The symbols of resistance

fist symbol as been used by socialist such as Bernie Saunders and Jeremy Corbyn

The raised fist, or the clenched fist, is a symbol of solidarity and support. It is also used as a salute to express unitystrength, defiance, or resistance.

The raised fist has been a symbol of resistance and unity for the Left for over a hundred years.

According to Assyrian Origins, a book on Assyrian art edited by former Metropolitan Museum of Art curator Prudence O. Harper, artworks depicting the clenched fist date back to ancient times and were associated with procreation, prayer, and “the manifestation of sheer physical strength.”

The Fist was first captured on canvas thanks to a surly French artist named Honoré Daumier, (1808-1879). The clue to its originality lies in its title. It is the concept of Daumier as the complete man and artist of his time which lends distinction to the image.
Daumier’s genius was expressing the ideology of the French middle and lower classes in their revolutions and counter-revolutions from 1830 to the Paris Commune.

Honore Daumier, “The Uprising” © The Phillips Collection

His painting ‘The Uprising’ shows the triumphant working class Daumier imagined the man as a symbol of the Revolutions of 1848, a series of anti-royal protests that roiled Europe. Art historians have called the painting “a symbol of pent-up human indignation.” By 1917, socialist were using the Fist as a symbol of resistance, hope and unity.

A raised right fist was used as a logo by the Industrial Workers of the World in 1917

An International Workers of the World poster from 1917 promoting membership in “One Big Union.” Much how many fingers make a fist, the logic goes, many workers make a union.

Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939

However, it was popularised during the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939, when it was used by the Republican faction as a greeting, and was known as the “Popular Front salute” or the “anti-fascist salute”. The right fist salute subsequently spread among Left-wing groups and anti-fascists across Europe.

Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939 Popular Front salute or the “anti-fascist salute”.

The salute was a counterpoint to the open-palmed Roman salute adopted by the fascists. The clenched fist symbolises strength and unity – fingers which are individually fragile can together make a powerful fist. It became a symbol of socialism and was co-opted to many revolutionary causes, most potently the civil rights struggle in the US and opposition to colonialism in the third world.

The graphic symbol was popularised in 1948 by Taller de Gráfica Popular, a print shop in Mexico that used art to advance revolutionary social causes.

La Lutte

The raised fist was frequently used in propaganda posters produced during the May 1968 revolt in France, such as La Lutte continue, depicting a factory chimney topped with a clenched fist.

Its use spread through the United States in the 1960s after artist and activist Frank Cieciorka produced a simplified version for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee: this version was subsequently used by Students for a Democratic Society and the Black Power movement.

The raised fist became a go-to symbol for solidarity and strength for Labour unions, American leftists, and civil rights activists.

By the 1960s, the raised fist was world famous. An American civil rights activist named Frank Cieciorka made a woodblock print of a fist that appeared in posters, T-shirts, and buttons.

The Black Panther Party. In 1971, Ms. co-founders Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes posed for an iconic photograph in Esquire magazine, raising their fists in interracial solidarity.

As the cultural and political climate with which the fist gesture first thrived began to shift, so too did the gesture itself. Women’s rights activists Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes (a white and black woman, respectively) were photographed making the fist to show interracial feminist unity, and, in a sense, transcend the traditional boundaries of race that were prescribed by society. 

Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes, 1971

But arguably its most famous use in recent history is by Olympians John Carlos and Tommie Smith during their awards ceremony at the 1968 games in Mexico City. Carlos and Smith’s “black power salute” got them suspended from the U.S. team and turned them into galvanizing figures.

Gold medalist Tommie Smith (center) and bronze medalist John Carlos (right) showing the raised fist on the podium 

In recent times the fist symbol as been used by socialist such as Bernie Saunders and Jeremy Corbyn

In recent times the fist symbol as been used by socialist such as Bernie Saunders and Jeremy Corbyn

From badges oppression to symbols of hope and resistance

The Pink Triangle

A pink triangle has been a symbol for various LGBTQ identities, initially intended as a badge of shame, but later reclaimed as a positive symbol of self-identity.

In Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, it began as one of the Nazi concentration camp badges, distinguishing those imprisoned because they had been identified by authorities as homosexual men, a category that also included bisexual men and transgender women. In the 1970s, it was revived as a symbol of protest against homophobia, and has since been adopted by the larger LGBTQ community as a popular symbol of LGBTQ pride and the LGBTQ rights movement.

The Red Triangle

Nazi concentration camp badges, primarily triangles, were part of the system of identification in German camps. They were used in the concentration camps in the German-occupied countries to identify the reason the prisoners had been placed there.

The triangles were made of fabric and were sewn on jackets and trousers of the prisoners. These mandatory badges of shame had specific meanings indicated by their colour and shape.

risoners’ Uniforms with Red Triangles of Political Prisoners – Museum Exhibit – Dachau Concentration Camp Site – Dachau – Bavaria – Germany.jpg

The ‘Red triangle’ identified – political prisoners: social democrats, socialists, communists and anarchists; rescuers of Jews; trade unionists; and Freemasons.

We still have not committed to a logo. As a temporary logo to honour the Left movement of resistance, solidarity, strength and union. We are using both the ‘Red triangle’ and the ‘fist of resistance’ to identify our movement. Sometimes you don’t have to reinvent the wheel just add another one.

Just like a name we want membership participation please feel free to comment with suggestions.


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