Fascism and Communism and propaganda.


Symbolic discourse and Propaganda


Agitation Propaganda (Agitprop) is the systematic spreading and thorough explanation of political, philosophical, economic, historical, as well as scientific, technical, and other types of ideas by the political leadership of a movement, society or organization, advancing the effectiveness of political persuasion and training on the target, leading to rapid action, or mobilization.

Agitation Propaganda is focused on causing an excitement of emotions in the target, with the aims of stimulating action. The term Agitation Propaganda is interchangeable with the Russian term for the concept, Agitprop - using the technological advances of the twentieth century to fashion a state system powered by agitating the masses.


A 1937 anti-Bolshevik Nazi propaganda poster. The translated caption: "Bolshevism without a mask - large anti-Bolshevik exhibition of the NSDAP Gauleitung Berlin from November 6, 1937 to December 19, 1937 in the Reichstag building".

Agitation propaganda or Agitprop covers a wide range of activities such as: disseminating posters, leaflets, and movies; fabricating or distorting events, forging documents and spreading disinformation, to even committing acts of terrorism to force the enemy to react. Agitation propaganda’s versatility means it can be applied to endless applications and situations.

Using art as propaganda was one of the key components of the Nazi regime's attempt to sell their ideology and beliefs to the German people.  Adolf Hitler himself discussed the importance of propaganda in Chapter VI of Mein Kampf.  Hitler regarded propaganda as very important, calling it "a weapon of the first order" in Chapter VI of Mein Kampf.  The Nazis believed that propaganda should be used to spread their beliefs by focusing the attention of the people on certain facts or opinions.  As Hitler put in Chapter VI of Mein Kampf, the function of propaganda was "in calling the masses' attention to certain facts, processes, necessities, etc."  The Nazis believed in using propaganda to send simple messages that appealed to emotion rather than intellect. 

  The main purposes of Nazi propaganda were to convince the public that it was necessary to fight and participate in the war effort and to foster anti semitic sentiment. Anti-communism, Social Hierarchy, National Unity, and the role of women and youths were also frequently addressed by propaganda art. Propaganda posters were a huge part of the propaganda effort, and are an example of art being used as propaganda.  They were frequently used by the Nazis during and even before their time in control of the German government to spread the Nazi message.


According to Lenin: "Every artist, everyone who considers himself an artist, has the right to create freely according to his ideal, independently of everything. However, we are Communists and we must not stand with folded hands and let chaos develop as it pleases. We must systemically guide this process and form its result."[



The role of culture – Gramsci: According to Gramsci, "traditional intellectuals" create and popularize hegemony through their influence in institutions like the State, church, and school system. As priests, teachers, doctors, artists, journalists, politicians, lawyers, business managers, civil servants, and technicians, they produce national identity and shape popular culture in a manner that validates the dominant political order. For Gramsci, the term "intellectual" does not refer to someone from the tradition-educated stratum, but rather to individuals who create the moral-political dimension of ruling class hegemony. It has in view ideologues, who, in Gramsci's words, originate and espouse "the traditional popular conception of the world" (Hoare and Smith 1971:199).

Alternatively, organic intellectuals develop from within the subordinated class and create counter-hegemonic ideology as a revolutionary activity. They build philosophically subversive institutions that challenge the authority of the ruling elite, and, as politically aware individuals, they invest their intelligence in the consciousness raising of the masses. Gramsci insists that a revolution can only occur when the common people have been converted to a counter-hegemonic ideology that inspires them to demand a foundational change in popular philosophy (i.e., hegemonic ideology) and the role of the State (Boggs 1968:212). Therefore, organic intellectuals must create a universal worldview that becomes the basis for a post-revolutionary socialist State dominated by the working class


The Italian socialists had dismissed Marinetti and the Futurists for the lack of socialistideology in their collective works, while Gramsci was willing to accept bourgeois vanguardculture as a temporary substitute for the eventual formation of an alternative

 Proletarian culture


 Such faith in the good intentions of a bourgeois avant-garde could only be possible if its artistic production genuinely reflected, and appealed to the daily realities and existence of the Italian factory worker. Gramsci, in contrast to the socialists, did not seem to believe that art need be

 political to be of practical revolutionary use to the proletariat, only real to them Whether the presentation of this reality in a work renders it µpolitical¶ is a difficult issue, though probably more semantically than conceptually.


The varieties of culture


Traditional media: press, radio, TV; Magazines



Art: El Lissitzky - Red wedge beat the whites 1919 – abstract images; Swastika; SS graphic: Soviet art

Modernist revolutionary art that Stalin the conservative thinker on Art) hated.


During the Russian Revolution a movement was initiated to put all arts to service of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The instrument for this was created just days before the October Revolution, known as Proletkult, an abbreviation for Proletarian Cultural and Enlightenment Organizations.. A prominent theorist of this movement was Aleksandr Bogdanov. Initially Narkompros (ministry of education), which was also in charge of the arts, supported Proletkult. However the latter sought too much independence from the ruling Communist Party of Bolsheviks, gained negative attitude of Lenin, by 1922 declined considerably, and was eventually disbanded in 1932.

The ideas of Proletkult attracted the interests of Russian avantgarde, who strived to get rid of the conventions of "bourgeois art". Among notable persons of this movement was Kazimir Malevich. However the ideas of the avantgarde eventually clashed with the newly emerged state-sponsored direction of Socialist Realism.

In search of new forms of expression, the Proletkult organisation was highly eclectic in its art forms, and thus was prone to harsh criticism for inclusion of such modern directions as impressionism and cubism, since these movements existed before the revolution and hence were associated with "decadent bourgeois art".

Socialist realism held that successful art depicts and glorifies the proletariat's struggle toward socialist progress. The Statute of the Union of Soviet Writers in 1934 stated that socialist realism

is the basic method of Soviet literature and literary criticism. It demands of the artist the truthful, historically concrete representation of reality in its revolutionary development. Moreover, the truthfulness and historical concreteness of the artistic representation of reality must be linked with the task of ideological transformation and education of workers in the spirit of socialism.

—Page 148, On Socialist Realism" Sinyavsky

Its purpose was to elevate the common worker, whether factory or agricultural, by presenting his life, work, and recreation as admirable. In other words, its goal was to educate the people in the goals and meaning of Communism. The ultimate aim was to create what Lenin called "an entirely new type of human being": New Soviet Man. Stalin described the practitioners of socialist realism as "engineers of souls" The "realism" part is important. Soviet art at this time aimed to depict the worker as he truly was, carrying his tools

The importance of graphic art and letter design: Nazi Posters



The term Entartung (or "degeneracy") had gained popularity in Germany by the late 19th century when the critic and author Max Nordau devised the theory presented in his 1892 book, Entartung. Nordau a critique of modern art, explained as the work of those so corrupted and enfeebled by modern life that they have lost the self-control needed to produce coherent works. Explaining Impressionism as the sign of a diseased visual cortex, he decried modern degeneracy while praising traditional German culture. Despite the fact that Nordau was Jewish (as was Lombroso), his theory of artistic degeneracy would be seized upon by German National Socialists during the Weimar Republic as a rallying point for their anti-Semitic and racist demand for Aryan purity in art.

Belief in a Germanic spirit—defined as mystical, rural, moral, bearing ancient wisdom, noble in the face of a tragic destiny—existed long before the rise of the Nazis; Richard Wagner celebrated such ideas in his work. Beginning before World War I the well-known German architect and painter Paul Schultze-Naumburg influential writings, which invoked racial theories in condemning modern art and architecture, supplied much of the basis for Adolf Hitler's belief that classical Greece and the Middle Ages were the true sources of Aryan art. Hitler's rise to power on January 31, 1933 was quickly followed by actions intended to cleanse the culture of degeneracy: book burnings were organized, artists and musicians were dismissed from teaching positions, artists were forbidden to utilize any colors not apparent in nature, to the "normal eye", and curators who had shown a partiality to modern art were replaced by Party members.

In September 1933 the Reichskulturkammer (Reich Culture Chamber) was established, with Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's Reichminister für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda (Reich Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda) in charge. Subchambers within the Culture Chamber, representing the individual arts (music, film, literature, architecture, and the visual arts) were created; these were membership groups consisting of "racially pure" artists supportive of the Party, or willing to be compliant. In September 1934, when Hitler declared that there would be no place for modernist experimentation in the Reich. Modern artworks were purged from German museums


Music: rhythm; drums; marching; folksongs; heroic songs (Horst Wessels)

Shostakovich 7th & 11th Symphony – heroic orchestral approved by Stalin

Musical realism.


As the Nazi regime accrued power in 1933, musicologists were directed to rewrite the history of German music in order to accommodate Nazi mythology and ideology. Richard Wagner and Hans Pfitzner were notable preexisting composers who conceptualized a united order (Volksgemeinschaft) where music was an index of the German community. In a time of disintegration, Wagner and Pfitzner wanted to revitalize the country through music. In a book written about Hans Pfitzner and Wagner, published in Regseneberg in 1939 followed not only the birth of contemporary musical parties, but also of political parties in Germany. The Wagner-Pfitzner stance contrasted ideas of other notable artists – Arnold Schonberg and Theodor W. Adorno – who wanted music to be autonomous from politics, Nazi control and application. Although Wagner and Pfitzner came before the Third Reich, their sentiments and thoughts, Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk, were appropriated by Hitler and his propagandists – notably Joseph Goebbels.


Composers, librettists, educators, critics, and especially musicologists, through their public statements, intellectual writings, and journals contributed to the justification of a totalitarian blueprint to be implanted through nazification. All music was then composed for the occasions of Nazi pageantries, rallies, and conventions. Composers dedicated so called 'consecration fanfares,' inaugurations fanfares and flag songs to the Fuhrer.


Shostakovich also began work on his satirical opera The Nose based on the story by Gogol. In June 1929, the opera was given a concert performance, against Shostakovich's own wishes, and was ferociously attacked by the Russian Association of Proletarian Musicians (RAPM). Its stage premiere on 18 January 1930 opened to generally poor reviews and widespread incomprehension amongst musicians.

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Shostakovich worked at TRAM, a proletarian youth theatre. Although he did little work in this post, it shielded him from ideological attack. Much of this period was spent writing his opera, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District which was first performed in 1934. It was immediately successful, on both popular and official levels. It was described as "the result of the general success of Socialist construction, of the correct policy of the Party", and as an opera that "could have been written only by a Soviet composer brought up in the best tradition of Soviet culture.

Lady Macbeth as formalist, "coarse, primitive and vulgar," was thought to have been instigated by Stalin. Consequently, commissions began to fall off, and his income fell by about three quarters. Even Soviet music critics who had praised the opera were forced to recant in print, saying they "failed to detect the shortcomings of Lady Macbeth as pointed out by the Pravda"  Shortly after the "Muddle Instead of Music" article, Pravda published another, "Ballet Falsehood," that criticized Shostakovich’s ballet The Limpid Stream. Shostakovich did not expect this second article because the general public and press already accepted this music as "democratic" - that is, tuneful and accessible. However, Pravda criticized The Limpid Stream for incorrectly displaying peasant life on the collective farm.

But his greatest and most famous wartime contribution was the Seventh Symphony. .It was officially claimed as a representation of the people of Leningrad’s brave resistance to the German invaders and an authentic piece of patriotic art at a time when morale needed boosting.



The contrast of realism with abstraction: the politics of…



Painting – again realism of heroes/masses/great battles as inspiration as against Picasso’s Guernica.



Film – Eisenstein/Leni Reifenstahl – Triumph of the Will


Strike (1924), Battleship Potemkin (1925) and October (1927), as well as the historical epics Alexander Nevsky (1938) and Ivan the Terrible (1944, 1958).


Eisenstein began his career in theatre working for Proletkult His productions there were entitled Gas Masks, Listen Moscow, and Wiseman Eisenstein would then work as a designer for Vsevolod Meyerhold. Strike (1925) was Eisenstein's first full-length feature film. The Battleship Potemkin (1925) was acclaimed critically worldwide. But it was mostly his international critical renown which enabled Eisenstein to direct October (aka Ten Days That Shook The World) as part of a grand tenth anniversary celebration of the October Revolution of 1917, and then The General Line= (aka Old and New). The critics of the outside world praised them, but at home, Eisenstein's focus in these films on structural issues such as camera angles, crowd movements, and montage brought him and like-minded others, such as Vsevolod Pudovkin and Alexander Dovzhenko under fire from the Soviet film community, forcing him to issue public articles of self-criticism and commitments to reform his cinematic visions to conform to the increasingly specific doctrines of socialist realism.



Poetry/Drama: Brechtverfrensdungseffekt

After the Bolsheviks gained power, Mayakovsky's group — patronized by Anatoly Lunacharsky, Lenin’s minister of education — aspired to dominate Soviet culture. Their influence was paramount during the first years after the revolution, until their program — or rather lack thereof — was subjected to scathing criticism by the authorities


Brecht’s Necessity of Propaganda



Architecture – the citadel of Stalin/Speer

Hitler was an admirer of imperial Rome and believed that some ancient Germans had, over time, become part of its social fabric and exerted influence on it. He considered the Romans an early Aryan empire, and emulated their architecture in an original style inspired by both neoclassicism and art deco, sometimes known as "severe" deco, erecting edifices as cult sites for the Nazi Party. He also ordered construction of a type of Altar of Victory, borrowed from the Greeks, who were, according to Nazi ideology, inseminated with the seed of the Aryan peoples. Hitler had to import political symbols into Germany and justify their presence on the grounds of a spurious racial ancestry, the myth that ancient Greeks were among the ancestors of the Germans - linked to the same Aryan peoples.


Architecture falls under cultural landscape, one of the most reflective relics of a culture. The cultural landscape of a nation and era very directly mirror the customs, practices, and ideology of the society in which the landscape is made.









The link could be direct; a Thingplatz (or Thingstätte) was a meeting place near or directly on a site of supposed special historical significance, used for the holding of festivals associated with a Germanic past. This was an attempt to link the German people back to both their history and their land. The use of 'Thing' places was closely associated with the 'blood and soil' part of Nazi ideology, which involved the perceived right of those of German blood to occupy German land. The Thingplatz would contain structures, which often included natural objects like stones and were built in the most natural setting possible. These structures would be built following the pattern of an ancient Greek theatre, following a structure of a historical culture considered to be Aryan.


The Nazis would bring the community together using architecture, creating a stage for the community experience. These buildings were also solely for the German people, the great hall in Berlin was not a supranational People's House like those being built in the Soviet Union, but the stage where tens of thousands of recharged citizens would enter into a solemn mystic union with the Supreme Leader of the German Nation. The sheer size of the stage itself would magnify the importance of what was being said.

Two primary National Socialist styles of architecture. Nazi Architecture in its crudest sense was either a squared-off version of neoclassical architecture, or a mimicry of völkisch and national romanticism in buildings and structures. The most notable example of this is the Wewelsburg castle complex redesigned in a very mythological way as a cult site for the SS. Especially in the North Tower of the castle medieval Romanesque and Gothic architecture was imitated. The Wewelsburg was to become "centre of the world". At the castle were proponents of a kind of SS esotericism consisting of Germanic mysticism, an ancestor cult, worship of runes, and racial doctrines. Himmler, for example, adapted the idea of the Grail to create a heathen mystery for the SS.

The neoclassical style was primarily used for urban state buildings or party buildings such as the Zeppelin Field in Nuremberg, the planned Volkshalle for Berlin and the Dietrich Eckart Stage in Berlin. This style was not just used for physical construction, but on the ordered columns of searchlights that formed Speer's "cathedral of light" used at the Nuremberg Party Rallies.

Central to this was Albert Speer's Theory of Ruin Value, in which the Nazis would build structures which even in a state of decay, after hundreds or thousands of years would more or less resemble Roman models. Speer intended to produce this result by avoiding elements of modern construction such as steel girders and reinforced concrete which are subject to weathering. To Hitler, only the great cultural documents of humanity made of granite and marble could symbolize his new order.

Nazi buildings were not to be like the Reichstag, seen as a grandiose monument conjuring up historical reminiscences, but as symbols of a new Germany.


SS newspaper Das Schwarze Korps published an essay by Heinrich Himmler entitled "German Castles in the East", in which he wrote, "When people are silent, stones speak. By means of the stone, great epochs speak to the present so that fellow citizens; are able to uplift themselves through the beauty of self-made buildings. Proud and self-assured, they should be able to look upon these works erected by their own community".


Hitler saw architecture as "The Word In Stone," a method of imparting a message. This is not regime architecture primarily for general propaganda purposes, but is work meant to impart a specific message. This would be a message that all decent Germans would understand, like the lessons of events at the Degenerate Art exhibition staged in Munich in 1937. They would not understand it because they were told to; they would understand it simply because of who they were.


Both the Nazis and the Romans employed architecture of colossal dimensions to overawe and intimidate. Both cultures were preoccupied with architectural monuments that celebrated or glorified a victory ideology: triumphal arches (the largest in the world would be built on Berlin's north-south axis), columns, trophies, and a cult of pageantry associated with the subjugation of others. As Albert Speer remarked, when it was safe to do so: The Romans built arches of triumph to celebrate the big victories won by the Roman Empire, while Hitler built them to celebrate victories he had not yet won. A major difference between the neoclassical state architecture of Nazi Germany and neoclassical architecture in other modern countries in Europe and America is that in Germany it was but one facet of a severely authoritarian state. Its dictator aimed to establish architectural order; gridiron town plans, axial symmetry, hierarchical placement of state structure within urban space on a scale intended to reinforce the social and political order desired by the Nazi state.


Sculpture was used as part of, and in conjunction with, Nazi architecture to embody the "German Spirit" of divine destiny. Sculpture expressed the National Socialist obsession with the ideal body and espoused nationalistic, state approved values like loyalty, work, and family. Josef Thorak and Arno Breker were the most famous sculptors of the Nazi regime.

Arno Breker was in a certain sense both the best and the worst of the Nazi artists. Nominated as official state sculptor on Hitler's birthday in 1937, his technique was excellent, and his choice of subject, poses, theme were outstanding. Breker uses his numerous "naked men with swords" to unite the notions of health, strength, competition, collective action and willingness to sacrifice the self for the common good seen in many other Nazi works with explicit glorification of militarism.

Die Partei by Breker.

Stalin and Architecture:

that art, music and architecture could inspire people to sacrifice themselves on the labor and agricultural battlefields. The role that monumental propaganda in different cultures had played in fostering such sacrifice was well known; whether it was a temple in Ancient Egypt or a Jesuit monastery. Stalin was a brilliant choreographer of mass ceremonies but he badly needed ceremonial locations, broad squares, straight avenues and lavishly decorated palaces.

In 1939 All-Union Exhibition of Agriculture, now VVTs was opened as a huge outdoor propaganda venue. A true paradise on Earth with palaces of dairy products, gardens and orchards, stables, monuments to horses and portraits of the heroes of agricultural labor. The most famous Soviet sculpture of the Worker and the Kolkhoz Woman created by Vera Mukhina for the International Exhibition in Paris of 1938 made a journey back home and was mounted there. They wrote songs and made movies about it, guides told convincing stories of the wellbeing of Soviet collective farmers.

Moscow was to become the supreme world capital, the sacred city of communist ideology, the lifetime monument to Josef Stalin, the farther and the sun of the nation. With this mission fixed in their minds, the government centralized and structured all independent creative societies and individuals into unions of musicians, artists or architects

As part of the Soviet policy of rationalization of the country, all cities were built to a general development plan. Each was divided into districts, with allotments based on the city's geography. Projects would be designed for whole districts, visibly transforming a city's architectural image.

The interaction of the state with the architects would prove to be one of the features of this time. The same building could be declared a formalist blasphemy and then receive the greatest praise the next year.

Kotelnicheskaya Embankment one of seven Stalinist skyscrapers laid down in September, 1947 and completed in 1952, designed by Dmitry Chechylin (then Chief Architect of Moscow) and Andrei Rostkovsk

Constructivist architecture was a form of modern architecture that flourished in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and early 1930s. It combined advanced technology and engineering with an avowedly Communist social purpose.

 Russian Worker’s club 1927


The Narkomtiazhprom  was a 1934 architectural contest for the People's Commissariat of Construction of Heavy Industry, to be constructed in Red Square, Moscow

Two distinct threads emerged, the first was encapsulated in Antoine Pevsner’s and Naum Gabo's Realist manifesto which was concerned with space and rhythm, the second represented a struggle within the Commissariat for Enlightenment between those who argued for pure art and the Productivists such as Alexander Rodchenko, Varvara Stepanova and Vladimir Tatlin, a more socially-oriented group who wanted this art to be absorbed in industrial production.

A split occurred in 1922 when Pevsner and Gabo emigrated. The movement then developed along socially utilitarian lines. The productivist majority gained the support of the Proletkult and the magazine LEF, and later became the dominant influence of the architectural group O.S.A.

The first and most famous Constructivist architectural project was the 1919 proposal for the headquarters of the Comintern in St Petersburg by the Futurist Vladimir Tatlin, often called Tatlin's Tower. Though it remained unbuilt, the materials—glass and steel—and its futuristic ethos and political slant (the movements of its internal volumes were meant to symbolise revolution and the dialectic) set the tone for the projects of the 1920s



The new forms of the Constructivists began to symbolise the project for a new everyday life of the Soviet Union, then in the mixed economy of the New Economic Policy State buildings were constructed like the huge Gosprom complex in Kharkiv[10] which along with the Dessau Bauhaus, the largest scale Modernist work of the 1920s.



Dessau Bauhaus



Intourist garage 1933.


Moscow Master Plan (1935)

During July, 1935 the State evaluated the results and finally issued a decree on the Moscow Master Plan. The Plan, among other things, included Stalin's urban development ideas:

New development must proceed by whole ensembles, not by individual buildings.

City block size should increase from the current 1.5-2 to 9–15 ha

New development must be limited in density to 400 persons per 1 ha

Buildings should be at least 6 stories high; 7-10-14 story on first-rate streets.

Embankments are first-rate streets, only zoned for first-rate housing and offices

These rules effectively banned low-cost mass construction in the old city and "first-rate" streets, as well as single-family homebuilding. Low-cost development proceeded in remote areas, but most funds were diverted to new, expensive "ensemble" projects which valued facades and grandeur more than the needs of overcrowded cities.


unbuilt project for the Zaryadye skyscraper in Moscow, 1947


Rosenfeld's Peschanaya Street project, Moscow, 1951–1955




Modernism v anti-modernism.