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(en) Ireland, Working Class Resistance - Symbols Explained: Red & Black Flags And Wild Cats

Date Sun, 24 Jul 2005 16:45:55 +0300

As Anarchists we use various political symbols, the
ones we at Organise! are fondest of are the red and
black flag and the wild cat. But what are they about?
What do they mean? How can a scrawny black cat have
any political significance?
The red and black flag is the primary symbol of the
international libertarian labour movement. Its colours
symbolise the basic principles and goals of
anarcho-syndicalism (and have been adopted by the
broader class struggle anarchist movement as their
own) -- red for material and social equality and the
black of the anarchist flag for freedom and
solidarity. To that extent the colours of the flag are
a constant reminder both of the libertarian means by
which anarcho-syndicalists (and anarchist-communists)
fight and the goal of freedom from statism and
wage-slavery that they fights for.
Originally the red and black were placed vertically,
one of top of each other. A later innovation placed
the red and black diagonally along a line running from
bottom left to top right, with a red triangle placed
on top and a black one below. This crossing of the
flag represents the internationalist aspect of the
anarcho-syndicalist movement through the
nullification, in a sense and with a purpose similar
to that of the pure black of the anarchist flag, of
all other flags.
The direction of the diagonal line holds important
symbolic value also, and tends to be strictly adhered
to. If red symbolises the economic struggle that the
anarcho-syndicalist union takes on on a day-to-day
basis, the black symbolises the anarchist principles
and goals which inspire the desire to fight the
authoritarianism of the present, and to resist
collaboration and integration into the system of class
oppression. The direction of the diagonal line, with
the anarchist black rising from underneath to its
fullest area at the right, symbolises the growth of a
revolutionary temper alongside the growth of the
movement as a whole -- a decline in activity based
(for lack of a better word) only on an animalistic
knowledge of one's own immediate needs and a growth in
activity based on idealism, knowledge and education,
and a desire to struggle for liberation from
wage-slavery. In a nutshell, the direction of the line
is a statement against reformism and the reduction of
the union to an instrument of class collaboration and
a mechanism controlling and taming the workers, as
opposed to performing its proper role as one of
Like the anarchist flag the red and black flag of
anarcho-syndicalism is used by libertarian labour
activists around the world in place of their national
flags. The use of the flag is a statement against
nationalism, the lie which enslaves and victimises the
majority of a people to a minority of exploiters and
oppressors from amongst their own ranks, which makes
patriots out of those with no patrimony. By the same
token, use of the red and black flag is a statement in
favour of internationalism, and the unity and
solidarity, undivided by made-up lines on maps, of all
The black cat, often referred to as the Wildcat or
Sabcat was designed by Ralph Chaplin, Charlie’s
brother and a prominent figure in the IWW in the
United States, and is used throughout the world as one
of militant unionism (the picture of a wild cat
suggests -- unsurprisingly -- a wildcat strike, or one
undertaken by a local or locals against the wishes or
commands of a union bureaucracy or boss).
This information was slightly adapted from the
Anarcho-Syndicalist faq, part of Anarcho-Syndicalism
101. Visit them at:


From the pages of Working Class Resistance, now
available in text and PDF formats at:


Downloads at:

From the anarchist group: Organise Ireland <organiseireland-A-yahoo.ie>

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