Sunday, February 10, 2008

La Semaine Sanglante

The machine crushes us again;
Capital is triumphant;
The machine gun restores order
Cutting down women and children.
Usury, wild with rage,
Atop our incinerated corpses
Welds to the workers' strike.
The strike of those assassinated.

On his death it 1887 Eugene Pottier's famous song the Internationale was published. It quickly became the anthem of socialists, communists, and left-wing democrats wordlwide. The verse above, while not part of the final song, refers to the fateful events in Paris of May 21-28 1871. Still known in France as The Week of Blood, this was the week when French troops under General Thiers stormed Paris and massacred 30,000 civilians. Their crime was the declaration of the Paris Commune on March 26. The Commune was an independent republic, governed along socialist lines, in which all people were free and equal. It marked the most success that the proponents of liberty, equality, and fraternity would ever have in a major Western nation. To this day the Communards stand out as the bravest, most heroic fighters for peace and justice the West has ever seen. They paid for their beliefs with their blood. Not just men, but women and children as well, were shot, stabbed, and beaten to death in a week-long orgy of murder, as the Forces of Order reasserted control over those who would rather be free and equal citizens than subjects of a corrupt political-economic system that exploits their labour and crushes their humanity. Let the Commune be a lesson to us all. All effective political action practiced by the populace will be crushed, brutally if necessary, by those whose unjust power is threatened. Sure, we have the vote, but if voting changed anything, it would be illegal. Long live peace, freedom, equality and justice. Long live the memory of the Commune, and the brave souls who lost their lives in defence of these very ideals. This is the final struggle. Let us gather together, and tomorrow the Internationale will be the human race.

Stand up, wretched of the earth;
Stand up, galley slaves of hunger.
Reason thunders in its volcano;
This is the eruption of the end.
Of the past let us wipe the slate clean;
Masses, slaves, arise, arise;
The world is about to change its foundation.

There are no supreme saviours;
Neither God, nor Caesar, nor tribune.
Producers, let us save ourselves;
Decree the common welfare,
That the thief return his plunder,
That the spirit be pulled from its prison.
Let us fan the forge ourselves;
Strike the iron while it is hot.

The state represses and the law cheats,
The tax bleeds the unfortunate;
No duty is imposed on the rich,
'Rights of the poor' is a hollow phrase.
Enough languishing in custody,
Equality wants other laws:
No rights without obligations, it says,
And as well, no obligations without rights.

Hideous in their self-glorification,
Kings of the mine and rail;
Have they ever done anything other
Than steal work?
Into the coffers of that lot,
What work creates has melted.
In demanding that they give it back,
The people wants only its due.

The kings make us drunk with their fumes,
Peace among ourselves, war to the tyrants!
Let the armies go on strike,
Guns in the air, and break ranks.
If these cannibals insist;
On making heroes of us,
Soon they will know our bullets;
Are for our own generals.

Labourers, peasants, we are;
The great party of workers.
The earth belongs only to men,
The idle will go reside elsewhere.
How much of our flesh they feed on,
But if the ravens and vultures;
Disappear one of these days;
The sun will still shine.

This is the final struggle.
Let us stand together, and tomorrow;
The Internationale;
Will be the human race.

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