Every organization, social movement or worker entity has its own symbology. One of these symbols is the flag. Flags are used as a way to mobilize, inspire and promote a specific struggle, a specific political proposal or social demand. Inside anarchism it could not be different. Anarchists chose to use different symbologies to express their rebel political ideology. However, the most used ones were the black flag and the red and black flag.
The history of these symbols is usually hard to trace. According to Jason Wehling, the first registered case was reserved to the anarchist Louise Michel, famous member of the Paris Commune, in 1871. According to the historian George Woodcock, Louise Michel raised the black flag in March 9th 1883 during a demonstration of unemployed people in Paris, France. The rally counted with 500 people and Louise Michel at the front of the rally shouting: “Bread, work or lead!”. Another report by Paul Avrish affirmed that on November 27th 1884, the black flag was raised in Chicago, during an anarchist rally. Probably that flag was even more disseminated after the death of the Haymarket martyrs, murdered by the US government after a judicial farce. The black color meant mourning that represented the denial of the nation, but also the color of who will not surrender: it is the expression of the determination to struggle. Black is also the addition of all colors, representing the diversity of social players mobilized on the anarchist struggle, which wants to end the state, capitalism and all oppressions. It is the color of the black, quilombola and rebel struggles.
The use of red flags was part of several working class mobilizations. The red flags were born in Paris 1848. Just after the reactionary Paris government smash workers’ demands, the use of red flag was associated with working class struggles all over the world. The combining of the black flag used in the context of the Haymarket Affair with the working class red flag gave birth to the red and black flag, that became very famous on the barricades in Spain 1936.
Therefore, our organization chose to use the red and black flag. This flag represents the black of the anarchist ideology, of the truceless struggle, united to the red, which is the working class struggle and its blood.
Where the Brazilian Tanager enters?
To close the symbology of our organization, we put on our flag the Brazilian Tanager (Ramphocelus bresilius; Tiê-Sangue in Portuguese) bird, natural from the Atlantic Forest and it can be found in the western portion of Brazil, from Paraíba to Rio Grande do Sul and it is very common in Rio de Janeiro. Legend has it that when our organization was founded, a black and red bird (the Brazilian Tanager) was seen flying through Rio’s sky. The bird on our flag is on a white circle. White represents the future, the focus on the struggle, the freedom, the path of the utopia. It also represents peace among us (but war to the tyrants), but an international peace that will only be achieved in the future, the libertarian socialist future.
The Brazilian Tanager lives in deforested areas or in fields, lowland forests and dry shruland. Around this bird there is also a legend (that is always renewed) that is worth mentioning, a legend that encounters the history of resistance of indigenous and native people from Brazil. According to the legend, there was a female Indian called Tiê. A young Indian, but very brave that dreamt with the freedom to fly, just like a bird. Wounded by her enemy, Tiê passed away, but by the morning, she became a beautiful bird, a dreamer and brave bird that flies through the skies of our territory of struggle. Tiê represents, then, struggles from native people and the reality of our territory of struggle. It also represents the female struggle against oppression. It represents the flight to freedom and socialism; it represents the flight in search of the utopia and social revolution.
This way, the red and black colors and the Brazilian Tanager on a white circle merge in a common identity.
Thereby, the Anarchist Federation of Rio de Janeiro flag was born, thereby our struggle symbology was born.