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The Polling, by William Hogarth, depicting a 1754 election to the British parliament, includes a blue flag representing the conservative Tories and a buff flag representing the liberal Whigs

Political colours are colours used to represent a political ideology, movement or party, either officially or unofficially.[1] They represent the intersection of colour symbolism and political symbolism. Politicians making public appearances will often identify themselves by wearing rosettes, flowers, ties or ribbons in the colour of their political party. Parties in different countries with similar ideologies sometimes use similar colours. As an example the colour red symbolises left-wing ideologies in many countries (leading to such terms as "Red Army" and "Red Scare"), while the colour blue is often used for conservatism, the colour yellow is most commonly associated with liberalism and right-libertarianism, and Green politics is named after the ideology's political colour.[2][3] The political associations of a given colour vary from country to country, and there are exceptions to the general trends,[2][3] for example red has historically been associated with Christianity, but over time gained association with leftist politics, while the United States differs from other countries in that conservatism is associated with red and liberalism with blue.[2][3] Mass media has driven a standardization of colour by political party, to simplify messaging, while historically the colour a candidate chose to identify with could have been chosen based on other factors such as family or regional variations.[4][5]


Anarchists in Germany in black bloc
The 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH) in their black uniforms.

Black is primarily associated with anarchism[6] (see anarchist symbolism); black is a lack of colour, and anarchism is a lack of a state. It is used in contrast of national flags, to instead represent universal anarchism.[6] Black is also used to a lesser extent to represent ideologies on the opposite end of the spectrum: fascism (see blackshirts and Schutzstaffel) and jihadism (see Black Standard).[2]

The colours black and red have been used by anarchists since at least the late 1800s when they were used on cockades by Italian anarchists in the 1874 Bologna insurrection, and in 1877 when anarchists entered the Italian town Letino carrying red and black flags to promote the First International.[7] During the Spanish Civil War the CNT used a diagonally half strip of black and red, with black representing anarchism and red representing the labour movement and the worker movement. The flag was quickly adopted by other anarchists, with the second colour used to distinguish specific anarchist philosophies: anarcho pacifism with white, green anarchism with green, anarcho-syndicalism and anarcho-communism with red, mutualism with orange, and anarcho-capitalism with yellow, while black alone typically represents 'anarchism without adjectives'.

During the golden age of piracy, the black flags of pirates such as Blackbeard and Calico Jack became popular symbols of piracy. The flags represented death and no quarter to those who did not surrender. The black flag of the jolly roger, used by Calico Jack, turned into a popular and recognizable symbol of pirates, particularly of pirates of the Americas.[8][9] The skull and bones also became a hazardous symbol to display poisons such as cyanide, Zyklon B and other toxic substances. The black flag of piracy would later influence the symbols of anarchism, such as the symbols of the Makhnovshchina and the Kronstadt rebellion. The rise of internet piracy led to the symbols of the golden age of piracy becoming widely adopted, becoming the symbols of pirate sites such as the Pirate bay. Black becoming a colour to represent pirate parties.

Black was also used by some anti-racist and Black nationalist parties, such as the Black Panther Party in the United States and the Popular Unity in Brazil.


Blue is usually associated with centre-right or conservative parties,[2] originating from its use by the Tories (predecessor of the Conservative Party) in the United Kingdom.[16] Blue is used by many international organisations of centre right and conservative parties, such as the International Democrat Union, the Democrat Union of Africa, the Asia Pacific Democrat Union, the Caribbean Democrat Union (together with red), the European Democrat Union, the European People's Party, the European Conservatives and Reformists Party.


The Sturmabteilung of the Nazi Party, wearing their brown uniforms.

Brown has been associated with Nazism, and in particular the Nazi Party in Germany, because of the Sturmabteilung (SA), whose members were called "brownshirts". They were modeled on Benito Mussolini's blackshirts, and the colour of their shirts was chosen because many brown uniforms intended for the colonial troops in Germany's African colonies were cheaply available after the end of World War I. In Europe and elsewhere, the colour brown is sometimes used to refer to fascists in general.[33]




Green banner and signs at an anti-nuclear protest by the Green Party in Germany in 2008

Green is the colour for both environmentalist[38] and Islamist political parties and movements (see green in Islam).[2]


Magenta is a colour that tends to replace yellow for liberal and centrist parties and organisations in Europe.[49] It is not to be confused with the socialist or social democratic use of the colour pink.


Orange is the traditional colour of the Christian democratic political ideology and most Christian democratic political parties, which are based on Catholic social teaching and/or neo-Calvinist theology.[citation needed] Christian democratic political parties came to prominence in Europe and the Americas after World War II.[50][51] Orange less frequently represents various kinds of populist parties. Such is the case in Austria, Germany, France, Portugal, Switzerland, Finland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Turkey.[52]


Pink is sometimes used by social democratic parties, such as in France and Portugal. The more traditional colour of social democracy is red (because social democracy is descended from the democratic socialist movement), but some countries have large social democratic parties alongside large socialist or communist parties, so that it would be confusing for them all to use red.[59] In such cases, social democrats are usually the ones who give up red in favor of a different colour. Pink is often chosen because it is seen as a softer, less aggressive version of red, in the same way that social democracy is more centrist and capitalistic than socialism.


Purple placards and clothing at an International Women's Day event in Spain

Although purple has some older associations with monarchism, it is the most prominent colour that is not traditionally connected to any major contemporary ideology. As such, it is sometimes used to represent a mix of different ideologies, or new protest movements that are critical of all previously existing large parties and minor parties.


Red flags and a banner at a socialist rally in Lyon, France, on International Workers' Day in 2009

Red is often associated with the left, especially socialism and communism.[2] The oldest symbol of socialism (and by extension communism) is the red flag, which dates back to the French Revolution in the 18th century and the revolutions of 1848. Before this nascence, the colour red was generally associated with Christianity due to the symbolism and association of Christ's blood. The colour red was chosen to represent the blood of the workers who died in the struggle against capitalism.[68] All major socialist and communist alliances and organisations—including the First, Second, Third and Fourth Internationals—used red as their official colour. The association between the colour red and communism is particularly strong. Communists use red much more often and more extensively than other ideologies use their respective traditional colours.[citation needed]


Saffron is traditionally associated with Hinduism, Hindutva and the Hindu nationalist movement.[71] Saffron was chosen because in Hinduism, the deep saffron colour is associated with sacrifice, religious abstinence, quest for light and salvation. Saffron or "Bhagwa" is the most sacred colour for the Hindus and is often worn by Sanyasis who have left their home in search of the ultimate truth.



White is today mainly linked to pacifism (as in the surrender flag).[2]


Yellow is the colour most strongly associated with liberalism and right-libertarianism.[2][3][78][79]

By country

In this map of the 2012 United States presidential election results, the states are colour-coded by the political colour of the party whose candidate won their electoral college votes, but the political meanings of red and blue in the United States are the opposite of their meanings in the rest of the world.

Notable national political colour schemes include:

See also


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