Singing the Internationale

June 2024 Forums General discussion Singing the Internationale

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    Email contribution received from Comrade Steve Clayton of South London Branch:

    It was the 1st May recently, International Workers’ Day as authorised by the Second International in 1889, and I was thinking of the Socialist anthems ‘The Red Flag’ and ‘The Internationale’.  The former was sung at the opening of the inaugural meeting of the Socialist Party of Great Britain in 1904, and the latter closed the meeting. At the Annual Conference of the Party this year there were no recitals of these anthems. When did they cease to be sung at the SPGB ?

    ‘The Red Flag’ has been tainted by its association with the Labour Party and images spring to mind of the early 1980s and Michael Foot linking arms with Neil Kinnock. The song was banned briefly during Tony Blair’s heyday and at the 2007 Labour Conference word cards had to be handed out to delegates in the hall ! The song was written by one Jim Connell in 1889,  who was briefly in the Social Democratic Federation and then joined the equally reformist Independent Labour Party therefore this anthem has reformism written all over it.

    I suggest the resumption of the use of ‘The Internationale’ which is much more appropriate considering we are part of the World Socialist Movement. It was written by a French Communard in June 1871 at the end of  ‘La Commune de Paris’ which was a major event in the history of the European working class. Marx wrote his ‘The Civil War in France’ in 1872 about the events. The SPGB used to celebrate the 18th March as Paris Commune Anniversary Day right up to the First World War. I have seen on the wall of Party Head Office a framed poster of the Paris Commune.

    There is a question of which lyrical version of ‘The Internationale’ to adopt but I leave that to another day.


    You can relay to Steve that end of April our blogs SOYMB, Socialist Courier and my own personal blog, Mailstrom,  all recently posted various versions of the Internationale, taken from You Tube. There were many more to choose from.A jazzy up-tempo interpretation guitars Bragg with his much re-written lyrics A founding party member wrote a party anthem in 1910 , how the music went i have no idea, but the words to the song are here i keep trying to impress, our blog is a rich source of material on practically every subject) But all very well having a song, but do we have the singers with decent voices and who can carry a tune, asks , tone deaf me?

    alanjjohnstone wrote:
    A founding party member wrote a party anthem in 1910 , how the music went i have no idea

    The music does exist and will be somewhere in the archives. If anyone wants to try it, it could be dug out.


    Participating in music is generally a good way of engaging people but personally I cringe at how dated it sounds whenever I hear the internationale.A practice I think might be worth reviving is the “team photographs” at conference/summer school on a voluntary basis.


    I mentioned this recently and was planning on putting it forward as a point of discussion at the ADM. I’d be in favour of singing it at conference, but I also understand that some find it cringe worthy, dated or tainted by the fact that it was adopted as the anthem of the soviet union.  This documentary makes a good case for the song think I’d prefer the updated Billy Bragg version (because I know the words)

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