So it is quite possible that you have heard people arguing against capitalism, maybe more so in recent years, rather than previously. I also think it is fair to say that many young people are especially opposed to capitalism, basically due to greater transparency enabling them to realise some of the horrors of in particular the western world. However there have been a scary number of videos on TikTok which have been showcasing photographs off the soviet and post soviet world. Because lets face it, it was one alternative to capitalism. However we ought to know that the Soviet Union was far from the “perfect situation”, and most likely these people are romanticising it without always realising this. But let’s uncover what could have possibly have caused this…
The Rise of Communism:
In Stark contrast with Capitalism where the distribution of resources is mainly left to the free market, communism is where major resources including property are owned by the public, where usually the aim is for an even distribution.
During the industrial revolution, there was increasing antagonism toward capitalism due to the very poor working conditions and damaging environmental affects which were occurring. Ideas arose about alternative ways to run the economy, including famously “anarchist communism”- the idea that there should be no state and that all means of production should be owned by society . While this might have seemed like a much fairer idea, and may have been popular with some, there was little clarity on the means to go about and achieve this…
Meanwhile in France during the early 1800s the new urban working class were becoming increasingly resistant, as they saw the contrasts between the ways of life for the wealthy upper class (the bourgeoisies), compared to the very poor working and living conditions they were in. This led to many of the workers rebelling, and while the revolution wasn’t successful, many people within France still held these revolutionary ideas.
This was all before the ideas of Karl Marx were produced. Later known as “the father of Communism”, Marx produced a variety of works emphasising the class struggle prevalent in every historical society, due to the bourgeoisies exploiting the proletariat (working class). He argued this will inevitably lead to a revolution, resulting in a communist society, as the proletariat become more aware of their class struggle. And while his works may not have appeared to have been influential at the time, having formed a communist party with Engles and writing “The Communist Manifesto“, his works strongly influenced subsequent communist governments.
The Rise of the Soviet Union:
This included the government or leadership of the Soviet Union. To roughly explain what happened, Russia had been ruled by a monarchy for centuries leading to WW1. Due to the high levels of poverty, this eventually caused many Russian workers to start and join protests against ruling of the country. Eventually the Bolsheviks (communist party headed by Lenin at the time) overthrew the monarchy, and although they only gained 25% of the vote, they used military force to get through. This however led to free healthcare, free education and electricity for everyone in Russia. And while it was mainly a command economy, Lenin did allow for some free enterprise due to backlash faced by a various alternative parties and a civil war. After Lenin died, Stalin took over adopting a much harsher and more brutal approach having already overthrown the government in Georgia as general secretary. However the sudden changes in the country led to disruptions, including in agriculture which caused a famine, leading to farmers revolting. From here, those deemed to oppose the regime were send to prison camps or were deported to remote parts of Russia, meanwhile those who took action against the dictatorship were executed under Stalin’s orders, known as the great purge. Meanwhile Russia invaded large numbers of countries in the West, expanding the soviet union, alien to competing western principles throughout the cold war.
Life in the Soviet union:
So from what you have read, life in the Soviet union doesn’t exactly sound like glitter and rainbows. However from the range of stories I have managed to gather, there have been various opinions on life during the soviet union, and these haven’t all been bad… Some stated that they had “enjoyed life” during this time, however we need recognise that most people recalling life there more recently would have been young children at the time. However other, more detailed stories, depict a less enjoyable time. One recalls living as a family of 5, only living in a small two room apartment. Meanwhile having to attend youth programs to install communist beliefs, while people were allocated a job on poor, fixed salaries, while the government continued to enjoy huge privileges. Like Ranker.com states, the quality of life varied “wildly” over the years, depending on a large number of factors. But there again, there were no soup kitchens for the poor, while the Soviet government stopped publishing statistics concerning poverty believing it “simply did not exist”. Taking the average worker in the soviet union “ten times longer to produce a pound of meat, than it did the average American”.
The Comeback of Communism:
So it might seem that the recent years have been dominated by right wing principles; from Trump in America, the rise of China after opening up the market to Brexit and the austerity measures in the UK. Nevertheless at the same time we have seen some steering further to the left, and with young people seeming to become increasingly political vocal, it may suggest to some that the ideas of communism are once again trending… Bloody TikTok, as an example, seems to be full of these ideas which have become a “worldwide trend, full of young people dealing with the past which they have not lived in.” You may or may not know what I am on about, though before I uninstalled the thing, I kept coming across mainly white “E-Girls” showing “aesthetically pleasing” photographs of soviet countries. Clearly too young to know what life was like back then, but judging from the sort of photos, they are clearly glamourising it…
But we know this is not the full picture. Part of the reason for this I feel is literally due to the side affects of capitalism probably being slightly more transparent now (especially to young people) mainly due to the rise of the internet. And I would argue that because there is little education in schools concerning recent history (I didn’t know what the cold war was until a few months ago…) it means that people are more likely to look to these alternatives automatically assuming they are possibly better than capitalism…
But the growing popularity of communism is FAR MORE than just a few kids on TikTok promoting the soviet union. After the 2008 financial crash, which was essentially as a result of the behavior of Banks, works by Karl Marx were on the rise again. Possibly as it drew attention to some of the detrimental affects which can arise from greedy people under capitalism. While there have been increases in support of communism in America, due to issues of climate change, rises in fascism as well as police brutality. It has also been shown that slightly over half of liberal democrats there held “negative views” of capitalism. Now due to the toll that the pandemic has and will continue to have on economies, it is likely that more questions will arise regarding the capitalist economy. Especially amongst the young. And while there is only an alternative number of options on how to run the economy in more of a fair way, it is likely that people may find hope in the principle of communism once again.
Ok, so the economy and art are two very different things, however we are not going to have teenagers often younger than myself glorifying something in such satisfying way, when there is nothing nice to look at, or nothing of aesthetic value. No, instead art was rather prevalent throughout the soviet union. During the early times of the soviet union, there were two main types of art; “Russian Futurists” and “Social realists“. The former had been producing “lefist” art before the communist government came about, while the latter ended up being the only type of art produced officially. Typically featuring images of lifestyles of families and groups of people (there was little lee way on what could be produced…). However there is something else too which is important to the kind of aesthetic principle that leads people to glorifying this, which is more the case of the post soviet world, rather than during the actual time frame of the USSR. This includes Russian fashion, and pictures of it up against very polluted industrial backgrounds, as well as the “architecture” of the soviet union.
As a guess, the reason why this is so popular is because the apparience of the soviet union sort of fits in with alternative styles. With dismantled, rusty plagrounds, probably littered with needdles which appear “edgy”, and flats which look worse than your average 70s council estate, it is no surprise that images of post soviet countries have began to have a presence on the online platform for young rebels and non conformists.
But with the potential to appeal to young people in this way, there is a far deeper message lying behind why so many do choose to glorify it, as well as just a misunderstanding. You probably still don’t think that a few young people who may not know exactly what they are posting about, glorifying the soviet/post soviet world as too bigger deal. Or see it as too much of a danger. Because lets face it, these people will either learn or never realise and forget about this. Nonetheless it resembles a greater problem in the affects of capitalism which are arising, as well as the lack of education on certain issues. However if young people are informed and can know not to glorify inappropriate things (we have all been there…) then the increased transparency has got to be a good thing…
8 thoughts on “The Glorification of the Soviet Union”
It’s true that capitalism in is current form is not functioning properly for the average worker, and that is particularly hard for young people trying to find their footing in the job market, or buy their first house. However, I find it shocking that they are glorifying the Soviet Union. It’s questionable as to whether communism could ever work on a large scale, but what went on in the USSR certainly wasn’t it. I’ve just finished reading ‘One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich’, which gives an appalling account of the gulags – enough to destroy any ideas that the Soviet Union actually wasn’t that bad.
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I agree, capitalism in this form is horrible, yet those glorifying the soviet union have no clue what life was really like there (neither do I luckily…) but just because one doesn’t like the way their own economic system is run, it doesn’t mean they should assume that one is much better. I think the reason may partly be because people of too young an age are accessing politics online, off already shallow sources in some cases.
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Interesting point about people who are too young accessing shallow political content. I think I only partly agree – social media definitely propagates poor quality political news, leading to some problematic ideas. However, I personally believe that we should be more politically active as a society to protect our fragile democracies, so I like that it engages young people in current affairs. My hope is that they’ll also learn critical thinking skills to be able to discern what is reliable content as they grow older.
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Definitely agree and I am sure as those people grow older their critical thinking skills will improve (I was the same a few years ago). However things like this are rather likely because of people accessing these forms of media at a young age.
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Such an interesting article 🙂
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Interesting article 🙂
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Well said! It is unfortunate that the increasingly polarized political environment which surrounds us only benefits the growth of radical ideas, and reaches a point in which truth becomes muddy and difficult to convey as increasingly radicalized perspectives build “mental” walls.
A lot of these things stem from a lack of maturity towards certain nuances, but as you said, education- (a solid historical education in the case of politics), is the way to go!
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