The Internationale

Words : Pottier / Music : Degeyter

Arise, ye starvelings, from your slumbers
Arise, ye criminals 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 forthwith the old conditions
And spurn the dust to win the prize

Then comrades, come, rally,
And the last fight let us face
The Internationale
Unites the human race
Then comrades, come, rally,
And the last fight let us face
The Internationale
Unites the human race

We peasants, artisans and others
Enrolled among the sons of toil
Let's change the earth henceforth for brothers
Drive the indolent from the soil
On our flesh too long has fed the raven
We've too long been the vulture's prey
But now farewell the spirit craven
The dawn brings in a brighter day

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


Song Notes

Written by Eugene Pottier after the murderous assault against the Paris Commune in 1871. The melody was added later by Pierre Degeyter. The anthem of Communists throughout the world, it is a fiery song of defiance and solidarity in the face of ruthless reaction and should be sung as such.

I've always been slightly bemused by those who seem to get embarrassed by the antiquated language of this - I can see no more point in trying to 'modernise' it than I would in repainting the Cistine Chapel or rewriting Shakespeare's plays.

Some older British Communists have taken issue with me over the way I sing the last line of the chorus of this. The melody I sing is the one written by Degeyter and it is sung that way throughout the rest of the world. It was altered - presumably in an attempt to make the 5 syllables of the English "In-ter-nat-ion-al" scan where the original was the 6 syllable French "In-ter-nat-ion-al-e" - sometime in the middle of the 20th century by a British composer and I actually find the British alteration to be plodding and quite idiotic as well as making it impossible for those who sing it in another language to join in with. I have sung this in the company of Communists from around the world who didn't speak a word of English and it is a wonderful experience to hear it sung simultaneously in several different languages, something which to me is the very essence of the song being put into practice.

For that reason I also sing the word "Internationale" as "International-ay" as it is pronounced that way in most other languages and that is what the melody was written to.

I actually think that to insist on singing it differently from the rest of the world is nothing other than residual British chauvinism and completely contradicts the idea that "The Internationale unites the human race".

celtic knotwork


Top of Page