What does the hammer and sickle mean? In short the hammer and sickle means proletariat solidarity! It is and was a popular symbol to denote communism.
Of course though in this article we will delve much deeper into the meaning of the hammer and sickle, its origins, its variations and of course its place in contemporary flags and society.
And why hammer and sickle rather than sickle and hammer? We are not sure, but certainly feel that sickle and hammer just does not sound right.
What is the exact meaning of the hammer and sickle?
As stated it is tow show the solidarity of the proletariat, or rather the working people. Therefore in this context the hammer represents the industrial workers in the factories, while the sickle represents the farmers and the rural classes. These two are traditionally considered the bedrock of the working class by communist parties.
What is the origins of the use of the Hammer and Sickle?
It was originally sued by leftist parties during the Russian Revolution and not exclusively by the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democrat Party, which would later morph into the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
After their victory n the revolution the hammer and sickle moved to being representative of international struggle and proletariat international solidarity.
The Hammer and Sickle on Stable Emblems and Flags of the Soviet Union
Being such an important and potent symbol of the Russian Revolution and its international outlook the hammer and sickle was included on most all Soviet Republic flags and emblems.
You can read about the state emblems and flags of the Soviet Union here.
This duly spread throughout the communist world and for parties associated with Marxist-Leninist ideology it featured on most communist party flags of the era, particularly fr important movements in Spain, Germany and France. In the interests of this article we will ignore the flags used by those in the Trotyskist group, which may get its own article later.
Hammer and Sickle on other flags
Following the Soviet victory in the Great Patriotic War and the creation the Eastern Bloc the hammer and sickle became a potent symbol in these countries too, although few adopted it on their flags. Notable exceptions included East Germany, or the DDR, which featured the state emblem of the German Democratic Republic consisting of a compass and a hammer encircled with rye
Variations of the Hammer and Sickle on flags
There were and still are a number of variations on the design aimed at incorporating other elements of class into the flag. For example the Mozambique flag features an AK47 with the Hammer and Sickle to represent the army, while the DPRK has a calligraphy brush to represent the intelligence.
To read about flags with weapons click here
To read about the flag of the DPRK click here.
Why does China not use the hammer and sickle on its flag?
China went through different revolutionary route to Russia known as Maoism. After Mao’s victory in the civil war he promoted New Democracy, with the stars on the Chinese flag representing the different classes all led by the Communist Party of China (CPP).
You can read about the Chinese flag here .
The Chinese though were far from anti the hammer and sickle and you will still see it throughout the country at various places for various reasons. Whether the country itself is still communist, or not is a whole other question for a whole other time.
To read about Socialist countries click here.
Contemporary usage of the Hammer and Sickle one post-Soviet world
We have previously mentioned that North Korea still uses it on their flag and of course you will still see it a lot in places like China, Vietnam, Laos and Cuba. It is though also still apparent in a number of former constituent republics of the Russian Federation, as well as on one of our favorite things, an unrecognized country!
Transnistria still proudly has a hammer and sickle as well as a number of Lenin busts that are well looked after rather than having been pulled down. South Ossetia and Abkhazia are also not against use of the old symbols of the USSR.
To read about what its like to live in Transnistria, which I did then click here.
Is the hammer and sickle offensive?
This greatly depends on your take on things. In some countries communist symbols are now illegal, particularly countries that went through particularly tough times under socialism. For others the hammer and sickle still represents the good of socialism and its efforts to eradicate poverty. The symbolism thus still has a lot of meaning.
Is it akin to a swastika? Some would say yes, we would personally say no. As to whether to ban it, or not in countries where it is banned, people simply use other things such as the classic red star to denote their political lines. Much like Nazis have cooped the Hammer and Sword of Strasserism to get around the banner on the Swastika.
Is the hammer and sickle illegal anywhere?
The hammer and sickle is actually illegal in a whole heap of countries, most of which are part of the old Eastern Bloc. Ukraine is currently one place enacting this law, particularly after he Russian invasion, with the hammer and sickle seen as less about communism and more related to oppression.
Perhaps more surprising is that the motif, as well as any communist emblem is illegal in modern Indonesia, something I need to keep in mind before taking my shirt off. And yes they do enforce this law, despite the old communist regime having been largely rehabilitated.
Controversial it may be, but to many it still holds deep symbolism. The Hammer and Sickle will not be going anywhere soon.
Why did you remove the hammer and sickle from your logo?
While I personally do not see the hammer and sickle as offensive, clearly enough people do and I get their sentiment entirely. A second factor though which is equally as important perhaps is that we do not exclusively go to communist countries anymore, which kind of also makes the symbolism less meaningful. Island Hopping in Palawan to be fair is about bourgeois as it gets…
And overall we like the new image, although it may take some time for everyone to get used to it, with there probably being at least some sickle and hammer based nostalgia from fans…
With the world slowly starting to open up join us on one of our Soviet Europe Tours – we promise you will see a few hammers and indeed sickles on your trip.