The Internationale (again)

2 08 2010

I recently watched this documentary on the socialist hymn, the Internationale, which you can find in its entirety on Youtube.

A couple of comments are in order. One is that the old socialist folk singer, Pete Seeger, invited Billy Bragg, another singer, to re-write the English translation of the hymn: to “update it”, if you will. Of course, being the curmudgeon that I can sometimes be, I dislike the “Novus Ordo” version of the revolutionary hymn. I much prefer the old American version, or even the old British version. Changing the revolutionary wallpaper like that is not going to make one iota of difference in the long run.

The other thought in watching this documentary is how much things have changed in the past half century or so. One scene shows an American man who volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War on the side of the Republic. When injured and in the hospital, for entertainment one night, all of the ailing soilders took turns singing the Internationale in their own native tongue, and there were dozens of different languages represented.

Due to the regression in the class struggle, I believe that there has also been a regression in human thought, full stop. One of the reasons that Islamic terrorists are our current bête noire is because radical Islam is the only oppositional force in the world that transcends the fragile late capitalist nation-state. Glenn Beck can rail all he wants against a new caliphate, but that is precisely because there is no other international alternative for uniting humanity other than radical Islam (at least in terms of rhetoric). In fighting international socialism, the bourgeoisie did their best to revive a sense of nationalism at the expense of any form of international solidarity (as the blow-up in the Balkans in the 1990’s painfully showed). From the progressive people who flocked to Spain from all over the world to fight fascism, or even the Kennedy’ Peace Corps of the 1960’s, the only people we send overseas now are armies that impose our national will on others, and the highest form of human bravery has reverted to being: “dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”.

Radical Islam has thus become the ultimate threat to the “new world order”, as it is the only system that can challenge the nation-state model, the only ideology that seems to want to unite humanity under a common idea and praxis. Even the Catholic Church in the last century, with its obsession to update its ritual and make itself more relevant to the masses, gave up on a common cultic language and way of clerical being: Latin and the accompanying romanitas.

The only problem is that nationalism solves nothing, and allegiance to the nation-state, even if it seems to be a trans-national empire like our own, aligns poorly with the needs of the capitalist mode of production. As human beings become more and more connected across borders, the lines between nation-states become blurred. To try to stave this off with nationalist, xenophobic, or “localist” rhetoric is futile at best, and completely reactionary at worst. That we cannot dream a common dream for all of humanity, as embodied in the Internationale, means that we will probably all descend into the same nightmare together. If we cannot be together in prosperity, we will be in ruin.



5 responses

7 08 2011

The recent S&P downgrade of US credit has got me thinking: relatively soon (perhaps not in my lifetime), the US will lose its empire. The quest for a reframing of the world in a capitalist image will never end. Yet, what will be the United States’ historical contribution to the development of capital? The opposition between so called “radical Islam” and “American values”, the Eisenhower dominoes, or even V-day cannot in themselves the historical mechanism for US capital aggrandizement.

Deng Xiaoping: “It is glorious to get rich”. The Chinese kleptocracy is grafted onto the rejection of capital generation, even if that is the model that has prevailed. How will the American Empire, in retrospect, compare with the nascent but eventually prevailing systems in opposition to the US model?

7 08 2011


6 08 2011

I see you have no “tag” on war. Hm.

What do you think keeps the world economy going?

6 08 2011

“and the highest form of human bravery has reverted to being: “dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”.
But I thought they were mercenaries, all of them except those in the high ranks; the rest are bought or bribed. They do not die pro patria, but some for money and some because of a love of risk or because they could not stand the job or could not find work in patria.
In Spain people who volunteered to go to a war zone got double pay. In honorable Basel, Switzerland, there is a company with a big shiny web page that looks for mercenaries, states the conditions, sounds absolutely sober, civil and efficient and rich.

When I was little, at school, I had to sing songs about dulce et decorum etc and I remember thinking “but not for me, thank you” when I was maybe 9 years old.
When was this kind of death considered “the highest form of bravery? Even Churchill said that modern war was SORDID. He said so in his “My Early Life”.

2 08 2011
Olivier le Humanzé

Yes, but Bragg also gave us this…

…and this…

…so I cut him some slack.

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