The circle-a is a widely recognised anarchist symbol with an easily replicated, simple graphic form. Since its association with the punk scene in the 1970s, through the lyrics of the Sex Pistols and the visual language of the anarchist band Crass, it is often popularly interpreted as a signifier of a more generalised youthful anti-establishment sentiment.1
The Federación Regional Española de la Asociación Internacional de Trabajadores (FRE-AIT), a Spanish socialist organistation emerging in the 1870s, used within their logo an ‘A’ enclosed by a circle. The FRE-AIT were influential in emerging anarchist and socialist movements throughout Europe,2 and may have informed the adoption of the circle-a symbol by anarchist groups during the Spanish Civil War (1936 — 1939).3
The encircled ‘A’ is said to represent the Greek word anarkhia meaning ‘without ruler or authority’.4 The enclosing circle can be read as representing an absence of hierarchy and, as such, the symbol can be understood as signifying anarchism's primary objective of the abolition of hierarchical forms of social organisation and domination.5
The symbol's graphic simplicity — and perhaps the enduring appeal and ideological malleability of anarchism — has seen a number of variations proliferate since the 1970s. Commonly, these variations express a desire to intertwine ideas of anarchism with other ideologies and belief systems, such as feminism, capitalism, Christianity, etc.