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Old Soviet Posters July 7, 2011

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Communism.
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Came across this recently a site with a huge collection of old Soviet posters. The themes ranged from Agriculture, Cinema, work, drinking, war to watchfulness. The Site is here (which has english translations) .

However after a bit of digging that site is using a  subset of these ………enjoy….

Gallery 1 Parenthood

Gallery 2 Work

Gallery 3 Sports

Gallery 4 Fighting the enemy

Gallery 5 Industry

Gallery 6 2nd World War

Gallery 7 Social

Gallery 8 Soviet Aviation

Gallery 9 Soviet Military

Gallery 10 Culture

Gallery 11 Early

Gallery 12 Agriculture

Gallery 13 Cinema

Gallery 14 Trade

Gallery 15 If the war is tomorrow

A few samples..

Casual relationships will end very soon and after that you might have disease and find yourself at the hospital.

Hello Motherland

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Watchfulness is our weapon

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All the World Records Should be Ours

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Protect the Soviet Harvest

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We work at night as well

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Comments»

1. Andy - July 7, 2011

Love old soviet posters, cheers for that.

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2. Justin Moran - July 7, 2011

Brilliant.

Anyone know a place you can order these kinds of posters from? I remember looking into it once and the prices were very high.

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LeftAtTheCross - July 7, 2011

You could always download an image and have it printed on decent quality paper at your local print shop. I appreciate there could be copyright issues but a reasonable counter argument could be that the images are anti-capitalist propaganda and your actions would be in keeping with the undermining of private property rights etc etc.

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WorldbyStorm - July 7, 2011

True, but it needs to be a pretty high resolution image to look well.

I find your justification spot on!

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3. Justin Moran - July 7, 2011

Might give it a try, though I suspect such a defence in front of a panel of commissars would have held a poor prospect of success. 🙂

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GypsyBhoy - July 7, 2011

Might be worth a look but as you said not cheap.
http://www.zazzle.co.uk/soviet+posters

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4. Jim Monaghan - July 7, 2011

The Tate Modern in London had a lovely exhibition of the same. Interesting how some people portrayed disappeared over time. I have a few books on this. I will dig out the references

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5. Dr. X - July 7, 2011

In Soviet Russia, Poster Downloads You!

Anyway – doesn’t the auld fellow protecting the Soviet harvest in thon poster play banjo for the Wolfe Tones now?

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6. RepublicanSocialist1798 - July 7, 2011

Jeez. Just looking at the first one they were still fairly puritanical even under Gorbachev.

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7. B. Rand - July 8, 2011

Actually I like the first poster urging Soviet girls against casual sexual relations with smiling, calculating Soviet male predators. It’s a universal cautionary theme as old as the hills.

Tourists in China nowadays are often met on city streets by pavement vendors selling ‘antique’ posters and memorabilia from the maoist era. Apparently the great helsman’s Little Red Book can often be bought in French, German and Spanish translations. The vendors demonstrate sales acumen with chinese characteristics – tourists have got to bargain hard or get ripped off. Plus ca change.

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8. yourcousin - July 8, 2011

I love the fact that the “work” poster advocates a piece meal work environment. These posters are indeed a fine example of Russia and Communism.

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yourcousin - July 8, 2011

Oh yeah, and fuck night shift (visa vie the last poster)

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Dr. X - July 8, 2011

In Soviet Russia, night shift fucks you!

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yourcousin - July 8, 2011

It’s not just in the USSR that night shift fucks you.

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LeftAtTheCross - July 8, 2011

“I love the fact that the “work” poster advocates a piece meal work environment.”

YC, what do you mean by “piece meal work environment”? Can you expand on that? Genuine question.

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Dr. X - July 8, 2011

I assume he means that workers in Soviet factories were paid on the piece-work system.

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yourcousin - July 8, 2011

That is exactly what I meant.

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9. Pat - July 8, 2011

Those Soviet posters are great. I always liked the linocut covers on the old Progress Publishers titles, this guy collects them. And what a collection he has.

https://sovietbooks.wordpress.com/

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LeftAtTheCross - July 8, 2011

Call me a grumpy old man but a collection like that belongs in a library or a museum, not in some eccentric collector’s private study. The purchasing of the cultural wealth of socialism via Ebay, sold by necessity by impoverished citizens of the former Soviet Union and bought on a whim by the vastly wealthier collectors of the West, mirrors absolutely the transfer in economic wealth on a larger scale which occured in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Whether it’s books, posters, photographs, paintings, medals, cameras, motorbikes, cars, anything that is “collectable” for its novelty value has been commodified and traded.

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neilcaff - July 8, 2011

+1

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10. Jim Monaghan - July 8, 2011

David King did amazing work collecting these posters.A few websites and blogs on soviet posters and photos.On a general note I dislike naming anything after a living person.E.g. Stalingrad. Though there were 1 or 2 towns named after Trotsky. Though I always liked the blueshirt crack that there was no street named after DeV because there was none long enough or crooked enough.
http://5b4.blogspot.com/2007/11/commissar-vanishes-by-david-king.html

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Red-Star-Over-Russia-History/dp/1854376861/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1310119215&sr=1-3

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Commissar-Vanishes-Falsification-Photographs-Soviet/dp/0862417244/ref=sr_tc_2_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1310119215&sr=1-2-ent

http://www.history-ontheweb.co.uk/sources/62_photos_davidking.pdf

http://www.seventhstr1ng.com/article/russian-propaganda-art-at-tate-modern/

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11. CMK - July 8, 2011

Without wishing to be sectarian, a party pooper or to denigrate the real achievements of the Soviet Union but the pic of Stalin was a bit much to take:

Was he finishing off signing that day’s death warrants for Trotskyite wreckers and Red Army officers before retiring to a late night of vodka, cigars and movies? Or maybe he’s signing the Katyn order? Anyway, he looks pretty pleased with himself.

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Michael Carley - July 8, 2011

According to the caption: `Stalin in the Kremlin cares about each of us’.

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12. Andy - July 8, 2011

Orrr CMK, maybe he was plotting the defeat of the Nazis. USSR – Fuck Yeah!!

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13. CMK - July 8, 2011

Andy, fair point. But the picture was dated 1940 when the USSR was an ally of Nazism but was still killing socialists and Poles on an industrial scale and handing over German communists and others to the Nazis for execution. Had it been dated 1944-45, then, well, probably wouldn’t be worth grouching about.

And, indeed, if it had been a picture from post 1945 it could have been captioned ‘Stalin signs order to execute several thousand more scared shitless teenage Red Army conscripts who deserted in terror after attempting a dozen full frontal assualts on German positions in one day’.

While the pictures are of outstanding artistic merit and historical interest it’s worth bearing in mind the state they were urging support for…

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14. Pat - July 9, 2011

CMK @ post 8

“Without wishing to be sectarian, a party pooper or to denigrate the real achievements of the Soviet Union but the pic of Stalin was a bit much to take:”

But then by Post 10 CMK is stupidly denigrating the SU as an ally of Nazism.

CMK, if you could pull your head out of Trotsky’s hole for a minute you would see how utterly fucking stupid it is to try and divorce the real achievements of the Soviet Union (which includes the defeat of fascism) from the leadership of Stalin.

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yourcousin - July 9, 2011

CMK isn’t “stupidly denigrating” anything, he’s telling the truth. Something communists and their sympathizers always have a hard time with.

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WorldbyStorm - July 9, 2011

Erm, it’s not that difficult to divorce Stalin from the achievements of the USSR. I’d be very dispirited to think that all the USSR was was a synonym for Stalin or Stalinism, indeed it’s hard not to think that one of it’s genuine achievements was to act in precisely that fashion, ie as a block on fascism, in spite of Stalinism [for example, the frankly bizarre purges of the Red Army in the run up to WW2 which stripped away whole layers of experienced military personnel].

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LeftAtTheCross - July 9, 2011

+1

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Ramzi Nohra - July 9, 2011

Absolutely. Overcoming his Nearly disastrous instincts and basically winning the war was a gargantuan achievement.

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WorldbyStorm - July 9, 2011

By the way, in mentioning, shall we say functional military issues, ie the purges of the Army I’m not ignoring the political purges either which were equally catastrophic.

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yourcousin - July 9, 2011

Well then you bound to very dispirited. But if you would like divorce the USSR from Stalin we can discuss the Krondstadt uprising, Trotsky’s betrayal and destruction of the Ukranian Anarchist armies, the Ukranian genocide, East Berlin ’53 (that was still Stalin but I don’t believe it was just down to Stalin), Hungary ’56, Prague ’68, the vast gulag system post Stalin and perhaps most damning is the idea that in order to forward the worker’s struggle that democracy and worker’s rights must be destroyed.

Remember, Stalin didn’t take a principled stance against fascism until the German Army kicked down his door. That’s not ideology or principle, it’s self preservation. Though the more gullible then and now might believe otherwise. And that is what CMK is referring to. I don’t care about the liquidation of the Red Army, but the actions CMK described happened, and it shows that Stalin was more than happy to see fascism thrive if it benefited him. Good and innocent people died because of it. Russia/the USSR/Stalin whatever you choose to call it did not have to do that. Even when they did fight the Germans they ensured that democracy was considered a weed to be uprooted by the red army wherever they went (think about the Red Army halting outside of Warsaw until the uprising within the Jewish Ghetto was put down).

I always find it incredible how so many on the left can bitch and whine about things in our society but never fail to apologize or weasel on about atrocities committed by the USSR. An undemocratic empire (and I mean even in the most basic poltical sense) by whatever name ought to opposed, but too many see a red flag waving and they quickly toe the line. It’s no different than so many Americans who quote old lines about “the land of the free” without ever actually questioning what it means to be free. It is a knee jerk, of course we’re the freest (spelling?) country in the world without ever questioning warrantless wiretapping, executions carried out in contravention of international law and see those who see the destruction of civic society to be replaced by a corporate sponsored statelet as expanding liberty is fucking stupid, and yet it’s the same reductive logic used by apologists of Soviet crimes and tyranny.

I know I’m a broken record on this and no doubt 99% of people here either ignore or view my rants with outright disdain, but I’m going to continue to call out the bullshit when I say it.

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LeftAtTheCross - July 9, 2011

-1

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yourcousin - July 9, 2011

LATC,
Well god bless you for being a good natured opponent. I would have shit myself had you expressed your opinion otherwise.

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CMK - July 9, 2011

Pat, sorry to break it to you but the Soviet Union WAS an ally of Nazism from 22 August 1939 to 21 June 1941. Fact.

There were real achievements for the USSR, yes, even the USSR under Stalin. Defeating Nazism, with admirable minor assistance from the US and Britain; creating a state that went from an illiterate backwater devastated by war in 1917 to one which forty years later launched the first object into orbit despite the intervening forty years consisting of non-stop war, internal chaos and genocide; providing a guiding point and vital support for struggles against US, French and British imperialism, and more. Do they outweigh the gulags? The famines? The genocides of collectivisation? The outside interventions (Berlin 1953, Budapest 1956 & Prague 1968) aren’t really worth discussing, in my opinion, as similar US interventions in its zone of influence and elsewhere dwarfed those of the USSR and had a far greater cost in human terms.

But the real problem with Stalin that I have is that even now – 2011 – he, and the regime he and his henchmen built, haunts the Left worldwide and still provides ammunition to undermine socialist progress. Even here in Ireland, today, you have to be ready to respond to the inevitable criticism that socialism leads to despotism and thence to the gulag. It could take generations still for the poison that was Stalin and stalinism to leach from people’s consciousness. The legacy of Stalin and stalinism have crippled the Left to the extent that it has probably undermined fatally even the prospect of modest socialist advance.

We can thank Stalin’s legacy for a large part of the fact that even in the midst of the most profound capitalist crisis in seven years socialist political parties rarely get more than a couple of percent of the popular vote in elections, in Western Europe at least. I think in Eastern Europe socialism is dead for the forseeable future and the field is free for right-wing nationalist nutcases fuelled in large part by their experience of living under stalinism.

So, while the USSR does have a number of real important achievements to its credit – foremost its role in defeating fascism – its mode of government detracts substantially from those achievements. I appreciate that for some here the USSR represents something more positive than for others, but an objective analysis of it as an expression of socialism must conclude that it was catastrophe for socialism and the possibility of human progress through transcending capitalism.

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WorldbyStorm - July 9, 2011

We can thank Stalin’s legacy for a large part of the fact that even in the midst of the most profound capitalist crisis in seven years socialist political parties rarely get more than a couple of percent of the popular vote in elections, in Western Europe at least. I think in Eastern Europe socialism is dead for the forseeable future and the field is free for right-wing nationalist nutcases fuelled in large part by their experience of living under stalinism.

+1

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15. yourcousin - July 9, 2011

Also I am sick of people just pointing out that the USSR fought fascism. That statement doesn’t end an argument. Because most people especially today don’t have a full grasp of fascism in its ideological form. Today it’s mainly just a catch word for reactionary, anti-democratic, violence etc etc. If fascism is to be opposed by its outcomes, not just theory, then shouldn’t we judge the USSR and Communism by the same measuring stick? Not by nostalgia or ideology, but by its actual outcomes. I should note that this is just a general point and not directed at anyone in particular.

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WorldbyStorm - July 9, 2011

I surely wouldn’t see the fact the USSR fought fascism as being an exculpation of everything else that the USSR did that was wrong. For a start that war was a Patriotic War and in that respect nationalist as much as ideological, though ideological it was and also tinged with a racial element [from the German side]. And none of that is to dispute that communism as implemented fell far far short. But, one still can’t entirely divorce the actuality of that implementation from a raft of other factors, the fact that the first soviet state was founded in a profoundly reactionary nation, that it was attacked from the word go – in other words started on a war footing and continued as such, that this allowed it to jettison the checks that would have prevented the rise of Stalin and Stalinism, that it was never able to fulfill its own rhetoric. Now neither can one deny that the form itself, of the Bolsheviks tended towards such outcomes, but to me without white washing the crimes it makes it a profoundly different entity to the fascist states and not simply in ideological terms, but in terms of what happened.

I’d also think that it makes sense to accept that as an human system and a particularly new one in such contexts the chances of it going badly wrong were high from the off. And yet its own rhetoric ultimately led to a situation where Gorbachev or not some sort of reform [short of coup d’etat] was inevitable sooner or later – unlike I’d suspect the fascist states had they survived.

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WorldbyStorm - July 9, 2011

I should add that in general terms it’s clear that from the death of Stalin there was a shift in the nature of the Soviet state, again in no way ignoring the events you raise. I hesitate to use the word ‘softened’ but I think it did and in successive waves. None of which either is to deny that under Brezhnev it pushed back towards a more Stalinist mode, but that was still strikingly different from Stalin’s rule in terms of the unhinged quality of it. Again, and this is damning with faint praise, it’s hard to see the fascists doing likewise due to the intrinsic nature of their ideology.

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yourcousin - July 10, 2011

WBS,
A lot of stuff to respond to, not much time to do it. So just one or two things before I go to bed. I think that the reading of fascism as unchangeable is kind of thin. And let us note that Russia didn’t defeat “fascism” as an ideology or a political force. Spain was fascist until the seventies. Even that statement I made is kind of weak because most folks accept that Franco’s fascism was also fairly shallow in terms of ideological committement and he was far more committed to a traditional authoritarian dictatorship. I think that both Italian and German fascism were both heavily influenced by their roots within their respective right wing communities from which they drew succor. People on this very post who are extremely articulate on issues of socialism versus Stalinism etc all seem to regard fascism as this inert one dimensional object that just existed until Russia destroyed it. One could argue that Nazi Germany, Mussolini, and Franco never really represented a “true” fascist ideology at all, but merely took the title of fascism to appeal to a broader support base that while extraordinarily reactionary were also disillusioned with the older more traditional forms of right wing authoritarianism. You see this almost from the very beginning where fascists basically acted like the jack booted thugs that they were and some of more ideoligically inclined got mad because they acted at the behest of the ruling class or didn’t show proper ideological conviction. Only to be told by higher ups to stuff it in their respective organizations.

I would also argue the fact that fascism evolved from a relatively obscure poetic vision (I don’t know to describe the crackpot theory that is at once accurate, realizes the absurdity of it and at the same times acknowledges its horrenduous consequences) to a mass movement with very real and very horrible ramifications for the world shows that fascism is capable of evolution and thereby “reform”. And I use reform in the sense that the Tories want to reform the NHS and Paul Ryan wants to reform social services. It is easy to write it off because no one really is willing to use the term fascist anymore, but that does not mean that the kind of behavior or motivations for many of the baser actions ceased to exist once the Red flag flew over the Reichstag.

Look Fascism wasn’t wrong because Hitler was bat shit crazy. Fascism is wrong because it it inherently an anti-democratic ideology that blah, blah, blah. Hopefully we all know why fascism is wrong and I don’t have to explain that in depth here. Accordingly the fact that Stalin was bat shit crazy and did a bunch of fucked up things while an endightement of Stalin and those who would follow him does not exempt other communists. It is ironic that you 1+ CMK’s comment about Stalin’s toxic legacy in Eastern Europe because what alienated a large swathe of Eastern europe took place after Stalin’s death. I would also argue against CMK’s dismissal of putting down uprisings in Eastern Europe due to American actions. It’s a false dichotomy because no one here is arguing that America was right in the Cold War.

I guess if I were a Marxist I would be looking for a silver lining, but I’m not. My biggest issue is and has always been the democratic deficit created by Marxism and its offspring. I’m not trying to get into a giant ideological debate but the point does stand. This democratic deficiency (I do wish blog comments had spell check on them) which has been expressed through violent extremism against the very people it claims to represent has been a constant throughout it’s life whenever and wherever they have come into state power. As you note yourself, the Bolsheviks were more than happy to use political violence against political opponents within the revolutionary camp. Not to mention other anti-white forces.

I’m not arguing that people are perfect, but they are good enough to be free. That is my bottom line. Communism where it has come to power has denied people freedom, both in the economic sphere (which was my point in my first post here) and in the political sphere. The fact that it destroyed another system which also denied those rights while acknowledged isn’t something I get overly excited about. Again only a partial response, but better than nothing.

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Pope Epopt - July 10, 2011

YC – your comments are stimulating and I’d have to agree that the lumping together the various kinds of right-wing authoritarian regimes in Europe into ‘Fascism’ is facile and less than useful in avoiding a repetition.

For example, the cultural elements that provided the primordial soup in which Nazism evolved were deeply embedded in German (and wider European) culture. To name a few: German medievalist mythologising, Anglo-German systematic academic racism reflected in popular culture, late-romanticism and irrationalism, the cult of the (social) machine etc.

Some of these have died away, but some have morphed but are still present – for instance the xenophobia ‘gene’ which is manifested most markedly as Islamophobia in our times.

What is important to resist is the tired and politically disabling category of ‘totalitarianism’ as the only alternative to liberal democracy – which, I hardly need to point out, is increasingly illiberal and undemocratic. We have Hannah Arendt to thank for this, enthusiastically amplified by a tedious succession of ideologues of capitalism. They have been appallingly successful in embedding the fear of the political other in emotional and intellectual furniture of so many people.

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WorldbyStorm - July 10, 2011

Snap re time Yourcousin and I’d echo Pope Epopt.

In a way I’m the worst possible person to be discussing this with. Although a Marxist I’m not a Leninist [at least in retrospect, though God knows what it would have been like if one had to make the choices in Russia during that period]. To me my Marxism is based on Marx’s analysis of capital and his thoughts on the centrality of the working class. But, I fairly much agree with the Australian theorist Donald Horne who argued that:

Three months after the Bolshevik putsch in Petrograd ‘ The October Revolution’ a Constituent Assembly met in Moscow, after Russia’s first genuine election. The Bolsheviks had won only a quarter of the seats; two-thirds of the seats were held by a variety of moderate socialists. The next day the Red Guards were sent in and closed down the Constituent Assembly. That presumptuous action by a party that was chosen by destiny rather than by the citizens was the most sorrowful blow of all those that have fallen on the socialist cause.

I tend to think the Leninist road was a cul-de-sac that led to some terrible outcomes. I’m also pretty indifferent to the relative virtues of the Stalinist road or the Trotskyist road (though I see Trotsky as fundamentally a different and better individual for all his flaws too). But there’s a problem. All that said the reality is that of the strands left of social democracy are usually Marxist groups/parties/formations that draw upon the Leninist strand however nebulously and whether pro or contra or neutral as regards the USSR are the largest self-defined groups so it’s difficult not to have to work with them and for all their myriad flaws not to see at least some good particularly on the level of ordinary comrades.

In relation to fascism I don’t mean ‘reform’ in the negative sense, but in the positive one. I doubt that Hitler’s Germany or Italy could reform or even shift towards reform in the way that the Soviets did. I’m very dubious that Spain or Portugal are analogous to Germany under the National Socialists or even fascist Italy. They seem to me to belong to a different strand of right authoritarianism which for its own ends locked into aspects of fascism in a fairly cosmetic fashion but ultimately weren’t fascist in a functional sense [which isn’t to deny any of the pernicious aspects of that strand eitherthemreactionary.authoritarianism they adhered to].

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WorldbyStorm - July 10, 2011

I’d add one other thought which I’ve articualed too many times here. The comrade who got me into the WP made the point to me many many years ago while we were canvassing one day that… “basically neither Stalin nor Trotsky lived in Kilbarrack [where we were canvassing]”. Politics, for me at least, is about dealing with the lived experience of the working class as it is, which I know is precisely the same for you. I’m happy, as I was in the WP, to work through a variety of formations if that goal can be brought closer – without putting my scepticism about the nature of any formation, however virtuous, aside.

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yourcousin - July 10, 2011

WBS,
The quote is a great example of my point but besides myself and now you who here brings that up as an issue. To me that issue is central to all of this. It cannot be justified period. That so many folks attempt to do so is what I find frustrating, but again I’m not Marxist so I feel no need to find anything redeemable in the bolsheviks.

I think that in terms of working with people of different persuasions that the reality is that there is so much work to do that we can for the most part continue to agree to disagree and still get along. I’ll continue to call bullshit when I see it, as all people should, especially in an environment like CLR where things are pretty cordial and folks can say, “my bad, I was wrong”, “I did not know that”, or “I just learned something new”.

I was wondering if you were going to point out that Spain and Portugal were really fascist or not because if they and in particular Spain wasn’t really fascist then why does everyone continue to make such a big deal about the Spanish civil war? And indeed if Franco wasn’t “really” fascist then was the repressive nature of Russian and communist intereference that focused on “winning the fight against fascism” all the while scheming to control and ultimately destroy the revolution justified ?[to which my answer is no, no matter if Franco was “true fascist” or not].

I do believe that fascism both, Nazism and Italian fascism could be reformable (lets wait for the explanation of that statement before we go ballistic btw). Hitler was bat shit crazy (like Stalin), so had he been replaced by someone else that would have been a reform. Why? Because his crazy “lets kill all the Jews” might very well have been replaced by an autocratic military mind who viewed the extreme final solution stuff as a distraction of manpower and resources from the fight against Russia. Now that would count as reform. But it doesn’t justify anything. It just means you replace a lunatic with an asshole. It’s like I would prefer a punch in the kidney to a kick to the balls, so that if I had been getting kicked in the balls and they stopped that to beat me in the kidneys I would count that as a positive step, but I would much rather prefer it if the beating wasn’t happening at all. that’s how I view fascism. The very fact that it changed shows that reform in the limited sense of change change was possible. I even think it as with any politcal system being man made is capable of objectively positive change. Whether or not that change is enough to justify anything is quite another story.

And the thing is that through countless “reforms” of Communism you can pick out and see a very real and tangible democratic deficit. You even see it today in the demagoguery (spelling?) of Hugo Chavez and the Castro brothers. If you want to empower the people then do it and get out of the way. Every good union organizer and craftsman knows that they should always be striving to train and develop their replacement as well as adapting to new things in the world. This idea that only one person or a very small cadre of people are capable of moving the ball down field is bullshit. It is also in my opinion one of the lasting legacies of Marx and Communism.

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16. Soviet Saturday « 21stcenturypartisan - July 9, 2011

[…] first is a link to galleries of old Soviet posters, taken from Cedar […]

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17. Brian Hanley - July 9, 2011

‘(think about the Red Army halting outside of Warsaw until the uprising within the Jewish Ghetto was put down). ‘
Different uprising. The Jewish Ghetto rose in 1943, the Polish resistance in 1944. That’s when the Red Army waited it out. But of course that’s not the whole story. No intention of getting into it now, but the story of the various communist resistance movements in Europe includes plenty of heroism and self-sacrifice, but cynicism and betrayal too.

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WorldbyStorm - July 9, 2011

That’s it precisely. To me the balance tips more to heroism, but there was definitely the latter. So many great men and women.

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HAL - July 10, 2011

Nobody was perfect except those that did nothing and became experts in hindsight.You either die a hero,or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

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WorldbyStorm - July 10, 2011

That’s certainly a point I understand. The greatest crime is often doing nothing at all.

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yourcousin - July 10, 2011

Well there you go, I get called on my bullshit, but the substance of point stands.

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WorldbyStorm - July 10, 2011

See above.

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Jim Monaghan - July 10, 2011

Not to forget that Stalin executed the entire leadership of the Polish CP. The one that took over was fairly well invented by the NKVD.

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18. Brian Hanley - July 10, 2011

Fascism in every country drew on distinctive national traditions: Mussolini used ancient Rome for example, but Nazism was certainly fascism in a German context with much more similarities to Italian fascism than differences.

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19. LeftAtTheCross - July 10, 2011

Very good discussion guys. Good points raised on all sides of the argument above. Just to clarify my own position, for YC’s benefit as much as anything else, as he seems to believe I’m some sort of diehard Stalin worshipper, which I’m not, for me it’s a question of taking all the good and all the bad and weighing them up, and whatever about the details of each item in the basket, on balance it comes down that the USSR was a very positive development (on balance, across the many decades) in the history of human progress, and that Stalin can’t be totally separated from that legacy (for good or bad). Not a black and white thing, very very grey and murky, and some deeply awful stuff thrown into the mix for sure. I don’t have a portrait of Stalin on my wall or his bust in the garden, and would be very suspicious of anyone who did. And I suspect that many people who might be otherwise labelled as “Stalinists” hold similar positions.

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yourcousin - July 10, 2011

I don’t believe for a moment that you’re a Stalinist. And a large portion of my argument here is that the Stalin argument is a red herring of sorts. The anti-democratic nature of not only Marxism, but specifically the USSR (both pre and post Stalin) has been my central theme. And that is something which you’re willing to apologize for or ignore time and time again, and that’s fine.

You know I take issue with the “whatever about the details” because of my periphery to those “details”. And millions upon millions of lives pissed away helps clear things up in my eyes. Also the fact that basic, basic concepts of freedom, liberty, and democracy were all damaged, perhaps beyond repair in those spheres where the USSR held sway. The democratic deficit that stills exists in Russia and the dubious nature of politics in many of the countries within the Eastern bloc and the former SU are to me the lasting will and testament Communism in that area.

I don’t need to revert to name calling to make those points. But the fact that you want to go see a mummy is weird, sorry but it’s true.

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WorldbyStorm - July 10, 2011

Though is Marxism necessarily anti-democratic, if we remove the Leninist part [or even if we shape a Leninism which is pluralistic in a way which in implementation it wasn’t? – though would that necessarily be Leninism then]?

I think though a huge aspect of this is the point that we are where we are. That workers used formations that cleaved to a certain form across the 20th century with relatively few exceptions. Those forms both in dictatorial and democratic contexts have been broadly speaking not fit for purpose, whether social democratic or left of social democracy, albeit certain tactical victories were gained along the way. And that workers still, where organised tend to look to such formations, even if they come from divergent strands of that tradition rather than alternative ones. So it’s hardly surprising that people would try to find some good out of the wreckage of the Soviets, or that they would tend to still gravitate to those forms rather than attempting to shape entirely new ones which for most I suspect would seem like trying to tackle two huge mountains, [making new forms and successfully changing society] rather than just one – attempting to successfully change society.

In a way you being in the US there’s a better chance that a new form might work better if it could lock into both the libertarian side of things and push the left side as well. Perhaps tougher in more statist inclined societies like Europe, either West or East.

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yourcousin - July 10, 2011

WBS,
I would view Marxism as undemocratic, but that is another story for another time.

I would agree that we are where we are we need to look forward as we have enough shit to keep all CLRers busy fermenting positive social change for two lifetimes (probably more).

Your main point has so many thigns right with it that should and ought to be expanded upon that not only do I not know where to start but also know that I have pissed away a chunk of my night last night and a good portion of my day away onlne when I should have been doing more productive things. Though in my defense I replaced the main electrical control panel for my fridge which saved me $500 bucks, so I’ve got some leeway this weekend.

And I wouldn’t say that workers today have to create entirely new systems, but that they are rediscovering forms and are retooling them for modern day uses.

I will come back to this because it has my wheels turning in my head.

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WorldbyStorm - July 10, 2011

I think it depends on what one means by Marxism. As a methodological tool to analyse capitalism the issue of democracy doesn’t arise. In terms of implementations it becomes more problematic.

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LeftAtTheCross - July 11, 2011

“But the fact that you want to go see a mummy is weird, sorry but it’s true.”

YC, is that from my comment in the Garret Fitzgerald thread a while back? In fairness it was a bit of a tongue in cheek remark. But true nonetheless. If it’s any consolation I’s also like to visit Tolstoy’s estate at Yasnaya Polyana, and the Motherland monument in Volgograd. Russia’s history in 3 daytrips, the 19C awakening, the revolutionary moment, and the legacy. Not linking Tolstoy directly there, just that he was part of something bigger that was distilled by history into what happened afterwards.

On WBS’s comments about “we are where we are”, I think that’s largely true. There are many problems in the world but to me it is capitalism that is the underlying issue. There are many different ways to confront that, and socialist parties in the legacy of Lenin and the October Revolution are just one such vehicle. The attraction for me, and I suspect many others, is that the October Revolution did actually change things and remove capitalism from the lives of a substantial portion of the world’s population for a few generations. That fact was and is an inspiration to those who aspire towards that goal in theor own lives. I accept without that there were negatives in the model which replaced capitalism. In the great scheme of history has it ever been otherwise? It was a work in progress, with flaws of course. With terrible consequences for many many people. It was not a pure socialist trajectory, the reality of the international counter-revolution and of the 20C fascist project led to compromises and a fight for survival. But on balance, and acknowledging that my own life hasn’t been touched by the human tragedies which accompanied the USSR, it provides a historic beacon of light that a fully functioning alternative to capitalism is possible. And back to WBS’s point, that such parties provide a ready-made vehicle for work in the present, an existing canon of theory, an existing cadre of committed activists, and a history of on the ground work. There’s enough work to be done without discounting all of that, not just as a practical leg up, but as a historical legacy including the beacon of light aspect. You’re entitled to discount it of course, I wouldn’t argue against your right to do so, but we can agree to disagree. The right to disagree is obviously not something that features in a Stalinist worldview, and that’s the line that I think separates the nutters from the tortured souls who accept the contradictions of qualified support for the progressive project which was the USSR. Well that’s where I sit on it anyway.

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20. Pope Epopt - July 10, 2011

I’m with you on the Leninism, WBS. Something much more outward-facing and flexible than the ‘building of the Leninist/Trotskyist party’, with the inevitable hierarchy of cadre versus masses – and arguably massive violence – that that formation entails is required for our times. And that’s why I regard the presence of numbers of non-aligned people of the left in the ULA as a hopeful sign.

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LeftAtTheCross - July 10, 2011

Pope, genuine question here, why do you equate a Leninist method of party organsation with massive violence. Not denying that massive violence has occured historically in situations where communist parties have been involved in revolutionary overthrow of existing regimes, but I would have thought it’s a fair stretch to link that fact to Leninism per se and to ignore the rest of the historical societal / economic process that brought things to a head. Just thinking off-hand of anarchist violence in republican Spain, you wouldn’t pin that on Lenin would you?

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Pope Epopt - July 10, 2011

I was asking myself a similar question, to be fair LATC. I suppose it is possible that a Leninist cadre would have the vision and the selflessness to act for the common good, rather than becoming exclusively pre-occupied with the preservation of their exclusive power . It just hasn’t happened, to my knowledge. The fact that Russia was in the middle of various wars undoubtedly, possibly precluded this kind of evolution, and set the mold for Leninism to come. Who’s to say what might have happened had the First World War ended earlier and the Soviet Union not be plunged into civil war? Some of the potential is obvious from early Soviet art.

And the anti-Leninist anarchists did commit atrocities in Spain, there’s no denying that. Far fewer than their enemies, it must be said.

With that I must cease pontificating and prevaricating and go and mix some mortar.

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LeftAtTheCross - July 10, 2011

Fair play for your efforts in your domestic work brigade. But could you not pay someone to do it for you and circulate some of you vast wealth into the economy, a bit of small-scale Keynesian economics? On this calm sunday afternoon I find myself sheltering indoors away from the grass pollen, hayfever being a pathetic affliction. I’ll bet the revolution sorted out hayfever in the USSR, first on the lists, and rightly so, even if I say it myself.

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WorldbyStorm - July 10, 2011

I’m just thinking how much I agree with you Pope re parties that can allow in people with that approach. Because fundamentally even though I’m a libertarian communist and/or what once was termed euro communist and critical of orthodox and statist views whether of Stalinist or Troskyist left the logic of the era is for parties or party like formations. I think they’re still part of the left wing toolkit, so to speak. Though far from the only one.

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Pope Epopt - July 10, 2011

The hayfever has been vicious in the last few days – all that pent-up grass semen is bursting out after a month of rain. I suffer but my boy gets it real bad.

As for local circulation, I’m a case in point of the idiocy of deflating the domestic economy – little work for me means I can’t get in the plumber, the plasterer or the blocklayer, and what’s more there’s plenty of lads around gagging to do a good job at a reasonable rate.

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21. Pope Epopt - July 10, 2011

Back to the posters – I was just reflecting, while I labour at the cement-mixer of the five-year plan for house renovation (itself a product of domestic political accommodation) on why I find many of these posters moving, despite what we know of their historical context.

I suppose, at the risk of sounding sentimental, that what shines out of the non-bellicose ones is a genuine care for the common good and a practical hope in common purpose. In among the ruthless practitioners of power, violence and influence were large numbers of people in the former Communist parties of the erstwhile Soviet bloc who were dedicated in a selfless way to the betterment of the commons. To condemn these activists for the monstrosities of the leadership, is mean-spirited in the extreme, it seems to me. The mother in the film ‘Goodbye Lenin’, is a sympathetic portrait of such a person.

I suppose even the war propaganda serve to remind of the awe-inspiring collective sacrifice made by the people of the Soviet Union in the second world war, even if their involvement was for reasons of realpolitik, and despite the fact that they were urged on by the pistols of the NKGB in their backs.

What have we got that functions in a similar way to these posters? The ersatz team-identification of the Guinness ad?

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LeftAtTheCross - July 10, 2011

I think you sum it up very well there Pope.

“What have we got that functions in a similar way to these posters? The ersatz team-identification of the Guinness ad?”

Well there’s an element of it in the advertising that the charity sector uses in its various fundraising campaigns. One might expect a future exprapolation of that in terms of promoting the Big Society concept, selfless voluntarism masking rollback of state provision of social democractic rights and entitlements. The individual, feeling good about themselves making a free choice to pay for someone else to doing something good for those who deserve help. Not quite the same as unconditional commitment and sacrifice for the common good, is it?

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22. More Old Soviet Posters « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - October 3, 2011

[…] previously posted a link to some wonderful Old Soviet Posters. Here are some more Old Soviet Posters with some samples […]

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23. Scott - November 17, 2011

most of these posters are of Museum level rarity nowadays, specially those which used up n coming avant-garde artists and writers, so pretty muc out of reach for us mortals

decent ones can still be obtained though – this lot :

http://www.artofrevolution.co.uk

based in the UK seem to have a decent stock of Soviet originals

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