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The ”Internationale” Spurs Us On

[This article is reprinted from Peking Review, #11, March 17, 1972, pp. 6-8.]

March 18 this year is the 101 anniversary of the founding of the Paris Commune. Since last year Chinese people have once again learnt to sing the ”Internationale,” the worldwide song of the proletariat, and regarded singing it as an important teaching material in carrying out education in ideology and political line. Following are three articles relating what the authors have learnt after singing the ”Internationale.” —Ed.

We Must Decide and Do It Well

by Lu Kuo-cheng, deputy regiment commander of a P.L.A. unit

The Internationale made the call to the world’s proletariat: ”No more tradition’s chain shall bind us” and carry the world revolution through to the end. The verses ”We must ourselves, decide our duty, we must decide and do it well” embody the Marxist idea of continuing the revolution and carrying the revolution through to the end. They encourage and spur the proletariat and revolutionary people to advance courageously wave upon wave.

When I sing the song, I often think of the profound historical lesson of proletarian revolution. In March 1871, the proletariat of Paris staged a world-shaking armed uprising and established the Paris Commune—the world’s first dictatorship of the proletariat. But because some of the leaders of the Paris Commune failed to detect the plot of the reactionary bourgeois government headed by Thiers in time, it did not march immediately on Versailles—a stronghold of the bourgeoisie—thus giving the enemy a breathing space to muster his counter-revolutionary forces for a fierce counter-offensive. The Paris Commune suffered a disastrous defeat. ”We must decide and do it well” is a lesson gained at the cost of blood and lives of the heroes of the Commune one hundred years ago. Historical experience tells us that on its long path to realizing communism, the proletariat should at no time forget class struggle and should not pause attacking the class enemies. Under the conditions of the dictatorship of the proletariat, we must not relax our vigilance and should detect, expose and struggle resolutely against those ”bloody birds of prey” of various descriptions wearing either masks or waving ”red flags” to oppose the red flag.

Singing this song also reminds me of the battle scene in April 1949 when we crossed the Yangtze River during the War of Liberation. The Chiang Kai-shek bandit troops who had been badly battered by our army in the three big campaigns—Liaohsi-Shenyang, Peiping-Tientsin and Huai-Hai Campaigns—had retreated south of the Yangtze River. They tried to put up a last-ditch struggle by using the natural barrier of the Yangtze. Bourgeois agents in the Party, a handful of Right opportunists, advocated: Use the river as a boundary and divide up rule north and south. This was a plot to give China’s Thiers, Chiang Kai-shek, breathing space and the Paris Commune’s history of defeat would be seen in China. At that time Chairman Mao issued the “Order to the Army for the Countrywide Advance,” calling on us to “annihilate resolutely, thoroughly, wholly and completely all the Kuomintang reactionaries within China’s borders who dare to resist.”

The order moved a million strong army forward for battle. The Second Company where I was in was given the task of crossing in advance. Singing the Internationale and shouting the slogan ”Fight across the Yangtze and liberate all China,” I and the comrades in the whole company forced our way across to the southern bank in small wooden boats amid a hail of bullets.

Deputy leader of the Third Squad Sung Huai-hsien led the whole squad forward. When they neared the southern bank, he was the first to jump into the water, went swiftly to the shore and destroyed two enemy pill-boxes. He was shot down when heading for a third one. Before he died, he waved his arm and shouted: ”Comrades, go forward! Don’t let the enemy flee!” We forced our way along the path crimson with the martyr’s blood and smashed the enemy battery. We annihilated the enemy, paving a way for the oncoming troops. Today when we sing the Internationale and recall the history of revolution, the spirit of continuing the revolution embodied in the verses ”We must decide and do it well” inspires us to fight with even more vigour and determination.

We Want No Condescending Saviours

by the peasant commentary group of the Tungliushanku Brigade in Linhsi County, Hopei Province

“We want no condescending saviours to rule us from their judgement hall. We workers ask not for their favours, let us consult for all.” These verses of the Internationale vividly and in a penetrating way tell of the great revolutionary teacher Marx’s saying that “the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves.” This fundamental principle of historical materialism is a sharp ideological weapon for us to criticize the idealist conception of history propagated by Liu Shao-chi and other swindlers like him who said that heroes created history. These verses heighten the proletariat’s will to fight and crush the bourgeoisie’s arrogance and deal heavy blows at all kinds of sham Marxists. The more we poor and lower-middle peasants study these verses, the more elated we are; the more we sing this song, the stronger we feel.

Do heroes create history or do slaves create history? This is a fundamental landmark distinguishing historical idealism from historical materialism. Liu Shao-chi and those like him did their best to negate the role of the masses in history by propagating the idealist conception of history that it was heroes who created history. They thought they themselves were ”saviours” and looked on the masses as ”vagabonds.” They deemed that the liberation of the people and the progress of history were bestowed by ”heroes of foresight and vision” like themselves. This fully reveals their essence of deep hatred for the masses.

The Internationale tells us that there is no such men born with wisdom, nor are there any divine personages who know everything. It is we the labouring masses who create world history, and not those ”heroes” or the landlords, bourgeoisie and their agents who style themselves ”saviours.” Chairman Mao teaches us: “The people, and the people alone, are the motive force in the making of world history.” The masses are the masters who know and transform the world. Their practice is the source of men’s knowledge about class struggle and the struggle for production, and the material force which transforms the world. Under the brilliant leadership of Chairman Mao, by closely relying on the masses and the concerted efforts of the people of the whole country, we defeated the Japanese aggressors and buried the Chiang family dynasty, overthrowing the three big mountains—imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism—weighing on the Chinese people. In socialist revolution and socialist construction, we also rely on the strength of the masses and display the revolutionary spirit of “maintaining independence and keeping the initiative in our own hands and relying on our own efforts” to overcome various difficulties and go from victory to victory.

The changes in our brigade are like that. In the vicious old society, things were as follows: Wind and sand reigned in spring; rain in summer and autumn swallowed the farmland; we reaped sand and water but not grain and so famine followed. In the past 20 years and more, guided by Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line, we depended not on divine personages nor on emperors but on our own efforts to struggle with heaven and earth and with class enemies. We made the elements bow and left the class enemies no place to hide. The once poor hamlet with so many sand dunes has been transformed into a socialist new village engulfed in forests and covered by crops. We have basically mechanized or semi-mechanized ploughing, drainage and irrigation, transport, threshing, plant protection, milling grain and crushing fodder. Meanwhile, grain and cotton output increases every year. In the last six years, the brigade delivered and sold to the state more than 1.4 million jin of grain and 580,000 jin of ginned cotion. There also has been a big development in forestry, animal husbandry and side-line occupations.

Today when we sing the Internationale we have a deep understanding of the verse ”We workers ask not for their favours, let us consult for all.” We will re-double our efforts to win new victories, to support the revolutionary struggle of the peoples of the world and to let the golden sunlight remain.

Song of Unity for Victory

by Chiang Hung, Shanghai Kiangnan Shipyard worker

The Internationale by the great French worker-poet Eugene Pottier is a revolutionary battle song of the proletariat. It has spread the shining idea of the Paris Commune to the whole world.

“Let each stand in his place; the Internationale shall be the human race!” This has become a clarion call encouraging the world’s proletariat and revolutionary people to fiercely charge against the old world. Today when we are singing this song of our proletariat, we feel elated and more close to it. We, the working class, are determined to hold high the banner of unity and victory and struggle valiantly for the realization of the communist ideal throughout the world.

In the Manifesto of the Communist Party, our great revolutionary teachers Marx and Engels issued the call: “Working men of all countries, unite!”

During the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, Chairman Mao has taught us “to pay attention to doing your best to unite with all people that can be united…. Marx said that the proletariat must emancipate not only itself but all mankind. Without emancipating all mankind the proletariat cannot achieve its own final emancipation.” To be united is necessary in struggle. Only when we achieve unity based on the principle of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought, can we have a unified will and a unified step and can we completely defeat the enemy.

To eliminate the criminal system of exploitation of man by man, the world’s proletariat and revolutionary people have for more than a hundred years been united in waging heroic struggle and achieved great victories.

China’s historical experience also shows that without the unity of the proletariat, there will be no victory for that class. However, ”Left” and Right opportunists have always done their best to undermine Party unity, and unification. In the last fifty years, there has always existed within our Party a struggle between the two lines and a struggle between maintaining and undermining Party unity. Chen Tu-hsiu, Wang Ming, Liu Shao-chi and other swindlers like them used that portion of power they had usurped to push an opportunist line politically and to widely engage in plots of splitting the Party organizationally. Under the guidance of Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line, the Chinese people have waged resolute struggles against them and smashed their plots of splitting the Party and undermining the cause of the proletariat, thus making the Chinese revolution achieve continuous victory.

One hundred years have elapsed since the birth of the Internationale. In the meantime the world has undergone tremendous changes. We are now in a new, great era of world revolution. Countries want independence, nations want liberation and the people want revolution—all this has become an irresistible historical trend. The Chinese working class and Chinese people who have already won liberation will stand firmly together with the world’s proletariat and with the oppressed people and nations to fight to the end for the complete emancipation of the whole mankind.

For Your Reference

The ”Internationale”

On March 18, 1871, the proletariat and the people of Paris in France staged a courageous armed uprising and founded the Paris Commune. This was the first proletarian regime in the history of mankind, the first great attempt of the proletariat to overthrow the bourgeoisie and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Paris Commune failed because of the military onslaught and bloody suppression by butcher Thiers in collaboration with Bismarck. But just as Marx pointed out: The glorious movement of March 18 was “the dawn of the great social revolution which will liberate mankind from the regime of classes for ever.”

The Paris Commune members put up an extremely heroic resistance against the class enemy at home and abroad. In that week of bloodshed, corpses were littered on the streets and bloodstains found everywhere in Paris. Searches and slaughter continued up to early June. A Versailles newspaper published on May 30 announced that the poet Eugene Pottier had been arrested and put to death. Actually the poet had gone underground. Amid the roar of guns and fire, under the threat of death and while the corpses of the victims were being transported by carts outside the window, our great proletarian poet stayed on the outskirts of Paris in early June. Neither wavering nor becoming down-hearted, he summed up experience from the failure and translated his boiling feelings into language to write the extraordinary inspiring poem—the Internationale. The poem was filled with the firm determination that slaves created history and confidence in the certain victory of the communist cause. It predicted: ”Let each stand in his place; the Internationale shall be the human race.” By writing his poem Pottier erected an immortal monument for the Paris Commune members, while through the Internationale the heroes of the Commune issued the call to the late-comers of carrying the revolution through to the end.

It was in June 1888 or seven months after Pottier’s death that Pierre Degeyter first read the words of the Internationale. This French worker-composer was exhilarated by its spirit. Reviewing the historical experience of the workers’ movement, he thought of many things—his and the masses’ loyalty to Marxism and longing for communism, the life of Pottier, the battle scenes of the Paris Commune…. He seemed to have returned to that great year, 1871, so he began on his simple organ to set the music for the Internationale at night. Degeyter worked the whole night and when he finished his task the sun had risen from the east.

In July 1888, the composer led a chorus to give the first performance of the song at a gathering of newspaper sellers in Lille. From that time on, the Internationale has spread all over France and the world and become the battle clarion of the proletariat and workers of all countries.

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