‘Unite Union’ Banner part 2.

19th February 2015  |  News

The ‘Unite Union’ banner illustrates different tactics used in Social movement repertoires. For example on the left hand side of the banner there is a badge that has ‘Victory Poll Tax Rebellion’ written around an image of people standing behind placards that also read ‘Pay No Poll Tax’. This is representative of the Anti-Poll Tax campaign a resistance movement to the implementation of ‘Poll Tax’ brought in under Margret Thatcher’s governance (Burns, 1992, p. 7). Described by Danny Burns the author of a novel that captures the journey of the resistance, as a ‘mass movement that defied the state and won’ (Burns, 1992, p. 7). The ‘poll tax rebellion’ can be seen as one example of a campaign’s logic that used the tactic of boycotts to be disruptive in order to substantiate their claim (Porta & Mario Diani, p. 175). This is because unions across Britain starting with Scottish unions such as the establishment of the ‘Anti-Poll Tax Union’ that began collectively organising against the tax from 1987 from which a non payment’ community campaign was created and began in 1988 with demonstrations across the UK continuing into the early 90s (Burns, 1992, p. 11-27-39). The Non-payment campaign led to the abolition of the Poll-tax was announced in 1991 and was to be replaced with ‘Council Tax’ in 1993 which is why the badge on the banner reads ‘Victory’ (Burns, 1992, p. 173-174).

The artist’s choice of colour also contextualises the banner signifying its wider political allegiances. The banner’s background is a royal red with black borders and black being the background to the text on the ribbons above and below the people protesting. Marian Sawer a scholar of the Social Sciences wrote an article about the ‘significance of political colours and associated emblems’ embedded in social movement repertoires, in particularly the role of colours in collective action and political communication (Marian,2007,p.39-40). Marian places the meaning in colour being intertwined with emotion and symbolism reflecting the mood of the participants of the social movements (Marian,2007,p.40). Historically red is associated globally with the socialist movement and black is seen as an emotive signifier of anarchism and linked to protest (Marian,2007,pp.41-42) Thus the colours can be said to be framing the banner’s political stance.

Worthiness, Unity, Numbers and Commitment (WUNC)are by Tilly’s framework an essential element of social movements (Tilly,2004,pp.3-4). All aspects of WUNC are illustrated in the centre point of the banner that is the collection of people, which can be seen as a live protest. For example Worthiness is displayed through a mother holding a child in her arms who in turn is holding a sign with the image symbolic of the phrase ‘no cuts’. Unity is shown through the collection of protest posters with messages such as ‘Welfare not Warfare’, which relates to a campaign against spending a disproportionate amount of government money on warfare as opposed to education.  And also the one man has his mouth open and hand in the air, which makes him look like he is chanting on in the midst of the protest march.  The Number element is shown by the centre of the poster filled with people of all ages, races and gender together on the symbolic protest march which also shows Commitment.

In sum the ‘Union Unite’ banner can be seen as a purposeful piece of contentious artwork intended for actual use and also as a representation of a social movement for claims of public welfare made against the government. The banner is full of meaning from evoking tactics of social movement repertoires to  displaying all the elements of WUNC whilst capturing the history of trade union activism.


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