From the appearance of the image, the revolutionaries seized this propaganda tool. They created characters, caricatures symbolizing and characterizing at the same time the “miserable”; the “heroes” and their vision of the new world. Since the Commune de Paris, three themes dominate the anarchistic graphics(handwriting). We find them during the Spanish revolution, and today still on the walls of our cities!
This traditional representation of the revolutionary action is strengthened by techniques used in 1936, the drawing is prevail very widely in the conception(design) of posters. It is also a subject of debate, numerous activists, observers blame the libertarians of the time(period) for not having kn
own how to extract "artistically" of the imaging stemming from the XIXè century (the proud proletarians and the naked arms) and bolchevics concepts. This assertion does not correspond either to the wealth of the production (at least until 1937), or in the complexity of the social situation.
The originality of posters libertarians are not necessarily in the graphics, but in the themes and the proposed syntax: the liberation of the individual, the social revolution autoadministrator, the antimilitarism (in war period), the education and the culture.
The anarchism, it is the spirit of revolt, it is the fight: Propagandist libertarians adopted a character who stands out in the illustrations and the posters of all the anarchists: the Demolition worker.
He looks like most of the time either a smith, belongs to an unskilled road worker: a “Man” often arms and or bare breast (1). He occupies the central place of the poster and attacks the symbols of the authority and / or the capital, with an ax, a pickaxe, a bludgeon, a fist... It is the symbol of the revolutionary act, the direct action of the exploited and the oppressed, the activist ready to sacrifice itself. A body movements which consists in destroying this absurd and inequitable world, necessary destruction for the liberation of the workers and the elaboration of a society libertarian.
J. Proudhon “destroys the property with pickaxe”, caricature putting in image its famous apostrophe: “the property it is the theft!” Or “The clean sweep of the “Père Peinard” are the examples the most known in France. The opponent to fight is represented by the famous capitalist: very fat, decked out by a top hat smoking the cigar, or by a monster, an octopus) symbolizing the capitalism.
The use of the bare-chested worker is massive. (1) In the discharge of the graphic designers, it is true that the manual labor was very widely majority.
In 1936, the big capitalist is replaced by a multi-monster form often greenish representing the international fascism: an octopus, a snake, a shadow indicated by a swastika. This “monster” is crushed with mass (symbol of the proletariat) or by a rifle or still skewered by a bayonet.
On one of its posters, the Iron column replaces the pickaxe by a rifle held by the cannon and used as a bludgeon. Except a first reading: that of the fight, the Iron column also stigmatizes the lack of armament of militias libertarians. The Iron column glories to continue the fight at all costs: for a free humanity! For the anarchy!
Franco, as the squalid animal to be destroyed, appears little on posters. The CNT-FAI fights the fascism: Spanish, German and Italian no individual. Franco. He appears as central graphic element in caricatures and posters only after the end of the World War II.
The anarchism it is the liberation of the Individual
The anarchists fight at the same time against the economic exploitation AND the oppression of the individuals. Brisants individuals their chains are present in the revolutionary iconography since circles of XIXème century. It is also the appearance of the freedom (a Woman guiding the people (see Eugène Delacroix's extremely famous picture), allegory was taken back by posters in the glory of militias.
In Spain, on July 19th, 1936, the proletariat overcame at the same time a military “coup d'état”, the capitalism and the bourgeois morality. It releases itself and shouts it on walls, in this book it are several tens of posters which take back this theme. The barbers (with a red and black tie), the bakers of Barcelona, the national committee, the anarchists, break the obstacles, free the people of the oppression. Militias (represented as well by men as by women) show the way of the revolution on the march: forward the fighters of the freedom!
On some posters of the FJIL, it is an eagle - the symbol of the FAI-that flies to aid of an individual and frees him from the chains.
The anarchism, it is the hope of a new society, it is the social revolution.
We find these themes of the birth of a new world, a harmony, a new society, from the “Commune de Paris”. Graphically, the dawn gets up, the constructed proletariat, works for the construction of the society libertarian. At the end of the XIXè century, these themes will be very present in Luce's posters, Grandjouan, Steinlen, in paintings of Seurat, and in illustrations of periodicals libertarians of all the countries.
We find this symbolic iconography in Spain for the period which we present. The dawn, the sun gets up on the industries of the transport socialized or behind a barricade held by the CNT-AIT-FAI
A new world is born on posters: a naked man and a woman - are symbolize the revival, the purity of the communism libertarian. Doves (of the peace) are red and black, we speak there of “tomorrow of building”, of work. The words “socialization” and (the new) “humanity” are often used.
For a century, the capitalism, the middle-class persons, the politicians, the churches assert that a society without leaders, without financial or political power, without castrating morality - controlled by a religion is not viable. A world of freedom, social equality, division of the wealth and the human brotherhood is impossible, utopian.
Having expropriated the bosses and the church, having overcome the servicemen and the politicians, the farmers and the workers shout their victory by interposed posters. The Spanish people answer obviously, on the walls of Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, Málaga: YES the revolution autoadministrator is underway, this is what we have already made! “Fields and factories to labor unions”, (that is under the control of those who work on it).
The workers, the farmers show the way which they browsed since July 19th, 1936: “our work, the socialized taxis”, “transport are keys of the socialization and the revolution”.
It is the labor unions which directly order these posters without passing by the national committee of the CNT. They also announce the agenda of the next general assembly of the labor unions of the metal industry, the industries socialized by the food. These posters also address those who at the “republicans”, do not want either social revolution, or the socialism: the PCE (communist) which recruits in the lower middle class, will be the herald, the spearhead.
“We fight for a democracy strong (member of Parliament) whom the masses need. It is not a question of building the socialism” Santiago Carillo during a congress of the JSU. “It is of the duty of all, to respect the industrialists, the storekeepers and the farmers” Mundo Obrero. The communist posters insist on the glorification of the spirit of national unity and “Frente Popular” even of the “real” Spanish nation in front of seditious foreigners. The stalinisation of the communist propaganda will find its peak by the creation of a Spanish “Stakhanovite” who will be the object of several posters of the PCE and the announcement (by poster) of the help of the best worker.
There are also those who think that the way chosen by the Spanish proletariat does not correspond to the “bright” plans of Lenin and Trotski. No intervening period, no soviet in Spain, no Red Army, it is labor unions (CNT and UGT) that made in a few days restart the economic machine. Certain left revolutionary parties adopt then a “ambiguous” position, their posters also: “UNION and disciplines for the socialism ( POUM)”.
In no anarchistic poster you will find the word: “republic” or “democracy” and in no communist poster you will not find the words “Revolution” or “Socialization”, is it a coincidence?
Wally Rosell / Ramon Pino