This widely recognised symbol, intended to symbolise proletarian solidarity, is strongly associated, in the West at least, with the Soviet Union and the Cold War.1 The symbol is used as an emblem of the ruling party in four self-described communist states today, and variations of the hammer and sickle motif are still used by many communist parties throughout the world.
The symbol was designed by Moscow artist Yeygeny Kamzolkin and it was originally intended for display at a May Day celebration in Moscow.2 It subsequently won a nationwide competition to find an emblem for the Russian communist movement in 1917, and it was officially adopted by the Soviet State in 1922.3
Kamzolkin’s intention was to represent solidarity between the industrialised proletariat and the rural peasant, with each group symbolised by the tools of their labour. The unity of these two groups, who made up the majority of the Russian population, was key both strategically and symbolically to Lenin’s vision of a communist state.3
The symbol is used by many communist political parties throughout the world, including the ruling parties of China, Vietnam, and Laos, all of which use a similar design to Kamzolkin’s original. There are also variations that communicate a similar message, but use other items to depict the groups in solidarity. For example, the Communist Party of Britain’s logo is a hammer intertwined with a dove figure and the Angolan flag features a cog crossed by a machete.