Thursday, 22 November 2007


Author: Sean Matgamna

Who fears to praise Red Seventeen?
Who quails at Lenin’s name?
When liars mock at Trotsky's fate
Who adds his, “Theirs the blame”?
Cain-Stalin’s knave, or bourgeois slave
Will scorn the Old Cause thus,
But honest men and women
Will raise a voice with us.

We praise the memory of the dead,
Of Lenin's friends long gone
Who led the workers in revolt:
An army, not a throng.
All, all are gone, but still lives on
The cause of those who died
And honest men and women
Remember them with pride.

They rose in war-torn blood drenched days
To help set workers free
Their own lives fed the living blaze
That challenged tyranny:
But bourgeois might half-vanquished right
Some fell in disarray,
Others spun ’neath Stalin s gun
—And we strive still today!

We work to free all those who live
In bourgeois slavery
And glory in the names of those
Who fought for Liberty.
’Trenched bourgeois might won’t vanquish right
But fail and go astray.
And honest and women
Will speed them on their way!

Yes, we dare praise Red Seventeen,
We honour Lenin’s name.
Though cowards mock the old Red fight,
We’re still in Trotsky’s game!
Though Stalin’s knaves and bourgeois slaves
Will scorn the Old Cause thus,
Yet honest men and women
Still voice this faith with us.

We hail the memory of the free,
Of Trotsky’s ’durate few
Who fought in France, Spain, Germany,
In Stalin's Russia too.
Though all are gone, they still live on,
Their cause won’t go away
And honest men and women
Still sing their song today.

Then here’s their memory, may it be
For us a guiding light
That shows us workers’ liberty
And teaches us to fight.
Through good and ill continue still
The Cause that thrives unseen,
That brought the bourgeois tyrants down
In Nineteen Seventeen!


This is patterned on John Kells Ingram’s “The Memory of the Dead”, which is better known as “Ninety Eight” — 1798, the year of rebellion in Ireland.
goes to the tune of Ninety Eight.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Socialist Songs

The Rebel Girl

There are women of many descriptions
In this queer world, as everyone knows,
Some are living in beautiful mansions,
And are wearing the finest of clothes.
There are blue-blooded queens and princesses,
Who have charms made of diamonds and pearl,
But the only and thoroughbred lady
Is the Rebel Girl.

That’s the Rebel Girl, that’s the Rebel Girl!
To the working-class she’s a precious pearl.
She brings courage, pride and joy
To the fighting Rebel Boy,
We’ve had girls before, but we need some more
In the Industrial Worker’s of the World,
For it’s great to fight for freedom
With a Rebel Girl.

Yes her hands may be hardened from labor,
And her dress may not be very fine,
But a heart in her bosom is beating
That is true to her class and her kind.
And the grafters in terror are trembling
When her spite and defiance she’ll hurl
For the only and thoroughbred lady,
Is the Rebel Girl

God Bless Free Enterprise
(Tune: America The Beautiful)

God bless free enterprise, system divine,
Stand beside her and guide her,
Just as long as the profits are mine.
Good old Wall Street, may she flourish
Corporations, may they grow,
God bless free enterprise, the status quo,
God bless free enterprise, the status quo,

Let My People Go

When Israel was in Egypt land,
Let my people go.
Oppressed so hard they could not stand.
Let my people go.

Go down Moses, way down in Egypt land.
Tell old Pharaoh, Let my people go.

Thus saith the Lord, Bold Moses said
Let my people go.
If not, I’ll smite your first born dead.
Let my people go.


No more shall they in bondage toil.
Let my people go.
Let them come out with Egypt’s spoil.
Let my people go.


When they reached the other shore,
Let my people go.
They sang a song of triumph o’er,
Let my people go.


This world’s a wilderness of woe,
Let my people go.
O’ let us on to Canaan go,
Let my people go.


Your foes shall not before you stand,
Let my people go.
And you’ll possess fair Canaan’s land
Let my people go.

Joe Hill

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you and me,
Says I “But, Joe, you’re ten years dead,”
“I never died,” says he,
“I never died,” says he.

In Salt Lake, Joe,” says I to him,
Him standing by my bed,
“They framed you on a murder charge,”
Says Joe, “but I aint dead.”
Says Joe, “but I aint dead.”

And standing there as big as life,
And smiling with his eyes,
Joe says, “What they forgot to kill,”
Went on to organize,
Went on to organize,

“From San Diego up to Maine,
In ev’ry mine and mill
Where working men defend their rights”
Says he, “You’ll find Joe Hill.”
Says he, “You’ll find Joe Hill.”

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you and me,
Says I “But, Joe, you’re ten years dead,”
“I never died,” says he,
“I never died,” says he.

Dump The Bosses Off Your Back

Are you poor, forlorn, and hungry?
Are there lots of things you lack?
Is your life made up of misery?
Then dump the bosses off your back.

Are your clothes all patched and tattered?
Are you living in a shack?
Would you like your troubles scattered?
Then dump the bosses off your back.

Are you almost split asunder?
Loaded like a long eared jack?
Boob, why don’t you buck like thunder?
And dump the bosses off your back.

All the agonies you suffer,
you can end with one good whack!
Stiffen up, you orn’ry duffer, --
And dump the bosses off your back.

Monday, 5 November 2007

The Documentary Photograph

The Document ( Peter Burton)

Critics of early documentary photography repeated the same critique of the medium that had been made against the founding father of documentary film John Grierson - that working class people had been represented as passive victims of industrial capitalism . At best the photograph aimed to pressurise governments into a charitable response to poverty , slum housing or bad working conditions. And at worst the goal was simply to display the skill and humanity of the photographer.

Nevertheless documentary photographs have led to progressive social change that might otherwise have been delayed or not occurred at all. Lewis Hines’ photographs at the outset of the Twentieth Century were used to help end child labour in US factories, Sweatshops and Mines. Tina Modotti made an empathetic representation of the Mexican Revolution in the 20’s and 30’s and here in the UK Edith Tudoe- Hardt worked with the National Unemployed Workers’ Association to highlight the consequences of mass unemployment in depression Britain. The iniquities of Apartheid South Africa were wonderfully represented in Ernets Coles’ famous ‘House of Bondage‘ and Sebastian Salgados’ photos of Workers has undoubtedly contributed to a worldwide struggle for social justice.

However the medium has not escaped the retreat from class politics from the Thatcher period onwards and it is not obvious who, if anybody, has replaced documentary photographers like McCullin, Bresson, Capa, and Salgado.

Whatever the aims of the photographer it is undeniable that the documentary photograph has been and continues to be seen as a threat not just by dictatorial regimes but increasingly by late Capitalist Western liberal-democracy also.

The first big example of censorship was the banning of photos of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the Americans during their seven year occupation of Japan at the end of WW 2, the photos of Yamhata , Domon and Tomatsu bringing the horrors of the atomic age to the Worlds’ attention only after the occupation ended. Don McCullin , Philipp Jones Griffiths , David Douglas Duncan, Tim Page and Larry Burroughs’ negative representation of Vietnam were significant in turning public opinion against the war . Crucially Eddie Adams’ photo of the cold blooded execution of a North Vietnamese by the Saigon Chief of Police increased the numbers of Americans on anti-war demos dramatically, the numbers increasing again as the smuggled photos of the My Lai massacre emerged.

Government reaction has seen much tighter control, Don McCullin infamously being denied a press pass during the Falklands/Malvinos war. Photographers in Ireland during “The Troubles” were “embedded” with army units- a practice repeated in the recent Iraq war. Technological advances yet again have made absolute control impossible as images of the Abu Ghraib tortures ably demonstrated.

It remains to be seen if there is a downside to the greater availability of high quality images. Will the fantastic quantity of photographs undermine the mediums’ power to both shock and provoke much needed protest and dissent? Or shall widespread availability of easily usable digital technology at increasingly reduced prices make oppression and cover -up increasingly difficult?

Pete Burton