Socialism and Battleship Potemkin

While watching the film, Battleship Potemkin (1925), directed by Sergei Eisenstein, I found it so interesting how it mimicked the Russian Revolution on a small scale. One of the first lines of dialogue was “We must stand in front of revolution”. This line came from one of the sailors and, in my opinion, was the most defining line in the movie. It represents the crucial role the working class played in not only this movie, or even in the revolution itself, but in socialism as a whole. With this, I can completely understand why this movie goes down in history as one of the best propaganda films of all time.

The movie centered around sailors uprising against the unfair treatment by the captain and his men and the disastrous aftermath in the town of Odessa. There we see the Tsarist regime massacring the city after coming together to pay their dues to the dead soldier. It is also really interesting to me how the film represented the Tsar relinquishing power. At the end, when the enemy could’ve fired at the sailors, they did not. It’s almost as if they knew there was nothing more they could do to suppress the inevitable. Similarly, in “Abdication”, the Tsar is relinquishing his power because the people are revolting due to concerns for their own welfare and disdain for the regime. With the way the Tsar was portrayed in the film, it seems absolutely reasonable that the people are calling for a revolution and moving towards communism. Grand Duke Mikhail, who accepts power from the Tsar, explains how he will rule based on “desire of the people”. It’s intriguing to see the progression of not only the people’s want for socialism, but the leader’s eventual move towards it as the revolution grows.

The entire film is about the revolution coming from the working class. Lenin’s “What Have I Done?”, is also entirely about how the revolution will come from the working class. Several times in the film we hear things like “All for one, one for all!”, and even more appropriate, “All against one, one against all”. The movie so cleverly encompassed very important aspects of socialism.

In Dark Continent, Mazower speaks about an end to “lawlessness and social anarchy through decisive state action” (p.11) , as seen in the film. The people do not want to be prisoners of their own government. I thought the main theme was portrayed perfectly of how the bourgeoisie would be no more, and that the working population will be invested in in order to unify the nation. Mazower agrees on page 12, where he talks about how priority was now given to the masses. Socialism seemed to work in Russia, as portrayed by both Mazower and the Battleship Potemkin, because the Tsarist regime (and liberal regime) failed to work. 

An aspect of the film I found really very compelling were the subtle religious references. The first being the biblical inscription on the plate a sailor smashed, which I think may have represented socialism’s disdain for religious because it divides a nation. Perhaps it could’ve also represented the class division, since they were not fed off of those plates.  The second was a anti-semmetic comment which fits the time period. However, the crowd was outraged at the comment further insuring that there is no room for inequality.