Arts politics: art in revolution

Throughout the October Revolution of 1918, art was essential for communicating communist ideology, because the majority of Russia’s population, the peasantry and proletariat, were largely illiterate.

Their success in fighting off the realities of foreign invasion and civil war, both of which threatened to take advantage of Russia’s current political instability, depended on the organization and leadership of the Bolshevik party. They united the country by allying with the peasants and working classes, who would provide the food and man power needed to defend Russia.

This desire for unity amongst the proletariat is seen clearly in Adamovich’s futurist style “Kapital” plate. This was inspired by the 1918 revolution and made to celebrate the creation of the world’s first communist state. Centrally placed in the distance is a factory, the source of economic power crucial to Marxist theory.

Painting the factory red indicates it belongs to the workers (not their capitalist bosses), and the white smoke puffing out is evidence of its healthy productivity. From this smoke a vast yellow sunburst represents the new possibility of an enlightened communist future, which is banishing the dark forces of the repressive capitalist past, shown by black clouds to the edge of the margins.

On the left side (unsurprisingly) a red silhouette of a man strides forward into the image. The figure of a working man has no identifying detail as he is not individual, but represents the entire industrial proletariat, moving into a brighter future that they will create themselves. He tramples over an area of barren ground where the letters of the word “Kapital” (capitalism) lie broken.

Overall, art played a decisive role in transforming Russian society and shaping the new Soviet citizen. It set the stage for a new era of heroic portraits and political art that could inspire, be easily interpreted and related to by the Russian population and the rest of the world. The art of this time, such as Adamovich’s plate, helps us to understand the communist’s ultimate goal; to convert all nations to their ideology and create a completely new world.


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Sophie Szynaka