Suvarna Garge (Editor)

The Internationale

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Lyrics  Eugène Pottier, 1871
Adopted  1890s
Music  Pierre De Geyter, 1888
The Internationale
Also known as  L'Internationale (French)

"The Internationale" (French: L'Internationale) is a left-wing anthem. It has been a standard of the socialist movement since the late nineteenth century, when the Second International (now the Socialist International) adopted it as its official anthem. The title arises from the "First International", an alliance of workers which held a congress in 1864. The author of the anthem's lyrics, Eugène Pottier, attended this congress.


The original French refrain of the song is C'est la lutte finale / Groupons-nous et demain / L'Internationale / Sera le genre humain. (English: "This is the final struggle / Let us group together and tomorrow / The Internationale / Will be the human race."). "The Internationale" has been translated into many languages.

The Internationale has been celebrated by communists, socialists, anarchists, democratic socialists, and social democrats. It was also used by Republicans during the Spanish Civil War.


The original French words were written in June 1871 by Eugène Pottier (1816–1887, previously a member of the Paris Commune) and were originally intended to be sung to the tune of "La Marseillaise". Pierre De Geyter (1848–1932) set the poem to music in 1888. His melody was first publicly performed in July 1888 and became widely used soon after.

In a successful attempt to save Pierre De Geyter's job as a woodcarver, the 6,000 leaflets printed by Lille printer Bolboduc only mentioned the French version of his family name (Degeyter). In 1904, Pierre's brother Adolphe was induced by the Lille mayor Gustave Delory to claim copyright, so that the income of the song would continue to go to Delory's French Socialist Party. Pierre De Geyter lost the first copyright case in 1914, but after his brother committed suicide and left a note explaining the fraud, Pierre was declared the copyright owner by a court of appeal in 1922.

In 1972 Montana Edition owned by Hans R. Beierlein bought the rights for 5,000 Deutschmark, first for the territory of the West Germany, then East Germany, then worldwide. East Germany paid 20,000 DM every year for playing the music. Pierre De Geyter died in 1932, which means the copyright expired 2002. The German text Luckhards is public domain since 1984.

As the "Internationale" music was published before 1 July 1909 outside the United States of America, it is in the public domain in the United States. As of 2013, Pierre De Geyter's music is also in the public domain in countries and areas whose copyright durations are authors' lifetime plus 80 years or less. Due to France's wartime copyright extensions (prorogations de guerre), SACEM claims that the music is still copyrighted in France until October 2014.

As Eugène Pottier died in 1887, his original French lyrics are in the public domain. Gustave Delory once acquired the copyright of his lyrics through the songwriter G B Clement having bought it from Pottier's widow.

Translations into other languages

The German version, Die Internationale, was used by East German anti-Stalinists in 1953 and again during the 1989 protests which toppled SED rule. When numerous East Germans were arrested for protesting the 40th anniversary celebrations for the GDR, several of them sang the hymn in police custody to embarrass their captors, and imply that they had abandoned the socialist cause they were supposed to serve.

Luckhardt's version, the standard German translation, of the final line of the chorus tellingly reads: "Die Internationale erkämpft das Menschenrecht". (The Internationale will win our human rights.) It was coupled with the chant: "Volkspolizei, steh dem Volke bei" (People's police, stand with the people!)

The Internationale in Chinese (simplified Chinese: 国际歌; traditional Chinese: 國際歌; pinyin: Guójìgē), literally the International Song, has several different sets of lyrics. One such version served as the de facto anthem of the Communist Party of China, the national anthem of the Chinese Soviet Republic, as well as a rallying song of the students and workers at the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

South Asian Languages

  • Versions of the song in Indian languages, particularly Bengali and Malayalam, have existed since the time of colonial rule. It was translated into Bengali by the radical poet Kazi Nazrul Islam and subsequently by Bengali mass singer Hemanga Biswas. The Assamese version was translated by the poet Bishnu Rabha.
  • The Malayalam version of the song has also existed since the 1950s with the translation of the song for the people of the Indian state of Kerala by actor and social activist Premji for the united Communist Party of India (CPI).
  • In the 1980s, more translations appeared. Translations by Sachidanandan and Mokeri Ramachandran were sung by the activists of Janakeeya Samskarikavedi, an organisation connected with CPI(Marxist–Leninist) (CPI(ML). Translation by N. P. Chandrasekharan was for Students Federation of India (SFI), the student organisation associated with CPI(Marxist) (CPI(M) and published in the Student Monthly, the organ of SFI.
  • Nepali translations of the song have also been sung in Kathmandu and other parts of Nepal, and the song has been popularised by the Nepali Maoists.
  • Pakistani musical group Laal performed on translation of this anthem on their translation.
  • Russian lyrics

    The Russian version was initially translated by Aron Kots (Arkady Yakovlevich Kots) in 1902 and printed in London in Zhizn, a Russian émigré magazine. The first Russian version consisted of three stanzas (as opposed to six stanzas in the original French lyrics, and based on stanzas 1, 2 and 6) and the refrain. After the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the text was slightly re-worded to get rid of "now useless" future tenses - particularly the refrain was reworded (the future tense was replaced by the present, and the first person plural possessive pronoun was introduced). In 1918, the chief-editor of Izvestia, Yuri Steklov, appealed to Russian writers to translate the other three stanzas and in the end, the song was expanded into six stanzas. In 1944, the Soviet Union adopted the "Hymn of the Soviet Union" as its national anthem. Prior to that time, the "Internationale" served as the principal musical expression of allegiance to the ideals of the October Revolution and the Soviet Union (the "Internationale" continued to be recognized as the official song of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and the post-1919 Soviet version is still used by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation). The full song is as follows:

    English lyrics

    The traditional British version of The Internationale is usually sung in three verses, while the American version, written by Charles Hope Kerr with five verses, is usually sung in two. The American version is sometimes sung with the phrase "the internationale", "the international soviet", or "the international union" in place of "the international working class". In English renditions, "Internationale" is sometimes sung as /ɪntərnæʃəˈnæli/ rather than the French pronunciation of [ɛ̃tɛʁnasjɔnal(ə)].

    Billy Bragg was asked by Pete Seeger to sing the Internationale with him at the Vancouver Folk Festival in 1989. Bragg thought the traditional English lyrics were archaic and unsingable (Scottish musician Dick Gaughan and former Labour MP Tony Benn disagreed), and composed a new set of lyrics. The recording was released on his album The Internationale along with reworkings of other socialist songs. A full, six-stanza translation can be found on the Wikisource page on The Internationale.

    Qu Qiubai's version

    The most common and official Chinese version is the de facto anthem of the Communist Party of China. It was first translated on 15 June 1923 from the Russian version by Qu Qiubai (Chinese: 瞿秋白), a leading member of the Communist Party of China in the late 1920s. His translation has transliterated the Internationale as Yīngtènàxióngnài'ěr (simplified Chinese: 英特纳雄耐尔; traditional Chinese: 英特納雄耐爾) when singing the phrase in Standard Chinese. When the Chinese Soviet Republic was established in 1931, it was decided to be its national anthem. As he was executed by the Kuomintang in 1935, his Chinese translation is in the public domain wherever the duration of copyright is an author's lifetime plus up to 70 years, including Chinese-speaking Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan (lifetime plus 50 years in these places), and Singapore (lifetime plus 70 years). The three Chinese lyrics roughly correspond to the three Russian lyrics by Arkady Yakovlevich Kots and the first, second, and sixth French lyrics by Eugène Pottier. The fourth and fifth stanzas are not used in the official Chinese version and the PRC forbids the use of them in public performances of the song.

    The song was a rallying anthem of the demonstrators at the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, and was repeatedly sung both while marching to the Square and within the Square.

    ...many hundreds of people (not only students) appeared on the street. They ran after the trucks and shouted protest slogans. A few stones were thrown. The soldiers opened fire with live ammunition. The crowd threw themselves on the ground, but quickly followed the convoy again. The more shots were fired, the more the crowd got determined and outraged. Suddenly they started singing the Internationale; they armed themselves with stones and threw them towards the soldiers. There were also a few Molotov cocktails and the last truck was set on fire.

    Note that the lyrics above were translated from the first, second and sixth (last) stanza of the French original.

    National Revolutionary Army version

    When commemorating the 55th anniversary of the Paris Commune on 18 March 1926, the National Revolutionary Army printed a music sheet with three lyrics of the Internationale in Chinese, roughly corresponding to the first, second, and sixth French lyrics by Eugène Pottier. When singing refrain twice after each lyric, the Internationale is transliterated first as Yīngtè'ěrlāxióngnà'ěr (Chinese: 英特爾拉雄納爾) and second as Yīngtè'ěrnàxióngnà'ěr (Chinese: 英特爾納雄納爾).

    Shen Baoji's version

    The third, fourth, and fifth French stanzas are not sung in Chinese in the above two versions of Qu and the National Revolutionary Army. Chinese translator Shen Baoji (simplified Chinese: 沈宝基; traditional Chinese: 沈寶基, 1908–2002) has made a complete Chinese translation, published in 1957, of all six French stanzas,. Shen's translation has transliterated the Internationale as Yīngdāi'ěrnàxī'àonà'ěr (simplified Chinese: 因呆尔那西奥纳尔; traditional Chinese: 因呆爾那西奧納爾) in the stanzas, different from the transliterations of Qu and the National Revolutionary Army. As the Copyright Law of the People's Republic of China grants individuals copyright for their lifetime plus 50 years, Shen's translation is expected to remain copyrighted there until the end of 2052.

    Non-Mandarin versions

    In addition to the Mandarin version, the Internationale also has Cantonese and Taiwanese versions, occasionally used in Hong Kong and Taiwan. The word "Internationale" is not translated in either version.

    In literature

  • In George Orwell's 1945 novel, Animal Farm, the animals' anthem, "Beasts of England", is based on "The Internationale".
  • Frantz Fanon's 1961 work The Wretched of the Earth takes its title from a line from "The Internationale".
  • The residents of the lunar penal colony in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein sing it in the opening political protest meeting which sets up the inescapability of the revolution.
  • The motto of the socialist magazine Jacobin is "Reason in Revolt", a reference to "The Internationale".
  • In music

  • The "Finale" song of the musical Les Misérables references the lyric "the wretched of the earth" from "The International".
  • The song "Hammerblow" from the 2008 album Susquehanna by American ska-swing band the Cherry Poppin' Daddies includes a verse of "L'Internationale" within its bridge ("L'Internationale/Sera le genre humain"). The song itself concerns an underground Marxist movement.
  • The music video to the Manic Street Preachers' 1998 hit single, "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next" features excerpts from De Geyter's melody at the beginning and end. The song itself makes numerous references to the Spanish Civil War; The Internationale having served as a popular Republican anthem during the conflict.
  • Chinese rock band Tang Dynasty released a metal rock version of the song in 1991, which is still popular among Chinese youths and nationalists even to this day.

    In film

  • The 1965 Propaganda Film The East Is Red concludes with a mass sing along at the play's final act.
  • The 1973 semi-autobiographical Federico Fellini film Amarcord set in 1930s Italy features a scene where one protagonist plays an instrumental gramophone recording of the Internationale over a loudspeaker within the bell tower of the town church in protest of Benito Mussolini and the ruling fascists. The fascists fire upon the loudspeaker and in a later scene interrogate and torture their captured suspect.
  • The 1974 film Sweet Movie, features two different versions of the melody, one being played in 6/8 time signature with an accordion, the other one, played in 4/4 at fast tempo with an organ.
  • In the 1993 film In the Heat of the Sun (Yangguang canlan de rizi) by Chinese director Jiang Wen, the song plays loudly over a brutal scene where the main character, Ma Xiaojun, repeatedly beats an innocent victim to a state of bloodied unconsciousness. Set during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), the film's use of The Internationale, a song played at official events and at the end of the day's radio broadcast during this era, is intended to symbolise the hypocrisy of Maoist ideological rectitude. ()
  • In the 1996 film, I'm Not Rappaport, written and directed by Herb Gardner, based on his Tony Award winning play, "The Internationale" can be heard in flashbacks, as well as accompanying the end credits.
  • In the 1997 film, Air Force One, inmates at a prison sing the song as General Ivan Radek, a communist terrorist leader, is released.
  • In the 1999 film Cradle Will Rock by Tim Robbins, Bill Murray's character Tommy Crickshaw sings one verse of the song (mostly from the "American Version" above) at the end. He's a ventriloquist at the end of his career, a man who once was a fiery radical, but who has now been reduced to a near nonentity. He can't even bring himself to sing it, so he sings it through his puppet.
  • In the 2009 American film, Capitalism: A Love Story, by director Michael Moore, singer Tony Babino sings a lounge version of the Internationale over the ending credits.
  • References

    The Internationale Wikipedia