Vår fana röd till färgen : Fanor som medium för visuell kommunikation under arbetarrörelsens genombrottstid i Sverige fram till 1890

Abstract: The aim of this dissertation is to analyse banners as means communicating visual messages of the early Swedish labour movement. The theoretical basis is a communication-ethnographical point of view and a historical and a cultural scientific perspective. Who communicated what to whom, how and when, for what purpose and in what circumstances? Was there a new iconography when rrade unions and socialist clubs developed in the capitalistic industrial society? Was the visual and ritual language of the labour movement local, national or international? The study includes a total investigation of Swedish labour movement banners from 1864 to 1890. The result is more than one hundred banners. I have examined the age of the first red banners through written sources to clarify how socialist artefacts are distinguished from the banners of liberal associations. I have also investigated the history of the meaning of the red colour, international red banners and labour movement motifs in order to understand what was new and what was traditional. I compare the trade union banners of skilled and unskilled workers and banners belonging to political associations. The conclusion is that between these groups there exist differences in iconography. All parts of the banners communicate meaning: the colour, the shape, the material, the text and motifs, the finial emblems and even the expenses. The socialist symbols look totally different from the symbols of liberal associations. Perhaps we can call them a form oflabour movement art, shaped collectively by the unions and political organisations, formed by artists, and bringing a message concerning their own time, their struggle for a new society? The message of the red banner was communicated in special circumstances, at unfurling ceremonies, demonstrations and meetings. Here we find new labour movement rituals. One hundred years ago the rituals - like the red banners themselves - agitated in favour of a new society with human rights - not only duties - such as the eight hour worlcing day and general suffrage. When these goals were achieved the banners changed. The meaning of the message depends on the interpretation both in time and in social context.

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