Nikolai Nikolaevich Kogout
Russian, 1891–1959
Lord Capital: The Essence of Religion, after 1928-1929 Lithograph printed in color on paper
Gift of Mrs. D. Spencer Byard (Margaret Mather, class of 1933)
Photograph by Stephen Petegorsky

This is an example of a poster that is incomprehensible without the text, which indicates that the target audience was a more educated public.  Divided into four parts, with four sets of two corresponding passages, the tactic of this poster is to undermine the authority of sacred texts, by isolating sections of text and then “disproving” or mocking them with further text and images. For example, the fourth pair of texts is from the Gospel of Matthew: “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” (Matthew 6:31)  “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” (Matthew 5:12). These quotations are juxtaposed with a text which responds, in part: “What does religion give to the proletariat?  The whole teaching of the soul, the blessed state of the poor in the afterlife, heavenly reward for earthly insults and sufferings is blatant deception and a direct obstacle to the business of communism.” This is connected to the image in the lower right corner—a worker standing against the backdrop of a map of his difficult life, with the disembodied hand of Christ floating in to bless him from the right. 

 Although the main concern of the antireligious movement was to destroy the Russian Orthodox Church, all religions were judged to be antithetical to the Marxist theory of Communism. As Emelian Yaroslavsky, a leader of the antireligious movement and editor of Bezbozhnik remarked, “All religions, no matter how much they ‘renovate and cleanse themselves, are systems of ideas. . .profoundly hostile to the ideology of. . .socialism. . . .” He went on to observe that religious organizations “are in reality political agencies . . . of class groupings hostile to the proletariat inside the country and of the international bourgeoisie.”  Thus in this poster we see not only Christian figures, but also images of Jehova, Allah, Buddha, as well as Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist religious figures and capitalists.

Translation

Lord Capital

  1. “God is the everlasting spirit.”  (Catechism)  “Who is so great a God as our God?” (Psalm 77:13)
  2. “God is love” (Catechism).  “If thou set thy servant to labor, thou shalt find rest: but if thou let him go idle, he shall seek liberty.”  (Book of Sirach 33:25, Apocrypha)
  3. “To every one who has, more will be given; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Luke 19:26).  “The righteous eateth to the satisfying of his soul […]” (Proverbs 13:25)
  4. “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” (Matthew 6:31)  “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:12)

(Center:) Our Lord Capital

(bottom)

  1. Any religion is man-made.  People create gods.  One group of gods replaces the other.  Gods live only as long as they are needed by the ruling class.  The bourgeoisie can not give up God, like it can not give up capital or power.  It only exchanges gods, when they are too old and no longer suited to fooling the masses.
  2. Any religion in modern capitalist society is one of the kinds of class oppression.  The purpose of religion is to cover up with words of love and charity the nakedness of monstrous exploitation of the working.  The school of humbleness, patience, passivity against evil, forgiveness of insults, represents the reins which the capitalist uses to hold the working under control and to shamelessly exploit them.
  3. Religion—by bringing up the masses in passivity and obedience, by relaxing the will to struggle, and by blurring class contradictions—paralyzes class struggle of the oppressed and destitute against exploiters and provides the bourgeoisie with a carefree existence.
  4. What does religion give to the proletariat?  The whole teaching of the soul, life after death, the blessed state of the poor in the afterlife, heavenly reward for earthly insults and sufferings is blatant deception and a direct obstacle to the business of communism. The conscious proletariat has to dispel that lie, in order to clear the way to communism.