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Nepal, April 30, 2010

I see Lenin! Soviet Socialist Iconography in Nepal's Maoist Protests Posters

Maoist poster in the wild
Original PDF sent by ANFTU
I love Soviet-era propaganda imagery. It's so bold and striking, simple in its style yet effective in its message. So it was with great joy that I saw this Maoist poster in Nepal, calling people to action on the May 1st protests.

Let us break down the imagery that All Nepal Federation Trade Union (ANFTU) uses, and link it to Soviet expression of socialism now long past.

Frame of faces and flags

First, the upper half of the poster is framed by imagery of missing Maoist members, reinforcing the message of sacrifice and martyrdom for a greater cause. Flags showing different manual labour tools frame the lower half. I am not sure if these represent different unions, but they're a direct copy of Soviet posters that use the flags of all the Soviet states.

Upper half poster imagery

Next the upper portion of the poster contains a Soviet and a socialism reference. In the upper left, the hammer and star flag over the world is a direct descendant of earlier USSR flags over the world produce by the Soviet Union.

In the upper right, are busts of Marx, Trosky, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, giving the direct impression that the central figure on this poster is drawing from these earlier socialist leaders and has there approval. I am only disappointed that Castro isn't also represented.

Central figure representation

The man pictured in a larger size, assumed to be the central speaker at the upcoming rally is not done in an overt Soviet style - this is the Nepali influence. The image is a photograph, not a drawing, and he is pictured with a microphone. Neither is common to Soviet posters.

Lower half poster imagery

Here in the foreground of the poster bottom half are representations of angry, protesting labourers. While their mannerism are Soviet, the facial coloration - with the forehead white - is not Soviet. Yet there is a visual link to past protests, manifested by the raised arms leading back from the foreground and up towards the central figure, and from him, to the socialist busts.

Note that in the extreme foreground, the protesting workers are breaking through chains of oppressions, a final beautiful homage to Soviet imagery of the past.

Obtaining a poster

I was so enthralled by the poster's attempt to use Soviet iconography to link the present Maoist movement with past socialist leaders and activities, that I spent the whole week trying to find a poster I could take with me. Defeated at finding one that I could remove in one piece, I then employed modern technology to secure a sample. I emailed the ANFTU and they quickly sent me the original PDF.

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