Life Among the Ants

Friday A/V Club: A vintage anti-communist cartoon


In the late 1940s and early '50s, GM chief Alfred P. Sloan funded a series of anti-communist cartoons. (The story behind the films is convoluted, but the compressed version is that Sloan's foundation gave grants to Harding College, an Arkansas-based Christian school, which then paid former Disney animator John Sutherland's studio to make them.) One of the shorts is Albert in Blunderland, a 1950 attack on the planned economy. It presents communism as an anthill society—literally, with actual ants.

While just about everyone involved in funding this film hailed from the political right, the cartoon was clearly aimed at a union-friendly working-class audience; it defends independent trade unions and warns that state factories will be able to impose harsh speed-ups with impunity. In a precursor of sorts to the Hard Hat Riot, it ends with a blue-collar worker beating up a socialist:

(For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here. I haven't featured any of the Sloan/Harding/Sutherland films in the A/V Club before, but their 1948 effort "Make Mine Freedom" has turned up elsewhere on this website.)

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  1. I’ve seen some of those videos as a kid. I’m not that old, but they got passed around and shown in later years. In fact, one reason I ended up libertarian is that those films and several other anti-communist films focused on the economics and NOT on the “godless” side that most anti-communist screed railed against. For me it did not start with Ayn Rand, but with the CACC and Alfred P Sloan.

    Also of note, there are GM ties to Henry Grady Weaver as well as the cartoon version of Road to Serfdom. Believe it or not, once upon a time some big businesses were into free enterprise and not cronyism.

  2. Sounds like my kitchen.

    Seriously though, ants are not a good model for communism. An ant colony is not controlled by the queen. The queen is but an egg factory. Decisions are not made top-down, but bottom-up, through a sort of recruitment process. A good book on this topic, though not specifically about ants, is Honeybee Democracy.

    1. An ant colony IS a good model for communism.

      It is a living example of what it looks like after ‘the state has withered away’.

      Everyone has their place, and everyone works together for the benefit of the whole. No one needs to ‘lead’ anymore because no one is capable of thinking thoughts outside the whole anymore. No workers want to be warriors or queens. Because they can’t even put the concept together in their heads.

      Communists refer to the start of this as ‘the new Soviet Man’, Orwell called them ‘duckspeakers’

  3. And now the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation funds socialist propaganda just like the Ford and the Rockefeller and the Carnegie legacies do. Anti-capitalists using capitalist money to subvert capitalism because anti-capitalists haven’t yet figured out any other way to get money.

    1. It’s the nature of foundations. The founder is the capitalist that makes the money. After he’s gone everyone else is just an appointee who got to where he is through political connections, or a scion who never had to work for a living.

      1. So how does one create a foundation that doesn’t get corrupted?

        *paging Asimov*

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