Flags, like any symbol, do not really have meaning crafted into them by default. They are imbued with meaning from the actions and narratives that are made to associate with them. Sure the current Minnesota flag has pretty un-abstract designs of colonialism imprinted directly on it but its significance and meaning comes from it flying as the banner of a state engaged in the genocide of native peoples and over a capitalist liberal republic with all of the baggage that brings in of itself.
For those familiar with marxist analytical concepts of the “Base” and “Superstructure” this is a simple example. The actions of the “Base”, being the material conditions of our economy and day to day lives, affects and shapes the “Superstructure”, the realm of institutions, culture, and symbols that reflect and shape our ideas and values. These superstructure elements then in turn can help influence and reinforce actions at the base. Our state flag is an element of the Minnesota superstructure both influenced by and emanating influence upon our local organizing conditions.
Our new flag is a fresh narrative start and begs the question, what meaning do we want imprinted upon it? Our flag is simply a turning point symbolically and aesthetically for our Minnesota community. The meaning of what our new flag will mean to people both in and outside our state and which emotions it will evoke are up to us as Minnesotans by our actions.
As Socialists we have an opportunity to use our new flag to help build a narrative of a new and better Minnesota. A socialist Minnesota will not only have land and governance power returned to our indigenous neighbors, but also will have our government and economy subordinated to the working class as a whole. A new flag means a new opportunity to help paint to the public what Minnesota can be and help reshape what it means to be a Minnesotan.
Already this fight over meaning is starting to be waged as conservatives across the state defend the current flag as a piece of reactionary Minnesota tradition. The new flag already has begun to take on a symbolism of change whether we intentionally build upon it or not. Who knows, perhaps if we play our cards right and continue on the path of significant local socialist labor and electoral victories, the new Minnesota flag won’t need a red star affixed to it to represent the success of the socialist movement both to Minnesotans and to the wider nation as well.
By Shane M.