Print Edition: January 29, 2014
While on the hunt for a new Che Gevera t-shirt, Joseph Trotshinski didn’t want to think about the revolution and class struggle.
“I just want find something that shows I like world music and social justice,” he said.
Clutching a venti mochaccino, Trotshinski explained when the revolution comes he’ll be the first one to shop.
“The symbolic gesture of purchasing free-trade coffee and foreign-produced clothing is a signifier for how globalization will naturally evolve into communism.” he said. “If we embrace corporate communications like Facebook and Twitter, they’ll naturally become a source of freedom. It’s the thought behind movements that count.”
Trotshinski, with his full tattoo sleeve of interlocking hammer and sickles, has been a big part of the modern Marxist movement in British Columbia. Fresh out of UFV’s political science program, he left for the real world fed up with the status quo of capitalist production.
His special interest group, Occupy Production, has been running large fundraising campaigns at local shopping centres. All the money raised is going to an awareness campaign.
“We’ve ordered some really ironic CCCP shirts. We’ve even got Karl Marx action figures and plush toys for the kids.” he said. “We want to raise awareness about a lot of different issues. Kind of like what newspapers used to do.”
“We have to adopt more modern theories of Marxism: fake it until you make it, be all you can be, an army of one,” Trotshinski explained. He admitted that it’s strange to embrace capitalism in order to get the message out. But his idea behind revolution is more of an “aesthetic,” which he thinks will ultimately lead to “positive change.”
“We see what’s going on the Ukraine right now, and they’re doing it all wrong. Sure, it makes for some cool pictures, but they would have been a lot more effective — and safe — if they used Facebook and blogs to get the message across,” he said.
And the power to shop for social change isn’t only in the hands of hipster college students and their esoteric professors. Companies like Tom’s shoes are getting in on the action. For every pair of shoes sold the company will donate an additional pair of shoes to children in third world countries.
“We’ve decided to make a new campaign for our growing market. This year we’re going to include a free cocoa-farm kit with each pair of flip-flops that we send to more than 60 countries.” marketing director Lulu Leopold explained. “Customers can Instagram their cocoa plants, comparing their mini-farms with those in poorer countries. It’s a fun way to get everyone involved, and ties in with our ‘one smartphone per child’ campaign.”
Leopold hopes to expand the donation program into online education, allowing every child in the global south to gain access to micro-economics courses.
“What Bill Gates said about there being no poverty by 2035 is absolutely true. It’s already happening,” Leopold said. “Being able to Instagram and tweet to a child in need is a form of art that is leading to real social change.”
Other workers at Highstreet don’t feel as engaged in politics. “I’ve been a barista at Starbucks for a couple of years. Before working here, I got a masters degree in sociology. I used to do fundraising for Worldvision.” 23-year-old Amy Slater said. “I used to get paid to sell baseball cards in the mall that had pictures of needy children on them. But it felt like I was selling people, so I quit.”
Amy doesn’t like working at Starbucks, but she feels it’s more honest than pretending she is a part of an authentic social movement. “I just want to pay back my student loans,” she said.