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30 Down with Soviet revisionists

The Department of Shanghai Publishing System Revolutionary Rebel Command, the Propaganda Department of the Revolutionary Rebel Committee of the Shanghai People's Art Publishing

Poster 53 x 77.5cm
Shanghai People’s Art Publishing
Courtesy of Harriet Evans, collection of the University of Westminster

The smell of gunpowder is strong in this painting. From the eye-catchingly positioned title in violently bulging font ‘Down with Soviet revisionists!’ to the subtitle ‘Smash the dog-headed Brezhnev! Smash the dog-headed Kosygin’, every sentence ends in a vivid, angry exclamation mark. In the background a field of red fists circles the badly battered Brezhnev and Kosygin. The work of three groups of red guards working together, one of which groups is also called ‘Struggle to the end’, it could be said that this painting reveals the shocking and terrifyingly bloody atmosphere of the early period of the Red Guard movement.

Among propaganda posters, only those from the early part of the Cultural Revolution are so direct and concrete. It is only in this period that the propaganda poster which specifically names foreign leaders appears on the street. Sino-Soviet relations were in decline from the end of the 1950s, and in 1966 there was direct conflict. Chinese students in the Soviet Union went to Red Square to protest and were physically attacked by the Soviet police. Their return to China incited a tide of anti-Soviet protests. The Beijing Red Guards renamed the road in front of the Soviet Union Embassy ‘Road of Opposition to Revisionism’, and stormed the embassy. In October 1966, Lin Biao’s National Day speech introduced the slogan, ‘Overthrow American imperialism! Overthrow Soviet revisionism! Overthrow the reactionary clique in every country!’.The ‘Overthrow Soviet revisionism’ propaganda posters that appeared in the street were a response to this speech.

There is no record of the specific artist who made this poster. It can be inferred that a group of young artists with an amount of professional art training prepared the first draft, and that it was later corrected by professional artists in the publishing houses. It is therefore a typical collectivist work.