30°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Hammer & Sickle Is Just As Bad As The Swastika – Part II

The+Hammer+%26+Sickle+Is+Just+As+Bad+As+The+Swastika
The Hammer & Sickle Is Just As Bad As The Swastika

In an effort to understand the Hammer and Sickle in its modern context, I conducted research on the primary resource for communism thought and policy in the United States: The Communist Party USA (CPUSA). However, in recent years, a very socialist ideology has been adopted by the mainstream Democratic Party, such as the concept of single-payer healthcare and a generous welfare state. CPUSA holds an ideology that some would call Neo-Marxist.
Generally, true Marxist followers adhere to Karl Marx’s strict teachings found in Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto. However, true Marxist ideology encourages the working class to rise up and revolt. The CPUSA, to appear more moderate and less extreme, adheres to a more socialist ideology that encourages socialism through voting, rather than a physical revolt.
While CPUSA does not use the specific symbol of the Hammer and Sickle, they have adopted a modernized version of it. On the CPUSA website, the question was raised, “What is your view on the usage of the original hammer and sickle symbol, and is there anywhere I can find something such as a flag with the current official symbol?” Four executives within the CPUSA answered the question independently. Scott Hiley writes, “When the hammer and sickle was first used, it represented the unity of workers and farmers. Later, during the great ideological clashes of the Cold War, it came to represent the only sustained challenge to a U.S.-dominated capitalist world order: the struggle for a society based on solidarity rather than exploitation and oppression. For that reason, the hammer and sickle continues to inspire many of us who share that vision. That said, it’s far from the only possible choice. The rooster, the dove, the cherry blossom, the star, and many other symbols have all rallied people to the cause of equality, democracy, and socialism. Ultimately, it is concrete struggle that gives a symbol its meaning, not the other way around” (1).
Another answer given to this question was, “The hammer and sickle is a vague symbol of rebellion, but not one that is terribly relevant for us. It is easily recognizable and that kind of brand recognition takes years to develop and isn’t something that should be ignored; however, it is only one of many symbols we should be using to get our message out. The hammer and sickle should be one in a larger toolbox of symbols and statements. We need to work on developing other more socially relevant symbols which speak more to our cause but we also shouldn’t discount any symbols which may speak to even a subset of people today” (1).
CPUSA executives clearly do not see the Hammer and Sickle as a violent or evil symbol. However, any study on the history of communism, specifically as it was implemented in the 19th and 20th centuries, leads to a conclusion of death tolls nearing around 100 million as a result of attempted implementation of pure communism. A Wall Street Journal Article reads, “100 Years of Communism—and 100 Million Dead” (2).
Recent politicians such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have shined communism and socialism in a much more positive light, as opposed to the establishment members of both parties. Establishment Democrats, such as Hillary Clinton, support a version of hyper-regulated capitalism. However, Hillary once said, “Being a capitalist probably hurt me in the democratic primaries” (3). Bernie Sanders branded himself a, “democratic socialist,” and socialist organizations such as Socialist Alternative proudly utilize communist flags, clothing, and paraphernalia in their own spaces as well as on college campuses, political protests, and rallies.
As I conclude with part two, I remind my readers to be open-minded to understand the suffering of those who lived under communism. While you might not agree that it is an inherently evil ideology, one cannot deny the pure evil that occurred under communist regimes. Understanding why the suffering occurred is one step toward the process of truly unpacking this ideology.
(1) http://www.cpusa.org/interact_cpusa/the-hammer-and-sickle-today/
(2) https://www.wsj.com/articles/100-years-of-communismand-100-million-dead-1510011810
(3) https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2018/05/02hillary_clinton_being_a_capitalist_probably_hurt_me_in_dem_primaries.html