The raised fist, or the clenched fist, is a symbol of solidarity and support. It is also used as a salute to express unity, strength, defiance, or resistance.
Edited by Matthew A. McIntosh
A raised fist was used as a logo by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in 1917. 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 salute subsequently spread among leftists and anti-fascists across Europe.
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. 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 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.
The symbol has been picked up and incorporated around the world by various oppressed groups. In 2015 it has emerged in the southeast area of Ukraine among the separatists battling the Ukraine Kiev government forces, along with the phrase “¡No Pasarán!”.
The image gallery shows how a raised fist is used in visual communication. Combined with another graphic element, a raised fist is used to convey polysemous gestures and opposing forces.Depending on the elements combined, the meaning of the gesture changes in tone and intention. For example, a hammer and sickle combined with a raised fist is part of communist symbolism, while the same fist combined with a Venus symbol represents Feminism, and combined with a book, it represents librarians.
A raised-fist icon appears prominently as a feminist symbol on the covers of two major books by Robin Morgan, Sisterhood is Powerful, published in 1970, and Sisterhood Is Forever, in 2003. The symbol had been popularised in the feminist movement during the Miss America protest in 1968 which Morgan co-organised.
A raised fist incorporates the outline of the state of Wisconsin, as designed in 2011, for union protests against the state rescinding collective bargaining.
The raised fist logo may represent unity or solidarity, generally with oppressed peoples. The black fist, also known as the Black Power fist is a logo generally associated with black nationalism and sometimes socialism. Its most widely known usage is by the Black Panther Party in the 1960s. A black fist logo was also adopted by the northern soul music subculture. The white fist, also known as the Aryan fist or the White Power fist is a logo generally associated with white nationalism.
A white fist holding a red rose is used by the Socialist International and some socialist or social democratic parties, such as the Socialist Party in France and the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party.
Loyalists in Northern Ireland occasionally use a red clenched fist on murals depicting the Red Hand of Ulster. However, this is considered rare; the red hand is usually depicted with a flat palm.
Irish Republicans often have the raised fist as a symbol of resistance against British rule.
The Gonzo fist emblem is characterized by two thumbs and four fingers holding a peyote button, was originally used in Hunter S. Thompson’s 1970 campaign for sheriff of Aspen, Colorado. It has become a symbol of Thompson and gonzo journalism as a whole.
The Unicode character for the raised fist is U+270A ✊ .
The raised fist salute consists of raising one arm in the air with a clenched fist. The meaning can vary based on context.
Different movements sometimes use different terms to describe the raised fist salute: amongst communists and socialists, it is sometimes called the red salute, whereas amongst some African-American activists, especially in the United States it has been called the Black Power salute. During the Spanish Civil War, it was sometimes known as the anti-fascist salute.
The clenched fist gesture is sometimes thought to have originated in the Spanish Civil War, where the Popular Front salute was at one time the standard salute of Republican forces. A letter from the Spanish Civil War stated: “…the raised fist which greets you in Salud is not just a gesture—it means life and liberty being fought for and a greeting of solidarity with the democratic peoples of the world.”
The Rotfrontkämpferbund paramilitary organization of Communist Party of Germany used the salute before World War II as a probable counter-gesture to the fascist salute.
At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, medal winners John Carlos and Tommie Smith gave the raised fist salute during the American national anthem as a sign of black power, and as a protest on behalf of the Olympic Project for Human Rights. They were banned from further Olympic activities by the IOC, as the rules in place prohibited any political statements at the Olympics. The event was one of the most overtly political statements in the history of the modern Olympic Games. Tommie Smith stated in his autobiography, “Silent Gesture”, that the salute was not a Black Power salute, but in fact a human rights salute.
Nelson Mandela also used the clenched fist salute upon his release from Victor Verster Prison in 1990.
A raised White fist is also a popular White Power symbol. The Norwegian right-wing terrorist Anders Behring Breivik made a clenched-fist salute upon his conviction. Similarly Carlos the Jackal used the gesture in court, and Lee Harvey Oswald raised his fist to photographers after his arrest for the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
The raised fist is used by officials in Mainland China when being sworn into office.
Psychologist Oliver James has suggested that the appeal of the salute is that it allows the individual to indicate that they “intend to meet malevolent, massive institutional force with force of (their) own”, and that they are bound in struggle with others against common oppression.
- Gibson, Megan (February 22, 2011). “Every Movement Needs a Symbol: Enter The Wisconsin Fist of Solidarity”. Time
- Calleja, Eduardo Gonzále (2005). “The symbolism of violence during the Second Republic in Spain, 1931–1936”. In Ealham, Chris; Richards, Michael. The Splintering of Spain. pp. 23–44. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511497025.005. ISBN 978-0-511-49702-5. The Roman salute characteristic of Italian fascism was first adopted by the PNE and the JONS, later spreading to the Falange and other extreme right groups, before it became the official salute in Franco’s Spain. The JAP salute, which consisted of stretching the right arm horizontally to touch the left shoulder enjoyed only relatively little acceptance. The gesture of the raised fist, so widespread among left-wing workers’ groups, gave rise to more regimented variations, such as the salute with the fist on one’s temple, characteristic of the German Rotfront, which was adopted by the republican Popular Army.
- Joyce L. Kornbluh, Solidarity, 1917; Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology, Charles H. Kerr Publishing, 1998
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- Senesi, Vauro (19 January 2015). “Viaggio in Ucraina: al fronte di Lugansk con i ribelli filorussi. Tra fantasmi e ferite” [Travel to Ukraine: to the Lugansk front with the Russophile rebels. Among phantoms and scars]. Il Fatto Quotidiano (in Italian). Rome. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
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- Author’s website, as accessed September 5, 2012.
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- ^ Rolfe, Mary. Letter to Leo Hurwitz and Janey Dudley, 25 November 1938. Reprinted in Cary Nelson and Jefferson Hendricks, eds. “Madrid 1937: Letters of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade from the Spanish Civil War,” Routledge: 1996. Reprinted online 
- Korff, Gottfried: “Symbolgeschichte als Sozialgeschichte? Zehn vorläufige Notizen zu den Bild- und Zeichensystemen sozialer Bewegungen in Deutschland”, in: Warneken, Bernd Jürgen (Hg.): “Massenmedium Strasse. Zur Kulturgeschichte der Demonstrationen.” Frakfurt/Main 1991. S. 27–28. Cited in: Schulte-Rummel, Sven “Die politische Symbolik der Kommunistischen Partei Deutschlands in der Weimarer Republlik” . “Im Gegensatz zu den meisten anderen Symbolen der Kommunisten beginnt die Geschichte der geballten Faust in der Ära der Weimarer Republik. Sie war prägendes Symbol bei Straßenaufmärschen, Spiegel der gewaltbereiten Demonstranten, die voller Frust über das System dem Staat die geballte Faust zeigten.” Translation: “Unlikely the most of other Communists symbols, the history of Raised fist started in the era of Weimar Republic. It was a definitive symbol of street marches, reflection of the marchers who were ready for violence, who were disappointed by the whole system of the state and showed their clenched fists to it.”
- Lewis, Richard (2006-10-08). “Caught in Time: Black Power salute, Mexico, 1968”. London: The Sunday Times. Retrieved 2008-11-09.
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- “State Council holds first swearing-in ceremony to uphold Constitution”. english.gov.cn. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
Originally published by Wikipedia, 03.16.2019, under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.