Use by political movements
Honor guard of Chinese Army welcomes U.S. Defense Secretary to Beijing.
In 18th-century Europe, red was usually associated with the monarchy and with those in power. The Pope wore red, as did the Swiss Guards of the Kings of France, the soldiers of the British Army and the Danish Army.
The French Revolution saw red used by the Jacobins as a symbol of the martyrs of the Revolution. In the nineteenth century, with the Industrial Revolution and the rise of worker's movements, it became the color of socialism (especially the Marxist variant), and, with the Paris Commune of 1870, of revolution.
In the 20th century, red was the color first of the Russian Bolsheviks and then, after the success of the Russian Revolution of 1917, of Communist Parties around the world.
Red also became the color of many social democratic parties in Europe, including the Labour Party in Britain (founded 1900); the Social Democratic Party of Germany (whose roots went back to 1863) and the French Socialist Party, which dated back under different names, to 1879. The Socialist Party of America (1901–72) and the Communist Party USA (1919) both also chose red as their color.
Members of the Christian-Social People's Party in Liechtenstein (founded 1918) advocated an expansion of democracy and progressive social policies, and were often referred to disparagingly as "Reds" for their social liberal leanings and party colors.
The Communist Party of China, founded in 1920, adopted the red flag and hammer and sickle emblem of the Soviet Union, which became the national symbols when the Party took power in China in 1949. Under Party leader Mao Zedong, the Party anthem became "The East Is Red", and Mao Zedong himself was sometimes referred to as a "red sun". During the Cultural Revolution in China, Party ideology was enforced by the Red Guards, and the sayings of Mao Zedong were published as a small red book in hundreds of millions of copies. Today the Communist Party of China claims to be the largest political party in the world, with eighty million members.
Beginning in the 1960s and the 1970s, paramilitary extremist groups such as the Red Army Faction in Germany, the Japanese Red Army and the Shining Path Maoist movement in Peru used red as their color. But in the 1980s, some European socialist and social democratic parties, such as the Labour Party in Britain and the Socialist Party in France, moved away from the symbolism of the far left, keeping the red color but changing their symbol to a less-threatening red rose.
Red is used around the world by political parties of the left or center-left. In the United States, it is the color of the Communist Party USA, of the Social Democrats, USA, and in Puerto Rico, of the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico.
In the United States, political commentators often refer to the "red states", which traditionally vote for Republican candidates in presidential elections, and "blue states", which vote for the Democratic candidate. This convention is relatively recent: before the 2000 presidential election, media outlets assigned red and blue to both parties, sometimes alternating the allocation for each election. Fixed usage was established during the 39-day recount following the 2000 election, when the media began to discuss the contest in terms of "red states" versus "blue states".