I’m uncertain whether the interest in label pins and their history belongs to phaleristics or not. Perhaps phaleristics proper only study symbolic items granted to someone by someone, and not to label pins that you purchase? Until somebody enlightens me on this scholarly obscurity, I will place socialist pins under the label “socialist phaleristics”.
Anyhow, the cause for this post is to draw attention to a very neat site about pins form the history of the German Social Democrats that I just stumbled into. Have I look at “Pins zu 150 Jahren SPD-Geschichte”!
This blog post is decorated with medallions/charms from the Knights of Labor as displayed in F. Irons & Charles A. Russell, Illustrated Catalogue of Solid Gold. Society Emblems, Pins, Buttons and Charms, Providence, Irons & Russell (1895) and a marvellous pin from CNT-FAI that I happend to find on e-bay.
I was surprised to find the topic “Soviet Swastika” being discussed on different pages on the Internet. Some used the visual evidence as illuminating proof for the sinister identity between Communism and Nazism. As other observers have already noted, the puzzling use of the swastika symbol by Soviet military is however not that difficult to explain.
The explanation is not shared fondness for totalitarianism, but the fact that the insignia was designed for Kalmyks fighting in the Red army. The Kalmyks are Buddhists and the swastika a well-known emblem for that creed. Thus, the explanation is some kind of Bolshevik tolerance, rather than totalitarianism.
* Images taken from the linked pages.
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!
The Holy and Nobel Order of the Knight of Labor was a (proto-)socialist order, spread all over USA in the late 19th century. The order had something like 750 000 initiated members, males and females, whites and blacks, skilled and unskilled workers.* Despite its huge impact on the American worker’s movement, this romantic and mythic socialist order is today, due mainly to the biased historiography of victorious form of socialism, largely forgotten.
The emblems/pins/charms (I am uncertain about the correct term) display the triangle (trinity) of God surrounded by the circle of humanity. If the knights follow the rules of European heraldry, the lozenge-shaped emblems/pins/charms was probably intended for women. The “SOMA” written on one of them is the acronym for the motto of the order: “Secrecy, Obedience, and Mutual Assistance”.
* Best book about the K of L is without doubt Robert E. Weir’s Beyond labor’s veil: the culture of the Knights of Labor. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press(1996). ** From Irons, Charles F. & Charles A. Russell (no year, probably 1895). Illustrated Catalogue of Solid Gold. Society Emblems, Pins, Buttons and Charms. Providence: Irons & Russell, updated version of an earlier version by Irons alone.