Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History, Vol. 7 No. 1


Stalin and Eisenstein

Dear Editor

Some people say that left-wing publications are devoid of humour. In order to refute this calumny, would you please draw your readers’ attention – in case they have not seen it – to a review in the Observer on 1 February of a biography of Sergei Eisenstein, the famous director of the classic Soviet films Battleship Potemkin, Strike and October, called Eisenstein: A Life in Conflict by Ronald Bergan. After being lionised for these early films, Eisenstein later fell out of favour in Stalin’s increasingly repressive cultural regime, and his later films were destroyed or shelved. After describing this, the reviewer, Philip French, says:

‘... although part of Eisenstein’s resilience resided in his humour, there is precious little to laugh at outside the grim comedy of Stalin and Zhdanov showing the director how to make movies. But Bergan does tell us of one of Eisenstein’s favourite jokes, which involves Stalin bringing a Jewish artist back from the Gulag to paint a picture called ‘Lenin in Poland’ for some visiting Polish dignitaries. When the painting is unveiled, it is seen to depict a couple having sex, the man immediately recognisable as Trotsky, the woman as Lenin’s wife. “Where is Lenin?”, demands a furious Stalin. “In Poland”, says the hapless painter.’

Best wishes

Harry Ratner

Updated by ETOL: 1.10.2011