As the USSR began helping Republican Spain, the government and other organizations started creating propaganda in support of the USSR and communism, in general. The creation of propaganda in favor of the USSR was especially prevalent after May 1937 when Juan Negrín was installed as head of the Republican government. Although Negrín was a socialist, he was amiable to the communists and promoted many of them to high-ranking positions within the government.
Another important historical context of this poster is the breakdown of the policy of non-intervention that the major European countries, as well as the United States and the USSR, had agreed to in September 1936. This agreement stated that none of these countries would sell military armaments to either side of the Spanish Civil War. In violation of this agreement, both Germany and Italy had provided military aid, in the form of personnel and equipment, to Franco and the Nationalists from virtually the beginning of the war. In October 1937, representatives of the USSR raised the issue of Germany and Italy's interventions at a meeting of the Non-Intervention Committee, the international body created to enforce the agreement. The Russian representatives soon discovered that the committee was powerless to do anything to stop Germany and Italy from providing military support to Franco. As a result, the USSR considered itself legally justified to break with the non-intervention agreement to provide military aid to Republican Spain.
In early October of 1937, sixteenth supply ships left Russian ports bound for Spain. They were carrying military equipment, such as tanks, armored cars, artillery and fighter planes. They also brought Russian military commanders and personnel to train Spanish troops in the use of the new equipment. The first ship to reach the port of Cartegena in Spain was the Komsomol Consequently, this ship became an icon of Russian aid and being pro-Komsomol was equivalent to supporting the USSR and communism. Undoubtedly, the poster artist, José Bardasano, played an important role in giving the Komsomol its iconic status. In 1938, he created, at least, two posters commemorating the ship. His images were accompanied by two other posters by anonymous artists in the same year.
For Bardasano, the name of the ship, Komsomol, would have had a special significance. Komsomol was the abbreviation for the communist youth organization in the USSR known in English as the All-Union Leninist Communist League of Youth. The organization was similar in structure and function to the Juventud Socialist Unificada (JSU or United Socialist Youth). In fact, this poster was produced by the JSU and Bardasano was an active member of the organization.
The artist, José Bardasano (1910-1979), was the child of Madrid working-class parents. A largely self-taught artist, the young Bardasano was working as an artistic director in an advertising agency when war broke out in 1936. Already a member of the communist-controlled JSU (Juventud Socialista Unificada), Bardasano immediately established a workshop with two colleagues and produced numerous propaganda prints and posters for the Communist Party. In 1937, Bardasano and his wife, the artist, Juana Francisca, moved to Valencia, where they continued to produce propaganda posters. At the end of the war, Bardasano and Francisca spent some time in a French concentration camp, after which they took exile in Mexico. Here Bardasano formed the Mexican Fine Arts Circle with a number of other Civil War exiles and Mexican nationals. In 1960, he returned to Madrid. Bardasano is also the artist for posters 42, 51, and 53 in this exhibit.