Are the Smurfs evil red Socialists? Are the Smurfs part of a secret project to turn cartoon-loving children into bourgeois-overthrowing idealogues? Is red clothing part of the secret to successful Socialist leadership? Read on and learn once are for all: Are the Smurfs Communist?
Are the Smurfs Communists?
Are the Smurfs really Communists? The Smurfs all dress the same, follow a man with a beard (like Karl Marx), share the benefits of their labor - and they've even eschewed money! The Smurf society includes many of the idealized lifestyle attributes that define the core of Communism: a classless society where the inherent power disparity between property owners and laborers does not exist. Indeed, the Smurfs do live that dream lifestyle - everyone is equal, everyone shares, and everyone enjoys the benefits of the Smurf society's collective labor.
Communist theory states, "from each, according to his ability, to each according to his need." What this means is that everyone should work as well as they can to their full capacity, and in turn be rewarded as much as they need. According to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Communism can only be achieved after first experiencing Socialism, which includes a violent uprising, the upper classes getting decimated, and a strong leader being placed into power.
Socialism is the required first step that must occur before Communism can take place. A powerful leader rules under Socialism - Papa Smurf clearly represents Marx's idea of the "strong leader" (Papa Smurf even has Marx's beard!) Some say that the word SMURF actually means "Socialist Men Under a Red Father"! Eventually, a "perfect system" is put in place under Communism whereby the proletariat (workers) rule themselves, ensuring equality for everyone. Perhaps Papa Smurf's strong leadership role means that the Smurfs are not fully Communist yet. However, evidence is strong that the Smurfs lead a Communistic or Socialist lifestyle:
Each Smurf wears the exact same outfit (white hat, white pants)
The Smurf leader is a wise and powerful man who wields unquestioned power and authority
There is no system of currency or monetary remediation
The Smurfs often eat at a communal table
No religious Smurfs
The "la la la la la la" Smurf chant is sung by all, no matter whom
Their sworn enemy, Gargamel, is obsessed with turning the Smurfs into gold
There are, however, inherent problems in putting a cartoon under a societal and philosophical microscope. The Smurfs universe only truly functions within the context of the cartoon itself. There are many unanswered questions about their lifestyles. We never see a bathroom on the Smurfs, so does that mean the Smurfs do not require one? We don't ever need to find out the answer to that question, because the cartoon functions quite nicely without knowing the details. On the same level, the fantasy that "everyone" (including the selfish Greedy Smurf) always shares fairly isn't pressed "hard" in philosophical terms - the writers can just pretend everyone is ultimately fair, rational, kind and compassionate. The key word in this analysis is "pretend". It's pretty easy to create a fantastical world in fiction if one doesn't look to closely or think too much.
Looking more deeply at the Smurfs, though, it is clear our little blue buddies did not have a class revolution. There is no evidence of Marx's "class struggle" where the Smurfs overthrew their bourgeois capitalist oppressors - the Smurfs appear to have always lived this way. More importantly, it is hard to imagine the Smurfs murdering the upper classes as Marx said was a "necessity" of a Socialist revolution. And what of Papa Smurf's benign leadership? Even within the context of a cartoon TV show it was not plausible to show full Communism in the Smurf village, where the workers somehow ruled themselves. Even as a story it was necessary to "fall back" to Socialism, and not the totally implausible fantasy of Communism. It is hard to accept that the Smurf village would actually function under full Communism, even in fiction, simply because it has never actually worked anywhere in the real world even once. In reality, Communism is a brutal and repressive system, responsible for between 85 million and 140 million deaths. Communism in practice represents the worst of authoritarian government - secret police, paranoia, starvation, poverty, and genocide - the antithesis of the caring Smurfs we know and love.
The Smurfs are Communists, in the fantasy cartoon sense - on a purely cursory level. Look into the mechanics, and one realizes the Smurf "system" does not actually function. No police force is required by the Smurfs to handle dissent, workers don't get lazy (the exception of Lazy Smurf), the leader Papa Smurf is above corruption - the Smurfs live an idealized Communist or Socialist fantasy that will always work properly because it is ultimately a work of fiction. It is ironic that the Smurfs are ultimately Marx's greatest triumph - the only place where the Communist system actually "works" - because the Smurfs themselves are the epitome of capitalism. You need money to buy Smurf toys, advertising is sold on the Smurfs TV show - quite the opposite of Marx's ideals. During the 1980s, many people were worried that the Smurfs were somehow indoctrinating kids with a Socialist philosophy designed to overthrow capitalism - in reality, what the kids were being sold was far more shocking - they were being sold the fantasy of Communism in order to better serve the capitalist system - the selling of toys and advertising for profit. Surprise! The Smurfs are secret agents of... capitalism!