Red Front / Pink Boots

Really? Myself and Cabinet deserve to be drowned and murdered? Now is the time to utterly condemn this disgraceful march . . . Do we have a name? We don’t accept threats or inciting violence in Lambeth . . . Utterly shameful comment – needs to be condemned . . . Horrific, pathetic, dangerous, shameful . . . Demonstrators supported event inciting murderous violence against Labour councillors . . . Utterly disgraceful . . . Your event is giving a platform to revolutionaries who want to murder democratically elected politicians. Happy with that? . . . Surely this should be reported to the police. Threat to kill. Disgraceful . . . Why tweet if you can phone the police? If you dial 101 you can report to the police any threats of violence.

– Lambeth Labour councillors and their supporters in response to a report on Twitter that a speaker at the Stand Up To Lambeth march on 8 October, to much laughter and applause from the crowd, had offered the opinion that the leaders of Lambeth Council ‘belong in the Thames with rocks around their ankles.’ In agreement with this statement, which anyone with a grasp of English and who isn’t a cop knows is neither a threat to murder nor an incitement to violence but an observation on the morality of Lambeth Labour Council, and in condemnation of the Council’s increasing attempts, of which this is the latest, to criminalise those who oppose its plans to socially cleanse the borough through demolishing council estates, evicting local businesses and closing public libraries, we publish this new translation of a poem which, 85 years ago, was similarly indicted by a centre-left French Government that, under comparable circumstances of capitalist crisis and the embrace of fascist and racist ideologies, showed the same absence of humour, the same opposition to free speech, the same allegiance to the inequalities of capitalism, the same recourse to police violence to maintain them, the same indifference to the poverty of the working class, and was every bit as corrupt, opportunist and ineffectual as our own Labour Party. With all its faults – which from the perspective of history are many – this poem still echoes down to our own time.

1

Something sweet for my dog
A drop of champagne Certainly Madame
We are at Maxim’s the year nineteen
Hundred and thirty
Mats are placed under the bottles
so their aristocratic bottoms
do not come into contact with life’s difficulties
carpets to hide the floor
carpets to smother
the sound of the soles of the waiter’s shoes
Drinks are sucked up through straws
drawn out of a little sanitary envelope
Delicacy
There are cigarette-holders between the cigarette and the man
mufflers on the cars
service stairs for those
carrying the parcels
and tissue paper around the parcels
and paper around the tissue paper
as much paper as you want it costs
nothing neither the tissue paper nor the straws
nor the champagne or next to nothing
neither the acclaimed ashtray nor the acclaimed
blotter nor the acclaimed
calendar nor the acclaimed
lights nor the acclaimed
photographs on the wall nor the acclaimed
furs on Madame the acclaimed
toothpicks the acclaimed
fan and the wind
nothing costs anything for
nothing the living servants hand you leaflets in the street
Take one it’s free
the leaflet and the hand that offers it
Don’t close the door
the Englishman will take care of it Tenderness
Even to the stairs that go up by themselves
in the large department stores
The days are felt-lined
the men of fog Padded world
without collision
You’re not crazy Some Beans My dog
hasn’t been sick yet

O travelling clocks travelling clocks
have you made the betrothed dream enough on the boulevards
and the Louis XVI bed on a year’s credit
In the cemeteries the people of this well-oiled nation
lie down with the propriety of marble
Their little houses like
mantle-piece ornaments

How much do chrysanthemums cost this year

Flowers for the dead flowers for the great artists
Money is also spent on the ideal

And besides charity makes black dresses trail
down the stairs that’s all I’m saying
The princess is really too kind
For all the gratitude it wins you
You’re lucky if they thank you
It’s the example of the Bolsheviks
Unhappy Russia
The USSR
The USSR or as they say the SSSR
SS what’s that SSS
SSR SSR SSSR oh darling please
Just think SSSR
You have seen
The strikes in the North
I know the beaches of Berck and Paris
But not the strikes SSSR
SSSR SSSR SSSR

2

When the men came down from the suburbs
and in the Place de la République
the black flood congealed like a closing fist
the shops wore their shutters over their eyes
to keep from seeing the passing light
I remember the first of May nineteen hundred and seven
when the terror reigned in the gilded salons
The children were forbidden to attend school
in that western suburb where only dimly
echoed the distant sound of anger
I remember the Ferrer demonstration
when the ink flower of infamy
exploded against the Spanish embassy
Paris it wasn’t so long ago
that you saw the procession for Jaurés
And the Sacco-Vanzetti torrent
Paris your crossroads still twitch their nostrils
Your cobblestones are still ready to leap into the air
Your trees to bar the roads to soldiers
Turn great body summoned
Belleville
Hey Belleville and you Saint-Denis
where the kings are prisoners of the reds
Ivry Javel and Malakoff
Call them all with their tools
the galloping children bringing the news
the women with heavy buns of hair the men
coming out of their work as though out of a nightmare
feet still unsteady but eyes clear
There are always gunsmiths in the city
cars at the doors of the bourgeoisie
Bend the street-lights like wisps of straw
Send the news-stands flying the benches the Wallace fountains
Kill the cops
Comrades
Kill the cops
Further further west where
the children of the rich and the first-class prostitutes sleep
Past the Madeleine Proletariat
your fury sweeps the Elysée
You have every right to the Bois de Boulogne in the week
Someday you’ll blow up the Arc de Triomphe
Proletariat learn your strength
Learn your strength and unchain it
It is preparing its hour Learn better how to see
Listen to that murmur coming from the prisons
It awaits its day it awaits its hour
its minute its second
when the delivered blow will be mortal
and the bullet so sure that all the social-fascist doctors
leaning over the body of the victim
extending their searching fingers under the lace nightshirt
listening with precision instruments to the already rotting heart
will not find the usual remedy
and will fall into the hands of the rioters who will push them up against the wall
Fire on Léon Blum
Fire on Boncour Frossard Déat
Fire on the trained bears of social democracy
Fire Fire I hear
death pass by as it throws itself on Garchery Fire I tell you
Under the leadership of the Communist Party
SFIC
You wait finger on the trigger
Fire
but Lenin
the Lenin of the right moment

From Clairvaux rises a voice that nothing can silence
It is the spoken newspaper
the song of the wall
the revolutionary truth on the march
Hail Marty the glorious rebel of the Black Sea
He will be delivered yet that uselessly imprisoned symbol
of the Yen-Bay rebellion
What is that syllable which reminds us that you do not gag
a people that you do not
check them with the executioner’s scimitar
Yen-Bay
To you yellow brothers this promise
For each drop of your life
the blood of a Varenne supporter will flow

Listen to the cries of the Syrians killed by darts
thrown by the aviators of the Third Republic
Listen to the screams of the Moroccan dead
without mention made of their age or sex

Those who wait with teeth clenched
to take their revenge at last
whistle a tune that speaks
a tune a tune US
SR a tune happy as iron SS
SR a burning tune it is ho-
pe the tune SSSR the song the song of October with its
shining fruit
Whistle whistle SSSR SSSR patience
will have its time SSSR SSSR SSSR

3

In the crumbling plasterwork
among the faded flowers of old decorations
the last doilies and the last shelves
emphasise the strange life of trinkets
The worm of the bourgeoisie
tries in vain to unite its divided segments
Here a class writhes in agony
the family memories shatter into fragments
Set your heel on these awakening vipers
Shake these houses so that the coffee spoons
fall out with the bedbugs the dust the old men
how sweet it is how sweet it is the sound of groaning coming from the ruins

I am here at the elimination of a useless world
I am here intoxicated at the destruction of the bourgeoisie
Has there ever been a more beautiful hunt than the pursuit
of this parasite crouched in every corner of our cities
I sing the violent dictatorship of the Proletariat over the bourgeoisie
for the annihilation of this bourgeoisie
for the total annihilation of this bourgeoisie

The finest monument that could ever be raised over a square
the most surprising of all possible statues
the most audacious and beautiful of columns
the arch comparable to the very prism of the rain
is not worth this magnificent and chaotic heap
Try it and see
what can easily be done with a church and a little dynamite

The pick makes a hole in the old passivities
The collapsing masonry is a song of a turning sun
Old men and walls fall struck by the same thunderbolt
A discharge of rifles adds to the landscape
It is engineers and doctors they are executing
Death to those who endanger the October conquests
Death to the saboteurs of the Five-Year Plan

Your turn Communist Youth
Sweep away the human debris where there lingers still
the incantatory spider of the sign of the cross
Volunteers of socialist construction
Drive the past before you like a rabid dog
Rise up against your mothers
Abandon the night pestilence and family
You hold in your hands a laughing child
a child such as has never been seen before
He knows before speaking all the songs of the new life
He will run away from you already he is laughing
the stars descend familiarly on earth
The least that they burn on landing
is the black carrion of the selfish

The flowers of stone and cement
the long creepers of iron the blue ribbons of steel
have never dreamed of such a spring
The hills are covered with gigantic primroses
These are the cradles of the kitchens for twenty thousand mouths
houses houses clubs
like sunflowers like four-leaved clovers
The roads form knots like ties
Dawn mounts over the bathrooms
Socialist May is announced by a thousand swallows
In the fields a great battle is joined
the battle of the ants and the wolves
We cannot help ourselves to machine guns as we would like
against routine and stubbornness
But already 80 per cent of this year’s bread
comes from the Marxist wheat of the collective farms . . .
The poppies have become red flags
and new monsters munch the ears of wheat

Unemployment here is no longer known
The sound of the hammer the sound of the sickle
rise from the land is it
the sickle is it is it
the hammer The air is full of crickets
Rattles and caresses
USSR
Gunshots Whipcracks Shouts
Of heroic youth
Grainmills SSSR SSSR
The blue eyes of the Revolution
shine with a necessary cruelty
SSSR SSSR SSSR SSSR

4

For those who claim this is not a poem
for those who miss the lilies or Palmolive Soap
turn your clouded heads away from me
for the Stop right there the You must be kidding
for the disgusted for the sneerers
for those who will not fail to discover
the sordid intentions of the author the author
Will add these few simple words

The intervention was to begin with the entry into the scene of Romania on the pretext, for example, of a frontier incident, resulting in the official declaration of war by Poland, and the unification of the neighbouring states. This intervention would be joined by Wrangler’s troops, which would have crossed through Romania . . . Upon their return from an energetic conference in London, arriving in the USSR by way of Paris, Ramzine and Laritchev have organized the liason with the Torgprom through the intermediary of Riabouchinski, who was maintaining relations with the French government in the person of Loucheur . . . In the organisation of the intervention, the leading role belongs to France, which has conducted its preparation with the active aid of the British Government . . .

The dogs the dogs the dogs are conspiring
and just as the pale bacterium escapes the microscope
Poincaré flatters himself he is a filtering virus
The race of dancers of daggers of Tsarist pimps
the grand duke mannequins in the newly opened casinos
The informers at 25 francs a letter
the great decay of emigration
slowly crystallizes in the French bidet
The Polish snot and the Romanian dribble
the vomit of the entire world
gathers on every horizon of the country where socialism is being constructed
and the tadpoles rejoice
already imagining themselves toads
decorated
deputies who know ministers
Dirty water hold back your scum
Dirty water you are not the deluge
Dirty water you will flow back into the western mire
Dirty water you will not cover the plains where
the pure wheat of the future grows
Dirty water Dirty water you will not rot the sorrel of the future
You will not soil the path of collectivisation
You will die on the burning threshold of the dialectic
of the dialectic with its hundred towers ringed with scarlet flames
its hundred thousand towers spitting fire from thousands and thousands of
cannons
The universe must hear
a voice shouting the glory of the materialist dialectic
marching on its feet on its millions of feet
shod in military boots
on its feet magnificent as violence
holding out its host of armed hands
toward the image of victorious Communism
Glory to the materialist dialectic
and glory to its incarnation
the Red
Army
Glory to
the Red
Army
A star is born of earth
A star today leads towards a burning pyre
the soldiers of Boudenny
You are the armed conscience of the Proletariat
You know in bearing death
towards what admirable life you are marching
Each of your bodies is a falling diamond
Each of your steps a purifying fire
The flash of your rifles routs the ordure
France at its head
Spare nothing soldiers of Boudenny
Each of your cries carries the glowing Breath
of the universal Revolution
With each word you spread
Marx and Lenin in the sky
You are red like the dawn
red like anger
red like blood
You avenge Babeuf and Liebknecht
Proletarians of the world unite
Voices Call them prepare the
way for these liberators who will join with yours
their Proletarian weapons of the world

Here the catastrophe is tamed
Here at last the leaping panther bound
History led on a leash by the Third International
The red train starts up and nothing will stop it
US
SR
US
SR
US
SR
No one will remain behind
waving handkerchiefs Everyone is marching
US
SR
US
SR
Oppositional unconscious
No brakes on this machine
A choked shout but the wind sings
US
SR SS
SR US
SR SSSR
The damned of the earth standing
SR
SS
SR
SS
The past dies nothing engages
SSSR SSSR
The wheels propel forward the rails heat up SSSR
The train races towards tomorrow
SSSR still faster now SSSR
In four years the Five-Year Plan
SSSR down with the exploitation of man by man
SSSR down with the old servitude down with capital
down with imperialism down
SSSR SSSR SSSR

What swells like a cry in the mountains
When the stricken eagle suddenly loosens its talons
SSSR SSSR SSSR
The song of man and his laughter
The train of the red star
burning the stations the signals the tunes
SSSR October October the express
October through the Universe SS
SR SSSR SSSR SSSR SSSR

– Louis Aragon (1931)

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