Mises Daily Articles
Tintin in the Land of the Soviets
The Adventures of Tintin is a series of 24 comic books created by Belgian comic writer and artist Georges Remi (1907–1983), better known as Hergé. They tell the stories of Tintin and his dog Snowy (Milou in French) who travel the world and beyond. Tintin is a reporter for a Belgian paper Le Petit Vingtième and his adventures take place against the backdrop of the eventful twentieth century.
The first adventure, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, was serialized in 1929. Not only is it funny and gripping but also it serves as an important book that explains the sham of socialism. The plot will be discussed in detail.
Tintin and Snowy are assigned to go to Moscow and report on the situation in Soviet Russia. They are traveling by train from Brussels and as they reach Berlin, a secret agent bombs the train in an attempt to stop Tintin and Snowy. They survive this and discover that the rest of the train has disappeared along with other passengers. Guards take them away and charge them immediately with "misappropriating ten coaches and causing the disappearance of 218 people." They are imprisoned but escape and continue their journey to Moscow.
When they reach Stolbtzy, they are taken to the People's Commissar and readers learn that there is a plan to dispose of Tintin and Snowy and make it look like an accident.
At Stolbtzy they miss their train to Moscow. While following the rail track, they find an industrial town where English communists are "shown the beauties of Bolshevism." The guide explains that the factories are working to full capacity. Tintin and Snowy are curious to find out what happens in these factories so they take a look. They see a man who is simply burning straw to make smoke come out of chimneys to create an illusion that production is in full swing. Furthermore, they see another man who is hammering pieces of metal to make the "sounds of machinery." While Snowy wonders if it is a Russian jazz band, Tintin says,"That's how the Soviets fool the poor idiots who still believe in a Red Paradise."
Tintin and Snowy see a crowd and a few officials. They are holding an election and the officers announce that there is a list of three parties, the first being the Communist Party. They ask people to raise their hands if they are opposed (while pointing guns at the crowd). As no one raises a hand, they declare that the Communist Party has been elected unanimously.
Tintin and Snowy arrive in Moscow and are told that their papers are not in order. As a result they get arrested and sent to prison. The warden tells Tintin, "You are going to be tortured to help you reveal the purpose of your journey." Just as they are about to be tortured, they make a lucky escape.
The city of Moscow is run down. Tintin and Snowy see a line of children waiting to receive a loaf of bread each. When loaves are given out, the official asks if they are good communists. When a boy does not answer, he is beaten. Snowy then steals a loaf and gives it to the boy.
Tintin and Snowy find a suspicious gathering and sneak into the meeting. The officials are short of wheat for foreign propaganda, to show off to those abroad that their country has plenty of food, enough to export. They decide to "organise an expedition against the kulaks and force them at gunpoint to give us corns."
Tintin and Snowy run to the farmers and help them hide grain before the officials arrive. When they fail to find the hidden grain, they decide to torture the farmer and Tintin objects, disguised as one of the officials. This annoys them and they order the execution of Tintin.
Again, Tintin and Snowy make a lucky escape and they wander around fields covered with snow. They stumble upon a haunted house which turns out to be a hideout "where Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin have collected together wealth stolen from the people."
In the basement they find reserves of grain, caviar, and vodka to be used as export propaganda. Tintin comments, "While the Russian people are dying of hunger, immense quantities of wheat are being sent abroad to prove so-called wealth of the Soviet paradise."
After escaping further attempts at assassination by the OGPU, Tintin and Snowy return to Brussels to a cheering crowd.
The adventure is action-packed and there is never a dull moment. They survive numerous car crashes, imprisonments, explosions, a plane crash and even an attack from a bear. In between, they witness the failure of socialism. This year marks the centennial of the birth of Hergé and his comic books continue to entertain and fascinate millions of children and adults around the world.