The amazing – and simultaneously depressing – thing about these cartoons is that, with the swapping of contemporary particulars and details, they could have all been penned today; as far as relationship between the classes are concerned, almost nothing has changed!
Syd Hoff is widely known to older folks as the creator of children's books, most notably Danny the Dinosaur, which was published in 1958 and went on to sell millions of copies, but decades prior to that he was... a red! The Ruling Clawss was published in 1935 by The Daily Worker, the press organ of the Communist Party in America, and the cartoons were signed "A. Redfield." Communist remains one of the most contentious and controversial labels – provoking many a heated argument, few of which shed any light on the subject – so much so that this book is subtitled, "The Socialist Cartoons of Syd Hoff", when, in fact, they were considered communist when they were produced. Regardless of these distinctions, the cartoons themselves are spot-on observations of the absurdities and injustices of the class system, and Hoff/Redfield hits bullseye after bullseye. (We posted a handful on Instagram, HERE.) These cartoons are close to ninety years old, but so many feel shockingly contemporary that you can't help but wonder, "will anything ever change...?" But, perhaps it's more accurate to think that history moves in cycles, and that we are now as a society once again where we were then – as it feels like the intervening years were not as dire... Much food for thought here in these pages, which get off to a good start with two introductory essays: the first, written in the present especially for this edition by Philip Nel; the second, penned in 1935 for the original edition by Robert Forsythe.