Skip to content | Accessibility Information

Aulich, J., 2013.

Stealing the Thunder: The Soviet Union and Graphic Propaganda on the Home Front during the Second World War

Output Type:Journal article
Publication:Visual Culture in Britain
Publisher:Taylor & Francis

Graphic propaganda, the Ministry of Information (MOI) and the ‘left’ in Britain after the Nazi German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941 form a particularly interesting nexus for visual culture in Britain. The article demonstrates how the ministry began to direct home propaganda policies at the ‘left’ in the attempt to mould, manipulate, reproduce and secure particular cultural and political attitudes towards the Soviet Union, communism and socialism. This was effected through the involvement of the MOI from 1941-45 in the distribution of publicity about Russia originating from the Soviet Union and home sources. This material made an important contribution to the visual rhetoric of the ‘left’ in Britain. Widespread distribution of Soviet anti-fascist graphic satire demonized Nazi Germany through the incorporation of vigorous imagery that went far beyond the visual vocabulary deployed by British cartoonists whose work rarely strayed beyond the conventionally stereotypical. Simultaneously, evidential realist visual discourses embodied in popular illustration, photography and the objective presentation of statistical information promoted egalitarian agendas directed at social reform. Once Hitler had been defeated, this emancipatory aesthetic aimed at the direct visual communication of ‘objective facts’ intended to set out the basis for a socialist future was abandoned for the seductive and playful difficulty of what Stuart Hall and Paul Rennie have identified as the liberal democratic ‘social vision’ of the Welfare State.