The raised fist (also known as the clenched fist) is a symbol of solidarity and support. It is also used as a salute to express unity, strength, defiance, or resistance. The salute dates back to ancient Assyria as a symbol of resistance in the face of violence.
Assyrian depictions of the goddess Ishtar show her raising a clenched fist. A raised fist was used as a logo by the Industrial Workers of the World in 1917. The graphic symbol was popularized in 1948 by Taller de Gráfica Popular, a print shop in Mexico that used art to advance revolutionary social causes. 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 incorporates the outline of the state of Wisconsin, as designed in 2011, for union protests against the state rescinding collective bargaining.
Solidarity cartoon 1917
October Revolution 1922
Civil liberties poster 1940
Piotr Uklański, Untitled (Fist) 2008
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.
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, that is more similar to the Roman salute.
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.
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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 black rights 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 traditional version of the salute, originally a symbol of the broader workers' movement, became associated with the parties of the Comintern during the 1920s and 1930s. . .
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."
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. For this, they were banned from further Olympic activities. 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.
Groups that have used the symbol
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- African National Congress
- Albanian National Liberation Front
- April 6 Youth Movement
- American Indian Movement
- Anarchist Black Cross
- Azanian People's Organisation
- Badr Organization
- Black Hand (Mandatory Palestine)
- Black Panther Party
- Communist Refoundation Party
- Democracy Spring
- Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties
- Democratic Labour Party of Brazil
- Democratic Patriots' Movement
- Earth First!
- Economic Freedom Fighters
- Egyptian Social Democratic Party
- Egyptian Socialist Party
- Dutch Labor Party
- Food Not Bombs
- Future of Music Coalition
- Industrial Workers of the World
- International Brigades
- International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
- International Socialist Organization
- Internationalist Workers' Left (Greece)
- Italian Communist Party
- Italian General Confederation of Labour
- Italian Radical Party
- Jewish Defense League
- Kurdistan Workers Party and Koma Civaken Kurdistan
- Left Ecology Freedom
- National Equality March
- The New Zealand Herald
- Occupy Wall Street
- Palestinian Liberation Organization members including Fatah, the PFLP and the DFLP
- Parti Sosialis Malaysia (Socialist Party of Malaysia)
- People's Mujahedin of Iran
- People's National Party
- People's Self-Defense Political Party
- Popular Unity Candidacy (Catalonia)
- Provisional Irish Republican Army
- Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor
- Revolutionary Socialists (Egypt)
- Turkish Revolutionary Socialist Workers' Party
- Revolution Shakespeare
- Red Front Fighters' League
- RISE - Scotland's Left Alliance
- Saor Éire (1967–75)
- Sinn Féin
- Portuguese Socialist Party
- Social Democratic Union of Macedonia
- Socialist International
- Socialist Party of England and Wales
- Socialist Workers Party (UK)
- Socialist Aotearoa
- Socialist Youth Front
- Spanish Republican Armed Forces
- Stand Up for Alberta
- Students for a Democratic Society
- Tom Robinson Band
- Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia
- United Farm Workers
- Egyptian Islamic Labour Party
- Muslim Brotherhood
- Women's Liberation
- Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front
- 1968 Olympics Black Power salute
- Bellamy salute
- Civil disobedience
- Far-left politics
- Lal Salam
- Protests of 1968
- Roman salute
- Every Movement Needs a Symbol: Enter The Wisconsin Fist of Solidarity
- The Samuel Gray Society
- Joyce L. Kornbluh, Solidarity, 1917; Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology, Charles H. Kerr Publishing, 1998
- Mexican posters on social and educational themes
- 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.
- Elements of Meaning in Gesture By Geneviève Calbris
- Author's website, as accessed September 5, 2012.
- Author's website, as accessed September 5, 2012.
- 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.
- Goodman, J. David (April 16, 2012). "Raised-Fist Salute Has Varied Meanings". The New York Times. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
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