Since the French Revolution of 1848, where wearing a red rosette came to symbolise republican sympathies, the red rose has become strongly linked with the political left.1 However, the symbol’s use long predates the alignment of politics along a left-right axis, the English House of Tudor, for example, adopted the Tudor rose as an heraldic emblem as far back as the late 1400s.2
The rose has a long held symbolic meaning in many cultures, in early Christianity, for example, it was associated with the Virgin Mary.3 In the 1880s, the red rose becomes more widely understood to denote socialism because of its association with the revolution of 1848 and then the Paris Commune of 1871.1 Subsequently, the symbol was adopted by some European left-wing parties, including the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and more recently, the Bristish Labour Party.
Although the red rose has many non-political associations, including with esoteric Christian movements such as the Rosicrucians and as a symbol of love, it is strongly linked with social democracy and the labour movement. Due to its link to the anti-monarchist revolutions of the 1800s, it still carries strong anti-authoritarian symbolism for some.4
Many variations of the red rose are used: sometimes with a stem, as with more recent variations of the British Labour Party’s emblem, or without, as with the logo of the Social Democratic Party of Denmark (SPD). The French Socialist Party (PS) is believed to be the first group to have adopted the rose and fist combination in 1971,5 and a similar version has since been adopted by the Socialist International.