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Political colour

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The Polling, by William Hogarth, 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] They represent the intersection of colour symbolism and political symbolism. Politicians making public appearances will often identify themselves by wearing rosettes, flowers, ties or ribbons in the colour of their political party. 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 is 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 with Christianity, but over time gained association with leftist politics, while the United States differs from other countries in that conservatism is associated with red and liberalism with blue.[2][3] Mass media has driven a standardization of colour by political party, to simplify messaging, while historically the colour a candidate chose to identify with could have been chosen based on other factors such as family or regional variations.[4][5]

Black

Anarchists in Germany in black bloc
The 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH) in their black uniforms.

Black is primarily associated with anarchism[6] (see anarchist symbolism); black is a lack of colour, and anarchism is a lack of a state. It is used in contrast of national flags, to instead represent universal anarchism.[6] Black is also used to a lesser extent to represent ideologies on the opposite end of the spectrum: fascism (see blackshirts and Schutzstaffel) and jihadism (see Black Standard).[2]

The colours 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.[7] 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 second colour used to distinguish specific anarchist philosophies: anarcho pacifism with white, green anarchism with green, anarcho-syndicalism and anarcho-communism with red, mutualism with orange, and anarcho-capitalism with yellow, 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 represented 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.[8][9] 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 Makhnovshchina and the 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.

Black was also used by some anti-racist and Black nationalist parties, such as the Black Panther Party in the United States and the Popular Unity in Brazil.

Blue

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.[16] Blue is used by many international organisations of centre right and conservative parties, such as the International Democrat Union, the Democrat Union of Africa, the Asia Pacific Democrat Union, the Caribbean Democrat Union (together with red), the European Democrat Union, the European People's Party, the European Conservatives and Reformists Party.

Brown

The Sturmabteilung of the Nazi Party, wearing their brown uniforms.

Brown has been associated with Nazism, and in particular the Nazi Party in Germany, because of the Sturmabteilung (SA), whose members were called "brownshirts". They were modeled on Benito Mussolini's blackshirts, and the colour of their shirts 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.[33]

  • Brown is sometimes used to describe the opposite of green parties, that is to describe parties that care little about pollution.[34]

Buff

  • 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).[35]

Grey

Green

Green banner and signs at an anti-nuclear protest by the Green Party in Germany in 2008

Green is the colour for both environmentalist[38] and Islamist political parties and movements (see green in Islam).[2]

Magenta

Magenta is a colour that started being used in the 21st century to replace yellow for some liberal and centrist parties and organisations in Europe.[53] It is not to be confused with the socialist or social democratic use of the colour pink.

  • In Germany although the official colour of the left-wing party Die Linke is red, mass media uses magenta as the party colour to prevent confusion with the centre-left Social Democratic Party whose party colour is also red.

Orange

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.[citation needed] Christian democratic political parties came to prominence in Europe and the Americas after World War II.[54][55] Orange 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.[56]

Pink

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.[63] 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.

  • 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;[64] it is commonly used to represent queer anarchism. This use originates in Nazi German policy of appending pink triangles to the clothing of homosexual prisoners.
  • The Austrian liberal party NEOS uses pink as its main colour.

Purple

Purple placards and clothing at an International Women's Day event in Spain

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 large parties and minor parties.

Red

Red flags and a banner at a socialist rally in Lyon, France, on International Workers' Day in 2009

Red is often associated with the left, especially 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 Christianity 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.[73] 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.

Saffron

Saffron is traditionally associated with Hinduism, Hindutva and the Hindu nationalist movement.[76] Saffron was chosen because in Hinduism, 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.

Teal

White

White is today mainly linked to pacifism (as in the surrender flag).[2]

  • 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. Partly due to this association, white also came to be associated with Jacobitism, itself allied with the Bourbons. White cockades, white ladies' gloves, and Rosa pimpinellifolia (the 'burnet' or 'Stuart' rose) symbolised support for the exiled House of Stuart. 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 the Whites included many different people with many ideologies, such as monarchists, liberals, anticommunist social democrats 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,[81] 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.[82]
  • In the politics of the United Kingdom, white represents independent politicians such as Martin Bell.
  • The Yorkshire Party, a Devolutionist Political Party with elected representatives in Yorkshire, uses a stylised White Rose of York as its emblem.

Yellow

Yellow is the colour most strongly associated with liberalism and right-libertarianism.[2][3][83][84]

By country

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".[90]
    • 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.[91] 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 blue to denote states carried by the Democratic Party and red 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.[92] In September 2010, the Democratic Party officially adopted an all-blue logo.[31] 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 colours.
    • The conservative Blue Dog Coalition within the Democratic Party adopted the colour 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,[93] 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.[94][better source needed]
    • 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

References

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Political colour
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