Socialist Vikings

namnlo%cc%88stFrom mid 19th century, liberals and socialists occasionally draped their ideals in the clothing of the Viking. Richard Wagner and William Morris are probably the most influential radicals celebrating the simple and solid way of the Northmen, Icelandic anti-monarchism and Scandinavian beauty. In 1896, artist Walter Crane depicts the Valkyrie of Socialism as Nike defeating Liberalism and Toryism.*


After the victorious federal election in 1912 the Social Democratic Party of Germany presented this postcard with a red Siegfried slaying his draconic political opponents.** Thereafter socialist Viking romanticism has vanished, utterly impeded by Nazi and neo-Nazi use of Viking symbolism. Today, however, I found this picture, apparently from something called “The World of Munchkin”.



* From: Crane, Walter (1896). Cartoons for the Cause. London: Twentieth Century press. ** From: Deutsches historisches Museum, Berlin


Nowadays, the Left is profoundly uninterested in fraternité, the red division on the French tricolour. It sounds too freemasonic and gendered, perhaps. Back in the late 19th century, fraternity was however arguably more important for socialists then liberté and egalité. To switch from “fraternity” to “solidarity” – like in this Red and Anarchist SkinHead image – is not without its semantic complications. “Solidarity” is to help people you have no special feelings for just because you know what it means to have human needs. “Fraternity” is on the other hand a cultural project aiming to make people feel affinity towards each other, i.e. it transforms co-humans into brothers and sisters. 

RASH 1.jpgThe three down-pointing arrows in the image are the old anti-Nazi/Eiserne Front sign, created by the social democrat Sergei Chakhotins/Tschachotin, author of “Dreipfeil gegen Hakenkreuz” (1933). Here surrounded by a Fred Perry-ish laurel-wreath, evoking cool hooliganism.