV : OK, that’s a deal !
Worker XXVI : OK, it’s almost finished, we just have to make this little bracket.
Mikhail Sattarow : This little bracket ! And who is going to make it ? That’s why I’m calling Aronych. The working day is over, are you going to make it yourself ?
Worker XXVII : Fuck, I don’t understand this fucking system !
Mikhail Sattarow : Gleb calls this, ‘all according to plan.’
Worker XXVIII : Are you going to stay overnight with us ?
Worker XXIX : Are you kidding ?
Worker XXVIII : I’m not asking, I know you’re going to.
Worker XXIX : No ! I’m giving notice and going camping !
Worker XXVIII : Now, you are really being a communist here.
Worker XXIX : Fuck you with your communism ! We had an entire month and now for some reason I have to do it urgently ! I can’t understand this !
Worker XXX : So, do your hands still remember how to make this ? OK, drill the next one, size 6.
Worker XXXI : Here, let me finish it, let me do it. Thank you for your help.
Worker XXX : What did they say to you ?
Worker XXXI : Everyone is too busy there.
Worker XXX : Where are you going ?
Worker XXXI : to the sander.
Admin : this boiler suit will do until it catches fire. Until you learn how to cast, it’ll catch fire. Boots, I’ve given you. Now the helmet. This helmet is all right, just wash it. OK ? OK ? Just wipe it off and you can work. When I get a new helmet and visor, you can exchange it. OK boys, now you have everything you’ve signed for. Boots, visor, and helmet.
Worker XXXII : Liuda, I have a question for you.
Admin : Why did you come to me, if you need Liuda ?
Worker XXXII : Liuda’s sitting with you, isn’t she ?
Liuda : Who told you I was here ?
Worker XXXII : I recognised your voice ! Now what I wanted to ask you was… coul you exchagne my boss’ smock for a smaller size ?
Admin : I don’t care if it’s the boss, I have only one and it’s a size 56, Sasha.
Worker XXXII : No problem.
Admin : It is the only men’s smock I have. I’d prefer not to dress the bosses at all when our workers don’t have anything to wear.
Nina : Raya, don’t do it like that !
Raya : But the tray is moving away.
Nina : Let me show you ! Wait ! Wait ! Wait ! There is one more tray coming, wait ! Take this stick and use it ! And don’t smoke here.
Worker XXXIII : [Gathered at dining table] Nina, a full glass for you ?
Nina : Not a full one, but go on.
Worker XXXIV : Mikhailovna ! Nina !
Worker XXXV : Stand up ! Stand up, Galina, come on ! OK, Nina. Happy birthday to you ! Here’s to your health, happiness and success ! May you work for many more years ! We love working with you.
Nina : Another 40 years ? I’ll be over 100 then !
Worker XXXV : We’ll work till they send us home !
Nina : We’ll all quit at once.
Worker XXXV : Health above all !
Worker XXXVI : Hey, you’re still young, you ought to work for many more years ! Well, we all love you !
Worker XXXV : Year, we love you very much !
Nina : OK, my loves, cheers !
Worker XXXVII : Nina, to many more happy working years together !
Worker XXXVIII : Yes, many years ! Good !
Mikhail Sattarow : [In meeting] There is an awful lot to do still. So be prepared to work 24 hours a day. Those who are on the job and those with unfinished work. What else was I going to say ?
Mikhail Sattarow : [On shop floor] Guys, stop working, it’s half past eight ! Let’s eat now ! The food is getting cold ! [Eating McDonald's] Anatoly, come over here, there’s food. Also, there’s still a problem with one of the seats. Something still doesn’t fit.
Mikhail Sattarow : Victor ! Sasha ! Let’s fix this now !
Worker XXXIX : What are ou hanging around here for ? Go and have some sleep. If you’re needed, we’ll wake you up.
Mikhail Sattarow : Dima ! What’s going on over there ?
Dima : I’m not needed there any more.
Mikhail Sattarow : Go and help where you can.
Worker XXXX : You pushed my shoes under the car. You fucking overslept.
Worker XXXIX : I overslept ? Are you fucking mad ?
Worker XXXX : You slept so fucking much.
Worker XXXIX : OK, how much did I sleep ?
Worker XXXX : At least four hours, I think.
Worker XXXIX : You think four hours is a lot for a [fat] guy like me ? I sleep that much after lunch.
Worker XXXX : Lunch break is fifty minutes, how can you sleep four hours ?
Worker XXXIX : I sleep after lunch at home.
Worker XXXX : Ah, at home.
Mikhail Sattarow : Wrap it up, guys, wrap it up ! We still even have to trim it !
Worker XXXXI : [While installing windshield] A bit more to the right ! Here, here !
Worker XXXXII : Where ? Now you hit it !
Worker XXXXIII : It’s coming a bit loose here.
Mikhail Sattarow : Lower the window pane please ! Rudolph, could you lower the window please ! The right one, the right one ! Now the left one. And now together. Can you do that ? Let’s go ! Again ! The front one. Now the rear.
Worker XXXXIII : It’s OK.
Mikhail Sattarow : No it’s not OK !
Andrei Demianov : [Opening window in office] You’ll poison me one day with your cigarettes.
Admin : [Sewing uniforms] Here we can still put a patch on. Oh, it works ! Come on, my girl ! My good girl ! I was cursing at her [sewing machine] last time and she doesn’t like that. You are my clever girl ! You know how to sew, don’t you ?
Worker XXXXIV : Be careful not to drop it. Aha, it works ! Raise it [convertible top] till the end. Switch it on !
Worker XXXXV : [Honking horn] A good, deep-voiced sound.
Mikhail Sattarow : OK, this is the second car, right ? Everything is fine. [To cat] Don’t you dare !
Narrator : At the last minute, without explanation,xvii the order is cancelled. There will be no parade on Red Square for these new ZIL limousines.
Mikhail Sattarow : Some people benefit from these reports that ZIL produces no truck any more. Or anything really. So how could it make limousines for the parade ? Well, we just made three brand new cabriolet limousinesxviii From the beginning, this wasn’t a commercial project for us, but purely a question of prestige. To see our limousines on Red Square again. Commercial interestes were second, or not at all. The important thing for us was to build the cars to be in the Victory Day parades.
Narrator : In 2013 ZIL all but ceased to exist. Its remaining workers were sent home. Its site has been swallowed by the city of Moscow.
___ ___ ___
- FTR, I’m still unafraid. Some things change with age, some don’t. [↩]
- As was also described in my retrospective on my six years in the car blogosphere. [↩]
- From retarded agents on downwards. [↩]
- To wit, from one of my Qntra articles :
Reports are in that Tesla Motors, the explicitly green-washed and implicitly USG-backed electric car company, is struggling to meet California’s strict nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions standards (archived). Readers will recall that this is in fact the same air pollutant that embroiled German carmaker Volkswagen in its recent “dieselgate” scandal.
Tesla’s egregious emissions appear to be linked to their Fremont, California plant’s natural gas incinerator, which is used to burn off 10 million BTU per hour of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) produced by the on-site paint shop, specifically the “truck” shop that is being equipped to produce the muchly delayed Model X gullwinged SUV. This Model X related issue is just the latest in an essentially uninterrupted series of problems for the luxury carmaker from its inception through to present day.
Not that potential buyers, nor those already on the waiting list, need fret too much, their
ZiLTesla will arrive eventually, they just might have to be a bit more patient.
- Before the Bolt, the Tesla was the Trabant. From The heir apparent :
Midwives in Alberta used to be a $4k-a-pop luxury item but they’ve recently come under the “legitimising” purview of Alberta Health Services, that bureaucratic disease industry monopoly. In praxis, this means that the ~100 midwives in the province are not for sale at any price, there’s just… a waiting list. So if you’re lucky, you’re lucky, and if not, too bad so sad. Y’know like for a
TrabantTesla or a rent-controlled apartment in Soviet Moscowlatter-day New York.
No more. Government Motors has swept the feet out from under the rowdy upstart. Sorry Elon. Guess there’s no such thing as social mobility after all. Not any more than there are fully autonomous vehicles in your future, at any rate. [↩]
- The US Department of MiniTruth and its affiliates will happily tell you that the mean salary in the US is $45`000 per year or thereabouts. With a straight face even. The bastards. Anyways, when you factor in a (generous) labour participation rate (which includes unemployed workers just looking for work) of 60%, your mental calculator will reveal that, indeed, that average salary is closer to $27`000. Oh shit, the average American is already paying more than one year’s salary for their next* car ! Shitfuckcuntpissnoonecouldvepredicted !
*What, you think the USSA is just going to let you drive from state to state, just like that ? Electric cars are the mandated future, because climate ! Nevermind that you already need a passport (that can be revoked at a moment’s notice because reasons) but now your “getaway” car needs to stop in every town. Overnight. To recharge. Myeah. Sounds like a blast. From the past. [↩]
- H/T to Jim for the link. [↩]
Like that. Except I’m the robot. I mostly kept track of the main characters, but there’s an excellent chance that Worker XXXII and Worker XIV are the same person, among others. But whatever, not like they’re people anyways. You’ll get the point all the same. And if you don’t think that’s the case, spend 47 minutes watching the video and leave your corrections you-know-where. Idem if you have a better translation than whatever two-bit dummy Al-Jazeera hired. [↩]
- Filmmaker’s View by Daria Khlestkina, from the accompanying Al-Jazeera article :
This Last Russian Limousine was inspired by an old university project entitled “I am a worker”, which my former film school teacher Marina Razbezhkina introduced me to.
She had asked her students to investigate what had become of the working class, who used to be talked about so much during the Soviet period but disappeared from TV screens in the new capitalist Russia.
Being of one of the last generations which had grown up in the Soviet Union, the idea appealed to me. But I wanted to make a film about workers and what had become of the working class in Moscow, a major industrial centre in Soviet times. Now it was a quintessentially post-industrial town of offices, banks, executives, civil servants and entertainment industries.
What is left of Moscow’s industries is either on the brink of bankruptcy or slated for relocation to outside the city limits.
My idea was to film at one of these factories how people dealt with the fundamental changes to their lives brought by the closure of the factory. My eye soon fell on the ZIL automotive plant, a flagman of Soviet industry which churned out millions of trucks for the entire Soviet bloc but also produced the trademark ZIL limousines for Soviet leaders which traditionally opened the Victory Day military parades on Red Square.
My interest only intensified when I read in the paper that for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union the factory had received an order to build 3 of these limousines, to take part in the Victory day parade of military hardware which had only just been reinstated by Putin.
Gaining access was not easy and the press service had absolutely no intention of letting documentary filmmakers in. But I managed to get in without a camera. For about 2 months I roamed the factory grounds, poked my nose around the different shops and struck up acquaintances, some of whom are among the main characters of the film. Eventually I managed to obtain all the necessary paperwork, not without some help of the people I had met at ZIL, who had come to like the idea of the film. In the winter of 2010 we started shooting.
As we started filming I soon realised that this was a story much larger than the factory or even the working class. What we witnessed at ZIL was the death of a civilisation. Whereas in my immediate environment the Soviet Union had swiftly disappeared during my youth and early adulthood, at ZIL we captured the final stages of a slowly drawn-out process of decline, a process which had set in at that very same time, over twenty years ago.
Once an example of Soviet industrial might, the factory was now unprofitable and unable to exist in the new circumstances. The workforce had been greatly reduced and replaced by unskilled, cheap migrant labour from the former Soviet republics. The factory’s continued existence depended above all on the protection of Moscow authorities and the efforts of a handful of aging specialists and engineers who had dedicated most of their life to the plant, which is still a great source of pride to them.
This film had to be about their drama. Imagine that everything you have stood for and achieved in your work is now suddenly worthless;* that is what happened to Mikhail, Nina, Andrey, Nadia and Vladimir.
People grew up in one system and under the new realities everything became different. This film is about people who want to feel needed, who want to do something that makes sense, but the more they try, the less sense it makes. Whereas the limousine order initially provided a spark of hope, the actual production of the 3 cars and everything that accompanies it cruelly exposes the many problems, falling standards, and declining expertise at the factory.
In the end the order only brings disillusion, as it is cancelled at the very last moment, when the limousines are ready to be driven out to the parade. Not only the out-dated trucks it produces, but even ZIL’s handmade limousines turn out to be no longer needed.
The absurd and the tragic are never very far apart in Russia and this offers the key to understanding how people cope with change, uncertainty and hardship. Nothing but the great characters portrayed in this film could better illustrate this insight.
*Indeed. This is an excellent point for any average Americans who happen to have stumbled upon these pages and into these footnotes. You’d do well to meditate very, very intently on the very, very real possibility that everything you stand for and currently think you’re “achieving” in your work will soon be worthless. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. [↩]
- Very much like China’s Hongqi is aiming to do today. [↩]
- Oh you think Apple invented planned obsolescence ? [↩]
- L0L! [↩]
- OMIGERD YOU MEAN GOOGLE DIDN’T EVEN INVENT THE SELF-DRIVING CAR ?? IMPOSSIBRU !!1 [↩]
- Just like Toyota. [↩]
- Sounds a bit like ~every~ other modern electronics manufacturer, doesn’t it ? To quote :
While it’s certainly the case that (Tier-X) component suppliers (ie. of microphones, speakers, LED screens, gyroscopes, CPUs, etc.) make such production targets and are largely bound to them by the simple size of the capital investment, what comes out the other side and into the consumer’s home is rarely confined to the initially intended market segment simply on account of fundamentally unpredictable market demand. Do you know which pair of Allen Edmonds you’ll wear the last Friday of next February ? It’s for the same reason that economic predictions are so fragile and so painful when they go wrong, as the Ukrainians under Stalin found out only too well.
So whereas the aforementioned components might have originally been intended for smartphones, as demand for such devices peaks and then ultimately wanes, those component supplies, with the help of the front-line companies we know and love, will simply invent themselves whole “new” classes of products that are really product lines that previously existed (ie. cars, watches, TVs, etc.) but are now sold as “feature-enhanced”, “connected”, and “smart” devices, when in fact they’re little more than dumping grounds for (mostly) Chinese component manufacturers who’ve achieved such economies of scale and have so much skin in the game that they must offer their widgets to vendors for “almost free.” The net result is that the product market of almost every consumer category is flooded with so much pointlessly “improved” crud that it’s damn near impossible (and if not yet, it will be before long) to buy a basic dishwasher with a manually rotating settings dials that will last for 30 years, for example.
- That’d work out to about USD$ 6.00 per hour, which is serious money pretty much everywhere in the world. Chinese car factory workers make about 1/4 that, for which they show up every day, on time, come hell or high water, whether or not their first-born son died of typhoid the night before, whether or not they have brain cancer bleeding out their earholes. Because they’re fungible and they know it. This is also, incidentally, why your accountant is Chinese. [↩]
- The most plausible explanation is, of course, that the cars are lumps of shit welded together by apes and that Putin isn’t an idiot. [↩]
- A cabriolet limousine has a fully retractable roof and is therefore not to be confused with a “laundaulets,” in which the roof only retracts over the back seats, leaving the front seats covered at all times (unless there’s a sunroof). [↩]