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The 10 Best Movies Influenced by Marxist Philosophy

22 July 2015 | Features, Film Lists | by Luca Badaloni

marxist films

Karl Marx was one of the most influential philosopher of all time and consequently his work has influenced a lot of films. The spectator faces Marxist problems such as: proletariat conditions, bourgeoisie dominance, the evolving technology and its connection to society, and revolution. Every problem is only a signal of the advent of the communist era, which consists of final justice on earth. This is the core of an entire movement which deeply influenced the world.

Obviously there were other philosophers, many influenced by Marx, who expanded those core elements in many other directions, some of them contemporaneous to him including Engels, Kautsky, Bernstein and others after his death (Rosa Luxemburg, Gyorgy Lukacs, Antonio Gramsci, Ernst Bloch).

Every one of them shared a faith in proletariat justice, where object and subject finally identify each other. Lower industrial classes are the “soil” for the revolution and will bring true values for all humanity but doing this demands the fall of the dominant industrialized class: the bourgeoisie. Fraternity is the key word to the basis of a community, and Communism is the ultimate community where humanity frees itself from physical and mental slavery.

Marx has never described a “communist” society but he gave some advice in his Critique of the Gotha Program. He said that capitalism is the world where slave-masses serve the few dehumanized bourgeoisies. Once this is known it’s easy to understand that for a film to be Marxist it should reflect reality as closely as possible. It should reflect the horribleness of bourgeois society and the honorable values brought about by the proletarian class.

That is a simplified point of view in respect to the Marxist way to see arts (in particular in respect to Lukacs’s literary theories), but it shows the core of this concept. In fact, during the Soviet era, the most common type of film coming from “red” countries,was the documentary. What ‘s better than reality itself to show how society and socialism work?

Exemplary examples are the “Kino-pravda” works created by Dziga Vertov. The main ideas expressed Marx evolved through time and in particular during the 67-68’ period which brought a sort of renaissance and reconsideration of the core Marxist ideas, which ends in a post-structuralist philosophical movement. In this final development of “revolutionary” ideas, Marx was an influence along with others, so it can be said that in cinema’s post-68’ period is not a continuation of the Russian montage school.

Considering the history of socialism and the history of cinema, there is a wide range of achievement among the movies influenced by Marx and these show many different aspects of Marx ideas, demonstrating the multifaceted dimensions of this movement. On the other hand it is possible to show what Marxism has meant to humanity through the eyes of a number of directors.

 

10. Novecento (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1976)

Novecento 1976

This film demonstrates what a useful concept communism was in fighting fascism in Italian society during World War II. Novecento is the story of two men, born in the same day in the same village. One is the son of a country worker (Gerard Depardieu) and the other one is the son of the landholder (Robert DeNiro). They have different social backgrounds but grow together in friendship.

This movie is 5 hour long and considers other problems related to everyday life, love, and relationships, but the political aspect remains an undercurrent which keeps the film going. Poor people are too weak and ignorant to potently fight the rising fascist power and only when war comes to Italy they can start to form partisan rebel armies.

Marxism is the secret root that “feeds” the struggles of this movie, because everything is, at bottom, moved by social injustice. At the end the populist elements rising against the landowner resolves all the problems but only momentarily.

 

9. Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin, 1936)

Modern Times

A classic movie by Charlie Chaplin is a Marxist film? Chaplin was always sensitive to social problems. England has always been the land of socialist battles. Highgate cemetery is a sufficient proof of how deeply related England is to Marx’s life.

This film could be seen as a social accusation toward industrialization . If one wants to better understand what proletariat alienation is, this is the film to see. This movie is based on a simple concept which it explains well through stereotypical and ironic characters.

A society that works in a crazy context cannot be fit for man, who continuously searches to be free. If it is only a critical film more than constructive one, it reflects a particular aspect of industrial proletariat problems, a very old problem that is a socialist vindication but at the same time, is the basis of Marx’s philosophy.

 

8. Porcile (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1969)

Porcile 1969

Pasolini was one of the novelists who deeply embraced the Marxist philosophy. This film also reflects the hypercritical attitude in Pasolini’s cinema towards the bourgeoisies.

Porcile is split into two sections: one is a story about a rich family heir who is about to marry but also loves animals more than humans. The second part revolves around a cannibal looking for victims. The first part represents the moral alienation of an upper class man who cannot feel love anymore while his father thinks only about money. The second is a symbolic translation of a self-eating mankind, which cannot resist destroying a part of itself in favor of another part.

Marx comes through as a philosopher who shows moral degradation in spite of a final idea of perfection. Man can reach that plateau but doesn’t want to.

 

7. Earth (Alexander Dovzhenko, 1930)

Earth

Dovzhenko is one of the great names of the Russian montage school, which includes other directors such as Eisensten, Vertov, Pudovkin and Kuleshov. This film is a representation of the technological change brought by revolution.

This film posits other ideas but shows that Marxism could be seen as a prime mover. After the New Economic Policy ended in 1929, Russian organization of rural activities changed forever in 1930. Kolchoz arrival signed a point break in communist society.

Earth is the perfect example of the meaning of the changes in order to better understand the consequences of some decisions. Obviously Dovzhenko’s purpose was not to focus only on Russian reforms but to go further into the epic changes. He defined his cinema as a cine-poem. The spectator will notice the end of Kulaks, the forced collectivization of lands, the end of Ukrainian independence from Stalin’s decisions and the end of the New Economic Policy.

 

6. Three Songs about Lenin (Dziga Vertov, 1934)

3 Songs about Lenin

This is not a fictional film but a documentary and represents the influence of Lenin in Russian culture and history. At the same time the spectator may notice the deep political exaltation of the dictatorship figure. This is the passionate homage of a director to a “people’s hero”.

If someone looks at this documentary without any political bias, one could understand the political situation in 1934 Russia. The sense of exaggeration is always present, but facing this means facing what was to be a Russian under Stalinism. That means Lenin must be seen as savior with no discussion allowed.

 

 

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  • DoomedCoast

    Karl Marx never set foot in a factory, never had fewer than two servants and constantly mooches off others…so mean girls or Richie Rich.

    • Jared

      I do not know who you’re talking about, but it is a fact that Marx died alone and penniless. Marx was never rich and yes, he did work in a factory multiple times during his life. Get of the internet, shill.

      • DoomedCoast

        Where is your evidence of Karl Marx working in a factory!? He wrote plenty about them, but work in one? Bollocks! He went to the finest schools in Europe and financially exploited everyone he came in contact with even while exiled as he wrote with and sponged off of Engels until inactively wasting away the last decade of his life in an indulgent stupor. You’ve sadly swallowed the myth of this extraordinary hypocrite whole. Sucker.

        • Jayess

          Not sure he ever actually worked in a factory, he was a classic intellectual dedicated completely to study and writing. He was never wealthy either and suffered from all manner of illnesses, largely from living places that were none to healthy.
          Mind you there are enough politicians and political commentators who are happy claiming expertise on welfare benefits, who have never wanted for anything financially.
          He seemd to leave much of thethe industrial ‘fieldwork’ to his mate Engels, who happened to own the odd factory and was actually wealthy.
          The Odd Couple?

          • Marx was expelled from many countries and saw times of great poverty. He even applied for a job in railways but but was rejected because he was way too educated for the post.

            Marx lived a major part of his life in Soho, a slum in London, among handicapped war veterans, factory workers and beggars. His friend Engels’ father owned a factory. They were experienced enough. And the logic that only a factory worker should write about factory conditions should prohibit you and me from discussing Marx, because none of us know him personally.

          • DoomedCoast

            “They were experienced enough…” Enough for who, you? Great argument.

        • SN1789

          Newton never travelled the stars and Darwin never caused speciation. What is your point. Karl Marx was the first to figure out exactly: how capital exploits labor, how competitive markets inevitably become oligopolies (look it up), how population doesn’t drive but interacts with technology, organization and natural resources, how mature economies experience a fall in the rate of profit and a tendency towards slow growth and stagnation, and how labor markets are musical chairs and there can never be enough jobs for everyone who wants one. Strip away all of the philosophy about the bright future of socialism in Marx and there is still a solid body of research about how capitalism really works that stands up quite well after 150 years. Rockefeller knew what he was doing when he had his managers take a stab at reading Capital. You should read it too. You might learn something. but I doubt it.

          • DoomedCoast

            You babble of stripping away philosophy and yet recount widely published same in a most insipid way. Copy/paste, perhaps? You should take a stab at tearing away at your idol’s myths to reveal the man; but to do that you’d have to have an original mind instead of assuming the guise of a particularly tiresome actuary. Good luck.

        • manthropology

          I have no idea whether Marx ever worked in a factory. Marx’s friend and collaborator Frederick Engels did though… If fact Engels’ family owned the factory he worked in. Engel’s wrote his book “Conditions of the Working Class in England” based on his first hand experiences.

          Nevertheless, even a cursory engagement with Marx’s texts shows that he had done extensive research on what factory life was like. He wrote whole chapters on factory conditions in Das Kapital. He takes his information from various sources, including factory inspections, workers’ accounts, capitalists’ accounts. It’s all there, you should read it.

          He was never “Richie Rich”. On several occasions he had to pawn everything he owned just to get by. He had servants, yes. He was from a bourgeois upbringing after all.

          • Edward Studor

            This thread is closed. So here is my reply to your eloquent comment insisting that Hitler was against the left.

            Hitler wasn’t against the left. The Nazi economic system was hardly any different to communism. If the war hadn’t intervened Germany would have been a far-left fascist/communist state by 1950. This was the way things were progressing in Germany just before war broke out:

            “Most cruel joke of all, however, has been played by Hitler & Co. on those German capitalists and small businessmen who once backed National Socialism as a means of saving Germany’s bourgeois economic structure from radicalism. The Nazi credo that the individual belongs to the state also applies to business. Some businesses have been confiscated outright, on other what amounts to a capital tax has been levied. Profits have been strictly controlled.

            Some idea of the increasing Governmental control and interference in business could be deduced from the fact that 80% of all building and 50% of all industrial orders in Germany originated last year with the Government. Hard-pressed for food- stuffs as well as funds, the Nazi regime has taken over large estates and in many instances collectivized agriculture, a procedure fundamentally similar to Russian Communism.”

            (Source: Time Magazine; January 2, 1939.)

          • La Condenada Nausea

            Socialism is not communism… communism has no state… no government… soviet union and nazi germany were socialists regimes…

        • simonpjlduckett

          You are a complete ignoramus as well as being completely off topic grinding your very blunt axe.

          • DoomedCoast

            How is it going in you and Marx’s quest to realize yourself as ‘The New Man!’? Make a good movie about it yet? Nope you didn’t.

        • Henry Krinkle

          Charles Darwin was completely bankrolled by his wealthy family, like almost every other scientist in the 19th century, but it didn’t stop him from writing about the survival of the fittest.

          • DoomedCoast

            Weakest argument ever. Too bad we don’t have the patronage system now, eh? Oh, wait….

        • ΨΧ

          Ad hominem ? Why we should care whether he has worked or not in a factory ?

          • DoomedCoast

            Tu Quoque? Nevermind. I wouldn’t expect the Karl Marx fanboys to care anything about it, and as the comments here reveal, they do not. Apparently the delicious irony of the entire situation escapes this lot, and that’s exactly as it should be.

          • ΨΧ

            It’s not me doing the fallacy, you are. You claim that Karl Marx, having not worked in a factory, should not be taken seriously about work/production. Nowhere did I see you citing his work in order to counter argue on it.

      • antonico

        Marx’s travels, education and high living all came from his benefactor (and many say boyfriend) Freidrich Engels, whose family was extremely wealthy. Marx – true to his philosophy – had to find somebody with money to exploit and mooch off of since he never worked a day in his life. The truth is Karl was “patronized” by a wealthy sugar daddy in Freidrich. Mooch, sponge, exploit and plunder – the true pillars of Marxism. Which is the only way communism works. It has to have SOMEBODY creating wealth to plunder. Otherwise there’s nothing to exploit if every single person is totally broke. LOL

        • DoomedCoast

          In the recent Cohen bros. film ‘Hail Caesar,’ the Hollywood communist brotherhood gather together to eat finger sandwiches, rail against the injustice of their not sharing in millions of Hollywood profits while lounging in the most amazing Malibu Retreat ever known. A perfect scenario. Kudos, Cohens.

    • he couldn’t have written what he wrote not setting foot in a factory, because he describes perfectly the relations that happen within one, have you read any Marx? obviously you haven’t

      • DoomedCoast

        Then evidence of his factory employment should be easy to find. I’m as interested as you to see it.

        • Let’s speak of issues and not individuals. Whether or not he set foot in a factory, and ownership of his writings are insignificant debates.

          Let’s discuss his ideas!

          • Doom Shepherd

            They led to tens, perhaps hundreds of millions of violent deaths, becoming probably the most killtastic philosophy in history. Let’s never discuss them again.

            In fact, between him and the crazy paperhanger, let’s not let Austro-Germans have sociopolitical-economic ideas again at all.

          • Gregory Reck

            Christianity has also led to millions and millions of violent deaths. If Marx is guilty for the Stalinist and Maoist misrepresentations of him then Christ is responsible for the Crusades, the witch hunts, and the slaughtering of indigenous peoples of the Americas.

          • Doom Shepherd

            It is, but the numbers are still smaller. (What, did you expect me to be Religious? I follow no gods, and that includes both Yahweh and the Red God.)

          • Marcos

            Do not confuse Christianity with communism. We’re talking about a religion that has existed for 2000 years and launched numerous values, culture and policies. Communism is only a political theory of 70 years worthless as a basis (relativism), do not compare the impact of Jesus with Marx’s.

          • DoomedCoast

            70 years? 1946? You’re about as educated on the subject as the rest of the posters here. I love film. Love it. And this site is pretty darn good overall but for ignoramuses like you. I despise Marx but at least I know his writings came out in 1847-ish and started influencing thought (unfortunately) soon after. Fucking Sad that Marx doesn’t have better advocates than you.

          • DoomedCoast

            Maybe the dumbest analogy I’ve ever seen. Gregory Peck was a great man. How dare you take his name in vain.

          • DoomedCoast

            Badabing. There you have it. Nitwits would like to divorce philosophies from their outcomes, but the adults in the room see the conncection.

          • DoomedCoast

            Don’t deflect. He was a massive, massive hypocrite. His ideas bore poisoned fruit and tens of millions died because of those ideas. Do you deny this? If not how do you rationalize? What are you having for lunch tomorrow- gruel?

          • DoomedCoast

            Garbage. In any other debate you’d be attaching the thinker to the idea. Why do you seek to excuse Marx’s ideas from the man? Something to hide, perhaps?

          • DoomedCoast

            Lol. So you would prefer to speak of the philosophies and not the philosophers who begat same? Pathetic evasion. “Well, Speer was actually a pretty good architect, and Wagner was not half bad as a composer…”

            G.F.Y.

        • simonpjlduckett

          You wouldn’t be able to.

          • DoomedCoast

            I’d be able to live off my relatives and comrades just fine. Unfortunately I have to work for a living. “They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work” was a popular joke with workers in the Soviet Union. Look it up.

        • Karl Marx wasn’t an skilled manual worker i don’t think he ever work in a factory as a manual worker, he was an academic and most of his time he must have spent it reading and writing about economy, history and philosophy his writings have influenced all the social sciences, gave birth to sociology and created an important branch of philosophy, but in order to write what he wrote related to workers and the working relationships he must have studied in depth everything that happens in small workshops and factories, i don’t know how he gathered the evidence of his work, but no one question it as fabricated or false

          • DoomedCoast

            “I don’t think…” “He must have…” “I don’t know…” Well, kid, you said it.

          • said what

          • DoomedCoast

            Duh: that you are coming from a place of assumption, speculation, and exactly zero knowledge.

          • i think is you the one who comes from that pace and i think you don’t even have a point, your only intention is calumniate anything sounding leftie to you, the place where i i am coming from is a place that wants to assume nothing, i have read parts of The Capital by Marx but haven’t read it all, i am not and expert in marxist theory and philosophy, but again i have read enough to make the statements i make, besides i work in a workshop and although the type of relationships he talks about are more than one hundred years old i can relate to them

          • DoomedCoast

            Nice account of your personal journey. When are you going to rise up against the workshop owner that has given you your job or are you going to continue to work and let him exploit you by paying you for work you agreed to do? If you continue to work for such an exploiter what does that make you?

          • thanks for noticing and commenting about the quality of my writing, still i think is acceptable for commenting on internet forums overall when i do it in a language which is not my mother tongue, about my personal working conditions i am self employed and in my case i am quite satisfied with the deal i get from my work, i don’t own the means of production but i don’t share any of the responsibilities of running a business i could complaint abut other things like the price of houses that make me having to spend half of the money i earn through my work in having a roof over my head, exploration have any forms, and marxist theory can help us understand them and avoid them, but i am not interested in making this conversation a personal account of my life and how i deal with capitalism

          • DoomedCoast

            Marxists think that all human behavior can be explained within the contexts of economics. We are not really ‘human’ at all; just economic actors seeking our self interest. Glad it’s worked out for you.

          • Baragan Dovaceli Merminian

            gosh, just shut up already.

          • DoomedCoast

            Why should I shut up?

          • DoomedCoast

            Dude, your moniker is MCHammer and you write word salad. You have no point. Is that too much of a calumniate? Or did you mean ‘calumny?’

          • yes that is because i am a carenter and also because i find that video very funny as remix me to my teen years, like to read and comment in english because although is not my mother tongue and i struggle sometimes to express myself properly, i have access to a lot more interesting stuff, thanks of the corrections about calumny

    • David R Velasquez

      You’re an idiot.

      • Erick Vazquez

        *Your

      • DoomedCoast

        Scintillating critique.

        • David R Velasquez

          Thank you. I do so try.
          I’m guessing someone wasted a lot of money on your education. Probably taxpayers

    • JV

      @DoomedCoast:disqus You clearly haven’t read Marx. Your criticism is lazy and ad hominem. You probably don’t care.

      • DoomedCoast

        You mistake not having read him with having read him and finding him, his influence, the results of said influence, and his defenders such as JV (‘Junior Varsity: how appropriate) sorely wanting. The Cohens most recently showed it best, with their cadre of communists and one Idiot actor follower hanging out at the most posh Malibu Villa imaginable as the other wealthy hypocrite idiot actor rows of to join the Red Guard. Now THAT was a good way to incorporate Marx into a film. Kudos.

        • JV

          Your criticism betrays not a single hint of having read Marx. It was, and remains, ad hominem. Even if you don’t agree with his conclusions, his contribution to economics is considerable. I guess you are nothing more than a troll.

          • DoomedCoast

            You call me a troll, lazy, etc… Who is the ad hominem hypocrite here? Marx’s conclusions are considerable… Considerably bad. Millions of dead Russians, Chinese, etc… are not quite as enamored of his ‘conclusions’ as you are, fanboy. But I guess they weren’t dong it right, eh? One wonders what year old post will rouse you from your slumber next. Gtfo.

          • JV

            I described you as a troll because you tried to hijack an article about film with political opinions expressed in a belligerent and intemperate manner. That seems a fair description.

          • DoomedCoast

            You’re a perfect candidate for a safe space. 10/10 a Millennial fool who regards disagreement and piquant words as belligerent and intemperate. Let me ask you: Should this site allow me to post such thoughts that you so disdain? Deign to answer if you can lift yourself from the fainting couch. And should Hillary or Bernie be in control of the means of production?…

          • JV

            It’s simple. You were trolling and I called you out for it. You used an ad hominem argument as if it were a coup de grace and I called you out for that too. You were free to do both things. Your replies, however, appear to be directed at an imaginary character of your own invention.

    • actuallyreadwhatyoucriticizeke

      Ah! Of course, you cannot have a discussion of Marx without the echoes of anti-communist propaganda left from the cold-war era

  • Jacob Lyon Goddard

    You forgot Sweet Movie.

  • Goran Mars

    Reds

  • Abhishek Mishra

    Probablt salt of the earth and z should be in the list

  • Daniel Barrick

    Which one is the one with the pig face???

    • Tito Manfred

      Porcile.

  • Jorge Olaya

    I guess you forgot “L’argent” by Robert Bresson a masterpiece influenced by marxist philosophy, I would also like to see some Elio Petri, Gillo Pontecorvo or some latin american filmmakers as Fernando Solanas or Tomás Gutierrez Alea.

  • Esdras Castiliano

    Metropolis?

    • manthropology

      Nah, no way. The whole idea behind Metropolis is that the bleeding heart romantic can show both the capitalist and the workers that they have common ground… No revolution required.

  • marcel

    Never forget Movie 43!

  • SN1789

    What about Pontecorvo? Certainly Battle of Algiers is suffused with a Marxian anti-imperialism. What about Ken Loach’s Land and Freedom and Wind that Shakes the Barley, two recent classics where the protagonists are clearly Marxists. What about Sale’s Matewan? The hero who dies in the final scene is clearly a Marxist? These are all quality films and red as a baboon’s ass in heat.

  • Nintendo Shy Guy

    What about “A bug’s life”?

  • simonpjlduckett

    No Heaven’s Gate?!

  • Doom Shepherd

    Every Episode of Star Trek: TNG with the Borg in it. 😉

  • David R Velasquez

    1900 by Bernardo Bertolucci… the industrial revolution. Families who work in the fields being inheirited by the large landowners…and the rise of workers’ movements.

    • DoomedCoast

      Bowel movements. Bertolucci has a net worth of $40 million dollars. How much has he given to you? Nada. Christ you Marxists are such incredible chumps.

      • David R Velasquez

        What does his net worth as a major film maker have to do with the content of his films? What he’s given me and many many other people isn’t to be estimated in dollars. But you could never understand that. I don’t get where anyone has said that’s Bertolucci is a Marxist. You’re trying to tie connections and arguments that only exist in your mind.

        • DoomedCoast

          hy·poc·ri·sy

  • Juan Esteban Gómez

    and “grapes of wrath”?

  • Doom Shepherd

    Also needs Animal Farm and 1984, for what that ideology eventually devolves into.

  • ConnieHinesDorothyProvine

    I would include George Romero’s Land of the Dead. It shows how the rich have cordoned themselves away in their mansion, leaving everyone else to fight the zombies.

  • Liberalism defends the murder by omission.
    Liberalism = Genocide

  • Marcos

    Not all of these models films are influenced by Marx, do not forget that, as Luther, Marx was just one of revolutionary figures (as Luther to Protestantism), but he did not create the capitalist x socialist basis, so that any parallel film may not necessarily be influenced by it. Though in fact most are.

    Influence is when one thing is dependent on another or constructed on his basis, but this is based must be original, so that if it is not, we can not tell whether a work was influenced by her or another older. ex: Shakespeare’s works, even if they are re-creations of other stories, are uniquely original and is unlikely to exist Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet films only with old stories and not Shakespeare’s version. Marx’s theory, certainly is not nearly as influential or fundamental, though they have their share of presence.

  • Sebastian Scheerer

    What about Soy Cuba? I’d take that tasty morsel.

  • Ernesto DelMundo

    “Little Big Man” 1970 was the most scathing indictment of capitalism (in the character of “Allardyce T. Meriweather”) in cinematic history.

    • DoomedCoast

      Lol Arthur Penn became a showrunner for Law and Order and made millions. I’m sure he gave you some extra scratch… What a committed Marxist!

      • Ernesto DelMundo

        You seem to have a lot of free time on your hands. Who is supporting you?

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  • Jose Leonardo Leon

    What about ”Le capital”? I know it’s not a marxist-related movie per se. But it delivers the message of the evils of capitalism.

  • Debraj Bhattacharya

    Please check films by Indian Director Mrinal Sen…

  • Will Penny, as the only Western film that portrays cowboys for what they really were: a disenfranchised, illiterate proletariat of the Old West.

  • R. Kevin Hill

    Heaven’s Gate.

    • DoomedCoast

      Made by a multimillionaire (Cimino) that inherited his fortune, and alienated crew by driving onto the lot as a young man in a Rolls. Perfect example of limousine liberal hypocrisy, but he certainly fooled you. Lmao.

  • Yunus Anıl Yılmaz

    Don’t forget La cérémonie by Chabrol

  • Pingback: Task 2 – Critical Analysis and Research – robynkeetleyyr1()

  • Erica L

    How is “They Live” not on here?

  • Jerome Johnson

    One movie which I always thought was socialist was ” It’s a wonderful life” surprised that wasn’t mentioned.

  • Jacob Lyon Goddard

    Sweet Movie, by Dušan Makavejev

  • James Walsh

    You forgot to mention the justification of genocide (e.g. Kulaks, Holodomor in Ukraine) inherent in ‘Earth’ or hero worship of the man who gave the world the gulags in the Lenin homage one?