Allegiance and Art

The Bolshevik Revolution was  a period of upheaval for the Russian government, and this contention for power and ideology translated into a variety of popular art forms. While Futurism and Avant Garde artwork of the pre-revolution highlighted the optimism that many for the future of a modernized Russia, the Revolution  saw some art utilized in a manner that would mobilize the proletariat that would hopefully progress the worker’s revolution.

A good example of this is Solemn Promise, illustrated by satirical journalist and cartoonist Dmitry Moor, was published in 1919.The artwork is captured  alongside the  oath of commitment to the Red Army:

001_dimitri_s_moor_theredlist.jpg

The imagery utilized by Moor is extremely simple and practical. There is an obvious central object within the image, with limited extraneous elements that would distract from the message of unity of all the workers under the Communists. Very little room for interpretation in this work.

The transcript from the original poster can be found on pp. 14-15 of Mass Culture in Soviet Russia:

1. I, son of the laboring people, citizen of the Soviet Republic, assume the title of warrior in the Worker-Peasant Army.

2. Before the laboring classes of Russia and the entire world, I accept the obligation to carry this title with honor, to study the art of war conscientiously, and to guard national and military property from spoil and plunder as if it were the apple of my eye.

3. I accept the obligation to observe revolutionary discipline and unquestioningly carry out all orders of my commanders, who have been invested with their rank by the power of the Worker-Peasant government.

4. I accept the obligation to restrain myself and my comrades from all conduct that might debase the dignity of citizens of the Soviet Republic, and to direct all my thoughts and actions to the great cause of liberating the laboring masses.

5. I accept the obligation to answer every summons of the Worker-Peasant government to defend the Soviet Republic from all danger and the threats of all enemies, and to spare neither my strength nor my very life in the battle for the Russian Soviet Republic, for the cause of socialism and the brotherhood of peoples.

6. If I should with malicious intent go back on this my solemn vow, then let my fate be universal contempt and let the righteous hand of Revolutionary law chastise me.

This oath would hold similar form with slight modifications through Stalin’s rule until at least the outbreak of WWII in Europe.

I find that one of the oath’s intriguing aspects is its self-designation as being a “solemn” statement of allegiance. It reads as if someone joining the  Worker-Peasant army  would not be an immediate beneficiary of the new regime, but would become a martyr for the  empowered working classes of the future . While a bold and ambitious statement, it was probably effective due to the hope that it provided a recently oppressed and war ravaged working party.

Also notable is that the subject is swearing allegiance directly to the laboring people, and not the Worker-Peasant government. This contrasts greatly with German and Italian Fascist statements of allegiance, which are directed towards the leaders of the Fascist Regime, and the American Pledge of Allegiance that is directly toward an inanimate flag (and thusly, “to the republic for which it stands”). This is an authentic communist belief, but this concept could potentially leaves the worker-peasant government extremely vulnerable and unstable if the workers become unhappy with their leadership.

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Allegiance and Art

  1. What a great idea for a post! A close reading of the Red Army oath certainly yields interesting insights — and I think the point you make about the “solemn vow” before the “laboring classes of Russia” and the entire world is really telling in terms of the kind of rhetorical and conceptual appeal the new state was trying to fashion. Also, I’m a huge fine of Moor’s posters, so thank you for including it here.

    Also, can you fix this sentence: “It reads as if the success a if someone joining the Worker-Peasant army would not be an immediate beneficiary of the new regime, but would become a martyr for the cause of the working classes everywhere”? I can’t quite get the gist of your point. Thanks!

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  2. I really like the unique take this. Using the Red Army oath as an example of Revolutionary Culture is fascinating. It also cements the fact that the army personnel both serve the people and not the government, as is the case with most armies in both history and the present.

    Like

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