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The Three Arrows (German : Drei Pfeile) is a social democrat political symbol associated with the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), used in the late history of the Weimar Republic. First conceived for the SPD-dominated Iron Front as a symbol of the social-democratic resistance against Nazism in 1932, it became an official symbol of the Party during the November 1932 German federal election, representing the resistance against Nazism, Communism and reactionary conservatism.
The Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) was opposed by both the Nazi Party (NSDAP) and the Communist Party (KPD). In this setting, the SPD organizer Carlo Mierendorf recruited Russian exiled physiologist Sergei Chakhotin as the propagandist of the paramilitary Iron Front, and together they developed propaganda initiatives to counter the NSDAP and the KPD in early 1932. The two launched the Three Arrows as a symbol for the social democrat militancy.The Iron Front was regarded as a "social fascist terror organisation" by the KPD.
Mierendorf and Chakhotin launched the Three Arrows against the Swastika (Dreipfeil gegen Hakenkreuz) campaign.Chakhotin authored a book by the same name. The Three Arrows were thought to represent the struggle of the social democratic movement against reaction (referring to monarchism), capitalism and fascism. On a widely used and publicized election poster of the SPD for the Reichstag election on 6 November 1932, the Three Arrows were used to represent opposition to the Communist Party, the monarchist wing of the Centre Party, and the Nazi Party, accompanied by the slogan "Against Papen, Hitler, Thälmann." The three arrows also represented the three agents of working class strength: political (represented by the SPD), economic (represented by the trade unions) and physical (represented by the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold).
The aesthetic of the campaign and the Three Arrows symbol as such drew inspiration from Soviet-Russian avant-garde revolutionary artwork. According to Chakhotin, his inspiration for the Three Arrows were a swastika that had been crossed over with chalk in Heidelberg. Per Chakhotin's argument, the Three Arrows and the swastika would always appear as if the three lines were imposed over the swastika rather than the other way around. The Three Arrows were adopted as an official social democrat symbol by the SPD leadership and the Iron Front by June 1932. Iron Front members would carry the symbol on their arm bands. The slogan "neither Stalin's slaves nor Hitler's henchmen" was also used by the SPD in connection with the symbol.
In August 1932, the Austrian Social Democrats adopted the Three Arrows as their combat symbol.The Austrian socialist poet Karl Schneller dedicated the poem Drei Pfeile to the 1932 Austrian Social Democratic Party congress. The symbol was banned in Austria in 1933. During the Nazi regime, the symbol appeared on pamphlets of the Revolutionary Socialists of Austria and was used in graffiti. During 1932–1935, it was also used in Belgium, Denmark and the United Kingdom. After Chakhotin had been forced into exile to France, the symbol became used by the French Section of the Workers International. The Three Arrows remained the symbol of the French socialists until the 1970s, when it was substituted by the fist and rose symbol. After World War II, the Three Arrows became the official party logo of the Social Democratic Party of Austria in 1945. The symbol had been modified to include a circle and the symbolism changed to represent the unity of industrial workers, farm workers and intellectuals. The Three Arrows symbol remained a prominent Social Democratic Party of Austria symbol until the 1950s.
The Portuguese Democratic People's Party, created in 1974 in the aftermath of the Carnation Revolution, which put an end to the 48-year-long fascist dictatorship in Portugal, and renamed Social Democratic Party in 1976, uses an adaptation of the Three Arrows as its logo since its foundation, with the difference the arrows are pointing upwards and each having a different colour (previously black, red and white; the white having been replaced by orange). According to party members involved in the discussions about the choice of the symbol, the Arrows were chosen as a way to differentiate the party from its main rivals' easily recognizable logos. the Socialist Party, which still uses the raised clenched fist and the rose, and the Communist Party with its hammer and sickle, and to stress the resistance to and rejection of fascism and Nazism.
The Three Arrows symbol is popularly used within the antifa movement in the United States, along with flags based on the symbol of antifa in Germany.Anarchists and anti-fascists often use the symbol usually against authoritarianism, fascism and authoritarian socialism.
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The Social Democratic Party of Germany is a social-democratic political party in Germany. It is one of the two major contemporary political parties in Germany along with the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU).
The Communist Party of Germany was a major political party in the Weimar Republic between 1918 and 1933, an underground resistance movement in Nazi Germany, and a minor party in West Germany in the postwar period until it was banned in 1956.
Ernst Johannes Fritz Thälmann was a German communist politician, and leader of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) from 1925 to 1933.
Paramilitary groups were formed throughout the Weimar Republic in the wake of Germany's defeat in World War I and the ensuing German Revolution. Some were created by political parties to help in recruiting, discipline and in preparation for seizing power. Some were created before World War I. Others were formed by individuals after the war and were called "Freikorps". The party affiliated groups and others were all outside government control, but the Freikorps units were under government control, supply and pay.
The Communist Party of Germany (Opposition), generally abbreviated as KPO or KPD(O), was a communist opposition organisation established at the end of 1928 and maintaining its existence until 1939 or 1940. After the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party to power in January 1933, the KPO existed only as an illegal and underground organization. The group initially sought to modify, later to replace, the mainstream Communist Party of Germany (KPD) headed by Ernst Thälmann. The KPO was the first national section affiliated to the International Communist Opposition (ICO).
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Social fascism was a theory supported by the Communist International (Comintern) and affiliated communist parties in the early 1930s that held that social democracy was a variant of fascism because it stood in the way of a dictatorship of the proletariat, in addition to a shared corporatist economic model.
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Adolf Maislinger was a member of the German Resistance and was a survivor of Dachau concentration camp.
Antifaschistische Aktion was a militant anti-fascist organisation in the Weimar Republic started by members of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) that existed from 1932 to 1933. It was primarily active as a KPD campaign during the 1932 German federal elections and was described by the KPD as a "red united front under the leadership of the only anti-fascist party, the KPD." Under the leadership of the then-committed Stalinist Ernst Thälmann, the KPD viewed fascism primarily as the final stage of capitalism rather than as a specific movement or group and therefore applied the term to all other parties. The front focused largely on attacking the KPD's main adversary, the centre-left Social Democratic Party of Germany, whom they referred to as "social fascists" and regarded them as the "main pillar of the dictatorship of Capital."
The Roter Frontkämpferbund, usually called Rotfrontkämpferbund, abbreviated RFB, was a far left paramilitary organization affiliated with the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) during the Weimar Republic. It was officially a non-partisan and legally registered association. The organisation was banned as extremist by the governing Social Democrats in 1929.
The Iron Front was a German paramilitary organization in the Weimar Republic that consisted of social democrats, trade unionists, and liberals. Its main goal was to defend liberal democracy against totalitarian ideologies on the far right and left, and it chiefly opposed the Sturmabteilung (SA) wing of the Nazi Party and the Antifaschistische Aktion wing of the Communist Party of Germany.
The Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold was an organization in Germany during the Weimar Republic, formed by members of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, the German Centre Party, and the (liberal) German Democratic Party in February 1924. Its goal was to defend parliamentary democracy against internal subversion and extremism from the left and right, to teach the population to respect the new Republic, to honor its flag and the constitution. Its name is derived from the Flag of Germany adopted in 1919, the colors of which were associated with liberal parliamentary democracy and the republic, and themselves had first appeared together on a state flag, within a German-ethnicity sovereign state in 1778.
Friedrich Otto Hörsing was a German social democratic politician.
Franz Vogt was a German trade unionist, Social Democrat and member of the German resistance against the National Socialist regime.
The Conciliator faction was an opposition group within the Communist Party of Germany during the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich. In East Germany, after World War II, the German word for conciliator, Versöhnler, became a term for anti-Marxist political tendencies.
Anti-fascism is a political movement in opposition to fascist ideologies, groups and individuals. Beginning in European countries in the 1920s, it was at its most significant shortly before and during World War II, where the Axis powers were opposed by many countries forming the Allies of World War II and dozens of resistance movements worldwide. Anti-fascism has been an element of movements across the political spectrum and holding many different political positions such as anarchism, communism, pacifism, republicanism, social democracy, socialism and syndicalism as well as centrist, conservative, liberal and nationalist viewpoints.
Antifa is a political movement in Germany composed of multiple far-left, autonomous, militant anti-fascist action groups and individuals who describe themselves as anti-fascist. According to the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the Federal Agency for Civic Education, the use of the epithet fascist against opponents and the view of capitalism as a form of fascism are central to the movement. The antifa movement has existed in different eras and incarnations, dating back to Antifaschistische Aktion, from which the moniker antifa came. It was set up by the then-Stalinist Communist Party of Germany (KPD) during the late history of the Weimar Republic. After the forced dissolution in the wake of Machtergreifung in 1933, the movement went underground. In the postwar era, Antifaschistische Aktion inspired a variety of different movements, groups and individuals in Germany as well as other countries which widely adopted variants of its aesthetics and some of its tactics. Known as the wider antifa movement, the contemporary antifa groups have no direct organisational connection to Antifaschistische Aktion.
Karl Höltermann was a German Social Democratic activist and politician. For just over a year, during 1932/33 he served as a member of the Reichstag. By trade he started out as a typesetter, but after his wartime experiences he re-emerged as a successful party-political journalist.
Thälmann hatte die SPD als „Hilfspolizei für den Faschismus“, als „verräterische und volksfeindliche Partei“, ihre Führer als „berufsmäßige Arbeiterverräter“, „Kapitalsknechte“ und „Todfeinde des Sozialismus“, die Eiserne Front als „Terrororganisation des Sozialfaschismus“ beschimpft und die „Liquidierung der SAJ als Massenorganisation“ gefordert. [Thälmann had insulted the SPD as "auxiliary police for fascism", as a "treacherous and anti-people party", its leaders as "professional traitors", "servants of capital" and "mortal enemies of socialism", the Iron Front as "terrorist organization of social fascism" and that the "Liquidation of the SAJ as a mass organization" was required.]