(OPE-L) May Day, Eugene Pottier & the Paris Commune of 1871

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Thu May 01 2003 - 02:58:17 EDT

*Happy May Day!*

An occasion like this calls for a song -- "The Internationale",
of course!    But let's do it right and not use the abbreviated 
and vulgarized version.  Let's sing the complete and original 
[see note c) below]  version by Eugene Pottier (1816-87),  a French 
poet, a woodworker from Lille and a Communard: 


(To the march tune of Pierre Deygeter )

Rise up, the curs'd of every nation,
In all your hunger-gaols arise!
The lava-roar of liberation
Erupts at last to storm the skies.
Wipe out the past of want and sorrow;
The house of slavery shall fall,
And we will build a great tomorrow;
We who are nothing shall be all!

There is no savior high above  us,
No judge, no emperor, no God.
We, workers, know the way they love us,
And only we can will our good.
We'll make the robbers yield their plunder
And free the soul of man from gaol.
Our breath shall fan the furnace under
A forge of might that will prevail.

All states and statutes but deceive us.
Their tribute grinds us to the ground.
No duty makes the rich relieve us;
Law for the poor is empty sound.
The voice of Justice ends our anguish:
'No rights where duties none' says she;
'No rightless dues shall have you languish
In endless inequality.'

Obscene in their self-consecration,
The kings of mine and rail and soil
Can find no better occupation
Than living on our blood and toil.
By us their surplus was created,
And we decree it be restored,
Not in their strongrooms dissipated
By bandits of the workshop and the sword.

The kings' foul perfume drugs our senses;
But, Soldiers!  Bring your tyrants down!
Break ranks!  Surrender their defences
To us and make our cause your own!
If still they reckon to devour us,
Together we'll soon let them know
That their own arsenals empower us
To lay each king and captain low.

We are the party of all labour.
The whole earth shall be ours to share
And every race and craft our neighbor.
No idle class shall linger there
Like vultures on the wealth we render
From field and factory, mill and mine.
Tomorrow's sun will rise in splendour
And light us till the end of time.

        So march, march, the fury
        Of the final fight to find!
        The International's glory
         Belongs to all mankind.

(from Alan Bold ed.  _The Penguin Book of 
Socialist Verse_, 1970, pp. 72-73)



a)  *Written in June, 1871*.  Context: on May 21 (less than a 
        month beforehand) Versailles troops entered Paris.  
        According to http://www.marxists.org/history/france/paris-commune/timeline.htm
        the  Army spent eight days "massacring workers and
        shooting civilians on sight" and as many as 30,000 were 
        summarily executed, 38,000 were imprisoned, and 
        7,000 forcibly deported.  Put in that context,  Pottier's
        poem can be seen as an act of defiance, solidarity ... 
        and hope for the future.

b)  Pierre Degeyter [or Deygeter] (1848-1932) wrote the
       music in 1888.  He was an amateur composer who 
       was a member of the Lille section of the French 
       Workers' Party choir "La Lyre des Travailleurs." 

c)   Of course, the above isn't the "original" --  it is a translation 
      of the original from French.  See  i) below.


Additional references:

i)  French version with audio:

ii)  Links for versions in other languages:

iii) Lenin's "Eugene Pottier" (1913, written to commemorate
       the 25th anniversary of his death) which contains 
       quite a bit of interesting biographical material on Pottier:


May Day is more than just a holiday -- it is a day of remembrance.  
It is,  in a sense, a "Memorial Day"  when we remember all of 
those who fought and died for the cause of workers'  liberation.  
Hence, it is only proper and fitting that _today_ we  should 
remember Eugene Pottier, Pierre Degeyter and others who 
dedicated their lives to that cause.  

Lenin recalled [see  iii)  above]:

"On November 8, 1887, the workers of Paris carried the remains 
of Eugene Pottier to the Pere Lachaise cemetery, where the 
executed Communards are buried.  The police savagely 
attacked the crowd in an effort to snatch the red banner. A 
vast crowd took part in the civic funeral.  On all sides there 
were shouts of 'Long live Pottier!'."

Over 115 years later -- on May 1, 2003:

Long live Pottier!

Long live the Paris Commune!

In solidarity, Jerry

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