Hammer and sickle

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A red hammer and sickle

The hammer and sickle (☭) is a Communist symbol that was conceived during the Russian Revolution. At the time of creation, the hammer stood for industrial labourers (who dominated the proletariat of Russia), and the sickle for the peasantry; combined they stood for the worker-peasant alliance for socialism and against reactionary movements and foreign intervention. Although never united into one symbol before, the two tools had long been traditional symbols in European heraldry. After the civil war, the hammer and sickle became more widely used as symbolizing peaceful labour within the Soviet Union and international proletarian unity. It was taken up by many Communist movements around the world, some with local variations. Today, even after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the hammer and sickle remains commonplace in Russia and former union republics, but its display is prohibited in some other former socialist countries.

History[edit]

The Plough flag from 1914 and flown during the Easter Rising.

Worker symbolism[edit]

Farm and worker instruments and tools have long been used as symbols for proletarian struggle. A popular ancestor to the hammer and sickle was a hammer on a plough, with the same meaning (unity of peasants and workers).

In Ireland, the symbol of the plough remains in use and may have shared roots with the hammer and plough. The Starry Plough banner was originally used by the Irish Citizen Army, a socialist, Republican movement. James Connolly, co-founder of the Irish Citizen Army with Jack White, said the significance of the banner was that a free Ireland would control its own destiny from the plough to the stars. A sword is forged into the plough to symbolise the end of war with the establishment of a Socialist International. This was unveiled in 1914 and flown by the Irish Citizen Army during the 1916 Easter Rising.

The first State Emblem of the USSR (1923–1936).

Inception[edit]

In 1917 Lenin and Lunacharsky held a competition to create a Soviet emblem. The winning design was a hammer and sickle on top of a globe in rays of the sun, surrounded by a wreath of grain, and under a five-pointed star, with the inscription "proletariats of the world, unite!" in six languages (Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Georgian, Armenian, Azerbaijani). It originally featured a sword, but Lenin strongly objected, disliking the violent connotations.[1]

On the 6th July, 1923 the 2nd session of the Central Executive Committee (CIK) adopted this emblem.[1]

Usage in the Soviet Union[edit]

Meaning[edit]

At the time of creation the hammer and sickle stood for worker-peasant alliance, with the hammer a traditional symbol of the industrial proletariat (who dominated the proletariat of Russia), and the sickle a traditional symbol for the peasantry, but the meaning has since broadened to a globally recognisable symbol for Marxism, Marxist parties, or socialist states.[1]

In the Soviet Union the hammer and sickle came to take on a gendered meaning, with the sickle coming to be associated with women and the hammer men.[1]

Current usage[edit]

Post-Soviet states[edit]

Two federal subjects of the post-Soviet Russian Federation use the hammer and sickle in their symbols: the Vladimir Oblast has them on its flag and the Bryansk Oblast has them on its coat of arms, which is also the central element of its flag. In addition, the Russian city of Oryol also uses the hammer and sickle on its flag.

The former Soviet (now Russian) national airline, Aeroflot, continues to use the hammer and sickle in its symbol.

The separatist government of Transnistria uses (with minor modifications) the flag and the emblem of the former Moldavian SSR, which include the hammer and sickle. The flag can also be used without the hammer and sickle in some circumstances, for example on Transnistrian-issued license plates.

Communist parties[edit]

Three out of the four currently ruling Communist parties use a hammer and sickle as the party symbol: the Communist Party of China, the Communist Party of Vietnam, and the Lao People's Revolutionary Party. All of these use the yellow-on-red colour scheme. In Laos and Vietnam, the hammer and sickle flags party flags can often be seen flying side-by-side with their respective national flags.

Many Communist parties around the world also use it, including the Communist Party of Greece[2] Communist Party of Chile, the Egyptian Communist Party, the Communist Party of Spain, the Communist Party of Denmark, the Communist Party of Norway, the Romanian Communist Party the Lebanese Communist Party, and the Shining Path. The Communist Party of Sweden and the Mexican Communist Party use the hammer and sickle imposed on the red star. The hammer and sickle accompanied by the yellow star is used by the Communist Refoundation Party, the main Communist party in Italy.

Variations[edit]

The South Asian variant of the hammer and sickle.
4th International symbol with number 4 superimposed.

Many symbols having similar structures and messages to the original have been designed. For example, the Angolan flag shows a segment of a cog, crossed by a machete, and crowned with a socialist star. In the logo of the Communist Party USA, a circle is formed by a half cog and a semicircular sickle-blade. A hammer is laid directly over the sickle's handle with the hammer's head at the logo's center. The logo of the Communist Party of Turkey consists of half a cog wheel crossed by a hammer, with a star on the top.

Tools represented in other designs include: the brush, sickle, and hammer of the Workers' Party of Korea; the spade, flaming torch, and hoe used prior to 1984 by the British Labour Party (which was a Socialist and not a Communist party); the monkey wrench and tomahawk of the Earth First! movement; the pickaxe and rifle used in communist Albania; and the hammer and compasses of the emblem of the East German flag. The Far Eastern Republic of Russia used an anchor crossed over a spade or pickaxe, symbolising the union of the fishermen and miners. The Fourth International, founded by Trotsky, uses a hammer and sickle symbol on which the number '4' is superimposed. The hammer and sickle in the Fourth International symbol are the opposite of other hammer and sickle symbols in that the head of the hammer is on the right side and the sickle end tip on the left. The Trotskyist League for the Fifth International merges a hammer with the number '5', using the number's lower arch to form the sickle.

The Communist Party of Britain uses the hammer and dove symbol. Designed in 1988 by Mikhal Boncza, it is intended to highlight the party's connection to the peace movement. It is usually used in conjunction with the hammer and sickle, and appears on all of the CPB's publications. Some members of the CPB prefer one symbol over the other, although the party's 1994 congress reaffirmed the hammer and dove's position as the official emblem of the Party. Similarly, the Communist Party of Israel uses a dove over the hammer and sickle as its symbol. The flag of the Communist Party of Guadeloupe uses a sickle, turned to look like a majuscule 'G', to represent Guadeloupe.[3]

The flag of the Black Front, founded by Otto Strasser, featured a crossed hammer and sword, symbolizing the unity of the workers and military.

The flag of Burma, from 1974–2010, featured a bushel of rice superimposed on a cogwheel.

The flag of (CCM) Chama cha Mapinduzi (Party of the Revolution in Swahili)- currently the ruling political party of Tanzania - has a slightly different symbol with a hammer and a hoe/jembe instead of a sickle to represent the most common farm tool in Africa.

The National Bolshevik Party used the hammer and sickle in their flag, but had them colored black instead of yellow and put in the design of the Nazi swastika flag; a black hammer and sickle inside of a white circle on a red banner.

Art[edit]

The hammer and sickle has long been a common theme in socialist realism, but has also seem some depiction in non-Marxist popular culture. Andy Warhol who created many drawings and photographs of the hammer and sickle is the most famous example of this.

Legal status[edit]

In several countries in the former Eastern Bloc, there are laws that define the hammer and sickle as the symbol of a "totalitarian and criminal ideology", and the public display of the hammer and sickle and other Communist symbols such as the red star is considered a criminal offence. Georgia,[4] Hungary,[5] Latvia,[6] Lithuania,[7] and Moldova (October 1, 2012 - June 4, 2013)[8] have banned the symbol along with other communist symbols. A similar law was considered in Estonia, but eventually failed in a parliamentary committee.

The foreign ministers of Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic called for an EU-wide ban on communist symbols in 2010, urging the EU "to criminalize the approval, denial or belittling of communist crimes" and stating that "the denial of such crimes should be treated the same way as the denial of the Holocaust and must be banned by law".[9]

In February 2013, the Constitutional Court of Hungary annulled the ban on the use of symbols of fascist and communist dictatorships, including the hammer and sickle, the red star and the swastika, saying the ban was too broad and imprecise. The court also pointed to a judgement of the European Court of Human Rights in which Hungary was found guilty of violation of article 10, the right to freedom of expression.[10] On June 2013, the Constitutional Court of Moldova ruled that the Moldovan Communist Party’s symbols – the hammer and sickle – are legal and can be used.[11] In Indonesia, the public display of communist symbols like the hammer and sickle is prohibited by decree.[12]

Usage[edit]

Flags[edit]

Coat of Arms[edit]

Logos[edit]

Unicode[edit]

In Unicode, the "hammer and sickle" symbol is U+262D (). It is part of the Miscellaneous Symbols (2600–26FF) code block.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "The Hammer and Sickle: The Role of Symbolism and Rituals in the Russian Revolution". Retrieved 3 August 2014. 
  2. ^ http://www.kke.gr/
  3. ^ Flags of the World
  4. ^ Communist symbols to be banned in Georgia, BBC News, 4 May 2014, retrieved 13 May 2014 
  5. ^ Hungarian Criminal Code 269/B.§ (1993)
  6. ^ Latvia Bans Soviet, Nazi Symbols, RIA Novosti, 21 Jun 2013, retrieved 14 Sep 2014 
  7. ^ "Lithuanian ban on Soviet symbols". BBC News. 2008-06-17. 
  8. ^ "Moldovan Parliament Bans Communist Symbols". Radio Free Europe. 2012-07-12. 
  9. ^ EU refuses to ban denial of communist crimes — RT
  10. ^ "Hungary, hammer and sickle ban declared illegal". ANSA. 27 February 2013. Retrieved 12 November 2013. 
  11. ^ "Constitutional Court rules that ‘hammer and sickle’ can be used". Allmoldova.com. 5 June 2013. Retrieved 12 November 2013. 
  12. ^ Dickie Christanto (20 October 2008). "Artists summoned over communist symbol exhibition". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 12 November 2013. 

External links[edit]