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July 11, 2005 11:04 PM   Subscribe

So BoingBoing recently linked to this fantastic comic book serial from the 60s entitled "This Godless Communism," a surprisingly in-depth (and hilariously slanted) history of the rise of the USSR, its leaders, and their philosophies. It's great, but it is far from the only thing on the site, the Authentic History Center. Just looking at the other comics and cartoons they have, there is a huge amount of ancient political cartoons, fantastic WWII-military-themed comic strips(surprisingly good!), and generally awesome period-relevant comic book covers, some of which link to full comics (Donald Duck's Atom Bomb?!). There is a collection of embarassing shows of race-sploitation in comics in the 70s, and the racist toys and artifacts section would make Archie Bunker blush (Chop Suey Specs!). Guaranteed to make you wince and chin-stroke simultaneously.
posted by BlackLeotardFront (43 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
And the officers of the labor unions have been replaced by communists!
posted by sklero at 11:58 PM on July 11, 2005


They took down all the crucifixes and put a U.S.S.A flag in their place!

ok, i'm done now. good post.
posted by sklero at 12:01 AM on July 12, 2005


"took it away from the owner without even asking!" (from sklero's post)

Ah, how rich the irony!
posted by telstar at 12:15 AM on July 12, 2005


Chop Suey Specs are still produced. I saw them for sale in NYC this last Halloween.
posted by 235w103 at 12:40 AM on July 12, 2005


Oh no! They are going to "free" the woman from the home and put her to work! Those bastards!
posted by Dean Keaton at 1:10 AM on July 12, 2005



This is great stuff
posted by Dean Keaton at 1:19 AM on July 12, 2005


The most effective way to fight communism is to learn all you can about it. -- J. Edgar Hoover, who learned all he could about ... well, about more than communists, that's for sure.

The new capital building was the Merchandise Mart, the largest building in the world after the Pentagon. A knowing joke on capitalism, or a swipe at its owners, the Kennedy family?

So far, it's a little overwrought (and a bit heavy on the "godless" aspect), with stilted dialog, but I'm not sure what's actually inaccurate about it. Then again, I just came away from reading about the Cultural Revolution and the Gang of Four. No, no, your other Gang of Four.


Thus, Marx formed 3 important parts of communist belief:

1. No spiritual things exist, only material.
2. The history of the world is necessarily a struggle between rich and poor.
3. From this struggle will come the rule of the workers over all other people. And that rule will be perfectly good.


Again, it's overwrought, but surprisingly accurate. It's mainly so one-sided because it simply fails to mention, for example, the just-barely-beyond-feudal conditions of former Russian serfs.
posted by dhartung at 1:27 AM on July 12, 2005


Ah, here we are -- the fight at home. Gets a bit queasy pretty quickly.

Our latest directive ... is to steal anti-communist books from the library.

-- Since I am a librarian, that will be easy!
-- As a university teacher, it will be easy to take care of the library there.
-- I'll take care of my labor-union library!


And in retrospect, I'm sure even they realize that including Krushchev among the "four great leaders of communism" was something of a misnomer.

And now they're linking the Russian Revolution to the prophecies of Fatima. Tee hee. Wait a minute -- if all Christians were praying for Christianity to come to Russia (um, Orthodoxy, anyone? Bueller?), why did it go Red? Was the prayer ... ineffective?!

The final joke is the Socialist Realism ending. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?
posted by dhartung at 1:45 AM on July 12, 2005


"It's a story that will never happen if we stay alert and guard our freedoms." Amen.
posted by fire&wings at 3:08 AM on July 12, 2005


Nice post.
posted by OmieWise at 4:22 AM on July 12, 2005


Wow... so much paranoia ... so much inaccuracy ... so much outright fearmongering ... As an Australian boy growing up in the 70's and 80's, I thought the irrational American fear of communism didn't get much more (disturbingly) amusing than the Chick tracts which used to occasionally turn up in our letterbox.

Though it was good to see a return to a simpler, more wholesome time. A time where there was nothing that couldn't be solved by harnessing the righteous indignation of teenage boys.

I guess it was just me who started thinking "Come back zinc! Come baaack!" around the third page...
posted by Pinback at 4:22 AM on July 12, 2005


I'm hearing a lot of people say it's inaccurate, but what is inaccurate about it?

From everything I've read, and looking at the history of the USSR, it sure doesn't seem all that outlandish.

Granted, it's propaganda, but surprisingly, it's not all that propagandistic. Other than the pastor saving the day bit at the end of the series, that is...
posted by AspectRatio at 5:19 AM on July 12, 2005


but what is inaccurate about it?

Well, for starters, reality has more than four colors.

*rim shot*

Good post, though. And I couldn't give two shits about whether it was on BoingBoing.
posted by mkultra at 6:45 AM on July 12, 2005


I'm hearing a lot of people say it's inaccurate, but what is inaccurate about it?

The historical part looks reasonably accurate. But the "what if the Communists took over" section is ridiculous. Families were not split or people told en masse that they had to change jobs. "Lawyer" was as widespread a profession as it is in the West. And in many places, people were actually permitted to own their homes.

There are enough legitimate things for which to criticize Communism that is seems foolish to make stuff up.
posted by Slothrup at 6:50 AM on July 12, 2005


It grates on me to see a single sentence/link rip from BB (and apparently it's all too tempting), so thanks for doing a little legwork and actually making the post interesting.
posted by prostyle at 7:12 AM on July 12, 2005


chop suey specs. made in hong kong.
posted by quonsar at 7:38 AM on July 12, 2005


it grates on me to see someone refer to linking as a "rip". boinkboink did not author the world wide web.
posted by quonsar at 8:02 AM on July 12, 2005


I was referring to the structuring of the post in and of itself. Compared to the dozens of "BoingBoing post heading [link]" FPP's, this is a masterpeice.

boinkboink did not author the world wide web.
Obviously that's what I was implying, thanks for the correction.
posted by prostyle at 8:15 AM on July 12, 2005


What an excellent post. Bravo!
posted by unreason at 8:15 AM on July 12, 2005


supremely awesome post

i love how people still have to point out the inaccuracies of early 60's propaganda...
posted by afu at 8:24 AM on July 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


Glad you all liked it..

I have to recommend the "Winnie the WAC" comics on this page again, I just read through all 98 of them and there is some funny stuff, and rather sexist as well, which is always a bonus.

afu, I had written a little paragraph about how "I don't know a lot about communism but the flaws in the comic were...blah blah" and then I thought, what am I saying, these people know exactly what the flaws were, they were exactly what made the comic so great. So yeah.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 8:43 AM on July 12, 2005


Good post. As for:

I'm not sure what's actually inaccurate about it.

and similar comments, lots of it is inaccurate if you know anything about the detailed history it's glossing over. For example, the idea that Stalin and Trotsky were mere tools of Lenin is ludicrous; both opposed his policies in 1917, and Trotsky was a fucking Menshevik up till the last minute, for Pete's sake. And as Orlando Figes says in A People's Tragedy:
The idea that the Bolshevik Party in 1917 was a monolithic organization tightly controlled by Lenin is a myth—a myth which used to be propagated by the Soviet establishment, and one which is still believed (for quite different motives) by right-wing historians in the West. In fact the party was quite undisciplined; it had many different factions, both ideological and geographical; and the leadership, which was itself divided, often proved unable to impose its will on them.
I'll bet someone more familiar than I with 19th-century German philosophy could poke similar holes in the section on Hegel and Marx. True, it's not absurdly counterfactual as a whole, but that doesn't make it "accurate."
posted by languagehat at 8:58 AM on July 12, 2005


Superb find & post, BLF
posted by Pressed Rat at 9:29 AM on July 12, 2005


Classic:


posted by gramschmidt at 9:42 AM on July 12, 2005


Wonderful post, truly the Best of the Web, and it should be required reading for 20th Century history courses. As for inaccuracy - well, let's start with "The Revolution was directed by a small group of men who urged the people to attack their representative government." A more honest portrait of Czarist Russia might have been appropriate -- but this is propaganda, after all.
posted by QuietDesperation at 10:03 AM on July 12, 2005


but this is propaganda, after all.

Sure, and blatant in-your-face propaganda at that, with priests telling you about "godless Communism." Nobody expects accuracy from such things, and I wouldn't bother pointing out the inaccuracies if several commenters hadn't made a point of claiming the reverse.
posted by languagehat at 10:23 AM on July 12, 2005


Actually, that's pretty much how it broke out in Russia...
posted by ewkpates at 10:47 AM on July 12, 2005


Yes, QuietDesperation, that called my attention too - "a small group of men who urged the people to representative government". Even discounting the fact they jump over the February Revolution, Kerensky government could hardly be called "representative" of anything but a myriad of factions craving for power. Thare are losts of other innacuracies, some small, some large as life. For instance, calling "The Communist Manifesto" Marx "most important work" goes a long way into identifying the propagandistic objectives of the material.
posted by nkyad at 11:16 AM on July 12, 2005


wow. great stuff! i've sent the link to all the history teachers i know. (and it's filed away for homeschooling as well.)

the thing about the librarians up-thread really cracks me up, but this sort of stuff is amazing in its tenacity. in my town (Duluth, MN), the local historical society trotted out this sort of retro-weirdness in regards to their collection at the university library. i will never ever forget the shindig where the crazy-lady-in-charge attempted to get me to join her in her insanity by hissing "You know, he's an anarcho-syndicalist!" in my ear. i giggled, and hissed back, "you'd better watch out... cuz i'm one too!" she just about jumped out of her skin.

oh, the good old days!
posted by RedEmma at 11:59 AM on July 12, 2005


I'm hearing a lot of people say it's inaccurate, but what is inaccurate about it?

Did you read the issue devoted to Marx? If not full of biographical inaccuracies, it certainly misrepresents some aspects of the work. For instance:4

1. No spiritual things exist, only material.
2. The history of the world is necessarily a struggle between rich and poor.
3. From this struggle will come the rule of the workers over all other people. And that rule will be perfectly good.

These are technically accurate, but such a small portion of Marx's though as to be a misrepresentation. As with the issue of Marx's Jewishness, and the hidden 'struggle' the comic suggests between Marx and his christian friends.
posted by Dr_Johnson at 1:11 PM on July 12, 2005


though:thought
posted by Dr_Johnson at 1:12 PM on July 12, 2005


Oh, and there's this

"how could governments with that much power die out of their own accord?"

This is, in fact, the subject of his life's work Das Kapital. Guess someone should have got the Cliff's Notes.
posted by Dr_Johnson at 1:16 PM on July 12, 2005


oh, the good old days!

Wow, you scared a librarian. You are an inspiration to freedom loving people everywhere.
posted by jonmc at 1:30 PM on July 12, 2005


no jonmc, i scared a bigoted, passive-aggressive middle-aged board chair of the local historical society by calling myself what she called someone else in hopes i would join her little "fear them, for they aren't republicans" club.

i don't know any librarians who would be so stupid.

i didn't slash her tires, nor did i threaten her. exactly how did i deserve such sarcasm?

~smiling sweetly at the troll~

want a cookie?
posted by RedEmma at 4:18 PM on July 12, 2005


keep reassuring yourself that the rest of the world is as fretful about you as you are about it.
posted by jonmc at 4:23 PM on July 12, 2005


Another problem is that Marx did not develop communism on his own or in a vacuum suplemented soley by Engles and Hegel. Unfortunately, the only book that I can refer people to is the worse assault on the Russian language (and in translation, the English language) that I have ever read. (Or perhaps it's ok in Russian, but given just how bad the English was, and not due to poor translating, it's hard to imagine that.)

Without further fanfare: What is to be Done by Nokolai Chernyshevsky. (On the plus side, it was one of the things that caused Dostoevsky to write Notes from the Underground. It's a direct refutation in several ways.) It was written before Marx published his manifesto, and while it could not advocate a revolution directly because of state censorship, it gets the idea across rather well.
posted by Hactar at 9:36 PM on July 12, 2005


These are technically accurate, but such a small portion of Marx's thought as to be a misrepresentation.

Um, if that's the best you can do by way of refutation, you might just as well not have bothered typing it out. It's a comic book, dude. You expect a complete exegesis of Marx's work and thought? I'd say it's fairly impressive they managed an accurate summary, however inadequate from a fuller blah blah blah. Actually, I was impressed with the whole Hegel/Marx section; they seem to have taken a lot of trouble with it. They were clearly not just trying to scare people off the boogeyman, or they wouldn't have bothered explaining the boogeyman's views in even that much detail. (I wonder what percentage of the audience actually read and absorbed all that stuff?)

Kerensky government could hardly be called "representative" of anything but a myriad of factions craving for power.

You're going to have to expand on that if you want anyone to get anything out of it; as it stands, it's true of any government of anything larger than a small town (where people can get together and directly elect people they personally know). It's true that by the Fourth Duma the tsar had so drastically restricted the franchise that there was little radicalism represented, but the First Duma was amazingly representative given the time, the country, and the complete lack of precedent, and far too radical for the tsar's liking, which was why he dissolved it.

"how could governments with that much power die out of their own accord?"
This is, in fact, the subject of his life's work Das Kapital.


It is, in fact, not. Have you actually read Capital? It starts with the basics of economic exchange and works its way up. If you can point us to a detailed explanation of exactly how governments are supposed to "wither away," please do so; otherwise, you're just waving your hands and shooting off your mouth. Cliff Notes, indeed.

Hactar, you've got a lot of nerve complaining about the Russian of a book you've read only in translation. And while it's true What Is to Be Done? is a terrible novel written by a good man (a paradox explored extensively in Nabokov's best novel, Dar [The Gift]), to claim that it's somehow on a par with Marx in the development of communism is absurd. It was a very popular novel that excited a lot of people, especially young people frustrated with their inability to accomplish anything in the repressive Russia of the 1860s, and inspired them to read Marx and/or Bakunin, but it made absolutely zero contribution to communism as theory or practice. Communism would have developed as it did with or without Chernyshevsky.

Oh, and the Communist Manifesto was written in 1848, What Is to Be Done? in 1862. Facts can be so annoying...
posted by languagehat at 6:41 AM on July 13, 2005


Kill a commie for mommy.
posted by jonmc at 7:33 AM on July 13, 2005


If mommie is a commie then you gotta turn her in.
posted by languagehat at 8:36 AM on July 13, 2005


I never intended for languagehat to murder you all in your beds like that. What are you a filthy red?
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 8:44 AM on July 13, 2005


languagehat writes "Kerensky government could hardly be called 'representative' of anything but a myriad of factions craving for power.

"You're going to have to expand on that if you want anyone to get anything out of it; as it stands, it's true of any government of anything larger than a small town (where people can get together and directly elect people they personally know). It's true that by the Fourth Duma the tsar had so drastically restricted the franchise that there was little radicalism represented, but the First Duma was amazingly representative given the time, the country, and the complete lack of precedent, and far too radical for the tsar's liking, which was why he dissolved it."


I was talking specifically about 1917 - in February, the Tsar renounced and was replaced by the Provisional Government. At first it was led by Prince Georgy Yevgenyevich Lvov, who renounced and was succeeded by Alexander Kerensky. The Provisional Government lacked popular support and was opposed by both the right-wing monarchists and the left-wing Bolsheviks. The former attempted a coup in September, led by Lavr Kornilov (then the Armed Forces Supreme Commander-in-Chief, and who would later become a leader among the White Russians, during the Civil War), the latter grabbed the power in October. The Tsar and his Dumas were long gone at this time.

languagehat writes "They were clearly not just trying to scare people off the boogeyman, or they wouldn't have bothered explaining the boogeyman's views in even that much detail."

I also think most inaccuracies are somewhat subtle, not lies but mainly misrepresentations and omissions. It is quite funny to see how the religious aspect of Communism (or its lack thereof) played well among the average American population at the time this comic book was published - I guess most of it still play well, but their godless enemies are now at the gates.

languagehat writes "It's a comic book, dude. You expect a complete exegesis of Marx's work and thought?"

During the military dictatorship in Brazil someone (probably the [illegal] Communist Party itself) published "The Capital, a comic book", which was almost exactly like a mirror image of this comic book we're discussing, aimed at the same age group and using the same graphical tricks to separate the good from the bad. Many young people had their first glimpse of marxist concepts though that comic. I was surprised when I read "The Capital" itself to notice how accurate the comic book was.
posted by nkyad at 10:09 AM on July 13, 2005



posted by jonmc at 10:27 AM on July 13, 2005


The Tsar and his Dumas were long gone at this time.

Well, gone anyway, if not long gone. My bad: trying to condense too much and getting lost among the comments. Thanks for the correction.
posted by languagehat at 10:54 AM on July 13, 2005


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