Hammered and sickled


Be careful what you put on your office walls – or at least where you take your photographs:

A small icon associated with communism on the wall of an ACT Labor campaign office has sparked condemnation from the Canberra Liberals, which the candidate has dismissed as a political smear.

Maddy Northam, who is seeking election for the central Canberra seat of Kurrajong in the upcoming ACT election, posted a photo of her campaign team on Facebook last week.

In the picture, a poster on the wall behind her, smaller than an A4 sheet of paper, displayed the hammer and sickle — a symbol long linked to the Soviet Union.

That detail has prompted anger from the Ukrainian community and the opposition, the Canberra Liberals, who say it is an “outrageous” insult.

Yet the hammer and sickle, and other communist emblems, are common in many countries and adorn many products.

The incident has opened another debate about the meaning of symbols in 2020, a year in which reflections on history have mobilised mass protests worldwide and sent statues toppling.

Kinda ironic because the system of genocide and slavery operated under the hammer and sickle was in full swing well within living memory. No socialist statues or symbols were toppled however. Maybe it’s too contemporary. In case you weren’t quite sure, ABC reminds you that hammer and sickle is “associated with communism” and has been “long linked to the Soviet Union”. How quaint. Is that good or bad? Not sure. In any case, they “are common in many countries and adorn many products”. It’s complicated.

As Maddy herself says, “Symbols are important”. She’s talking about Canberra’s “Rainbow Roundabout” being named the international roundabout of the year by the United Kingdom’s Roundabout Appreciation Society. But as surely that applies to communist symbols too. “There is no suggestion that she is a communist, that she put the picture up herself or that she used it for anything other than decoration,” the ABC report helpfully adds. Just what else could the picture have been used for? If Maddy put up a picture of a swastika, she would be forced to resign. As it is, pointing out the symbol of the greatest mass-murder of the 20th century on her wall is a “political smear”. Because the left finds itself in a schizophrenic position: while the Soviet Union, and every other live experiment conducted under the hammer and sickle and a red star was “not the real socialism” (and next time it will be different), at the same time to completely condemn and cut themselves off from “the real socialism” of the 20th century (according to the actual practitioners at the time) would be tantamount to killing a part of themselves and admitting that the road to hell is all too often paved with good leftist intentions. Maybe if the utopia you’ve been trying to create every single time instead becomes an inferno, maybe just maybe there is something wrong with your theory? Still. Sure, 100 million people died, but damn… justice, equality, solidarity; they’re so cool…