Vladimir Mayakovsky and the Poetics of Hooligan Communism

Launch at Housmans bookshop  for Coiled Verbal Spring: Devices of Lenin’s Language. Introduction by Sezgin Boynik (Rab Rab Press, Helsinki 2018) 22 May 2018

Dave Black

As Darko Suvin says in an afterword to this book, when the 2nd International collapsed at the outbreak of the First World War, Lenin retreated to the library in Geneva where he read Hegel for three months, after which he analysed the world situation and, a couple of years later, went back to Russia to organise the October Revolution.

110 years earlier Hegel said of the Enlightenment Spirit that produced the French Revolution:

“Enlightenment upsets the household arrangements, which spirit carries out in the house of faith, by bringing in the goods and furnishings belonging to the world of here and now.”

The Enlightenment is the negative which “brings to light its own proper object, the ‘unknowable absolute Being’ and utility.” If Kant was right and “God”  “unknowable” then whatever is divine essentially becomes privatised (as Marcuse, back in 1964, pointed out in One Dimensional Man, “spirituality” becomes commodified in the works of the guru of your “choice”). The absolute being becomes whatever produces the utilitarian “greatest happiness of the greatest number,” an idea which suits not only the ideologues of  the free market, but also of state-capitalism in the forms of social democracy and Stalinism.

As Walter Benjamin put it,

“Social Democracy thought fit to assign to the working class the role of the redeemer of future generations, in this way cutting the sinews of its greatest strength. This training made the working class forget both its hatred and its spirit of sacrifice, for both are nourished by the image of enslaved ancestors rather than that of liberated grandchildren.”

In post-Stalinist Russia, there are of course, few liberated grandchildren of the millions of people wiped out by Stalin’s regime. But before Stalinism there was great positive energy in the Russian revolutionary experience. As Russia was largely a peasant society, dominated for centuries by the Church, landlordism, poverty, and rural mafias, “everyday life” was a turgid back water which needed revolutionising. Having overthrown the old order, under the slogan, “Peace, Land and Bread”, Lenin announced that “Socialism is Soviets plus Electricity”; a definite case of “bringing in the goods and furnishings belonging to the world of here and now..

Coiled Verbal Spring: Devices of Lenin’s Language contains a selection of essays from 1924 by writers of the Left Front of the Arts (LEF), drawn from the schools of Futurism, Constructivism and Formalism. The editor, Sezgin Boynik, quotes the leading light of this group, the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky:

“…the revolution cast the rugged idiom of the millions out on the streets; the slang of the outer suburbs flowed across the avenues in the city centre; the enervated burbling of the intelligentsia with their vocabulary of castrated words like ‘ideal’, ‘principles of justice’, the ‘divine origin’, the ‘transcendental countenance of Christ and Anti-Christ’ – all this kind of talk, once mouthed in the restaurants, has been wiped out. A new element of language has been liberated. How is it to be made poetic?”

Mayakovsky knew exactly how. He wrote an essay entitled How Verses are Made, which anyone who fancies themselves as a poet needs to read, and not because they’ll necessarily find in it the encouragement they might be looking for. Mayakovsky generously lays out his trade secrets, but they are not for the faint-hearted. The true poet is a poet all the time, alert to the rhythms and sounds of everything that can be experienced, whether standing in the rain on Brooklyn Bridge, riding a rickety Moscow tramcar, making love, or dealing with the trauma of a comrade and fellow poet, namely Sergey Esenin, having committed suicide.

When Mayakovsky sent Lenin a poem he had published, entitled 150 Million, Lenin commented, “You know, this is a most interesting piece of work. A peculiar brand of communism. It is hooligan communism.”  To be a communist poet is to heed what Mayakovsky calls the “social command.” A poet must renounce the “production of poetical trifles”, have “thorough knowledge of theoretical economics, a knowledge of the realities of everyday life, [and] an immersion in the scientific study of history…”


“To fulfil the social command as well as possible you must be in the vanguard of your class… You must smash to smithereens the myth of an apolitical art.”

Mayakovsky’s identification with the “vanguard” was won in the harsh experience of revolution, famine and civil war. It is a far cry from the crazy logic of modern-day groupescules who think that, because their “line” on any given subject under heaven and beyond is more “correct” than that of any other groupescule, then they must be the vanguard.

Mayakovsky argues that “Poetry is a manufacture.” But, he warns, “You must not make manufacturing, the so-called technical process, an end in itself.”

There is thus a teleology in Mayakovsky’s aesthetic. In this sense he is a follower of Lenin in the true sense of  being a practising dialectician rather than a Lenin-ist. In 1924 he writes in protest against the canonisation of Lenin with mass-produced bronze statuettes and portraits. Mayakovsky does so because for him the Being of Lenin was, and remained, the Revolution. If you kill Lenin by making him into religious icon, you kill the Revolution by making a movement into a religion.

“Lenin is still our contemporary.

He is among the living.

We need him alive, not dead.


Learn from Lenin, but don’t canonise him.

Don’t create a cult around a man who fought cults his whole life.

Don’t sell the objects of this cult.

Don’t merchandise Lenin!”

What made the canonisation all the more deadly, was the fact that Lenin’s legacy is ambivalent. As Darko Suvin points out, before Lenin read Hegel in 1914, his main philosophical contribution had been the notorious Materialism and Empirio-Criticism which “opened the door to a quite untenable theory of arts and sciences subjectively ‘mirroring’ and objectively reality, that is, to a mechanical materialism later warmly espoused by harmful Stalinist inquisitors  into sciences and arts and amounting to a ban on radical innovation within Marxism quite uncharacteristic of Lenin’s own major achievements.”

And what is especially tragic is that the collection of the LEF articles in Coiled Verbal Spring ends with a quote by Stalin, supplied by Alexei Kruchenykh, which argues that the party leader, who is by definition infallible, can override the majority opinion of the party, Within a few years, Stalin would destroy the Left Front of the Arts and all it stood for, in favour of a reactionary school of resuscitated romanticism called “socialist realism.”

All of the writers in Coiled Verbal Spring survived the purges of the 1930s. But Mayakovsky shot himself in 1930, after which Stalin imposed on his legacy the same fate as he imposed on the legacy of Lenin; he was ‘canonised’ as the great poet of the Bolshevik Revolution.


This text first appeared in Militant Esthetix



Lockdown Xenochrony

“Xenochrony” is a musical technique associated with Frank Zappa, who coined the name from the Greek words xeno (strange) and chrono (time). According to Zappa, “In this technique, various tracks from unrelated sources are randomly synchronized with each other to make a final composition with rhythmic relationships unachievable by other means.”

Since the summer of 2020 the barbarism of pure culture has linked to archived weekly radio broadcasts from the Late Lunch with Out to Lunch show on Resonance 104.4 FM.

As in 2021 and the Covid Crisis and our favourite xenochronic musians are still alive and kicking, we are relaunching our support with the following links:

Ben Watson takes the Late Lunch House Band, honed via several years playing weekly at the Resonance studio and “xenochronically” during pandemic lockdown, to the Betsey Trotwood pub on Farringdon Road for a live session. The Lessons of Xenochrony are not forgotten, though, so you also get to hear the superb post-Bailey guitar of James Wilson of Music With My Insane Friend (“The Castro Eulogies (My Friend Fidel)” and “No Imagination (My Plastic Bottle Caught in the Strings)” from I Digress Indeed’s Retirement Music (SoundCloud, 2017) and “Leguminous Legroom Trio”  a xenochronic composition combining Peter Baxter “Pots, Pans & an Open Window” 14-vii-2021 8:13, Out To Lunch’s organ piece “Nachsteuererklaerungsjubel” and Robert “Sugarlips” Goldsmith’s “On Cloud Roland Nine”). Association of Musical Marxists All-Stars at the Betsey Trotwood 16-vii-2021: Peter Baxter – pots’n’pans and electronics; Guy Evans – percussion; Iris Watson – djembe hand drum, thunder tube, handclaps; Luke Davis – typewriter, poetry; Out To Lunch – vocals, thunder tube, handclaps, word jazz, yamaha organ, mix, xenochronics; Dave Black – electric guitar; Robert “Sugarlips” Goldsmith – sopranino sax, tenor sax, baritone sax.

Twang Verbal 26-v-2021

Xenochronic AMM All-Stars in order of appearance (not counting excerpts in the theme tune opener): Graham Davis – synth, electric guitars; Robert “Sugarlips” Goldsmith – saxophone; Out To Lunch – Splash’n’Klang, tap drip, recitation, xenochrony; Mike Watt – electric bass; Ben Moran Healy – acoustic guitar, electric guitar, recitation; Eleanor Crook – electric guitar, wah bass; Mike Watt – electric bass; Guy Evans – hybrid drumset.

0:00 Marc Guillermont’s “Make a Blues Noise Here” plus two excerpts from RSG’s “Response to Foistive Thirty Take One”; GE “Little of the Original Structure Remains” 0:29>>0:34; GD “Fat Bassist Ponders Life” 1:41>>1:56, 0:00>>0:22; GE “Posthorn Pat” 0:23>>0:53; OTL/BMH “Pesky Attic Dooda” 7:49>>8:16; OTL “Water3” 9-x-2018 4:06>>4:34 + EC/GD “Twixt the Shed & Here #3” 1:30>>1:59 4:30

4:59 Toilets or Marx – Don’t Make Me Choose (GD/RSG “Foistive Thirty Take One” 7:20>>10:15/OTL “Water3” 9-x-2018 13:26>>14:13/MW “Foist #12” 1:03 spaced) 3:13

8:46 Foistive Thirty feat. Robert “Sugarlips” Goldsmith on tenor sax (RSG/OTL “Tap Drip 12-iv-2021a” 8:47>>44:48/BMH “Biblical Rain” 4:17, “New Shapes Found in Hovel” 5:17/EC “Response to Iris & Finnegans Wake in London Zoo” 7-v-2022 10:48>>32:57/MW “Foists #112-118″/GE “Response to Here’s That Rainy Day” 2:25, “Response Chain (GE to EC) to PB’s One Splatter” 12:57>>32:03, “Response to EC’s Response to Beefheart Lecture 6&7” 0:27>>3:43/OTL “Splash’n’Klang” 10-vii-2018 1:51>>5:29) 35:51

45:35 Pesky Attic Dooda (BMH “Humped Dooda” (guitar), “June Attic Mildew” (voice)/OTL “Pesky Interim Fly” 23-v-2021/excerpts from “Splash’n’Klang” 4-xii-2018) 9:29

55:35 Shittin’ in a Bag … Again (BMH/OTL “Splash’n’Klang” 10-vii-2018b 1:51>>5:24) 4:38

Concerto for Graham


Xenochronic AMM All-Stars

Music assembled from contributions by AMM All-Stars during Covid-19 lockdown. Tracks 1-4 were extracted from Concerto for Graham, an hour (Late Lunch with Out To Lunch broadcast from Resonance 104.4FM 2-3pm 31-iii-2021) in which multi-instrumentalist Graham Davis (guitar, bass ukelele, vocals) responded to a collage put together by OTL. Tracks 6-7 were broadcast on The OTL Show (Soho Radio 8-9am 2-iv-2021): “Blob Stance” is an acoustic guitar improvisation by Ben Moran-Healy with responses from the Somers Town dawn chorus and OTL on piano and penny whistle; “I’m Bleeding Obedience” is a song by Peter Baxter with bass, Chapman stick and synth added by Jair-Rohm Parker Wells. “Clangs the Dearth in my Loins” (track 5), OTL performing Peter Baxter’s online review of Concert for Graham at the piano, is inedit jusq’ici.

All tracks by Xenochronic AMM All-Stars; in order of appearance: Graham Davis – electric guitar, bass ukelele; Out To Lunch – field recording of fireworks at Moss Hall School and dawn chorus in Somers Town, Splash’n’Klang, mouthnoise, piano, penny whistle, organ, xenochrony; Guy Evans – drums; John Roy – banjo; Ben Moran-Healy – guitar; Jair-Rohm Parker Wells – bass guitar, Chapman stick, synths; Mike Watt – bass guitar; Peter Baxter – vocals, drum machine, synth.


  1. GD/OTL/GE (sped-up)
  2. GD/OTL
  3. GD/JR
  4. OTL (“Tap Drip is Getting Faster” 29-iii-2021; “Organ Response to Mike Watt & Dave Black on 85th Street”)/BMH (“A Nimble Mop Is …”)/GE (“Sunday Piano Just Hybrid Kit 2:36>>7:20)
  5. PH (words)/OTL/JRPW/MW
  6. BMH/OTL
  7. PH/JRPW

Return of the Toby Jug 10-iii-2021

“Make a Blues Noise Here” from Marc Guillermont’s Zappostrophe) intercut with excerpts from: AMM All-Stars “Send Out Assent Dung”; Jair-Rohm Parker Wells “llcontrib060321a”; Dave Black “Blackheart Mountain”; Out To Lunch “Intimation” 11-vii-2020; Guy Evans “Sunrise Piano Response Hybrid Kit Response, Just Kit”; Eleanor Crook “Tiny Surf Hands Just Guitar (Clean Settings)”.

Compost Fetishisation 24-ii-2021

Topics audio esemplasm

LLWOTL 10 February 2010 <CLICK HERE

Xenochronic AMM All-Stars in order of appearance: Cloughie – electric bass; Mike Watt – electric bass; Out To Lunch – vocals, empty Turkish Delight box,Yamaha organ, Splash’n’Klang, djembe hand drum, xenochrony, announcements, master plan; Graham Davis – synth; Paul Shearsmith – trumpet; Eleanor Crook – violin, electric guitar; Guy Evans – hybrid drumset, wind capture; Robert “Sugarlips” Goldsmith – baritone sax, telephony; Peter Baxter – electronic devices; Ben Moran-Healy – acoustic guitar, semi-electric guitar.



LLWOTL 3 February 2021  <CLICK HERE

Polemic, politics, mouth jazz and spontaneous music with Ben Watson. Today: Out To Lunch and his crew address the current craze for sea shanties as Dave Black sings his version of the sea shanty “Haul Away Joe”, and sea water drips through strangely-possessed xenochronic realisations. With OTL on piano, djembe hand drum and xenochronics; Eleanor Crook on electric guitar and wah bass; Graham Davis on synth; Guy Evans at the drumset; Gareth Sager on various instruments.


#resonance fm #arts radio #london #late lunch with out to lunch #sea shanties


Margulis Forever 23-ix-2020

LISTEN HERE:The OTL Show 11-ix-2020

Episode of Ben Watson‘s Late Lunch with Out To Lunch dedicated to Lynn Margulis, the rebel biologist who lionised evolution via symbiosis and the lateral transfer of genes between species. Xenochronic AMM All-Stars in order of appearance: Jair-Rohm Parker Wells – Chapman Stick, electric bass, processing; Out To Lunch – voice, piano, Splash’n’Klang, poetry; Rob “Sugarlips” Goldsmith – sopranino and tenor saxophones; Graham Davis – synth; Eleanor Crook – violin, electric guitar; Guy Evans – drumset; Cloughie – electric bass; Dave Black – electric guitar; John Roy – synth. All played this week unless otherwise stated.

0:00 Marc Guillermont “Make a Blues Noise Here” plus Intimations 3:00
3:00 “Ribbed Rubbish” (OTL/R”S”G) 5:27
8:35 “Bass Response to Splash’n’Klang of Saturday 12-ix-2020″ (OTL/J-RPW) 7:32
10:24 “Violin Response to Ribbed Rubbish” (EC) 5:42
16:12 Internet Archive Robot reads Lynn Margulis 1:49
16:18 “Do We Have to Do It in Here?” (GD, slowed down -33%) 2:35
18:32 “Little Ted Murders his Elderly Neighbour” (GD)
19:01 “Vespertilionid” (EC/GE) 8:52
23:06 “Bass Bells” (C) 4:18
27:44 OTL on Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan’s Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Evolution from our Microbial Ancestors (1986) 1:50
29:34 OTL reads Margulis on spyrochetes 3:03
32:37 “Nine Seconds of Drum Samples” (GE) 0:09
32:46 “You Go to My Head meets Body & Soul” (DB/R”S”G) 3:45
36:19 “Korg’n’Drip 3” (OTL/J-RPW) 8:17
36:45 “Boing Craze Drip Threat” (OTL/DB) 7:45
39:42 “Procession of the Pocket Things” (EC) 6-ix-2020 4:17
44:25 OTL reads more Margulis on spyrochetes 1:01
45:25 “You Wouldn’t Want One in Your Ear” (GD) 2:02
45:59 “Guitruling Banjos” (DB/GD) 2:22
47:00 “Boingy Bonk” (C) 3:53
48:21 “Ogre Margulis” (OTL) 3:43
49:12 “Anal Probe” (GD) 2:03
49:56 “Jump Navel Asterix” (JR) 28-vii-2020 5:45
50:42 “Toy Drum Mutiny” (GE) 8:18
55:44 “The Vicar Insisted” (GD) 2:03
56:48 OTL reads Margulis on seawater 0:52
Factual Note: Margulis’s spyrochete theory, which generated some of the most colourful sentences of Microcosmos, has – unlike her symbiotic explanation of mitichondria and chloroplasts – not yet received corroboration by empirical research into the fossil and DNA record, although this is still ongoing. Modern spyrochete whips do not exhibit the “9 x 2” structure which characterises sperm tails and cilia in multicellular organisms.

The OTL Show is an hour of Internet DJing by Ben Watson on Soho Radio. This was a prerecord because the studio was closed due to coronoavirus lockdown, and was broadcast at 8am on Friday 11-ix-2020.

LISTEN HERE: Groove vs. Squeeze 26-viii-2020

Xenochronic AMM All-Stars in order of appearance: Peter Baxter – tabletop percussion; Out To Lunch – announcements, field recording, Splash’n’Klang, Google Gargle, piano, Korg ribbon synth, xenochrony; Ben Moran Healy – electric guitar; Guy Evans – drumset; Rob “Sugarlips” Goldsmith – tenor saxophone; Cloughie – electric bass; Graham Davis – Ladybird recitation, “WPLJ”; Eleanor Crook – electric guitar; Dave Black – acoustic guitar, vocals, harmonica, “Back Back Train” and “Jitterbug Swing”; Charlotte Whelan – tape deck fanny pack; John Roy – banjo.

Title Credit: Bob Cobbing, Lawrence Upton and Christopher Nolan

Image: “Painstaking Accretion” Out To Lunch, Doodle Buddy on Eleanor Crook photograph of oak fungus 29-viii-2020


DANburst of Dreams 2-ix-2020

By Xenochronic AMM All-Stars

Xenochronic AMM All-Stars in order of appearance: Cloughie – electric bass; Guy Evans – drumset, trumpet; Eleanor Crook – electric guitar; Graham Davis – jingles, synth; Out To Lunch – piano, readings from J. H. Prynne’s Squeezed White Noise, Splash’n’Klang, google gargle, announcements, xenochrony; Jessica Harper – rhythm mashes; Dave Black – bottleneck guitar; Peter Baxter aka The Baxterium “With Beyonce in the Bayou”, acid synth, percussion.

Drip Hop UK 12-viii-2020

Xenochronic AMM All-Stars in order of appearance: Peter Baxter aka The Baxterium – tabletop percussion, sound montage, “Does Anyone Have an Onion?”, “How To Escape a Place with Scree Walls”; Graham Davis – synth, “Mwaaaah”, “Scree”, “Tinkle”; “Sweep”; Out To Lunch – Splash’n’Klang, piano, announcements, xenochrony; Jair-Rohm Parker Wells – double bass; Eleanor Crook – electric guitar; Ben Moran Healy – electric guitar, Melodica, spoon’n’cup; Rob Jones – synth; Rob Goldsmith – sopranino saxophone; Guy Evans – drumset; John Roy – semi-electric guitar.

Groovy Fidget Muffin Rule 5-viii-2020

Xenochronic AMM All-Stars in order of appearance: Out To Lunch – piano, rural mouthnoise, Korg ribbon synth, acoustic guitar, xenochrony, urbane announcements; Ben Moran Healy – electric guitar, acoustic guitar, snuffles; Rob Jones – synth, Melodica, spoon’n’cup; Jessica Harper – harp; Graham Davis – jingles, synth; Paul Hession – drumset; Eleanor Crook – electric guitar, electric bass, pedal steel; Cloughie – electric bass; Dave Black – acoustic guitar, harmonica; Jair-Rohm Parker Wells – double bass; Guy Evans – samples, drumset; John Roy – baby hand drum, synth; Roy Castle – postponed.

Rhythmically Speaking 29-vii-2020


by Ben Watson

Iain Sinclair: Poetry with the AMM All-Stars on Resonance FM

Iain Sinclair reads extracts from his poem Fifty Catacomb Saints accompanied by Peter Baxter – percussion; Robert Goldsmith – baritone sax; Paul Shearsmith – trumpet, pipes, squeakers, Jew’s harp; Dave Black – electric guitar; Graham Davis – synths; Luke Davis – typewriter; and Out To Lunch  – splash’n’klang, piano, mouthnoiseThis session was broadcast live on Resonance FM 104.4, July 12th 2018.


Skip to toolbar