Communist Symbolism
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Communist Symbolism

Communist symbolism represents a variety of themes, including revolution, the proletariat, peasantry, agriculture, or international solidarity.

Communist states, parties and movements use these symbols to advance and create solidarity within their cause. These symbols often appear in yellow on a red background. The flag of the Soviet Union incorporated a yellow-outlined red star and a yellow hammer and sickle on red. The flags of Transnistria, Vietnam, China, North Korea, Angola and Mozambique would all incorporate similar symbolism under communist rule.

The hammer and sickle have become the pan-communist symbol[], appearing on the flags of most communist parties around the world. Some parties have a modified version of the hammer and sickle as their symbol, most notably the Workers' Party of Korea which includes a hammer representing industrial workers, a hoe representing agricultural workers, and a brush (traditional writing-implement) representing the intelligentsia.

In Hungary,[1] Latvia, Indonesia, Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania, communist symbols are banned and displays in public for non-educational use are considered a criminal offense.[2]

Hammer and sickle

Hammer and sickle red on transparent.svg

The hammer stands for the industrial working class and the sickle represents the agricultural workers, therefore together they represent the unity of the two groups.[]

The hammer and sickle were first used during the 1917 Russian Revolution, but it did not become the official symbol of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic until 1924.[] Since the Russian Revolution, the hammer and sickle have come to represent various communist parties and communist states.

Red star

Red star.svg

The red five-pointed star is a symbol of the ultimate triumph of the ideas of communism on the five (inhabited, excluding Antarctica) continents of the globe. It first appeared as a military symbol in Tsarist Russia. It was then called the "Mars star," reminiscent of Mars, the Ancient Roman god of war . On January 1, 1827, the law was signed that put a five-pointed star on the epaulets of officers and generals. In 1854, the star began to be used on shoulder straps. Later, the five-pointed star with a two-headed eagle inside it was used to mark military trains and carriages. In Soviet Russia, the five-pointed star symbolized the protection of peacetime labor by the Red Army (again, like in Ancient Rome, where Mars was also the protector of the agricultural workers). In 1918, the drawing of the badge for the soldiers of the Red Army in the form of a red star with a golden image of a plough and a hammer in the center was approved. The star symbolized protection, while the plough and the hammer were read as a union of workers and peasants. By the 1920s, the red star began to be used as an official symbol of the state, and finally in 1924, it became the part of the Soviet flag and the official emblem of the Soviet Union. [3][4]

In the succeeding years, the five-pointed red star came to be considered as a symbol of communism as well as broader socialism in general. It was widely used by anti-fascist resisting parties and underground socialist organizations in Europe leading up to and during World War II. During the war, the red star was prominently used as a symbol of the Red Army troops of the Soviet Union countering the invading forces of Nazi Germany and wiping them out of Eastern Europe, achieving absolute victory and ending the war at the Battle of Berlin.[] Most states in the Eastern Bloc incorporated the red star into state symbols to signify their socialist nature.

Red flag

Socialist red flag.svg

The red flag is often seen in combination with other communist symbols and party names. The flag is used at various communist and socialist rallies like May Day. The flag, being a symbol of socialism itself, is also commonly associated with non-communist variants of socialism.

The red flag has had multiple meanings in history. It is associated with courage, sacrifice, blood and war in general, but it was first used as a flag of defiance.[5] The red flag gained its modern association with communism in the 1871 French Revolution.[] After the October Revolution, the Soviet government adopted the red flag with a superimposed hammer and sickle as its national flag. Since the October Revolution, various socialist states and movements have used the red flag.

Red and black flag

Anarchist flag.svg

The red and black flag has been a symbol of general communist movements, though generally used by anarcho-communists. The flag was used as the symbol of the anarcho-syndicalists during the Spanish Civil War. The black represents anarchism and the red represents leftist and socialist ideals.[6] Over time, the flag spilled into statist leftist movements, these movements include the Sandinistas and the 26th of July Movement, where the flags colors are not divided diagonally, but horizontally. As in the case of the Sandinistas, they adopted the flag due to the movement's anarchist roots.[7]

Guerrillero Heroico


This famous photo captured by photographer Alberto Korda of Che Guevara in 1960 has become a world symbol of revolution. This image can be found on t-shirts, flags, hats, in street art, parodied in popular media, and even in the autonomous areas of Chiapas, Mexico, controlled by the EZLN.

The Internationale

The Internationale is an anthem of the Communist movement.[8] It is one of the most universally recognized songs in the world and has been translated into nearly every spoken language. Its original French refrain is C'est la lutte finale/Groupons-nous et demain/L'Internationale/Sera le genre humain (English: This is the final struggle/Let's group together and tomorrow/The International/Will be the human race). It is often sung with a raised fist salute.

The song has been used by communists all over the world since it was composed in the 19th century and adopted as the official anthem of the Second International. It later became the anthem of Soviet Russia in 1918 and of the Soviet Union in 1922. It was superseded as the Soviet Union anthem in 1944 with the adoption of the State Anthem of the Soviet Union, which placed more emphasis on patriotism. The song was also sung in defiance to Communist governments, such as in the German Democratic Republic in 1989 prior to reunification as well as in the People's Republic of China during the Tienanmen Square protests of the same year.[]

Plough (or Starry Plough)

Starry Plough flag (1914).svg
Plough Flag.svg

Although not an exclusively communist symbol, the Plough, or Starry Plough, is a symbol of Irish socialism. It may have the same roots as the original hammer and Plough that was replaced by the hammer and sickle in Soviet Russia.[] The significance of the banner was that the free Workers of the Republic of Ireland would control its own destiny from the plough to the stars and the sword forged into the plough would mean the redundancy of war with the establishment of a socialist International. The flag depicts the Big Dipper, part of the constellation of Ursa Major that is known as "The Plough" in Ireland and Great Britain.[] The Plough is one of the most prominent features of the night sky over Ireland throughout the year. This was unveiled in 1914 and flown by the Irish Citizen Army during the 1916 Easter Rising.

In China, the Plough flag (Chinese: ), a red flag with white or yellow plough, is widely used in the period of the First Revolutionary Civil War as the flag of the Chinese peasant associations, an organization led by the Communist Party of China.[9][10] It is believed that Peng Pai (Chinese: ) was the first user in 1923 at the peasants' association of Hailufeng.[11] The Plough flag has many different versions and some are combined with the flag of Blue Sky, White Sun or Red Field;[12] other are different on the details of the plough.[13][14]

National emblems

Soviet leaders sought to distinguish their insignia from the emblems used by the Russian emperor and aristocracy as they replaced and omitted the traditional heraldic devices, substituting an emblem that did not conform to traditional European practices

Many communist governments purposely diverged from the traditional forms of European heraldry in order to distance themselves from the monarchies that they usually replaced, with actual coats of arms being seen as symbols of the monarchs. Instead, they followed the pattern of the national emblems adopted in the late 1910s and early 1920s in Soviet Russia and the Soviet Union.[]

Other communist symbols

While not necessarily communist in nature, the following graphic elements are often incorporated into the flags, seals and propaganda of communist countries and movements.

Notable examples of communist states that use no overtly communist imagery on their flags, emblems or other graphic representations are Cuba and the former Polish People's Republic.


Examples of these symbols in use.

Hammer and sickle

Red star

Red and black flag


Other symbols

See also

A tableau in a communist rally in Kerala, India showing two farmers forming the hammer and sickle, the most famous communist symbol



  1. ^ Hungarian Criminal Code 269 / B. § 1993.
  2. ^ "Het spook van het communisme waart nog steeds door Europa" (in Dutch). 22 December 2009. Retrieved 2012.
  3. ^ "The Soviet flag EXPLAINED". 20 June 2021. Retrieved 2021.
  4. ^ "The Soviet flag EXPLAINED". 21 June 2021. Retrieved 2021.
  5. ^ 1602 Dekker Satirom. Wks. 1873 I. 233 What, dost summon a parlie, my little Drumsticke? tis too late: thou seest my red flag is hung out. 1666 Lond. Gaz. No. 91/4 That the Red Flag was out, both Fleets in sight of each other, expecting every hour fit weather to Engage. Flags of the World, "Flag of Defiance".
  6. ^ "Anarchist FAQ Appendix" Archived 2015-09-01 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ "El socialismo libertario de" (in Spanish). Centro Para la Promoción, Investigación Rural y Social. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 2009.
  8. ^ The Guardian, Australia (25 October 2009). "The International". pp. first paragraph. Archived from the original on 27 October 2009. Retrieved 2018.
  9. ^ "002 ".
  10. ^ "".
  11. ^ "".
  12. ^ "?" Archived 2016-10-25 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ "#?#----".
  14. ^ ",".
  15. ^ a b "Che Guevara: Revolutionary & Icon", by Trisha Ziff, Abrams Image, 2006
  16. ^ "Communists, Capitalists still buy into Iconic Che Photo, Author says" by Brian Byrnes, CNN, May 5, 2009


  • Arvidsson, Stefan (2017). Style and mythology of socialism: socialist idealism, 1871-1914. Routledge.
  • Barisone, Silvia, Czech, Hans-Jörg & Doll, Nikola (2007). Kunst und Propaganda im Streit der Nationen 1930 - 1945: eine Ausstellung des Deutschen Historischen Museums Berlin in Zusammenarbeit mit The Wolfsonian-Florida International University. Dresden: Sandstein.
  • Groys, Boris (2011 [1992]). The total art of Stalinism: avant-garde, aesthetic dictatorship, and beyond. Verso Books.
  • King, David (2009). Red star over Russia: a visual history of the Soviet Union from 1917 to the death of Stalin : posters, photographs and graphics from the David King collection. London: Tate.

External links

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