The Right Coast

May 01, 2005
The Red Flag
By Maimon Schwarzschild

On May Day the parliamentary Labour Party used to sing "The Red Flag" on the floor of the House of Commons. I assume they don't do that anymore. (In the spirit of the very uneasy straddle -- between bitter old Left and Tony Blair -- that is today's New Labour in Britain, it may be just as well that May Day is Sunday this year and Parliament is closed on Sundays.)
(To the tune of "O Tannenbaum":)

The worker's flag is deepest red
It shrouded oft our martyred dead;
And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold
Their life-blood dyed its every fold.
Then raise the scarlet standard high!
Beneath its folds we'll live and die.
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer
We'll keep the red flag flying here.
A character in one of Arthur Koestler's novels remarks, sometime in the 1930s, that it's not a good sign that the Nazis have all the pretty girls and all the good songs. "The Red Flag" doesn't refute that. For one thing, the tune is borrowed --from "O Tannenbaum", of course. Still, the lyrics aren't bad. But in the spirit of Arthur Koestler, perhaps we should say it's a good sign that there aren't many songs nowadays to go with political movements. Songs are one of the -- many -- things that pervert politics into a kind of religion. The less of that, surely, the better.