Political colour

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Hogarth's The Polling, depicting a 1754 election to the British parliament, includes a blue flag representing the conservative Tories and a buff flag representing the liberal Whigs

Political colours are colours used to represent a political ideology, movement or party, either officially or unofficially.[1] It is the intersection of colour symbolism and political symbolism.

Parties in different countries with similar ideologies sometimes use similar colours. As an example the colour red symbolises left-wing ideologies in many countries (leading to such terms as "Red Army" and "Red Scare"), while the colour blue often used for conservatism, the colour yellow is most commonly associated with liberalism and right-libertarianism, and Green politics is named after the ideology's political colour.[2][3]

The political associations of a given colour vary from country to country, and there are exceptions to the general trends.[2][3] For example, red has historically been associated to monarchy or the Church, but over time gained association with leftist politics, while the United States differs from other countries in that conservativism is associated with red and liberalism with blue.[2][3]

Politicians making public appearances will often identify themselves by wearing rosettes, flowers or ties in the colour of their political party.

Black[edit]

Black is primarily associated with anarchism[4] (see anarchist symbolism), black is used by anarchists due a rejection of the state and heirarchy. Black can be seen as a lack of colour, anarchism a lack of a state. It's used in contrast of national flags, to instead represent universal anarchism.[5] Black is used to a lesser extent to represent fascism (see blackshirts and Schutzstaffel) and jihadism (see Black Standard).[2]

Anarchists in Germany wearing all black

The colors black and red have been used by anarchists since at least the late 1800s when they were used on cockades by Italian anarchists in the 1874 Bologna insurrection and in 1877 when anarchists entered the Italian town Letino carrying red and black flags to promote the First International.[6] During the Spanish civil war the CNT used a diagonally half strip of black and red, with black representing anarchism and red representing the labour movement and the worker movement. The flag was quickly adopted by other anarchists, with the colour is used to distinguish specific anarchist philosophies, anarcho pacifism with white, green anarchism with green, anarcho-syndicalism and anarcho-communism with red, and mutualism with orange, while black alone typically represents Anarchism without adjectives.

During the golden age of piracy, the black flags of pirates such as Blackbeard and Calico Jack became popular symbols of piracy. The flags representing death and no quarter to those who did not surrender. The black flag of the jolly roger, used by Calico Jack turned into a popular and recognizable symbol of pirates, particularly of pirates of the Americas.[7][8] The skull and bones also became a hazardous symbol to display poisons such as cyanide, Zyklon B and other toxic substances. The black flag of piracy would later influence the symbols of anarchism, such as the symbols of the Free territory and Kronstadt rebellion. The rise of internet piracy led to the symbols of the golden age of piracy becoming widely adopted, becoming the symbols of pirate sites such as the Pirate bay. Black becoming a colour to represent pirate parties.

Blue[edit]

Blue is usually associated with centre-right or conservative parties,[2] originating from its use by the Tories (predecessor of the Conservative Party) in the United Kingdom.[14]

Brown[edit]

Brown has been associated with Nazism because of the Sturmabteilung (SA), whose members were called "brownshirts". They were modeled on Benito Mussolini's blackshirts, and the colour was chosen because many brown uniforms intended for the colonial troops in Germany's African colonies were cheaply available after the end of World War I. In Europe and elsewhere, the colour brown is sometimes used to refer to fascists in general.[25]

  • Brown is sometimes used to describe the opposite of green parties, that is to describe parties that care little about pollution.[26]

Buff[edit]

  • Buff was the colour of the Whig faction in British politics from the early 18th century until the middle of the 19th century. As such, it is sometimes used to represent the current political left (in opposition to blue, which represented the Tories and then the Conservatives and political right).[27]

Grey[edit]

Green[edit]

Green is the colour for both environmentalist[31] and Islamic political parties and movements (see green in Islam).[2]

Magenta[edit]

Magenta is a colour that tends to replace yellow for liberal and centrist parties and organisations in Europe.[41] It is not to be confused with the socialist or social democratic use of the colour pink.

Orange[edit]

Orange is the traditional colour of the Christian democratic political ideology and most Christian democratic political parties, which are based on Catholic social teaching and/or neo-Calvinist theology. Christian democratic political parties came to prominence in Europe and the Americas after World War II.[42][43]

  • Orange since 2004 has represented Post-Communist Democratic Revolutions in Eastern Europe.[44]
  • It less frequently represents various kinds of populist parties. Such is the case in Austria, Germany, France, Portugal, Switzerland, Finland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Turkey.[45]
  • Orange is often used to represent the mutualist current in anarchist politics, as a middle ground between pro-market currents such as anarcho-capitalism (associated with the colour yellow of liberalism) and anti-capitalist currents such as anarcho-syndicalism and anarcho-communism (associated with the colour red of communism and socialism).[46]
  • Humanism frequently uses orange for representation. It is the colour of the Humanist International, as well as the humanist parties in Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica and Chile, and other humanist organizations.[47]
  • In Greece, orange is associated with liberal and centrist parties, like Center Union, Drassi and Recreate Greece[original research?]
  • In Mexico, orange is not linked to Christian democratic movements (the Christian democratic party Partido Acción Nacional uses blue). Instead, it is linked to the center-left secular party Movimiento Ciudadano.
  • In New Zealand, the Electoral Commission rejected a proposed orange logo[48] for being likely to confuse or mislead voters by being too similar to the colour used by the country's electoral agencies.[49]
  • In Ireland and Northern Ireland, orange is associated with Unionism and the Orange Order.
  • In South Africa, orange is often associated with conservative Afrikaner political movements. Orange was the official colour of the National Party which was the country's governing party from 1948 to 1994. Additionally, its successor, the New National Party, used the colour orange. It is the used by the Christian democratic and Afrikaner nationalist party Freedom Front Plus. Orange red is the official colour of the Independent Democrats, a social democratic political party in the Northern and Western Cape Provinces.
  • In Ukraine, orange was the colour of liberal groups that participated in the "Orange Revolution". This gave the colour orange a certain association with radical anti-authoritarian politics in some countries and it has been used as such by groups and organizations in the Middle East, for example in Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Bahrain and Israel.

Pink[edit]

Pink is sometimes used by social democratic parties, such as in France and Portugal. The more traditional colour of social democracy is red (because social democracy is descended from the democratic socialist movement), but some countries have large social democratic parties alongside large socialist or communist parties, so that it would be confusing for them all to use red.[50] In such cases, social democrats are usually the ones who give up red in favor of a different colour. Pink is often chosen because it is seen as a softer, less aggressive version of red, in the same way that social democracy is more centrist and capitalistic than socialism. This is also the origin of the colloquial term "pinko".

  • In some European nations and the United States, pink is associated with homosexuality and the pink flag is used as a symbol in support of civil rights for LGBT people,[51] it is commonly used to represent queer anarchism. Originating from Nazi German policy of appending pink triangles to the clothing of homosexual prisoners.

Purple[edit]

Although purple has some older associations with monarchism, it is the most prominent colour that is not traditionally connected to any major contemporary ideology. As such, it is sometimes used to represent a mix of different ideologies, or new protest movements that are critical of all previously-existing parties.

  • Purple is often associated with feminism and when combined with black, is often used to represent anarcha-feminism.
  • In Brazil, purple is the color associated with some progressive liberal movements such as Cidadania and Livres. This color is chosen because those movements consider themselves to be mixing the best ideas of the left (associated with red) and the right (associated with blue)
  • In Europe, purple tends to be used for movements, parties and governments that are neither clearly right nor left.[52]
  • In Italy, purple has been adopted by anti-Silvio Berlusconi protesters (see Purple People) as an alternative from other colours and political parties.
  • In the United Kingdom, purple is associated with Euroscepticism, being the official colours of the UK Independence Party and the minor party Veritas.
  • Purple is also unofficially used in the United States to denote a "swing state" (i.e. one contested frequently between the Republican Party, whose unofficial colour is red; and the Democratic Party, whose unofficial colour is blue). Purple is also used by centrists to represent a combination of beliefs belonging to the Republicans (red) and the Democrats (blue). It has also been used to reference Purple America, a term used in contrast to "blue" or "red", noting the electoral differences nationwide are observed more on discrepancies instead of unity (see red states and blue states).

Red[edit]

Red is traditionally associated with socialism and communism.[2] The oldest symbol of socialism (and by extension communism) is the Red Flag, which dates back to the French Revolution in the 18th century and the revolutions of 1848. Before this nascence, the colour red was generally associated with monarchy or the Church due to the symbolism and association of Christ's blood. The colour red was chosen to represent the blood of the workers who died in the struggle against capitalism. All major socialist and communist alliances and organisations—including the First, Second, Third and Fourth Internationals—used red as their official colour. The association between the colour red and communism is particularly strong. Communists use red much more often and more extensively than other ideologies use their respective traditional colours.

  • In Europe and Latin America, red is also associated with parties of social democracy and often their allies within the labour movement, a symbol of common solidarity among leftists.
  • Red is also the traditional colour of liberal parties in Latin America and was the colour use, for example, in Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Uruguay for liberal parties.
  • In the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, red is also the colour of the labour movement and the Labour (spelled Labor in Australia) parties in those countries. The use of red as a symbol is referenced in the British Labour Party's anthem, The Red Flag.[53]
    • In the heyday of the British Empire before 1960, maps, globes, and atlases typically used red or pink to designate the British Empire or its Commonwealth.[54] As soon as a colony became independent, it needed its own distinctive color and the practice died out.
  • In Brazil, red combined with black and white was formerly associated with Brazilian nationalism.[citation needed] The first incarnation of the agrarianist-centrist Social Democratic Party, both incarnations of the Brazilian Labour Party (the first a social democratic party, the current a populist one) and the Brazilian Democratic Movement use this color scheme. Red, Black and White are associated with the three races which form the ethnic composition of Brazil: the Amerindians (Red), the Afro-Brazilians (Black) and White Brazilians.
  • A key exception to the convention of red to mean socialism is the United States. Since about the year 2000, the mass media have associated red with the Republican Party, despite the fact that the Republican Party is a conservative party (see red states and blue states).[19] This use is possibly entrenched, as many political organisations (for example, the website RedState) now use the term. Any use of the color red to describe the historic Republican Party (prior to 2000) is historically inaccurate and misleading.

Saffron[edit]

  • In India, saffron is traditionally associated with Hinduism, Hindutva and the Hindu nationalist movement.[55] Saffron was chosen because in Hindu Sanatana Dharma, the deep saffron colour is associated with sacrifice, religious abstinence, quest for light and salvation. Saffron or "Bhagwa" is the most sacred colour for the Hindus and is often worn by Sanyasis who have left their home in search of the ultimate truth.

White[edit]

White is today mainly linked to pacifism (as in the surrender flag)[2] and in politics of the United Kingdom to independent politicians such as Martin Bell.

  • Historically, it was associated with support for absolute monarchy, starting with the supporters of the Bourbon dynasty of France because it was the dynasty's colour. Later it was used by the Whites who fought against the communist "Reds" in the Russian Civil War, because some of the Russian "Whites" had similar goals to the French "Whites" of a century earlier (although, it is worth noting that the Whites included many different people with many ideologies, such as monarchists, liberals, and others).
    • Because of its use by anti-communist forces in Russia, the colour white came to be associated in the 20th century with many different anti-communist and counter-revolutionary groups,[56] even those that did not support absolute monarchy (for example, the Finnish "Whites" who fought against the socialist "Reds" in the civil war following the independence of Finland). In some revolutions, red is used to represent the revolutionaries and white is used to represent the supporters of the old order, regardless of the ideologies or goals of the two sides.[citation needed]
  • In Italy a red cross on a white shield (scudo crociato) is the emblem of Catholic parties from the historical Christian Democracy party.[57]
  • In Afghanistan, the Taliban reversed the Islamist schema, using black shahada on a white background (symbol of purity).

Yellow[edit]

Yellow is the colour most strongly associated with liberalism and right-libertarianism.[2][3][58][59]

By country[edit]

In this map of the 2012 United States presidential election results, the states are colour-coded by the political colour of the party whose candidate won their electoral college votes, but the political meanings of red and blue in the United States are the opposite of their meanings in the rest of the world.

Notable national political colour schemes include:

  • In Northern Ireland, the Unionist parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly are called the "orange block" and the Nationalist parties are the "green block".[62]
    • Some of the established political parties use or have used different colour variations in certain localities. This was common in British politics up to the 1970s. The traditional colour of the Penrith and the Border Conservatives was yellow, rather than dark blue, even in the 2010 election Conservative candidates in Penrith and the neighbouring constituency of Westmorland and Lonsdale wore blue and yellow rosettes. In North East England, the Conservatives traditionally used red, Labour green and the Liberals blue and orange. In parts of East Anglia, the Conservatives used pink and blue, whilst in Norwich their colours were orange and purple. The Liberals and Conservatives used blue and red respectively in West Wales, while in parts of Cheshire the Liberals were red and Labour yellow. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Tories used orange in Birmingham, pink in Whitby and red in East Worcestershire, whilst the Whigs were blue in Kendal, purple in Marlborough and orange in Wakefield.[63] The traditional colour of the Warwickshire Liberals was green, rather than orange.
  • In the United States the two major political parties use the national colours, i.e. red, white and blue. Historically, the only common situation in which it has been necessary to assign a single colour to a party has been in the production of political maps in graphical displays of election results. In such cases, there had been no consistent association of particular parties with particular colours. Between the early 1970s and 1992, most television networks used red to denote states carried by the Democratic Party and blue to denote states carried by the Republican Party in presidential elections. A unified colour scheme (blue for Democrats, red for Republicans) began to be implemented with the 1996 presidential election; in the weeks following the 2000 election, there arose the terminology of red states and blue states. Political observers latched on to this association, which resulted from the use of red for Republican victories and blue for Democratic victories on the display map of a television network. As of November 2012, maps for presidential elections produced by the U.S. government also use blue for Democrats and red for Republicans.[64] In September 2010, the Democratic Party officially adopted an all-blue logo.[20] Around the same time, the official Republican website began using a red logo.
    • This association has potential to confuse foreign observers in that, as described above, red is traditionally a left-wing colour (as used with the Democratic Socialists of America), while blue is typically associated with right-wing politics.[1] This is further complicated by the diversity of factions in the Democratic Party ranging from conservatives to right-libertarians to democratic socialists alongside the dominant centrist and social liberal elements of the party that outside the United States often each use different political colors.
    • The conservative Blue Dog Coalition within the Democratic Party adopted the color blue at its founding before the 2000 election solidified the red-blue convention.
    • There is some historical use of blue for Democrats and red for Republicans: in the late 19th century and early 20th century, Texas county election boards used colour-coding to help Spanish speakers and illiterates identify the parties,[65] but this system was not applied consistently in Texas and was not picked up on a national level. For instance in 1888, Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison used maps that coded blue for the Republicans, the colour Harrison perceived to represent the Union and "Lincoln's Party" and red for the Democrats.[66]
    • In the accounting world, red ink is used to indicate a deficit (that is, spending exceeds income). Politicians often attack deficit spending as "being in the red." For example, Republican presidential candidate Robert Dole in 1996 denounced one of President Bill Clinton's proposals because it would impose new costs on small business. Dole said: "Now that the federal government is running in the red and state governments are faced with budget deficits that rise each year, the Democrats are looking for a new pocket to pick, and small business will fill that role."[67]
    • In Puerto Rico, the main conservative party, the New Progressive Party, uses blue, while the Popular Democratic Party uses red and the Puerto Rican Independence Party uses green.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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