raised fist, Pablo Martínez

narrator Pablo Martínez
term raised fist
published June 2020, Barcelona, Spain
affiliated institution MACBA


Black or white, united in the fight!

We know only one race,

we all have one enemy:

the exploiting class.

— John Heartfield, AIZ, # 26, 1930


Raised fist: from the Weimar Republic to May '68, from the anti-fascist struggle in Spanish Republic to the Black Panthers, from the labor movement of the early twentieth century to the feminists protests across the world or the most recent congregations around #Blacklivesmatter, images and gestures of the raised fist have present in a good part of the emancipatory struggles of the last two centuries. But also, throughout the History of Art, from John Heartfield to Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso or Pier Paolo Pasolini, from the street to the canvas or the screen and from there back to the streets once again. It is a transhistorical gesture, this of the raised fist, one that condenses solidarity and comradeship. The mutual aid of those who fight on the same front and compose with their bodies a choreography in the public space.


To trace a genealogy, the origins of the raised fist are on the streets, but it undoubtedly owes a good part of its expansion to the work of John Heartfield, who fixed the image-gesture with the creation of the Rot-Front-Kämpferbund’s (RFB) logo in 1926. Its use in the following years and especially in the thirties gradually opened its meanings from german communist fights to the anti-fascist struggle in Spanish Civil War. The physical gesture of closing hands and raising them embodies the ideology, passes it through the body. It is a code to be used in public space, with an abstract meaning that overflows the words and that contains the desire to build a community of equals. The gesture of the bodies is also more than just a mechanical expression, it is an action that in the midst of social drama produces a theatrical effect that involves and mobilizes emotion. It is also politics made emotion since in the codified semiotics of the gesture a common internationalist homeland is returned to the dispossessed.