The Hammer and Sickle Today?

QWhat 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?

Thanks for your question, Ryan.  The imagery of the hammer and sickle (both the original and our modern hammer, sickle, and gear) are the subject of ongoing discussions in CPUSA.  As far as a flag with the CPUSA's current symbol goes, I'm not sure I can help you--but here are several responses to your broader question, to give you an idea of how our thinking is developing.

"I think the older symbol has history and meaning for many.  I think at times this symbol has resonated with people focused on a time and circumstances we no longer live in. Not that I'm opposed to using this symbol, but I do think there needs to be an effort made to help it resonate with a more diverse population and the current struggles we go through.  I don't know many people of this generation who actually use a sickle in their work--doesn't mean I think it should be thrown out completely, but maybe we could look into a logo that incorporates more modern tools as well.  Updating the symbol isn't about erasing history, but more so updating and adding to it, since so many struggles have taken place since its inception." -- Chauncey Robinson

"We love our history but there’s no point in being a cult about it. For example, do we need a hammer and sickle? A sickle was a common agricultural tool of European peasants, but that symbol doesn’t mean anything to Americans – we only see a sickle if someone dresses up as the Grim Reaper for Halloween.  The hammer and sickle was a beautiful depiction of the unity that the working class was called on to build in revolutionary Russia in 1917. The workers needed to win over the peasants to unite with them and the sickle was a respectful tribute to that huge class of working people, one that honored their work and that they would recognize and feel comfortable with. We need a new 21st century logo that evokes an image of the unity that WE are building. We don’t have another class to unite with. The primary unity we seek is that of the working class – the 99 percent - in its glorious diversity, not only of races and nationalities and genders, but also of trades and professions that in a great division of labor produce all of our society’s wealth."  --Roberta Wood

"Symbols live in history.  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.  I'm eager to see what new symbols will emerge from the great and growing resistance to the Trump regime." -- Scott Hiley

"I grew up in a generation for whom the Soviet Union was firmly set in the past. The severe anti-communism of the 50s was only something we learned about in textbooks. For my generation, the Soviet Union and Communism aren’t as ominous as they are to older generations. 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."   -- Cori Marshall

    Chauncey K. Robinson believes that writing, in any capacity, should help to reflect the world around us, and be one of the tools to help bring about progressive change. Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, she has a strong belief in people power and working class strength. As a social media content creator and writer for People's World she seeks to make sure that topics that affect working class people, peoples of color, and women are constantly in the spotlight and part of the discussion.
    Roberta Wood, Secretary-Treasurer of the Communist Party, is a retired journeyman industrial instrument mechanic. A lifelong union activist, she was a founding co-chair of the United Steelworkers District 31 Women's Caucus. She writes on labor issues for A Chicagoan, Roberta is married to Steelworker retiree Scott Marshall. Scott and Roberta have four daughters and seven grandchildren.
    Scott Hiley has taught French, literature, history, and philosophy at the high school, college, and post-graduate levels.  A member of CPUSA since 2010, he is active in struggles against austerity and for education justice and labor rights. His articles have appeared in the People's World (US), the Morning Star (UK), and l'Humanité (France). He lives in a rural town in upstate NY.

Comments (12)

Alex Drivanos | February 24, 2018 at 5:24 PM

Love it for all its historical relevance and symbolism, but I think we need a symbol that coveys the same clear, simple, unifying nature of the hammer and sickle to new people without necessarily historical knowledge. Fewer and fewer workers use—indeed maybe even recognize–a sickle or a hammer. In fact, as it currently is, our late-capitalistic (#cry) society would be hard-pressed to identify one or two tools to unite we workers–the masses. But instead of an object, what about a direct “identification”? What’s the one thing that we can all understand, recognize, and relater to? “99%”. I propose a new flag design, simply utilizing “99%” . If it feels weird at first, think about the many who nowadays find the sickle and hammer rather weird–if not menacing. We should want to unite around an inspirational symbol that someone couldn’t kill someone with, you know? What do you think?

Keri Rautenkranz | March 04, 2017 at 4:20 AM

In my view, the great symbol of Working Class Unity, the Hammer and Sickle, symbolizing Lenin’s great achievement of the most unlikely alliance of the town and the country, transcends the literal interpretation of the union of early industrial workers and peasantry, and is as relevant today as it was a century ago. Last April on a cross-country drive from Chicago to D.C. during Democracy Awakening, this was made abundantly clear to me, as the countryside is solidly afflicted with Trumpism. A Lenin-esque task awaits us… to unite the town with the country, to somehow get all working people to fight for all of our common interests, together!

    William Taylor | March 08, 2017 at 8:25 AM

    Agreed. The history it symbolizes is (to me) the never ending hope for the end of oppression and the dedication to the needs of humanity and the planet we inhabit. The selfless acts of millions of Comrades to break the chains of Imperialism are inbodied in the Hammer and Sickle and make it relevant for centuries to come.

Raphael Stephen-Pons | March 04, 2017 at 7:16 PM

keep it

Darren Foster, LPN | February 22, 2017 at 3:59 PM

I, too, like the traditional hammer and sickle, but I also like the modern update now in use by our party. I believe that we can make use of both iterations, depending upon the event and venue, since, as others have pointed out, the traditional imagery is historically valued by many of us (50 and older crowd), yet our CPUSA symbol speaks to our needs today as laborers, farmers, and those of us like me and my wife who are in the service industries such as health care, customer service, and food/hospitality. And as an aside, even in the 21st century I have used a cycle to cut down stubborn thistles and weeds so such implements continue to be utilized especially on small farms and also within local Mennonite and Amish communities.

Cody | February 12, 2017 at 11:35 PM

I’ve made a few designs of flags representing socialism. I usually incorporate the old hammer and sickle and red star into a more flushed out design that represents the hammer and sickle as a homage to traditional socialism but brings moderinity to the forefront. Just as some other groups did by adding accessories such as protrators to represent science. If interested in some new designs I would gladly send some ideas of mine via email.

Emile Schepers | February 10, 2017 at 9:05 PM

Interesting discussion. Though I love the old hammer and sickle, I would add two comments. 1. “There is no reason that more graphic symbolism can not be created in addition to that, for different circumstances. also, not all the communist parties in the world use the hammer and sickle, some use a red rooster (e.g. the Communist party of Veneuela) and other things. By the way, though we don’t have much of a traditional peasantry in this country, we do have a very oppressed and exploited farm labor population as part of our working class–let’s not forget that.

Michael Leons | February 10, 2017 at 8:30 PM

The hammer and sickle is the most universally recognized symbol of the international communist movement, alongside the red star.

The hammer symbolizes urban manufacturing labor while the sickle symbolizes rural agricultural labor. These respective symbolisms predate the modern communist movement by many centuries and can be found with the same respective use of symbolism in state heraldry in the medieval period. Not many people actually use hammers or sickles in their jobs today, but nor did they much more in 1917 Russia where it caught on as the symbol of the Communists. In the USSR, the hammer and sickle meant specifically peaceful, socialist labor and their union under the red star symbolizes the unity of the working class under the Communist Party.

This symbol is still used by Communists all over the world, in socialist and capitalist countries alike. American Communists would be wise to uphold this symbol of internationalism in the world communist movement and not try to isolate themselves from it in vein attempt to appeal to anti communists. As has been said, for younger generations this symbol has connotations of rebellion and defiance to American imperialism and hyper nationalism. While certainly not universally positively recieved by the youth, it is extremely less controversial to us as compared to baby boomers and those who grew up being told to be afraid of the evil empire.

As always, Communists should be tactful and aware of their situation so as to build the most unity and cause the least alienation. Don’t be afraid to push the envelope – that’s a big part of what being a Communist is all about.

Keith Ohler | February 09, 2017 at 2:51 AM

I would say there is still a divide to be bridged from the so called “skilled laborers” and “unskilled laborers” that make up the modern proletariat. Today this divide would be between workers in the IT, science, and technology fields and those in service industries. Thinking of a 21st century symbol I might suggest a symbol that performs a similar function. Symbols of “skilled labor” would be computers, computer mice, circuitry, books, stethoscopes, pens, etc. Symbols of “unskilled labor” would be cash registers, spatulas, head sets, hard hats, etc.

    Scott Hiley | February 10, 2017 at 12:45 PM

    I like that you put quotes around ‘skilled’ and ‘unskilled’ labor–I think those are terms we have to take a close look at. I agree that we need to help people understand that a college degree doesn’t protect you from exploitation. Educators and computer programmers are subject to the same forces as retail and fast food workers. Raising the minimum wage would benefit every worker, for example. I do like your idea for a symbol that would represent both cognitive and manual labor. Any ideas or sketches?

Gary Mueller | February 09, 2017 at 5:31 PM

I personally Like the symbol of four arms of differing colors clasping one another, I feel it says so much about the socialist movement of our time

    Jarod Beardsley | February 10, 2017 at 9:51 PM

    I like this line of thinking. We need something that explicitly celebrates the diversity and power of working people. Diversity including what kind of work they do, where they come from, where they want to go etc. The arms also work because they illustrate unity within or from diversity, which is a key and powerful message.

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