Pervoe Maia: Soviet May Day

I couldn’t resist posting this typically over-the-top bit of Soviet propaganda–footage of the Pervomaysky parade from 1950. Thousands stroll through Red Square and enthusiastically wave to Stalin, Beria, Malenkov and Molotov. May Day was the biggest holiday of the year after the Day of the Great October Revolution. As my college roommate used to say, it’s a great day to wear the Red Scarf of Socialism.

The Soviet Communist Party idolized the worker according to Marxist-Leninist ideology–symbolized by the hammer and sickle–but as we know, it brutally crushed the individual under its boot. The stark difference between what the State said and what it did couldn’t have been more crazy-making.

In the modern capitalist West, we’ve lost respect for the worker and instead idolize the entrepreneur, the industrialist, the CEO, the hedge fund manager. At least the Soviets knew how to talk the talk–we’ve completely lost the vocabulary and therefore the concepts behind popular support of the labor movement.

Since I spent some student days in the Soviet Union and know at least a little of its evils first hand, I flinch when I see any hint of its distinctive imagery and style in modern May Day art:

In contrast, we see an artist who consciously copied a Soviet poster, yet successfully captured the modern May Day message:

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