From Hammer and Sickle to Red Star: The Evolution of Communist Symbols

Lenin with the hammer and sickle and communist star main

Communism argues that we should have collective ownership of resources as well as the distribution of wealth according to each individual’s contribution.  Communism has many symbols, including the color red, the hammer and sickle (representing works and peasants), stars, revolution, and the Soviet Union. Communism also symbolizes what we are not; we are a religious free market society. Communism is not that and it threatens us.

Communism Scares Europe

Karl Marx argued that the ultimate goal should be a classless society.  All would be equal.  There would no longer be differences in property ownership because personal property itself would end.  There would be a communal (community-wide … “communism”)  sharing of property.   

Learn about the pros and cons of communism; how it scared us.  Here we talk symbolism. 

The Color Red 

The flags of the Soviet Union and China, two major 20th Century communist countries, are dominated by a red field.  A basic symbol of communism is the color red.  This gives the name to the “red scare,” the fear of communism.  Why is red the color of communism?

The color red had long been the symbol of revolution.  Red is the color of blood and fighting.  People are reminded of all that was sacrificed for the cause.  

“Red” is sometimes used as a negative term for people who are allegedly communists. Richard Nixon accused his female opponent of being “pink,” a feminine version of the label.  

Hammer and Sickle

Communism argues that the proletariat (the working class) will rise up and rule the land.  The working class, therefore, is a basic symbol of communism. Likewise, all members of the disenfranchised, the lowly of society, are heroes of the communist cause.  

The hammer and sickle symbols are representations of the two major groups of the proletariat.  The hammer represents industrial workers while the sickle (used to harvest crops) symbolizes agricultural workers (peasants).  Peasants are a basic communist symbol in China and Vietnam.

Industry, agriculture, labor, and workers are all important communist symbols. Together (such as on the Soviet Union flag), the hammer and sickle symbolize the workers as a whole.  

The Star 

Another common symbol found on communist flags is a gold star.  Actually, the hammer and sickle of the Soviet Union flag are also gold.  Why a gold star?  

A “gold star” is often a symbol of doing a good job.  A “gold star family” is a family who lost a family member in military service.  A star from ancient times symbolized something special.

The five-pointed star is so associated with communism that Russia’s communist party a few years back tried to copyright it.  There are various theories on what the communist star means, including a symbol of the hands of a worker or the five continents communism would take over.  

A red star makes sense.  But, why gold?  The Vietnam flag, for instance, is a gold star in a red field.  The star itself represents the five main classes in Vietnamese society — intellectuals, farmers, workers, entrepreneurs, and soldiers.  Yellow is an ancient Vietnamese symbol.  

Gold stars generally seem to be a symbol of communism’s dominance and success. Yellow brings to mind the rays of the sun, which give us life and warmth.  Gold also just looks nice with red!


Communism has long been scary to many people.  Communism imagines a complete change in how society operates.  Communism will come by means of a people’s revolution,  a great change.  

Revolutions can be a good thing.  Our own country started when our ancestors fought the American Revolution.  Not everyone was keen on that revolution either – that is why the Brits did not just say “Okay then, good luck, mates” when we wrote the Declaration of Independence.  

Communism, both in a positive and negative, way symbolizes revolution.  A change to the basic principles of society.  This gave people throughout the world a lot of hope.  There were many things wrong in society.  In the 1930s, communists fought racism in this country.  

For others, the threat of revolution was a menace to be stopped.  It threatened not only capitalism but religious believers. For instance, we added “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance to show the United States did not support godless communism.  

Soviet Union and China 

Communism also symbolizes certain specific communists and communist nations.

In the 19th Century, communism symbolized dangerous foreign ideas, particularly those from central and eastern Europe.  Later, communism was particularly symbolic of the Soviet Union, or its leaders.  Cuba (Castro), China, and North Korea also often come to mind.  

The Internationale 

The Internationale is a leading socialist and communist anthem. It is named after an international meeting of workers in 1864.  

Songs are an important part of any number of groups.  They rally the troops, inspire us, and build up unity.  The Internationale is a popular communist fight song.  

Final Thoughts 

Communism seems to be almost quaint these days.  Did not communism fall with the Berlin Wall around thirty or so years ago?  It lingers on in places like North Korea at best.

Communism in that fashion also symbolizes the past and failure.  It symbolizes how free market capitalism won the day.  We feel good about ourselves.

But, perhaps, there are some aspects of communism that are not all bad.  If so, maybe some of the symbols of communism can be shared with other groups today.