Uncle Joe in Berlin

Jane Galt finds an awesome Soviet propaganda clip of Stalin visiting Berlin, where everyone, Megan notes, curiously speaks Russian.

Watching this masterpiece of socialist realism, I burst out laughing several times, which confirms for me what Julian Sanchez argues here. For those of us too young to vividly remember the Cold War, Soviet aesthetics don’t rankle Americans the way Nazi iconography does.

Unlike Triumph of the Will and similar Nazi films which use their crowds as a weapon, Uncle Joe just wants to greet and mingle with the newly-liberated Volk. Instead of celebrating power outright, the Soviet film patronizes with fraternity. Its director means to seduce rather than intimidate its viewer. Its writer believes he will win this argument.

But, as the 20th century shows, he’s mistaken: to the degree that the Cold War was “won,” the West’s cultural argument rendered the Soviet message impotent.

The Beatles and blue jeans, etc. (pleasure), were more tangible and rewarding than unrealized egalitarian abstractions. Riefenstahl’s films and Speer’s buildings overwhelm. They don’t seek outside approval, but submission. To a non-contemporary individual who prizes liberty, the Nazi zeitgeist is more explicitly ominous.


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