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Anarchist symbolism

Anarchist  symbolism  -­‐  Wikipedia,  the  free  encyclopedia 1

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Anarchists have employed certain symbols for their cause, including most prominently the circle-­‐A and the black
Ilag, although anarchists have historically largely denied the importance of symbols to political movement. Since
the revival of anarchism around the start of the 21st-­‐century concurrent with the rise of the anti-­‐globalization
movement, anarchist cultural symbols are widely present.


1 Black Ilag

1.1 Historical origins

1.2 Subsequent usage

2 Circle-­‐A

2.1 History of anarchist usage

2.2 The Circle-­‐A and popular culture

3 Other symbols

3.1 Black cat 17.  Dezember  2013  03:56:30

Anarchist  symbolism  -­‐  Wikipedia,  the  free  encyclopedia 2
3.2 Black cross

3.3 Black rose

3.4 Jolly Roger / Pirate Ilag

3.5 Sabot

3.6 Squatting sign

3.7 Red-­‐and-­‐black Ilag

4 See also

5 References

6 External links

Black ,lag
The black Ilag, and the color black in general, have been associated with anarchism
since the 1880s. Many anarchist collectives contain the word "black" in their names.
There have been a number of anarchist periodicals entitled Black Flag.

The uniform blackness of the Ilag is in stark contrast to the colorful Ilags typical of most
nation-­‐states. Additionally, as a white Ilag has been used to request parley or to
surrender , the counter-­‐opposite black Ilag would logically be a symbol of deIiance and
opposition to surrender . 17.  Dezember  2013  03:56:30

The black )lag
Anarchist   symbolism   Historical
is, among-­‐  Wikipedia,   the  free  eorigins
ncyclopedia 3
other things, the
traditional anarchist The black Ilag represents the absence of a Ilag, and thus stands in opposition to the
symbol. very notion of nation-­‐states. In that light, the Ilag can be seen as a rejection of the
concept of representation, or the idea that any person or institutioncan adequately
represent a group of individuals. Modern anarchism has a shared ancestry with –
amongst other ideologies – socialism, a movement strongly associated with the red Ilag. As anarchism became more
and more distinct from socialism in the 1880s, it adopted the black Ilag in an attempt to differentiate itself. Some
anarchists at the time, such as Peter Kropotkin, preferred to continue using the red Ilag rather than adopt the black.

Both the black and red Ilags Iirst gained notoriety for their use by Buccaneers, who were pirates of French origin
operating in the West Indies. The black Ilag (later the "Jolly Roger") was displayed, or 'run up' the mast, Iirst as an
indication that the lives of the crew would be spared if they surrendered . If the crew resisted, the red Ilag would
then be displayed to indicate that the offer of amnesty had been withdrawn; no prisoners would be taken (see also
Jolly Roger/Pirate 2lag below).

Subsequent usage

During the French Revolution, the red Ilag was adopted by the Jacobin Club, whose members controlled the
insurrectionary Paris Commune during the assault on the Tuileries, the September Massacres, and throughout the
Reign of Terror . In 1831, the black Ilag was displayed as an emblem of protest during the Iirst Canut revolt, an
uprising of silk workers in Lyon; it was also Ilown in the 1840s during hunger riots, as a symbol of the desperation
of the starving urban poor.

It Iirst became associated with anarchism in the 1880s. The French anarchist paper, Le Drapeau Noir ("The Black
Flag"), which existed until 1882, is one of the Iirst published references to use black as an anarchist color. Black
International was the name of a London anarchist group founded in July 1881. Louise Michel, participant in the Paris
Commune of 1871, Ilew the black Ilag on March 9, 1883, during demonstration of the unemployed in Paris, France .
An open air meeting of the unemployed was broken up by the police and around 500 demonstrators, with Michel at
the front carrying a black Ilag and shouting "Bread, work, or lead!" marched off towards the Boulevard Saint-­‐
Germain. The crowd pillaged three baker's shops before the police attacked. Michel was arrested and sentenced to
six years solitary conIinement. Public pressure soon forced the granting of an amnesty. According to Michel, the
"black Ilag is the Ilag of strikes and the Ilag of those who are hungry."

The black Ilag soon made its way to America. On November 27, 1884, the black Ilag was displayed in Chicago at an
Anarchist demonstration. According to the English Language newspaper of the Chicago anarchists, it was "the
fearful symbol of hunger, misery and death."

In the Russian Revolution of 1917, Nestor Makhno's anarchist forces were known collectively as the Black Army.
They fought under a black Ilag with some success until they were crushed by the Red Army (see Black Guards).
Emiliano Zapata, a Mexican revolutionary in the 1910s, used a black Ilag with a skull and crossbones and the
Blessed Virgin Mary on it. The Ilag's slogan was "Tierra y Libertad" ("Land and Liberty"). In 1925, Japanese
anarchists formed the Black Youth League, which had branches in the then-­‐colonial Taiwan. In 1945, the group
named their journal Kurohata ("Black Flag").

More recently, Parisian students carried black (and red) Ilags during the massive General Strike of May 1968. In the
same year, these Ilags were seen at the American Students for a Democratic Society national convention. Also at
about the same time, the British based journal Black Flag was started, and is still in existence today. Black Ilags
remain a symbol of anarchists today. 17.  Dezember  2013  03:56:30
Anarchist   symbolism  -­‐  Wikipedia,  the  free  encyclopedia 4

See also: Enclosed A

The Circle-­‐A is almost certainly the best-­‐known present-­‐day symbol for anarchy. It is a
monogram that consists of the capital letter "A" surrounded by the capital letter "O".
The letter "A" is derived from the Iirst letter of "anarchy" or "anarchism" in most
European languages and is the same in both Latin and Cyrillic scripts. The "O" stands
for order. Together they stand for "Anarchy is the mother of Order," the Iirst part of a
Proudhon quotation. This character can be written as Unicode codepoint U+24B6:
Ⓐ. In addition, the "@" sign or "(A)" can be used to quickly represent the circle-­‐A on a
The crest of the Federal
History of anarchist usage Council of Spain of the
International Workers
The Iirst recorded use of the A in a circle by anarchists was by the Federal Council of Association, the origin of
Spain of the International Workers Association. This was set up by Giuseppe Fanelli in
[9] the circle-­‐A.

1868. It predates its adoption by anarchists as it was used as a symbol by others.

According to George Woodcock, this symbol was not used by classical anarchists. In a series of photos of the Spanish
Civil War taken by Gerda Taro a small A in a circle is visibly chalked on the helmet of a militiaman. There is no
notation of the afIiliation of the militiaman, but one can presume he is an Anarchist. The Iirst documented use was by
a small French group, Jeunesse Libertaire ("Libertarian Youth") in 1964. Circolo Sacco e Vanzetti, youth group from
Milan, adopted it and in 1968 it became popular throughout Italy. From there it spread rapidly around the world.

The Circle-­‐A and popular culture

As noted above, the circle-­‐A long predates the anarcho-­‐punk movement, which was
part of the punk rock movement of the late 1970s. However, the punk movement
helped spread the circle-­‐A symbol more widely, and helped raise awareness of it
among non-­‐anarchists. This process began with the use of anarchist imagery when
members of the band Crass become aware of the symbol while traveling through
France . With time the symbol, and "anarchy" as a vague synonym for
rebelliousness, were incorporated into common punk imagery. This led to gradual
A stylised "anarcho-­‐punk"
appearances in mainstream culture over the course of several years, at times far
circle-­‐A symbol.
removed from its political origin (described by Situationists as "recuperation"). These
appearances typically connected it with anarchy and were intended as sensationalist
marketing ploys, playing off of mainstream association of anarchy with chaos. This process mirrored the process of
[citation needed]
punk subculture coming into the mainstream, which occurred at approximately the same time.

Other symbols
While the black Ilag and circle-­‐A have been associated with anarchism as a whole, there are various other symbols
used by certain groups of anarchists. 17.  Dezember  2013  03:56:30

Black catsymbolism  -­‐  Wikipedia,  the  free  encyclopedia
Anarchist   5

The black cat, also called the "wild cat" or "sabot-­‐cat", usually with an arched back and
with claws and teeth bared, is closely associated with anarchism, especially with
anarcho-­‐syndicalism. It was designed by Ralph Chaplin, who was a prominent Iigure in
the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). As its aggressive stance suggests, the cat
is meant to suggest such ideas as wildcat strikes, sabotage, and radical unionism.

The origin of the black cat symbol is unclear, but according to one story it came from
an IWW strike that was going badly. Several members had been beaten up and were
put in a hospital. At that time a skinny, black cat walked into the striker's camp. The cat
was fed by the striking workers and as the cat regained its health the strike took a turn
for the better. Eventually the striking workers got some of their demands and they The black cat of the
[12] Industrial Workers of the
adopted the cat as their mascot. World, also adopted as a
symbol by anarcho-­‐
The name Black Cat has been used for numerous anarchist-­‐afIiliated collectives and syndicalists.
cooperatives, including a well-­‐known music venue in Austin, Texas (which was closed
following a July 6, 2002 Iire) and a now-­‐defunct "collective kitchen" in the University
District of Seattle, Washington.

Black cross

The Anarchist Black Cross organization's primary goal is to eliminate all prisons. It
originated in Tsarist Russia as a support organization for political prisoners. Their
symbol is a black cross, with the upwards-­‐facing line being replaced with a raised Iist,
a symbol also associated with anarchism, deIiance of authority, and personal
empowerment (black power, youth power, women's liberation, American Indian
Movement, International Socialist Organization, 'power to the people', etc...). The Iist
also represents union, as "many weak Iingers can come together to create a strong

The cross is a modiIicationof the Red Cross emblem used by International Red Cross
and Red Crescent Movement (founded 1863), the world's largest group of
[citation needed]
humanitarian organizations. Originally called the Anarchist Red Cross,
the name was changed around 1920 to avoid confusion when the Red Cross started
[citation needed]
organizing relief for prisoners as well.
The Black Cross.

Black rose

The Black Rose is a rarely-­‐used symbol of the anarchist movement.

Black Rose Books is the name of the pre-­‐eminent anarchist bookstore in Montreal, an anarchist infoshop in Portland,
Oregon, and a small press imprint headed by anarchist philosopher Dimitrios Roussopoulos. Black Rose was the
title of a respected journal of anarchist ideas published in the Boston area during the 1970s, as well as the name of
an anarchist lecture series addressed by notable anarchists and libertarian socialists (including Murray Bookchin
and Noam Chomsky) into the 1990s.

Jolly Roger / Pirate @lag

The Jolly Roger as a black Ilag with skull and bones has recently gained a
popularity among anarchists. 17.  Dezember  2013  03:56:30
Some claim
Anarchist   to use the-­‐Jolly
symbolism   Roger as
 Wikipedia,   a fform
the   of appreciation for the Pirate way of
ree  encyclopedia 6
life in freedom and a lack of authority. Many Pirate ships were loosely
democratic and most crew mates were working class fugitives from the highly
repressive societies in which they were born. Anarchists may Iind afIinity with
the concept of pirate utopias, especially the island of legend, Libertatia. The
Libertatian pirates have been identiIied as precursors to anarchists. Several
articles relating to the connection between anarchism and piracy can be found
[17] The Jolly Roger used by Edward
in the library Some anarchist hacktivists and infoanarchists
consider themselves pirates due to their free lifestyles in the world of
technology and their deIiance of intellectual property laws by way of copyright infringement, patent infringement
and software piracy, all of which are called piracy. See also Free software movement and Free culture movement


The sabot or wooden shoe (also known as clog) was used symbolically by
anarchists in the 19th and early 20th century, although it has largely faded
from use since then. The French word for wooden shoe, sabot is the probable
root of the word sabotage: and refers to the tactic by early Dutch unionists of
throwing sabots into the gears of factory or farm machinery, effectively
stopping work until the equipment could be repaired. The American analogue
of this tactic is "monkeywrenching," referring to the similar practice of throwing
The wooden shoe, or sabot, is a
a monkeywrench in the machinery to damage it and prevent strikebreakers
symbol of sabotage by workers.
from being able to replace striking union members.

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, there is an anarcho-­‐syndicalist bookshop called The Wooden Shoe, and from 2001 to
2003 there was an anarchist magazine in Denmark called Sabot. There is also an American record label focusing
primarily on punk-­‐rock and genres revolving around it called Sabot Productions, which uses exactly the same
sabot picture seen on the right as their logo.

A Ilag depicting a regular leather shoe of a type worn by peasants in the 16th century was carried by the peasants
in the German peasants war of 1524-­‐1525, a proto-­‐anarchist rebellion.

Squatting sign
The Squatting sign is used by squatters all over the world. Sometimes as a grafIiti,
often on the walls of the occupied building. But it is also used in the graphic design of
posters and Ilyers. The sign might have originated in the squatters scene in
[citation needed]
Amsterdam (The Netherlands) in the late 1970s.

Red-­‐and-­‐black @lag
The red-­‐and-­‐black Ilag was the Ilag used by anarchists during the Spanish Civil War. It
Squatting sign.
is commonly associated with anarcho-­‐syndicalism or just syndicalism in general.

See also

Anarcho-­‐capitalist symbolism 17.  DRed-­‐and-­‐black

ezember  2013  
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Anarcho-­‐syndicalist symbolism

1. ^ Iain Mckay, ed. (2008). "Appendix  – The Symbols of 5. ^ The Red Virgin: Memoirs of Louise Michel, p. 168

Anarchy" (http://anarchism 6. ^ Paul Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy , p. 145

append2.html). An Anarchist FAQ. Stirling: AK Press. 7. ^ quoted by Paul Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy , p. 144

ISBN  1-­‐902593 -­‐90-­‐1. OCLC  182529204 (// 8. ^ Marshall, Peter. Demandingthe Impossible. Fontana , ). London. 1993. p. 558

2. ^ Williams, Leonard (September 2007). "Anarchism 9. ^ 'La Masonería y el movimento obrero' (http://

Revived ". New Political Science 29 (3): 297–312. tallerediciones .com/cuza/masonesyobreros.htm) by

doi:10.1080/07393140701510160 (http:// Alberto Valín Fernández . ).

3. ^ Kropotkin, Peter, "Act for Yourselves ", p. 128

4. ^ George Woodcock, Anarchism , pp. 251–2 17.  Dezember  2013  03:56:30

Anarchist  symbolism  -­‐  Wikipedia,  the  free  encyclopedia 8
10. ^ Woodcock, George. Anarchism: A History Of Libertarian 12. ^ [1] (http://web.archive .org/web/19970815195121 /

IdeasAnd Movements. Another sited use of the Circle A

symbol was the graf)iti of the Berlin Wall with it on 13. ^ Black Rose Books of)icial website . (http://

numerous occasions. Broadview Press. 2004. p.8 Accessed

11. ^ Appleford, Steve (June 10, 2005). "The Only Way to Be – August 30, 2007

Anarchy!" (http://web.archive .org/

web/20051224205914 /http://www.lacitybeat .com/

article.php?id=2696&IssueNum =122). LA CityBeat. Los

Angeles, California: Southland Publishing . Archived from

the original (http://www.lacitybeat .com/article.php?

id=2696&IssueNum =122) on 2005-­‐12-­‐24. Retrieved

August 30, 2007. 17.  Dezember  2013  03:56:30

Anarchist  symbolism  -­‐  Wikipedia,  the  free  encyclopedia 9
14. ^ Epstein, Barbara (1993). Political Protest and Cultural 15. ^ Social Anarchism, Issues5–10 (

Revolution: Nonviolent Direct Action in the 1970s and 1980s books?id=Feo9AQAAIAAJ &q=black+rose+lecture

( +series&dq=black+rose+lecture

id=vYW67obBjSEC&pg=PA69&dq=black+rose+lecture +series&hl=en&sa=X&ei=2MnYUOX-­‐

+series&hl=en&sa=X&ei=2MnYUOX-­‐ AYr 1qQGZ0IDoCA&ved=0CE4Q6AEwBQ). Atlantic Center

AYr 1qQGZ0IDoCA&ved=0CDwQ6AEwAg# for Research and Education. 1983.

v=onepage&q=black%20rose%20lecture% 16. ^ Rediker, Marcus (2004), Villains of All Nations: Atlantic

20series&f=false). Berkeley : University of California Press. Pirates in the Golden Age, Beacon Press, Beacon,

p.  69. ISBN  978-­‐0-­‐520-­‐08433-­‐9. Massachusetts. ISBN 0-­‐8070-­‐5024-­‐5.

17. ^ libcom library (

18. ^ Sabot Productions' Website (http:// 17.  Dezember  2013  03:56:30

Anarchist  symbolism  -­‐  Wikipedia,  the  free  encyclopedia 10
19. ^ Appendix -­‐ The Symbols of Anarchy | Anarchist Writers



External links

The Symbols of Anarchy ( from An Anarchist FAQ.

History of anarchist symbols (http://www.anarchyisorder .org/CD%234/TXT-­‐versions/-­‐%20History%20of%

20Anarchist%20symbols.txt) from AnarchyIsOrder .org (http://www.anarchyisorder .org)

Anarchism (­‐a.html) at Flags of the World

Anarchism and the History of the Black Flag ( at

the Spunk Library

Retrieved from ""

Categories: Activism Ilags Anarchist culture Issues in anarchism Political symbols 17.  Dezember  2013  03:56:30

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