Harrock n roll:
In Michael Farr's Complete Companion he describes them as "Tony Wedgewood Benn types".
I think that's a not-untypically bit of rather imprecise analysis by Michael Farr. Hergé was surely satirising something very particular and something quite different from generally-left-wing "Tony Benn types".
I believe Hergé was satirising the sort of English intellectuals who joined the Soviet-run Communist Party or who were sympathetic to it ("fellow travellers"), who visited the early Soviet Union and waxed lyrical about its virtues whilst naively turning a blind eye to the human rights abuses and mass-murders committed by Lenin and Trotsky's regime and later (on an even larger scale) by Stalin's, and who failed to see the actual economic failures of the Soviet system.
Even if Tony Benn himself had been an adult in 1929, I don't think he'd have been part of this group; he was never a Communist (Stalinist or Trotskyite) as far as I know, but always a pro-democracy sort of leftist.
So it seems a bit lazy and unfair of Farr to use Benn's name as a label for this group simply because they're pipe smokers. The fact that Farr uses the "Wedgewood" part of Tony Benn's name - something that Benn himself hasn't used since renouncing his hereditary peerage in the 1960s - suggests that Farr may either be a bit out of his depth or a bit distainful of Benn. Maybe Farr worked at the Daily Telegraph for too long, a paper where traditionally anyone
in the Labour party tended to be regarded as a Communist.
Harrock n roll:
Mind you, as someone who is slightly further left than right I'd say it was 'familiar', rather than 'horribly familiar'. ;-)
I'm a lefty too, but surely it's one thing to have generally socialist views and values and a completely different thing (the opposite thing, even) to be a member of the Communist Party and/or an apologist for the Soviet Union. I'm with Orwell on that one. So "horribly" seems a fair adverb to apply to the people Hergé is satirising, and to their modern-day counterparts, albeit horribly naive in most cases, rather than horrible evil.
It's the "familiar" bit of your observation that I'm not so sure about, Darren. The naivity of the Communists Hergé portrays certainly seems familiar to me, but not so much the look. Do today's Communist's really wear tweeds and flat caps and smoke pipes? Maybe they do. I haven't really known any Communists since I left college 20 years ago, so I'm out of touch with their dress sense and smoking habits! There aren't as many Communists around as there used to be anyway.