Smurf Communism refers to a set of theories about the economic and political system in The Smurfs, a popular comic book and animated series originally created by Belgian cartoonist Peyo. According to various observers, many of whom have written essays published on the Internet, there are many parallels between communist ideology and practices and the way of life depicted in The Smurfs, particularly within the American animated television series.
Papa and Brainy [image]
Karl Marx [image]
Papa Smurf [image - hint: papa and karl have similarities...the image below is not from the original article, but one I dug up:]
The theories usually begin by citing what seem to be uncanny aspects of Smurf characters' appearances. Papa Smurf has a wide beard, which some feel looks like Karl Marx's. He also wears red slacks and a red cap, displaying the color of International Communism. Despite the society's communal nature, Papa Smurf does have the ultimate authority, often overruling Brainy Smurf when he oversteps his boundaries. In several episodes when Papa Smurf is not present, the Smurf Village's utopian system destabilizes entirely.
Brainy Smurf, like Leon Trotsky, has round spectacles. There the similarities more or less end, although some see parallels in their position in society. Like Trotsky who felt his intellectual theories of Communist society were superior, he seizes power in several episodes when Papa Smurf is away. Some argue that Brainy was alone in his willingness to question the ideals of 'Smurfism'. This is not supported by the comics, where he definitely does not question the ideals of Smurfism, as he considers himself the strongest supporter or even the disciple of Papa. The rebellion as seen in the King Smurf story is not initiated by Brainy but by an unnamed Smurf.
Nonetheless, Brainy's ideas and remarks at times get him into trouble from Papa Smurf and his peers. He is often isolated, ridiculed or even physically ejected from the village for his never ending rants and condescencion.
Leon Trotsky [image]
Brainy Smurf [image]
The Smurfs wear standard clothing (with the notable exception of Papa Smurf): a simple white Phrygian cap and white slacks. Each smurf has minor accessories that differentiate them from each other. This systematic uniform is argued by some as a representation of the largely uniform style of attire dominant in several early periods of the Soviet Union and The People's Republic of China, including the "Mao suit". On the other hand, standard clothing is common in many isolated communities, and is also common in representation of other mystical creatures like dwarfs and gnomes..
Analogy of capitalist forces
Even though the evil wizard Gargamel and his loyal feline worker, Azrael, are argued to represent an analogy of the forces of capitalism, it would be more correct to say that they represent the forces of reaction. In fact Gargamel desires to capture the Smurfs in order to turn them into gold through a magical process of boiling. His greed drives him to great lengths in what is said to be a parallel of the Cold War and its extreme stuggle. The capitalistic forces want to devour socialism, as the West wanted to do to the USSR and its allies according to Cold War propaganda. Gargamel can be seen as a pure capitalist; he wishes to turn everything into a commodity -- including the individuals of a living society.
Gargamel forces Azrael, his ginger cat, to do almost all of the laborious and dangerous activities in his various plots to catch the Smurfs. Azrael can be seen as the lumpen-proletariat, being exploited by Gargamel, the reaction. Azrael is uncomplaining, or, since he has no voice (i.e. class-consciousness), is metaphorically unable to complain. He cannot negotiate his wage--he eats whatever he is given by his master.
Gargamel could be seen as the physical stereotype for capitalism: a man, totally consumed by greed. Some have noted classic Anti-Semitic stereotypes in Gargamel's appearance: a large hook nose and a bald pate, except for the dark bushy hair sprouting over his ears. The name Azrael also has clear Semitic origins. This could allude to Communism's demonization of rich Jewish antagonists in Russia and the Soviet Union (an ironic practice considering that Marx was Jewish). A particularly strong message on this analogy is conveyed in the story of the creation of Smurfette. Intitially, it is Gargamel who creates Smurfette - a duplicitous creature with short, black hair and a larger nose - as a ploy to capture the Smurfs. When Smurfette is later transformed into a "good" Smurf, this transformation is highlighted by Smurfette becoming a blonde with long hair and a much smaller nose which could be considered Aryan traits.
The Smurfs live in an egalitarian utopia. Each smurf has a particular skill and each performs tasks for the benefit of the community. There is no system of monetary exchange or even barter in the Smurf village. The village is under a planned economy, under the leadership of Papa Smurf, and to some extent, Brainy Smurf.
The food in the Smurf Village was stored away in mushrooms the minute it was harvested and then equally distributed to all the Smurfs throughout the year. No one "farmer smurf" sold his crop to one smurf or another. It was understood that the crop was for the entire Smurf population, not for the sale or profit of one Smurf alone - an example of collective farming.
In the Smurf Comics, Finance Smurf introduced a short-lived system of monetary exchange, based upon the gold standard. He introduces the system after he is exposed to capitalism by trekking to a town in order to retrieve some medicine. He is portrayed as being logically short sighted; the system he introduces leads to corruption, poverty, malnutrition, and general discontent. In addition, the monetary system increased the danger to the village, as Gargamel wished and tried to seize the Smurfs' stockpile of coinage.
Each member of the community is a Smurf, and each has Smurf as a suffix to their own name; this can be seen as analagous to the use of "comrade." The Smurfs have a tendency to use the word 'smurf' as a prefix or suffix to many sentences. This could be seen as an identity to create a strong group identity or a way to eliminate influences from other cultures. This is similar to what was practiced under Soviet Russia.
With the exception of Smurfette, the Smurfs are completely male. Smurfette herself was created by Gargamel using magic in one episode - she was sent in as an evil force to corrupt and infiltrate the other Smurfs. Upon reaching the village, Smurfette had stiff black hair. Using a spell, Papa Smurf broke Gargamel's hold on Smurfette and she became one with the Smurfs--only now she had blond hair. The Smurfs sometimes do treat Smurfette as an object of attraction, but the majority of the time they grant her respect and place her at an equal level. The society must struggle to prevent the potential decadence created by the female allure. Soviet communism also battled the conflicts between the ideological proclamation of women's rights and the potential downsides to a Western-style sexual liberation. On the other hand, feminist commentators has sometimes decried Smurfette's peculiarly idle and image-obsessed presentation on the show.
Smurf society was almost completely male and there was almost no population growth. Like most children's shows of the time, sex and reproduction was something that was simply not discussed. Some views of history claim records show the most sucessful communes are ones that stay small in population. This is aimed to conserve resources, reduce social conflict, and maintain a high standard of life on an egalitarian scale. Smurfs only found problems with each other due to individual character faults: Brainy's aloofness and condescending attitude, Vanity's obssession with his own apperance, etc.
Smurfs are very open to each other's differences. Yet with these differences, there are few cases of taunting at others' expense due to difference in lifestyle. This reinforces the ideals of acceptance in some visions of communistic and utopian socities.
A true Marxist is an atheist. There is no mention of God in Smurf comics, and there is no Priest Smurf. There are only forces of nature and physics, and these are represented metaphorically by the characters of Mother Nature, Father Time, and through man-made creations such as Clockwork Smurf. Of course, there is also magic, as practised by Papa, Gargamel, Balthazar and others, but it is simply another tool that occurs in nature and has physical properties that can be tapped into with the right know-how.
Criticism and difficulties
Marxism is traditionally based on class struggle. It also involves a dialectic of previous systems ending through their own internal contradictions. There is no evidence the Smurfs had a previous system or that it ever had classes. Hence, unlike historical Communist states like the USSR, there is no evidence that the Smurfs formed out of a revolution or an evolution from a previous system.
The Smurf Village could also be argued to be actively anti-revolutionary or static in nature. Unlike Stalinism or Maoism, large scale societal change is usually discouraged. Handy occasionally tried to introduce elements of industrialization, but these were usually rejected. Most Communist regimes strongly encouraged industrialization as in China's attempted Great Leap Forward or Stalin's Electrification.
Papa Smurf could also lack the authority or punitive capability of most historical Communist leaders. There are no real police or prisons in Smurf village. Judging by the reaction to King Smurf the Smurfs could be argued to reject any authoritarian or totalitarian systems. In the cartoon series Brainy declares himself King Smurf. On the other hand, his disapproval of authoritarian rule does not argue against some form of libertarian socialism or Smurf society representing Communist evolution in its final ideal form.
While the Smurfs' rituals and holidays may not fit Western notions of theology, they do have similarities with animistic religion. As in animism there are spirits of nature and forces that must be placated or reverenced. For example, we see the "dance of a 100 Smurfs" which must be done to avoid potential misfortune. Of course, the Smurf universe is one in which magical forces are known to exist, and in this context it is possible that rituals such as the dance do, in fact, ward off bad luck.
A final difficulty is that the Smurfs seem uninterested in exporting their ideals to other peoples. Despite disdain for living under a monarchy, the Smurfs, in fact, have cordial relations with several feudalistic nobles. In fact the Smurfs were introduced in a Medieval series as helpers for a knight named Johan and his squire. These feudalistic characters are not judged as reactionaries as would be consistent with most Communist theories. Instead the Smurfs are generally friendly to them and are uninterested in fomenting any revolt of the peasant or working classes.
Other circumstantial (or coincidental) points
- Communism fell in Russia around the time that The Smurfs were lost from tv syndication and comic publication.
- Some websites have argued that "Smurf" is an acronym for "Socialist Men Under Red Father" or "Soviet Men Under Red Father" as a further argument to strengthen Smurf Communistic theory. This theory is apocryphal, as the word Smurf originally came from "Schtroumpf", an invented French word comparable to the English "watchmacallit."
- It is not uncommon for animators and writers to introduce subtle adult themes in children's shows, like with Disney's frequent use of sexual symbolism.
Characters in the Smurfs
Socio-Political Smurfs [now dead link, but archived here]
Better Dead than Blue [now dead link, available on internet archive here]
The Smurfs were Communists!
Socialist Smurfs [now dead link, available on internet archive here]
The Theory of Smurfian Communism
Smurfs: Aryan Puppets or Harmless Cartoon Toys?
"Sister" on the Sidelines: "The Smurfs" and the Antifeminist Backlash on Saturday Morning (primarily discussing the anti-feminist depiction of Smurfette, but also making some novel observations about the "socialist utopia" of the Smurfs)
Analysis of deletion, for wikigeeks only
The article was created on September 19, 2005 by editor Larsinio, and was only a few weeks old when first nominated for deletion. In that October 2005 deletion discussion, which approximately 70 editors participated in, the article was kept in a landslide. (See deletion discussion.) The discussion allows a fascinating comparison to be made between the average views of wikipedia editors five years ago as compared to today. The editors overwhelmingly voted to keep the article, and many just because they thought it was an amazing piece of work. Only a very few editors raised the issues that would immediately nuke such as article today, e.g., "C'mon guys, this is transparently a personal essay. Sure, it is amusing as hell but is it enyclopedic? No. --Maru"
After that resounding victory for both Ayn Rand style individual accomplishment and the little blue marxists, however, the article remained in danger. The article was moved from "Smurf Communism" to "The Smurfs and communism", surely for some ridiculous but earnest reasons, and was re-nominated for deletion in February 2006. (See Deletion discussion). Again, it was overwhelmingly kept, though fewer editors participated (about 40).
Fast forward one year and eight months to October 2007.
Up for a deletion a third time, this time the Smurfs could not escape the deletionist Gargamels. (See deletion discussion). Only about 14 editors participated in the discussion, and there was not a single keep vote--the best the article could garner was a few suggestions to merge the article elsewhere. It appears that the type of editor who fancied or at least tolerated articles like this in the past had mostly departed the project by this point. In addition, the enactment and enforcement of Wikipedia policies and guidelines such as the policy against original research and the notability guideline clearly had become much more effective at this point.
During its heyday, however, the Smurf Communism article was widely enjoyed and cited on the internet. E.g, noted wikipedian and inclusionist Andrew Lih (May 25, 2006)