In his very first publication, Herblock Looks at Communism, political cartoonist Herbert L. Block (1909–2001) warned the world of the dangers of government tyranny and limited free speech. This selection of cartoons from 1951 shows how Herblock continued to focus on countries ruled by the Communist Party, including North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union. He used a range of visual metaphors including the Asian tiger and the dragon as well as dismal swamps and an abyss to drive home his concerns.

The Korean War began in 1950 when the Chinese Army marched across the 38th parallel that had divided North Korea from South Korea after World War II. In 1951, General Douglas MacArthur (1880–1964) advocated bombing and full-scale war with China. President Harry Truman (1884–1972) disagreed and recalled MacArthur to the United States. Herblock did not approve of Mao Zedong (1893–1976) and the Communist Party ruling in China, but he also felt that demands for economic assistance from the ousted leader Chiang Kai-shek (1887–1975) were unwarranted and diverted aid from other pressing world needs.

“Tell You What—If I Stand On Your Shoulders—"

In 1949 China plunged into civil war, as the communist forces of Mao Zedong (1893–1976) faced the nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek (1887–1975). Chiang Kai-shek lost and fled to the island of Formosa, now known as Taiwan, where he demanded international aid. Herblock depicts Uncle Sam gingerly testing the murky swamp, symbolic of the proposed United States entry into the war. He accuses the Chinese leader of letting the United States do all the dirty work.

Tell You What—If I Stand On Your Shoulders—,” 1951. Published in the Washington Post, January 22, 1951. Graphite, India ink, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (1) [Digital ID # LC-DIG-hlb-2694] © Herb Block Foundation

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“I’ll Make the Down Payment For You”

As the South Korean city of Seoul changed hands for the third time in six months, General Douglas MacArthur (1880–1964) advocated using nuclear weapons against China. Herblock uses the common visual metaphor of the Chinese dragon, a formidable foe from which Uncle Sam shrinks as Chiang Kai-shek eagerly pulls him forward. He depicts Soviet leader Joseph Stalin (1878–1953) with a bemused look, perhaps eager to watch the United States attempt to fight communism throughout the world.

I’ll Make the Down Payment For You,” 1951. Published in the Washington Post, January 31, 1951. Graphite, India ink, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (2) [Digital ID # LC-DIG-hlb-2702] © Herb Block Foundation

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“Always Glad to Loan My Neighbor a Shovel”

The Soviet Union supplied the Chinese People’s Liberation Army with weapons during the Korean War but did not send ground troops. Chinese soldiers occupied Seoul because the large army willingly pursued the United Nations troops southward despite the high rate of Chinese casualties. Herblock depicts Soviet leader Joseph Stalin looking over Mao Zedong’s shoulder as the Chinese leader shovels his soldiers into a cannon, an assessment of their Korean War roles.

Always Glad to Loan My Neighbor a Shovel,” 1951. Published in the Washington Post, February 2, 1951. Graphite, India ink, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (3) [Digital ID # LC-DIG-hlb-2720] © Herb Block Foundation

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“I Don't Think You Quite Got the Idea, Senator”

As United Nations forces fought the Chinese for possession of Seoul, President Harry S. Truman (1884–1972) recalled General Douglas MacArthur to the United States. Fear of communism led many conservative senators, including Harry P. McCain (1906–1979) of Washington state to support MacArthur’s call for war against China. Herblock depicts a divided Republican Party by using the Republican elephant to repudiate Cain’s snarling Asian tiger, his symbol for war against China.

I Don't Think You Quite Got the Idea, Senator,” 1951. Published in the Washington Post, April 17, 1951. Graphite, ink brush, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (4) [Digital ID # LC-DIG-hlb-2759] © Herb Block Foundation

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Formosa! Formosa! Formosa!

As Iran and India formed governments independent of colonial rule, the United States feared that nationalized industries equaled communism. Herblock depicts Uncle Sam focusing on Formosa, now called Taiwan, and the nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek who had fled there. At the same time, he portrays Soviet leader Joseph Stalin eagerly reaping benefits from Iran and India. Herblock felt that aid to Chiang Kai-shek prevented the United States from protecting other global interests.

Formosa! Formosa! Formosa! 1951. Published in the Washington Post, April 26, 1951. Graphite, ink brush, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (5) [Digital ID # LC-DIG-hlb-2767] © Herb Block Foundation

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“I Can’t Stand to See You Suffer Like This”

Conservative Republican senator Robert A. Taft (1889–1953) of Ohio felt that President Harry Truman’s foreign policy during the Korean War had failed and accepted General Douglas MacArthur’s argument that war with China was necessary. Here, Herblock accuses Taft of pushing an already wounded Uncle Sam into an abyss, his metaphor for war with China. Herblock truly feared that another world war would erupt if China were bombed.

I Can’t Stand to See You Suffer Like This,” 1951. Published in the Washington Post, April 30, 1951. Graphite, ink brush, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (6) [Digital ID # LC-DIG-hlb-2769] © Herb Block Foundation

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Full-scale War with China

General Douglas MacArthur, having been recalled from Korea by President Harry Truman, testified before the Senate on May 3, 1951, on his intention to involve China in a full-scale war. When asked if bombing China would start another world war, he deflected the question, saying that it was not in his area of expertise. Herblock uses the metaphor of a swamp to describe the mire in which Americans would find themselves if they went to war against China.

Full-scale War with China, 1951. Published in the Washington Post, May 4, 1951. Graphite, ink brush, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (7) [Digital ID # LC-DIG-hlb-2773] © Herb Block Foundation

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The Thinker

Chinese men, impoverished by World War II and the civil war that engulfed China in its aftermath, found themselves “volunteering” to participate in the Korean War. There, they became entrenched in a war that neither the East nor West could win. Seeing the stalemate, Stalin began advocating an end to the war. Here, Herblock depicts a man in tattered clothing balancing the knowledge of the Chinese casualties of war with the Soviet propaganda encouraging negotiations for peace.

The Thinker, 1951. Published in the Washington Post, June 13, 1951. Graphite, ink brush, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (8) [Digital ID # LC-DIG-hlb-2800] © Herb Block Foundation

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“I Hear We Might Volunteer to Go Home”

On July 10, 1951, the United Nations opened peace talks with North Korean and Chinese representatives in Kaesong, North Korea. Ironically, the war did not stop for the negotiations—it entered a bloody phase that had devastating effects on communist troops. Herblock shows two Chinese soldiers, weary, cold, and poor, wondering at the news. Herblock’s caption takes a jab at the Chinese government’s fiction that “volunteers” filled the ranks of its army.

I Hear We Might Volunteer to Go Home,” 1951. Published in the Washington Post, July 10, 1951. Graphite, ink brush, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (9) [Digital ID # LC-DIG-hlb-2824] © Herb Block Foundation

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“You Know How Fast Money Goes These Days”

In September 1951, the United States Senate prepared an investigation into Chiang Kai-shek’s use of bribery to maintain congressional backing for his government in Taiwan. Herblock compares the Nationalist Chinese lobbying for economic aid with the reality that they had excellent resources to support their government. He depicts Chinese capitalists bloated with the dollars they had received from the United States.

You Know How Fast Money Goes These Days,” 1951. Published in the Washington Post, September 17, 1951. Graphite, ink brush, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (10) [Digital ID # LC-DIG-hlb-2878] © Herb Block Foundation

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