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Soviet Accident Prevention Posters: The Back Story

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Why dismiss old Soviet agitprop? With a few touches it can be used to popularize the glorious vision that is the United Soviet Socialist States of America.

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We already had the Soviet accident prevention posters thread with these pictures, but the more I looked at them, the more I wanted to describe their back story. Yesterday it appeared in the Communities section of The Washington Times, and now I'm posting it on the People's Cube.

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Vintage Soviet accident prevention
poster: Don't leave anything without
bracing.
No, these are not Halloween decorations from the Kremlin, nor are they visual aids in a KGB class on how to stage weird accidents.

Buried in the ash heap of history for decades, these vintage Soviet accident prevention posters have recently been unearthed, digitized, and turned into a trendy item by American bloggers with a taste for all things bizarre and outlandish.

Given my ex-Soviet background, a few of my friends forwarded me the links. I brushed them off: who cares about the depressing old rubbish from the days of barbaric, semi-feudal socialism? At best, the pictures reminded me of the vast cultural gap in time and space I was lucky enough to cross during my lifetime.

As the emails continued, I began to wonder about the fascination Americans seem to have with this grotesque phenomenon.

Apparently, the fantasy violence of Hollywood movies and videogames has confined Americans' perception of gore to horror and action flicks - a fantasy world separated by a wide margin from the safe and mundane reality of most people's everyday lives.

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Vintage Soviet accident prevention
poster: Hide the hair.
In a civil society with complex cultural institutions, public display of actual real-life gore is as much a taboo as the public display of frontal nudity. These rules are followed by both the mass media and government officials.

In this context, ghastly official posters picturing blood, mutilated limbs, and horrible death in work-related accidents - reviewed and approved, no doubt, by serious government bureaucrats - must appear as idiotic attempts at comic-book horrors or even macabre sadistic porn as it might exist in the nutty satirical world of Borat Sagdiyev.

Where does all of this fit into the Soviet reality in which I grew up?

Honestly, I had never seen these posters before.

Even having worked for three years as a visual agitation and propaganda artist, specializing in posters directed at construction workers, I don't recall ever seeing any of these pictures. Granted, they were meant to be displayed at production facilities targeting specific occupations, but I never saw them even while working three different jobs at various industrial facilities, starting at 17 as a metal worker apprentice at a large factory in Ukraine, and later shoveling dirt along Siberian roadsides.

This is not to say they aren't authentic - they're just too antiquated. Made mostly in the 1920s and 1930s, they reflect the zeitgeist of a completely different, less sensitive generation of Soviet citizens who were so used to being disciplined, humiliated, and terrorized by the authorities that the least of their concerns would be to question some silly presumptive posters that described them as a herd of bumbling idiots being gored by machinery.

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Vintage Soviet accident prevention
poster: Don’t walk under the
transmission arbor.
The general message from the government to the public was this: terrible things will happen to you if we don't take care of you and watch over your every step. The accident prevention posters conveyed that message perfectly. Despite the intention of their creators, they became an accurate if grotesque metaphor of the entire socialist worldview.

Luckily, by the time I entered the workforce in the late 1970s, such imagery would no longer seem acceptable even to the most callous bureaucrats in charge of work safety at state-run facilities.

As the cold-blooded, old guard of the Stalinist era began to die out or retire, the people warmed up and their hearts began to thaw. In another decade they would become too warm-blooded for the dictatorship of the proletariat to remain viable.

It was the beginning of the end of a regime as violent and bizarre as the above posters - a regime that provided the people with food, shelter, and work all the while treating and reimagining them as unthinking farm animals.

Considering the resurgence of socialist ideas in today's United States, we might as well recycle the old Soviet agitprop - and, remembering our skills in visual propaganda, add some new touches to educate the masses about the glorious vision that is the United Soviet Socialist States of America.

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New Economy: Don't get tangled up in work, collect welfare.

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Have you been agitating against the Unions? Next time, you’ll know better!

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Don’t talk smack about Obama!

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UNIONIZE! It'd be a shame if a hammer fell on your face at work.

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JOIN THE UNION or have an accident. Which is it going to be?

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Debt ceiling is hurting the people. Let's sell it to China for more free stuff!
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I know many of you have already posted some outstanding pictures and comments on the other thread. Please post them again here!

 

 

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P.S.
Returning to modernity, yet another load of "gory porn" from another antiquated culture is being dropped on us by the Arab media.

Having no reservations in depicting real-life blood and feeding off the natural empathy for the underdog among the much softer and more compassionate Western audiences, they conduct an asymmetrical propaganda warfare against a culture that restricts such display in its own media.

This tactic is proving successful, even though more often the actual victims have been either cynically used as unwitting human shields, or were themselves perpetrators of indiscriminate violence, whose mutilated victims will never be seen due to existing cultural taboos.

P.P.S.
Red Square wrote:The general message from the government to the public was this: terrible things will happen to you if we don't take care of you and watch over your every step. The accident prevention posters conveyed that message perfectly. Despite the intention of their creators, they became an accurate if grotesque metaphor of the entire socialist worldview.
A very similar idea is behind all the scary visual agitation produced today about Global Warming: Do as we say or else you and the entire humanity will suffer exactly the way we describe in these propaganda posters, videos, and slide shows.

Al Gore's award-winning documentary was just one extended vintage Soviet accident prevention poster.
And before Global Warming there were the ozone holes. Then there were other issues, like DDT, overpopulation, etc. "To avoid bad things happening to you, you must accept our control over your lives."

The unnamed target of all such campaigns is, of course, capitalism itself - which is logical, since socialism can only expand by replacing free societies.

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April 22: Earth Protection Racket Day


 

 

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Well, since we've been hearing about so-called "conservative" Republicans arranging for other, MORE conservative Republicans to be dropped from congressional committees - with no notice, some of them actually learned that they were off the committees by reading about it in the newspaper - this seemed to be a perfect fit, with nothing but text added.

Tea Party Republican Committee Members...

 

 


 

I would suggest comrades that sometimes illiteracy and the mental disease called adolescence sometimes encourages authority to use art as a terror weapon. Any old American can give details to this day on the human road kill terror movies shown in High School Driver Education classes. Even contemporary drug abuse prevention movies depend on trying to show a young person that flesh, bone and spirit are mortal or at least vulnerable.

The church would use art to communicate the Greatest Story Ever Told to Dark Age peasants. Illustrations of martyrdom was core to the orthodoxy.

When managing Worker's Comp back in the day America actually made 'stuff' the signage was depending on an educated workforce. Words, phrases, reminders.....colors, fonts and point size. Films though could effectively demonstrate 'pinch points' where rollers pull a suit wearer's tie in or a woman's hair without netting. But it wasn't gore. Now I’ve seen stories of foreign manufacturer plants in the South use pictograms exclusively to train workers in assembly line duties. I wonder what their workplace safety signage looks like.
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Our old accident prevention classic: ARE YOU A VICTIM OF GRAVITY?

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Comrade Red Square,

While there are endless pictures out there that have been put on the interwebz by loyal comrades about the pure soviet workers the world over, I give to you a rare find that shows with proof positive that wars bring out the best in people especially when you are "liberating them" from nasty things like "freedom" and "rethuglikkkans".

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I had thought the lawyer's phone number was 1-666-SHYSTER.

 

 

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Comrades, Does the Memory Hole work that well? On August 10, 2009, an official of the National Endowment for the Arts held a conference call with a group of progressive artists to help coordinate a campaign of semi-official agitprop art in support of Our Dear Leader (PBUH). Being the Official Keeper of the Memory Hole, of course I can direct you to a now-highly classified report on the NEA matter:

The NEA’s partisan work for Obama

Then, of couse, there is the floor-to-ceiling mural in the Scott High School (Toledo, OH) hallway:

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Mind you, this is a mural portait of a sitting president. In a high school. Not to mention the little flag make-over just before the 2012 election:

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What's particularly interesting is that, when some members of the general public expressed outrage at these examples of agitprop, the reaction from our Progressive Leadership was... amusement and scorn. It was obvious that the proles just didn't "get it." Was this just the progs being obtuse? Do they not understand that the proles are just not ready for the Cult of Personality to be so blatantly revealed? Or is it just the scorn of the victors?

 

 


 

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I am greatly sadden that I, your loyal Frau, didn't see this wonderful sign incentives before I spoke smack about our dear leader -- now missing 3 toes for shovel of encouragement, it is harder to work in the beet fields to supply beetery for those in need. (&%$#@!!) I am begging fellow comrades to take heed before word get back to the W.H. of disparaging comments.
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Where's the poster admonishing the firing squads they don't get to pick their own targets?

 

 

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spymyeyes wrote:Comrade Red Square,

... I give to you a rare find that shows with proof positive that wars bring out the best in people especially when you are "liberating them" from nasty things like "freedom" and "rethuglikkkans".
Is this what you had in mind, comrade?

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Use of goverrnment-provided #2 rubber condoms is mandatory!

 

 

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Comrade Pistov wrote:Where's the poster admonishing the firing squads they don't get to pick their own targets?
Here you go...

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Firing squad members! To avoid work-related accidents, don't randomly pick your own targets!

 

 


 


 

there is rehabilitation and then there is REHABILITATION

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Liberty Still Calls - I hope you agitators are not too agitated that you have to delete this.

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Centers for Disease Control wrote:Liberty Still Calls - I hope you agitators are not too agitated that you have to delete this.
Esteemed CDC - when posting an off-topic picture, please take a moment of your time to think of a redeeming caption or an explanation. It is still unclear how your image adds to Accident Prevention narrative. Perhaps this example will help:

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Agotprop with captions from the older thread:

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Oh, I'm sorry, you wanted right to work ... union labeled.

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Pay your fair share. My shovel is ready, you scab.

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Did you forget to pay your union dues?

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"Help! the Red States are beaming poison rays into my body!"Be watchful for conservative Christian terrorism."

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Kill a Republican, and we will give you a free hammer!

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Comrade! Don't wait for the Death Panels! Kill yourself NOW and save money for the Collective!

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Stamp out all fishy rumors!!!!

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If you see a scary man with no left hand, fight him off with a stick.

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Comrade! If you're coworker starts dancing and singing songs from "A Chorus Line", wrap a hose around yourself and play dead.

 

 

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Red Square wrote:
Centers for Disease Control wrote:Liberty Still Calls - I hope you agitators are not too agitated that you have to delete this.
Esteemed CDC - when posting an off-topic picture, please take a moment of your time to think of a redeeming caption or an explanation. It is still unclear how your image adds to Accident Prevention narrative. Perhaps this example will help:

Aha!

"Sleeping On The Job Is Dangerous To The American Republic"

Does that help? I didn't go to art school, where they train highly decorated professionals such as yourself to add select words to their visual thoughts. Plz consider.

May I repent in a comfy Vermont Gulag for a couple of months? Otherwise, I'm heading to Cancun, to avoid the global warming rush.

 

 

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spymyeyes wrote:Comrade Red Square,

While there are endless pictures out there that have been put on the interwebz by loyal comrades about the pure soviet workers the world over, I give to you a rare find that shows with proof positive that wars bring out the best in people especially when you are "liberating them" from nasty things like "freedom" and "rethuglikkkans".

Soldier_Kiss_Red_Army.jpg

Hey! I smell a ripoff.

 

 


 


 
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