The “Raised Fist”: From a Military Ritual to a Mass Ritual

Elements for the History of a Political Ritual
By Gilles Vergnon

The ritual of the raised fist, sign of belonging and rallying symbol of the antifascist left in Europe in the mid-‘30s, remained after WWII in contexts and countries very different from those of its birth ranging from the American Black Panthers to “anti-globalization” demonstrations. This paper aims to study the genesis of this political ritual which first emerged from the communist counter-culture in Weimar, Germany, and was progressively inserted into other political parties and countries. Militaristic and minority ritual at first, it changed into a mass ritual in France and in Spain. It remains nevertheless one of the possible uses of human bodies in political life typical of the “era of the masses.”


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