Why is communist chic so cool?

September 5, 2006

webworkersTechcrunch reports on the latest from the Om Malik empire: Web Worker Daily. As Mike Arrington correctly points out, the logo of the site is a play on the Cyrillic alphabet signage typically used by the Soviet Union.

My question is this though: why is communist chic so cool?

I see kiddies and trendy types wearing CCCP and hammer and sickle t-shirts and track suits and I can’t help but cringe. Indeed, as much as I personally support concepts and ideas such as Open Source and Creative Commons, I sometimes hesitate in supporting them because they also tend to use such symbology.

Sure, I’m not that old (31 yesterday), but I can still remember the Cold War. I can still remember things like the Doomsday Clock, and the threat of Nuclear War. I can remember doing absurd fallout drills in Primary School where you practiced crouching under your desk in the event of a Nuclear explosion (yep, they use to teach that in the NSW Public School system). I can even remember many years ago a Beyond 2000 special on Channel 7 Sydney where they discussed how many people would be killed if a Nuclear Missile hit Sydney, and how fewer people would be killed if the bomb hit Cronulla instead of the city itself… which was of no solace to me given Cronulla was just down the road from where I lived at the time.

You see, for me, communism sucked. It represented all that was wrong in the world as it was then. Indeed, although the Cold War is dead, a footnote in the history books of Generation Y, I still find it an insidious, evil form of government, one that impedes the rights of the individual, individual freedom being the core fundamental of a free and democratic society (although given the actions of Governments in Australia of late, sometimes I wonder.).

And for these reasons, I don’t get communist chic. Something still makes me feel ill when I see the symbols of the Soviet Union used with no regards to the past. The 40 million odd Russians slaughtered by Stalin, the precipice of global extinction experienced by the world thanks to leaders such as Khrushchev, Andropov and Chernenko seem all forgotten by a generation that has either no knowledge of the past, or has no regards for it. It’s not socially acceptable to wear and use swastikas and German symbology circa WW2, but why has it become cool to wear and use Soviet symbology?

Food for thought.

7 responses to Why is communist chic so cool?

  1. Rather than commenting on the article itself i have posted a reply on my blog at stasik.wordpress.com. Would like to see it as the start of the discussion rather than some sort of criticism towards the author. I only applaude Duncan for his knowledge of Communism era.

  2. People seem to think it means “I’m a proud working man who is fighting the Establishment (except not really, it’s a cool pose)”. Sort of like “Goth” as a club for loners, but with colors.

    There’s some sociological names for this, some sort of appropriation (like when rich kids wear symbols of peasant revolutionaries).

    I suspect any bona-fide Communist (if there are any still in existence) would find it extremely annoying.

  3. Let me clarify that last, after an in-depth read of the site:

    Anyone with a modicum of historical understanding about worker movements *should* find its poseur affectations extremely annoying.

  4. I think the answer’s pretty easy on this one — what’s bad is good … and the level of acceptableness is inverse to how good our memory is about how bad that “bad” thing was.

    Nazi Germany and its atrocities still live on in public memory, in pop culture, in movies, in radio and so on.

    Not so with Communist Russia.

    t @ dji

  5. The examples you give (Doomsday Clock, safety drills, etc) were not because of Communism, per se, they existed because of the ideological conflict between “capitalism” and “communism”. If communism was the only economic system practiced in the world, there would be no need for those things. In other words, it’s not communism you’re opposing, but the war between communism and capitalism.

  6. Thanks for good post! Thats what i’ve been looking for.

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  1. “Why is communist chic so cool?” - My response to Duncan Riley « Anti-Depressant - September 5, 2006

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