The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #128093   Message #3738943
Posted By: GeoffLawes
21-Sep-15 - 08:11 PM
Thread Name: Songs in English about the Spanish Civil War
Subject: RE: Songs in English about the Spanish Civil War


I have, so far, resisted the urge to post this song because it is not, strictly-speaking, about the Spanish Civil War. However, it was certainly a song much sung in that war and therefore in the interest of making this thread comprehensive I am now adding it. I shall preface its inclusion by retelling two stories which I noticed when re-reading Frank Ryan's account of the British, American. Canadian and Irish volunteers in Spain 1936-1938, "The Book of The XV Brigade".* In a section about Jarama called " The Great Rally" he describes how he used the singing of the song to boost morale amongst the dispirited Brigaders.

"Whatever popular writers may say, neither your Briton nor your Irishman is an exuberant type. Demonstrativeness is not his dominating trait. The crowd behind us was marching silently. The thoughts in their minds could not be inspiring ones. I remembered a trick of the old days when we were holding banned demonstrations. I jerked my head back: "Sing up, ye sons o' guns!"

        Quaveringly at first, then more lustily, then in one resounding chant the song rose from the ranks. Bent backs straightened; tired legs thumped sturdily; what had been a routed rabble marched to battle again as proudly as they had done three days before. And the valley resounded to their singing:

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

        On we marched, back up the road, nearer and nearer to the front. Stragglers still in retreat down the slopes stopped in amazement, changed direction and ran to join us; men lying exhausted on the roadside jumped up, cheered and joined the ranks. I looked back. Beneath the forest of upraised fists, what a strange band! Unshaven, unkempt; bloodstained, grimy. But, full of fight again, and marching on the road back.

        Beside the road stood our Brigade Commander, General Gall. We had quitted; he had stood his ground. Was it that, or fear of his reprimands, that made us give three cheers for him? Briefly, tersely, he spoke to us. We had one and a half hours of daylight in which to re-capture our lost positions. "That gap on our right?" A Spanish Battalion was coming up with us to occupy it.

        Again the "International" arose. It was being sung in French too. Our column had swelled in size during the halt; a group of Franco-Belge had joined us. We passed the Spanish Battalion. They caught the infection; they were singing too as they deployed to the right."( P 60)

This story is also told in 'THE BALLAD OF FRANK RYAN' by ANDY IRVINE for which there is a posting 4 places below this, with a link to Andy Irvin's performance of the song.

       Frank Ryan's other story is also from the battle of Jarama and it gives an interesting indication that the Internationale must have been a song that was very frequently sung by the volunteers in the International Brigades

        "At the time of my leaving B.H.Q., there were no signs of any disturbance at the outpost. It was not until after I had started out that I heard the strains of the "International" coming from the direction of the outpost trench. As I got nearer, I was surprised to see numbers of Fascists coming over the land between us and them, singing the "International", and holding up their fists in the anti-Fascist salute. Our boys were holding up their fists in welcome to the men who were coming over. I had not the least doubt but that here was a mass desertion from the Fascist lines. "Yank" Levy seemed to be the first to realise the trick that had been played, but by this time, there were swarms of Fascists in the trench.( P 54)

* Both stories are from The Book of the XV Brigade: Records of British, American, Canadian and Irish volunteers in the XV International Brigade in Spain 1936-1938
Originally published by the Commissariat of War, XV Brigade, Madrid, 1938
1975 facsimile edition published by Frank Graham, Newcastle upon Tyne

Frank Ryan's extracts were taken from the 2003 edition (eds Alan Warren & Nigel Pell, Warren & Pell Publishing, Abersychan), chapter entitled 'With the British Battalion: From narratives of members of the Battalion Staff' (p47).        


Words by Eugene Pottier (Paris 1871)
Music by Pierre Degeyter (1888)

Arise ye workers from your slumbers
Arise ye prisoners 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 henceforth the old tradition
And spurn the dust to win the prize.

So comrades, come rally
And the last fight let us face
The Internationale unites the human race.
So comrades, come rally
And the last fight let us face
The Internationale unites the human race.

No more deluded by reaction
On tyrants only we'll make war
The soldiers too will take strike action
They'll break ranks and fight no more
And if those cannibals keep trying
To sacrifice us to their pride
They soon shall hear the bullets flying
We'll shoot the generals on our own side.

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

The Internationale has various forms and a long history which can be seen on Wikipedia using this link.

It has also featured in a previousMudcat thread


Below are some links to different versions performed on YouTube
Alister Hulett Singing The Internationale Here
Internationale - American (cleaned version from 1933!)
Billy Bragg - Internationale
Internationale (Original English Version)