Inside an Archive of Illustrated Propaganda Posters

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Kim Young Sim Bring Honour to Our Glorious Country Forever!, late 1980sCourtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum, London

A new publication from Reaktion Books showcases the poignant power of communist art

Despite their ephemeral nature as markers of time and place, history has proven repeatedly that posters have had a far-reaching and long-lasting impact when used for political purposes. Effective weapons of protest, both before and after the establishment of revolutionary regimes, posters have long served as beacons of communist propaganda. From images of Vladimir Lenin posing as patron saint of the future society to those of Mao Zedong declaring the Cultural Revolution, a captivating new book entitled Communist Posters, published by Reaktion Books and edited by Mary Ginsberg, features a visual and cultural feast of political imagery accompanied by individual essays.

With strikingly beautiful artwork and bold slogans, made clear and comprehensive in order to appeal to mass audiences, posters were a vital component of communist regimes both when it came to rising and to staying in power. They were relatively cheap and simple to produce, as well as easy to transport, distribute and display, transforming “every street into a large newspaper” as Elena Serrano, Cuban artist, writes in the book. Communist Posters is a fascinating exploration of the history and variety of communist artists, from the Soviet Union to Cuba; travel back in time this Monday morning and immerse yourself in some of the most beautiful political art ever made, comrade. 

Communist Posters, edited by Mary Ginsberg, is out now published by Reaktion Books.