The A for Anarchy in a circle, usually in red and spray-painted on the background, is one of the most successful images among political symbols. It was created during the 20th century and is therefore a much more modern symbol than the classical black flag of anarchism. Its origin is not known, but there is evidence that the symbol was used by some anarchists during the Spanish Civil War and later by the Belgium organization AOA (Alliance Ouvriere Anarchiste).
The Circle A is said to represent Proudhon’s maxim that “Anarchy is Order.” (The “A” is for anarchy and the circle is either a symbol of order or represents the “O.”) But the Circle A is also said to be a symbol of unity and determination, forwarding the anarchist ideals and the inevitable rebellion against the rulers. Anarchists are devoted to the re-establishment of freedom for everyone and the importance of the cause cannot be affected by outer restraints. The circle is therefore, to some extent, a shield against the oppressive society surrounding the sovereign anarchist.
The Circle A also lends support to the idea of international anarchist solidarity, where the circle encompassing the “A” for anarchy could be interpreted as a representation of the world. Anarchists are committed to the abolishment of all rule, coercive hierarchy and oppression--no matter where it exists. The unavoidable anarchist rebellion takes no prisoners and thus no tyrant is safe when the rebellion has begun.
No matter the origin and the true meaning of the symbol, the Circle A is a very powerful symbol of anarchism world-wide. It is very often seen spray-painted on walls and under bridges or on the background of a black flag of anarchism.