Agitprop (from the Russian агитпроп, an abbreviation of agitation and propaganda), or agitprop art, is a style of visual art commonly associated with socialist realism, Soviet propaganda, and communist politics.

Agitprop often has a political purpose: to influence popular opinion and promote leftist ideas.

It is similar to political art in that it must serve a political purpose. Agitprop can be disseminated via print, film, audio, and other media.

The major difference between agitprop and other forms of art is that the latter is concerned with aesthetic issues such as quality.

In theory, agitprop should reflect popular interests; in practice by definition, it must represent the party’s official position. Agitprop is different from propaganda because the latter does not necessarily advocate any particular political view or position.

 

WHAT IS AGITPROP

What Is Agitprop?

Agitprop, derived from the Russian agitatsiya (agitation) and propaganda, is a political strategy used to achieve a specific purpose.

Agitprop is used in conjunction with Marxist-Leninist philosophy and tactics. Karl Marx used agitprop as a political tool.

As an ideology, it combines political theory with art and literature in an attempt to indoctrinate the masses.

In today’s world, agitprop can be seen in mainstream media outlets, including newspapers, television, and film.

The term has also been applied to advertising campaigns that use shocking imagery in order to get their message across; the idea is that if you can get people riled up, they will act.

 

 

What Is Agitprop?

Agitprop was widely used before and during the first decades of the 20th century by Russian socialists (who were particularly active in producing propaganda).

Agitprop often has a political purpose: to influence popular opinion and promote leftist ideas.

It is similar to political art in that it must serve a political purpose. Agitprop can be disseminated via:

  • print,
  • film,
  • audio, and
  • other media.

The major difference between agitprop and other forms of art is that the latter is concerned with aesthetic issues such as quality.

Agitprop And Film

Agitprop and film have been around for a long time. Agitprop is from Russian, meaning agitation or propaganda. It is a visual form of literature that uses pictures to tell the story.

Film is a visual art form that uses images that run along a strip of plastic.

Telling stories using these mediums has been used to influence people’s attitudes and behavior since the beginning of time.

That is why it’s also known as propaganda because it can be used to sway public opinion and shape thoughts into something that benefits one group over another group.

A Soviet term, agitprop refers to any art form used as a means of political propaganda. The term is short for agitation and propaganda.

Agitprop was used as a form of political indoctrination in the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, and existed alongside the more intellectualized concept of “proletkult.”

However, unlike the latter, agitprop had no theoretical basis or “party line” other than to promote the interests of the Communist Party.

It was often used to push political agendas that did not align with Leninist theory of party doctrine. It served as an effective means by which to teach the masses about politics while promoting Communist values and beliefs.

It’s also commonly used to describe any form of media that seeks to instill an idea or set of beliefs in its viewers, especially if it follows a specific agenda. For example, a film that presents communism in an extremely positive light might be described as agitprop.

What Is Agitation Propaganda?

Agitation propaganda is a type of political communication that aims to influence public opinion through the use of emotion and bias.

The messages often include exaggerations and simple black-and-white thinking.

It’s intended to incite strong feelings within one targeted group in order to influence public opinion in that group’s favor. The targeted group can be as small as one person or as large as an entire nation.

Agitprop is also called “agitational propaganda” or “political propaganda.” Its intent is to agitate one group into action against another group.*

Examples

The German Social Democratic Party was one of the first organizations to use agitprop techniques on a large scale.

In the early 20th century, they hired agitators from theater companies to travel around Germany giving impassioned speeches about politics.

Agitprop And The Avant-garde

What was essentially a campaign to fund the Russian Revolution using foreign money and influence through art, the Avant-garde movement was born out of a need by the Bolshevik party to create propaganda that would be appealing to the Western audience.

Their goal was to garner support for the revolution and its ideals from those who were not necessarily born into their ideology.

Printed material, especially posters, was the medium used most often by agitprop artists. Posters were used to convey political slogans and messages, as well as to raise awareness of current events in Russia.

The images used in these posters were often eye-catching and inflammatory, designed to grab attention and incite feelings of sympathy or outrage in viewers. They also contained clever slogans, puns, and rhymes that made them especially memorable.

Agitprop posters were meant to inspire people and cause them to act. The images they contained had a powerful impact on the viewer because they created an emotional response.

Whether it was sympathy for victims of war or outrage towards violence against women, these posters made people feel something.

Agitprop And Constructivism

Constructivism was a method for teaching art, developed by Russian artists and theorists in the early 20th century. It was based on the idea that art does not reflect reality, but rather shapes it.

In other words, art is not a mirror held up to reality, but rather an active agent in shaping our experience of it.

Constructivism thus rejected traditional artistic media like painting and sculpture, instead of focusing on artistic activities such as architecture, design, performance, and film.

Constructivist artists believed that these new forms of art were needed because they could capture the changing reality of the modern world.

Reality was shifting so fast that traditional forms of art were unable to keep up with it. A new form of art was needed to express this new reality.

El Lissitzky

El Lissitzky (1890-1941) was a pioneer of Russian avant-garde art, inventor of the suprematist movement, and a general artistic innovator. His work has been an inspiration to many artists and designers over the last century.

The earliest known works by El Lissitzky are from when he was a teenager; the earliest is from his time at the Kiev Art School in 1907.

In 1910 he moved to Moscow for the summer, where he met and became friends with poets like Velimir Khlebnikov and David Burlyuk, who also introduced him to cubism and futurism. He also met designer Lazar Khidekel, one of the founders of OPOYEZD (the Society of Young Artists), which later gave rise to suprematism.

Following this, El Lissitzky began experimenting with cubism and futurism, but quickly developed his own style: suprematism.

He first used elements of these styles in his illustrations for Khlebnikov’s The King of Time (1912), but in 1913 he began to create what would eventually become known as suprematist works.

El Lissitzky’s suprematist works were almost exclusively drawings and prints.

Agitprop Artworks

Several well-known artists contributed to its development, including:

  • Kazimir Malevich (1878–1935),
  • Vladimir Tatlin (1885–1953),
  • El Lissitzky (1890–1941),
  • Alexander Rodchenko (1891–1956),
  • Gustav Klucis (1893–1938).

The use of agitprop techniques declined in the 1930s with the rise of socialist realism. In Germany, the term became associated with a style of mass advertising, which was used extensively by both the Nazi Party and the Communist Party of Germany before and during World War II.

Agitprop can be especially effective when aimed at children and young people, who are more easily influenced than adults.

Agitprop – Wrapping Up

So just to summarize, agitprop literally means “agitation propaganda”, and it is a style of art that is made for the purpose of inciting action, for example, political mobilization or protest.

Tone – an important element in agitprop art – serves to engage the viewer in the work, often by creating a sense of urgency or alarm.

This is particularly true if the subject matter is related to current events or items of popular concern.

In these cases, the tone of the art (which may be angry or distressed) can itself help to stimulate awareness and action among viewers.

Agitprop art can be used in a variety of ways; it may be used as simple promotional material for a political party or movement, or it may be used for more subversive purposes, such as drawing attention to inequities in society that are being overlooked by authorities.

The latter example is perhaps a better fit with the term “agitation propaganda”, since one goal of this type of art is to call attention to issues that might otherwise go unnoticed.