June 21, 2016, by Tony Hong

Lenin Protects Private Property

By Dr. Tracey Fallon,

Assistant Professor at the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies,

The University of Nottingham Ningbo China.

In contemporary China the symbolism of Mao-era iconography is used in multiple and often contradictory ways from its original intent.[1] Not excluded from this mining of the past, socialist moral stories are also deployed to further the interests of private companies. Recently, a poster depicting communist hero Lenin has appeared at the entrance way of my private gated housing community in Ningbo. In this poster of Lenin, the text encourages residents to use their security swipe cards to enter through the gate and be alert to others from following in behind. Its cartoon images depict Lenin reaching for his ID upon being asked by a young guard and in the second a third person gestures as Lenin moves to hand his papers over (Figure 1).

The “Story of Lenin and the Guard” will be familiar to many who pass through the gates. It was commonly found in primary school textbooks in the Mao and early reform era. The moral message of the tale is that everyone should follow the rules. Set soon after the Bolshevik revolution, it tells of a new guard at the Kremlin assiduously checking all IDs as the site prepare for a meeting of the People’s Committee. The guard is carefully checking all papers and requests them from Lenin’s without knowing who he is. A third person reprimands the guard, telling him that it is Lenin. However, the guard politely persists in requesting the papers explaining that he does not know what Lenin looks like and needs to check all papers. He apologises profusely when he sees that it is indeed Lenin from the papers. Lenin replies that the guard is right in his actions and all should be checked as everyone should follow and respect the rules. In this contemporary case, the moral tale is put to use to request that residents cooperate with the security guards and use their swipe-pass to enter.

My housing complex is not the first to make use of this particular socialist moral story. Back in 2009, a residence in Chengdu made use of Lenin and the Guard to reduce tensions between residents and security staff when the management company started instituting checks on those entering its gates.[2] According to a news report, a reminder of the familiar moral story set at the gate made residents more compliant in participating with the entry rules.  The Story of Lenin and the Guard being put to use in this way may make things easier for the management company and increase the security for residents. Yet it also shows how communist symbolism is open to new meaning making in its re-deployment. Instead of advancing revolutionary discipline, the figure of Lenin now helps ease the management of capitalist companies and protect private property.


Lenin Protects Private Property

Text for the Image (translation)

“The story and Lenin and the Guard” illustrates the strict interrogation and examination when Lenin encountered a guard. This is how to coordinate guard work and prevent unsuitable behaviour from those follow others.

For the safety of the housing complex, can the wider residents please use their own initiative to swipe their cards upon entering and exiting and be on guard for those following in behind you! Actively co-operate with the security station’s enquiries and checks.

Residents are welcome to provide supervision and suggestions, thanks!



[1] See past blog from 2015 “Labour is most Glorious” on the use of socialist-era art in canteen restaurants.

[2] Chengdu Business Newspaper (2009) “The Apartment complex’s used of a poster of ‘Lenin and the Guard’ at its gate is extraordinarily effective” [Xiaoqu menkou yong “Liening yu  weibing” zhanban zhangang shou qixiao] Sina. 15.10.2009. Available at http://sc.sina.com.cn/news/social/2009-10-15/082451240.html accessed 18.06.16

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