I've had an eye out for a thorough discussion of the history of the Marxist cartoon image of the gluttonous, well-dressed capitalist for a while, and haven't had any luck finding one. I know that it dates back at least to the 1920s. Here's a good example of the type from that era:
Here he turns up in the first Soviet animated film:
(There's a good description of both of these images over at Raymond Owen's film blog, where I found them.)
It's a surprisingly resilient image. In American popular culture it has become deracinated from its Marxist roots in figures like Scrooge McDuck, the Batman villain The Penguin, and The Monopoly Guy.
My hunger to get at the history of the image arises from seeing this country music video a few years back, Montgomery Gentry's “You Do Your Thing:”
It's basically a propaganda film for Republican talking points, and half of it is built out of old Marxist cartoon imagery. It's not only deracinated from its communist roots, in a bizarre reversal we are offered presumptively left-leaning cosmopolites as the gluttonous, well-dressed villains with contempt for the common people.
This comes to mind because at the Occupy Wall Street protest, there was an amazing life-imitates-propaganda moment as champagne-swilling Wall Street WASPs looked down over the protest.
Is there a chance that American lefties can reclaim this old image?
Update: The Gothamist has uncovered the Facebook event invite to the “Anti Hippy Protester Champagne Toast.” Only check it out if you'd like to feel a little rage.
Update: A friend finds John Hodgman in character as the Formally-Dressed Capitalist. We are, again, meant to immediately recognize the image.