Some lyrics

by Yule Heibel on May 28, 2005

Just because, here’s what Billy Bragg wrote about The Internationale on his 1990 cd:

The Internationale ~ Eugène Pottier wrote the original lyrics of the Internationale after the fall of the Paris Commune in 1871. This was set to music by Pierre Degeyter, a textile worker from Lille who composed the tune for his factory chorus in 1888. Eight years later the song was adopted by the French Workers Party at its annual congress. Foreign delegates wrote down hasty translations and by the turn of the century it was being sung by socialists, communists and anarchists all over world in dozens of languages. Until 1943 it was the National Anthem of the Soviet Union and was most recently heard being sung by Chinese students in Tiananmen Square during the pro-democracy demonstrations in 1989.

Shortly after that event Pete Seeger asked me to sing the Internationale with him at the Vancouver Folk Festival. I told him I thought the English lyrics, whose translator is unknown, were archaic and often unsingable. He agreed and suggested I write some new lyrics to Degeyter’s stirring tune.

So, without further ado, and because these lyrics are really great, Billy Bragg’s Internationale:

Stand up, all victims of oppressions
For the tyrants fear your might
Don’t cling so hard to your possessions
For you have nothing, if you have no rights
Let racist ignorance be ended
For respect makes the empires fall
Freedom is merely privilege extended
Unless enjoyed by one and all

So come brothers and sisters
For the struggle carries on
The Internationale
Unites the world in song
So comrades come rally
For this is the time and place
The international ideal
Unites the human race

Let no one build walls to divide us
Walls of hatred nor walls of stone
Come greet the dawn and stand beside us
We’ll live together or we’ll die alone
In our world poisoned by exploitation
Those who have taken, now they must give
And end the vanity of nations
We’ve but one Earth on which to live

And so begins the final drama
In the streets and in the fields
We stand unbowed before their armour
We defy their guns and shields
When we fight, provoked by their aggression
Let us be inspired by life and love
For though they offer us concessions
Change will not come from above

…Change will not come from above…: I’m reminded that Louis Armstrong’s rendition of What a wonderful world was banned from corporate radio stations after 9/11. That’s some big change from above. Maybe Billy means “good change will not come from above”? You wanna know what the single most revolutionary thought in that Armstrong tune, written by George Weiss and Bob Thiele, is? It’s this (and whoa!, it’s so incendiary, you better have a bucket of water nearby, and don’t forget to call Homeland Security, either):

I hear babies cryin’, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know

That’s it, in a nutshell. That’s what the fascists can’t stand: that the kids’ll learn more than they’ll ever know.

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