Political posters

Fear of communists – fear of foreigners


Paul Kammüller, 1919

"Keep out! Switzerland to the Swiss". Back in 1919 communism was seen as the red peril infiltrating Switzerland. (Geneva BGE)

Atelier 8703 (Erlenbach), 1966

The Democratic Party in Zurich made use of xenophobic sentiment during its election campaign in 1966. The threat no longer came from the East, but it was the immigrants from Europe's Mediterranean countries. Shouldering a large suitcase the foreign worker walks through the middle of a Swiss flag. (SNL)

Goal (Zurich), 1999

Thirty years later a poster by the rightwing Swiss People's Party used a very similar design to promote its initiative against abuses of Switzerland's asylum law. The foreigner, probably meant to look like a frightening individual from a Balkan country, rips up the iconic Swiss flag. The initiative failed to win a majority of voters in 2002. (Geneva BGE)

Celestino Piatti, 1970

The famous graphic artist Celestino Piatti provided a poster for the opponents of an anti-foreigner initiative, which was voted down in 1970. He described Switzerland as a fortress behind walls, hostile to any kind of openess towards the outside world. (SNL)

Edgar Küng (Lucerne), 1974

Another poster against a third anti-foreigner initiative reminded citizens that immigrant workers are crucial for Switzerland's prosperty. "If the pyramid falls, you fall as well," the slogan reads. The foreigner in the pyramid is distinctly different from the Swiss. He has to leave the country in case of an economic downturn. (Geneva BGE)

Anonymous, 1996

"Stop illegal immigration. Vote Yes to the people's initiative" says the campaign poster by the rightwing Swiss People's Party in 1996. From the 1990s onwards, immigration was increasingly linked to illegal immigrants. (Geneva BGE)

Anonymous, 2007

The campaign by the rightwing Federal Democratic Union targets a different culture: "A multicultural society has its limits. Let's strenghten our Christian society." The poster shows a village where the church was replaced by a mosque. The new political trend peaked in the initiative against minarets, approved by voters in 2009. (Geneva BGE)

Selezione agency (Ligornetto), 2004

Similar to Oliviero Toscani's photographs for Italian clothing company Benetton, Switzerland bears the hallmarks of multiculturalism. The poster calls on voters to approve a proposal to ease the naturalisation of second and third-generation immigrants. The trade union initiative was rejected at the ballot box in 2004. (Trade Union Federation)

Anonymous, 1981

Immigrant workers are a vital part of the Swiss labour market: The index and ring fingers of the hand. A friendly Swiss boss (centre) puts his arms around them. The poster calls for solidarity and the end of the discriminatory legal status of seasonal workers. The initiative by the centre-left Social Democrats was thrown out by voters in 1981. (Geneva BGE)

Pierre-André Jacot, 1983

The small man with his Swiss hat seems powerless against an overwhelming threat from the outside. The local rightwing Vigilance party in Geneva warns: "Remain the masters of our own house with Vigilance."
(Geneva BGE)

André Masméjan, 1974

"What happens afterwards?" warns a committee against yet another proposal by a far-right party to send away the foreigners. The National Action saw its anti-foreigner initiative rejected by voters in 1974. (Geneva BGE)

Anonymous, 2005

The poster by the youth wing of the Swiss People's Party in Valais warns of a wave of drugs and criminals if the European single border agreement, also known as Schengen accord, is accepted. However, a majority of Swiss voters came out in favour in 2005. (Geneva BGE)

Helge Reumann, 1996

The poster asks why immigration causes so much hatred. It was used to campaign against an initiative against illegal immigrants, rejected in 1997. All the faces are turned towards a single coloured person. The man in red is the only one to protest. (Geneva BGE)

Goal (Zurich), 2007

The black sheep poster of the rightwing Swiss People's Party was created to campaign for a proposal to deport all criminal foreigners. Dismissed as xenophobic by some, the initiative was accepted by voters in 2010. The slogan calls for "more security". The graphic idea was later taken over by far-right parties in Germany and Belgium. (Geneva BGE)

Albin Christen, 1999

A committee recommended rejection of two reforms of asylum laws with the slogan: "Rights and security, also for refugees." The poster illustrates the idea of equal treatment of asylum seekers and ordinary Swiss citizens. The reform, approved by voters in 1999, seems to draw a line, separating people and creating inequalities. (Geneva BGE)




The issue of immigration has been on the agenda of Swiss politics regularly over the past decade. But a political manifesto in 1919 already claimed Switzerland exclusively for the Swiss.

A series of political posters illustrates the delicate balance between defending the Swiss identity, national security and a policy of xenophobic segregation. The way foreigners or political trends were perceived during vote campaigns helped shape and confirm the national identity.

The posters presented here are part of an outdoor exhibition in Neuchâtel.

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