My second example is the cover of the very first issue from 1906 of renowned anarchist Emma Goldman’s journal Mother Earth. At a verdant tree stands a young man and woman, maybe Ask and Embla. At the roots of the tree lays the fetters that they have just liberated themselves from. The man salutes the rising sun. They are both naked and the era seems to be simultaneously before the birth of civilisation and after its termination.
Despite the fact that Walter Crane now and then played with baccantic motives and portrayed ludic games out in the wild, the more carnal aspects of the thiasos were alien to the nature of his art. Likewise, the humans on this cover (by an unknown artist) lack any sense of sinfulness. Yet, the cover image, with the erected tree between the seperated lands, easily opens up for interpretations of a sexual sort. In any case, some kind of emancipated, physical senusalism is cherished. Reinforcing these arcadian qualities is the fact that whilst Crane maintained a hierarchical order, with the tree in the middle of the image, the visual “movement” on the cover is rather horizental: the glance of the viewers drift away from tree and mankind. The tree trunk may be pleasant to lean against, but it is the distant rising sun – and the utopian land its brings with it – that is the true centre of the world.
On one of the much-circulated posters that Walter Crane made for the labour movements’ May Day celebrations we find a maypole. The wooden pole – throughout the history of scholarship linked with idea of a macrocosmic world tree at the centre of the world an thus with the microcosmic so-called warden tree of courtyards – has in the poster been substituted for a Marianne character, the Juno of the French revolution. Singing and laughing, whirling around this anthropomorphic pole, common people adorns her with banners with political messages. In drawing this image of the ideal May Day – a celebration that may be perceived as the labour movement’s counterpart to the ancient religious new year rituals when the world was born anew – Crane was not only motivated by political utopianism but additionally by the at the time thriving interest in fashioning a so-called “religion of humanity”. In fact, among Crane’s friends and associates the merging of socialist utopianism with religiosity, as a rule inspired by Auguste Comte’s Religion de l’Humanité, otherwise know as Église positiviste, was so influential that socialism in itself could be perceived and conceptualised as a new religion with the virtuous, beautiful, knowledgeable, perfect and perfected human as a deity. As such she is the centre of the world and the axis of life.
I’m reading the final draft for The Style and Mythology of Socialism. Socialist Idealism, 1871-1914 (to be published by Routledge in 2018). In this book I’m, among other things, trying to understand the symbolism of the Knights of Labor. One of their key symbol was the “Great Seal of Knighthood”.
I have tried to interpret its symbolism in details, but it is only now when I read this final draft that I perceive that from a distance the Great Seal of Knighthood on Grand Master Terence V. Powderly’s gravestone (next to the Masonic emblem) appears as a rose.
How could I have missed this! More precisely, it comes into sight as a so-called heraldic or Tudor rose.
I’m reminded of the poem by Elizabeth Doten (who was she?), recited during the opening ceremonies of the K of L:
God of the Granite, and the Rose, // Soul of Archangel, and the Bee; // The mighty tide of Being flows, // Through every channel, Lord from Thee; // It springs to Life in grass and flowers, // Through every grade of being runs; // Till from Creation’s radiant towers, // Thy Glory flames in Stars and Suns
Moreover, I need to look into the history of the use of the red rose by social democratic parties, at least the Swedish branch…
Female socialists take part in fighting for the cause, but their bodies is moreover regularly used as propagandistic icons. In contrast to the iconic liberal painting La Liberté guidant le peuple by Eugène Delacroix, the female socialists not only instigate and lead but take active part in the violent struggle. The essential message of these photos is thus the emancipation of women from enclosed homes, restrictive garments and patriarchal codes of conduct by martial empowerment.
* Photos of Mujeres libres from the Spanish civil war, of tribal women fighting together with the Naxalites, and of a female soldier among the Lions of Rojava. Don’t forget to watch the wonderful Spanish movie Libertarias!
Conspiracy theories about occult origins of socialism circulate on the Internet. Socialists who have been initiated into freemasonry or accidental similarities between socialist and esoteric iconography are taken as proof of an occult, virtually satanic, genesis of the worker’s movement. Not everything in these far-fetched theories is false however, as the existence of The Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor may indicate. Right now I am in particular curious about the origin of the anarchist A, the one encircled.
As is well known, the most visible masonic emblem is the G (for God, that at least seems to be the most common exoteric interpretation) in the middle of a square and compasses. Look now at the emblem for the Spanish branch of the First International.* We find in it something halfway between a pair of compasses and an A – “A” for Asociation/Association, I take it. It’s like the pair of compasses (and maybe the square/ruler) builds the letter. (There is probably also a plumb bob.)
Inspired by the masons, the above-mentioned Knights of Labor used an emblem called Great Seal of Knighthood, depicting simply an encircled triangle. (Here represented in the animated Sherlock Holmes and the Valley of Fear from 1984 as the ominous emblem of The Eminent Order of Freemen.) The triangle is a good start on the way to the letter A as in the anarchist A… After the collapse of the Knights of Labor, the anarcho-syndicalist IWW entered the American radical scene. Was it perhaps in this milleau that the anarchist A was first drawn? Has the anarchist A actually been formed from the freemasonry square and compasses? Or is this only coincidences and the anarchist A actually, as have seen suggested here and there, a later invention, independent of everything esoteric? (Have you noticed the incessant presence of the @? Obviously the covert, miniscule form of the anarchist A, a fact that clearly demonstrates the final, worldwide victory for masonic satanism…)
* I’ve tried to check the authenticity of the emblem. The stated source for it is “La masonería y el movimiento obrero: imagos e ideas para una reflexion teórica” by historian Alberto Valín Fernández. Even though I know one or two words in Spanish, reading Galician is not my thing. I however observe that no emblem is reproduced in the article and that we probably should look into ”The Order of Eternal Progress: the quasi-masonic roots of the First International in the United States» by Mark Lause, presented at the conference “’We Band of Brothers’: Freemasonry in radical and social movement 1700-2000” held in Sheffield in 2004.