Newly Swissed Online Magazine

The Book Poster Debate

Anyone living in Switzerland knows that the Swiss are often asked to vote on political and social issues. Whether it be EU integration, gun ownership, minimum wages or the amount of holidays working people should be entitled to.

On March 11, 2012, the Swiss will once again visit the polls to cast their ballots on five issues:

  1. The building of secondary (vacation) apartments (an issue especially poignant around Switzerland’s lakes and in alpine villages like Zermatt, Andermatt, Davos etc.)
  2. An initiative to provide tax incentives for people saving to build their own house.
  3. An initiative to give all working people 6 weeks of paid holidays.
  4. An initiative to regulate which gambling operations are controlled by the federal and cantonal governments.
  5. An initiative to reintroduce the Fixed Book Price Agreement. (Note: The Wikipedia information on Switzerland regarding this issue is incorrect)

As usual, the debate surrounding these topics is split between free market, right leaning politics and social, left leaning politicians. We are going to find out how the Swiss voted on March 11th.

However, the interesting thing with the current referendum is the posters. Well, one poster in particular: The “Pro Book” poster from those supporting the reintroduction of the Fixed Book Price Agreement.

While it is usually the right-leaning SVP posters that get the most criticism for their distasteful depictions, this time the left-leaning parties are being accused of invoking socialist, realist art to push their agenda.

The Book Poster Debate - Heidi

The poster featuring a Heidi figure holding a book high into the air with a silhouette of a city and mountains in the background and a small goat-herd Peter chasing goats off to the right. The reference is to Switzerland’s most famous book Heidi by Johanna Spyri.

The “Ja zum Buch” campaigners are arguing that the Fixed Book Price Agreement is needed to help Swiss authors, publishers and bookshops compete with the international market. They believe that books are not a simple market good, but also a cultural good, invoking the UNESCO stance on books. For that reason, they argue that books cannot be simply left to the free market.

The Book Poster Debate

The opposition believes that the posters are distasteful, recalling Chairman Mao’s posters that promoted his Little Red Book. One politician from St. Gallen called the figure a Soviet Heidi and some Germans have said that they find the poster to be in bad taste as it invokes DDR imagery.

The Schweizer Buchhändler- und Verleger-Verband (SBVV), however, believes that because communism and socialism are not part of the historical discourse in Switzerland, the poster does not pose any problems.

The Book Poster DebateThe poster of the opposition features a book with a worm in it symbolizing that there is something rotten with the politics that the SBVV is trying to practice.

If you're interested in the actual arguments surrounding the initiative, be sure to read Diccon Bewes' post on the issue. Mr. Bewes wrote the best-selling book Swiss Watching and used to work in a book shop in Bern.

What do you think of these posters?


Business Strategist || Connector || Entrepreneur || Marketer || Writer || Optimist || Runner || Photographer || Epicurean || TEDster


Download our e-book: 77 Facts about Switzerland