Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Animated Soviet Propaganda: We'll Keep Our Eyes Peeled (1927)

This very early piece of animated Soviet propaganda is great. The Soviets are facing down the capitalist threat (Britain, not the U.S.) and is calling upon its workers to join the cause.

Pre-World War II Soviet propaganda is particularly fascinating because the U.S. often plays a relatively small role. The Soviets saw the British as the real threat. In fact, Ford executives were working in the Soviet Union during the 1930s, helping spur its industrialization.

The artistry of the animation impresses me. For 1927, this is advanced animation. There are many things to love here--the capitalist's checkered pants, how he pops in the live-action shots of Soviet factories, how the Soviets turn the British ultimatum into fighter planes, how the capitalists cries at the end in the face of Soviet power.

It's also worth noting how little Soviet propaganda during these years differs from American propaganda. The call for Soviet citizens to buy government bonds could come straight out of the United States during either World War II. Much Soviet propaganda has mirrors in the U.S. Watch Alexsandr Dovzhenko's 1930 film Earth and then watch Pare Lorentz's 1936 state-sponsored film about the Dust Bowl, The Plow that Broke the Plains. They aren't that different in many senses, particularly in connecting nationalism to the land. In both, lots of plowing scenes, lots of fetishizing farm technology.

I'm also fascinated by the Soviets asking their citizens to buy government bonds. Isn't this an acceptance of the capitalist system the nation is supposedly fighting against?