The people’s history of the workers bee
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“The iconography of bee has dominated every corner of Manchester since the attack in summer 2017. It was a way of showing solidarity and pride as a dignified collective response to those hurt and traumatized by the violence. We were Manchester and proud. It was spread so rapidly by both the council, and the people. Rubbish bins, plant pots, and library doors were adorned with it. People had tattoos, t-shirts and mugs were made. There was a collective connection and everyone branded themselves, their businesses and the streets with the image of the worker bee representing the people in Manchester, the hive.
For ages it disconcerted me, there was a depth bound up in the image that wasn’t fully revealed. I didn’t know what it was; a binding magic, occulted information and hidden darkness. It was suddenly everywhere, particularly on police uniforms. Anything that the council or state evangelically use as propaganda I question, there was dark magic in there somewhere. After numerous times tensing my shoulders and
frowning at every echo of this bee, I heard someone mention it’s the hive; Manchester represents the hive of the worker bees, the heart of the industrial revolution, the factory system, and my heart wrenched. I got it and knew the reason was in the history. As someone said to
me recently ‘if its hysterical it’s historical’.
I know now why I wince every time I see the bee. It represents the moment over a 100 years ago that Manchester went from cottage industry to cotton industry, from homes to mills, from handmade skills to mass production. For the 8th time that day, and same as every day, I felt sickened again by both the structures and iconography of capitalism. Historically, seven bees were weaved into the crest of the city of arms awarded to Manchester in 1842 as it was recognised as a city, the bees representing the workers and industry.”
A history of enclosure and resistance.