Monday, September 06, 2010

In Honor of Labor Day

Billy Bragg wrote revised English lyrics to sing "The Internationale" with Pete Seeger at the Vancouver Folk Festival. Those lyrics are featured in the video above. Below are the English lyrics translated directly from the French, followed by the explanation of the origins of this socialist labor anthem. (I think I like Billy's English version better).

The Internationale

Arise ye workers from your slumbers
Arise ye prisoners of want
For reason in revolt now thunders
And at last ends the age of cant
Away with all your superstitions
Servile masses arise, arise
We'll change henceforth the old tradition
And spurn the dust to win the prize

So comrades, come rally
And the last fight let us face
The Internationale unites the human race
So comrades, come rally
And the last fight let us face
The Internationale unites the human race

No more deluded by reaction
On tyrants only we'll make war
The soldiers too will take strike action
They'll break ranks and fight no more
And if those cannibals keep trying
To sacrifice us to their pride
They soon shall hear the bullets flying
We'll shoot the generals on our own side

No saviour from on high delivers
No faith have we in prince or peer
Our own right hand the chains must shiver
Chains of hatred, greed and fear
E'er the thieves will out with their booty
And give to all a happier lot
Each at the forge must do their duty
And we'll strike while the iron is hot.

"The Internationale was written to celebrate the Paris Commune of March-May 1871: the first time workers took state power into their own hands. They established in the Commune a form of government more democratic than ever seen before. Representatives were mandated on policy questions by their electors, they were recallable at any time and were paid wages that reflected those of their constituents. Marx's Civil War in France is a contemporary account of the history and significance of the Commune. The Commune was drowned in blood by the conservative French government in Versailles, cheered on by the ruling classes of the world. The words were written by poet Eugene Pottier one of Communards who was killed and the music by was written by his friend the composer Pierre Degeyter in 1888.

The song is still sung right around the world and Rob Elders in Holland has collected over 40 versions of The Internationale."

Source: Union Songs


Distributorcap said...

you know - i wonder how the republicans spend labor day - on the golf course with bottles of remy

KGMom said...

It is so important to remember the LABOR in Labor Day.

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nonnie9999 said...

unfortunately, to most people, labor day just means an extra day off work and sales on lots of crap.

Fran said...

My son the Political Science major & history buff gave me a lecture on the history of labor day- It became a federal holiday in 1894, when, following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland put reconciliation with the labor movement as a top political priority. Fearing further conflict, legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress unanimously and signed into law a mere six days after the end of the strike.
It was born of the Haymarket riot.

I had no idea!
But "labor" circa the 21st century for many is at the breaking point for many. Just as these hard times with rampant foreclosures create a "buyers market", having a severe shortage of
jobs make it an "employers market". Employers are taking full advantage of the idea that you are "lucky to have a job", no matter how crappy the pay, or unfair the conditions.

Fran said...

Let's take the Labor day holiday for instance... my employer asks people to sign up to work, and if there are not enough takers.... they then choose people who are required to work. Unless you have sick leave time remaining, in which case, you could burn those 8 hours sick leave in order to get the day off.
My son is currently ill, and was hospitalized, I need to take time off when he is released, to care for him @ home. The paperwork they are requiring to do so, needs to be signed off by the Doctor, with details. Will that be enough? I feel like I am having to jump through flaming hoops to get a few days off without punishment
to care for an immediate family member w a serious health condition. You feel like the company owns you & they don't much care what the reason, time off must fit their corporate guidelines. Just saying, people should not have to work about attendance demerits when something serious & verifiable justifies
the need to take time off.
If not, they may be demanding the employee to come to work after being exposed to a highly contagious, & potentially deadly infection- but in their eyes, rules are rules- no one said they needed to make sense.
The corporate world is a cold & sometimes cruel place.

Fran said...

ps- that spacestation shuttle post by Kristin is spam... appears to have gone viral in blogger.

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