Communist Poetry

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Joined: 17-09-08
Sep 23 2008 11:33
Communist Poetry


Could someone direct me to any Left-Communist poets? Or anarchist poets? Maybe you could post their writings here? I can't find any (apart from Stalinist ones which are nice...but Stalinist).

Or maybe you could post something you have written?


P.S: I wasn't sure if this was the right sub-forum for this, but neither did 'libcommunity.'

Demogorgon303's picture
Joined: 5-07-05
Sep 23 2008 11:56

Herman Gorter was a poet, but I've never read any of his stuff and no idea where to find it.

Alf's picture
Joined: 6-07-05
Sep 23 2008 12:05

The surrealist poet Benjamin Peret was quite close to left communism through his political association with Grandizo Munis.

Joined: 17-09-08
Sep 23 2008 12:12

Just to clarify - I'm interested in poetry specifically about communist issues - trade unions, national liberation etc.

Not just any old poetry which happens to be written by communists. wink

Joined: 9-04-08
Sep 23 2008 12:50

Man, i hope no one ever wrote a poem on trade unions...

What are communist issues?
Arent all issues communist [socialist] issues?

Alf's picture
Joined: 6-07-05
Sep 23 2008 13:33

Gorter wrote one on the workers' councils.....

Joined: 24-09-05
Sep 23 2008 15:07

Devrim posted this once, when someone asked a similar question about anarchist poetry. Worth a repost I think.


Comrades, if I don't live to see the day
- I mean,if I die before freedom comes -
take me away
and bury me in a village cemetery in Anatolia.

The worker Osman whom Hassan Bey ordered shot
can lie on one side of me, and on the other side
the martyr Aysha, who gave birth in the rye
and died inside of forty days.

Tractors and songs can pass below the cemetery -
in the dawn light, new people, the smell of burnt gasoline,
fields held in common, water in canals,
no drought or fear of the police.

Of course, we won't hear those songs:
the dead lie stretched out underground
and rot like black branches,
deaf, dumb, and blind under the earth.

But, I sang those songs
before they were written,
I smelled the burnt gasoline
before the blueprints for the tractors were drawn.

As for my neighbors,
the worker Osman and the martyr Aysha,
they felt the great longing while alive,
maybe without even knowing it.

Comrades, if I die before that day, I mean
- and it's looking more and more likely -
bury me in a village cemetery in Anatolia,
and if there's one handy,
a plane tree could stand at my head,
I wouldn't need a stone or anything.

Nazim Hikmet, 27 April 1953
Moscow, Barviha Hospital

Trans. by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk (1993)

Shame most of his other stuff isn't that good - or doesn't work well in English.

If you fancy a bit of a laugh at the expense of an elderly trotskyist, may I suggest the poetry of AWL founder Sean Matgamna? The one about Kronstadt is particularly worth a read, as is this, "The Trots":

Spending our lives in outcasts' work,
We are "The Trots” — and we still lurk
For all that History could wreak:
The key to higher times we seek,
To the remade world that proves elusive,
Although capitalism moles still, conducive
To our desire, whose fires it set:
In us, a class refuses to forget!

Check out the rhyme of 'elusive' with 'conducive'!!

Joined: 17-09-08
Sep 24 2008 04:16
nico wrote:
Man, i hope no one ever wrote a poem on trade unions...


I wouldn't expect it (poetry) to be popular in the West, but it is a form of entertainment and communication in different cultures.


David in Atlanta
Joined: 21-04-06
Sep 24 2008 14:00

Most overtly political poetry is just bad. For some reason the art doesn't lend itself well to politics.
There are exceptions of course, Brecht and Serge could pull it off, but typically even otherwise talented writers wind up sounding like Matgamna roll eyes The Gorter piece about workers councils is an example. Most sources I find say his early lyric verses were among the best written in Dutch, but that is a thudding bit of doggerel, although the translator could be to blame.

Joined: 30-09-03
Sep 24 2008 14:38

I posted some of Herman Gorters poetry here once before. 'The Workers Council' is in the appendix of 'The Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution'. It's not very good though (or at least the English translation isn't):

The workers councils will one day become
the essence of all humanity on earth.
As when the power of brightest sunlight
is perceived in a great sheaf of flowers.
They are the highest form of together being,
they are the overthrowing of all alone-being.
In them alone each man, woman and gentle child
can find the single aim of ages, humanity's spirit itself.

The Workers' Councils, then, are as the light.
They are peace, tranquility and a balm for all,
they are the truth and the fountainhead of truth.

They are the foundation-rock in the great universe of humanity,
the nerve-centre of all labour,
they mean joy for humanity - they are the light.

(From "De Arbeisdersraad".)

You'll probably have more luck finding anarchist poetry than left-communist or even council communist poetry. If I remember rightly Freedom press published a book of anarchist poetry called 'Visions of poesy'.

Alf's picture
Joined: 6-07-05
Sep 24 2008 19:00

Yes, from memory, I thought it was a bit like that....In any case, there won't be any workers' councils in a communist society, which is surely what Gorter is talking about here.

Rum Lad
Joined: 16-09-08
Sep 24 2008 19:21

Mayakovsky - A Cloud in Trousers.

Joined: 17-09-08
Sep 25 2008 00:06

Yes, Mayakovsky is good. I find the Russian futurists really interesting. Here is one of his poems:

Call To Account!

The drum of war thunders and thunders.
It calls: thrust iron into the living.
From every country
slave after slave
are thrown onto bayonet steel.
For the sake of what?
The earth shivers
and stripped.
Mankind is vapourised in a blood bath
only so
can get hold of Albania.
Human gangs bound in malice,
blow after blow strikes the world
only for
someone’s vessels
to pass without charge
through the Bosporus.
the world
won’t have a rib intact.
And its soul will be pulled out.
And trampled down
only for someone,
to lay
their hands on
Why does
a boot
crush the Earth — fissured and rough?
What is above the battles’ sky -
When will you stand to your full height,
giving them your life?
When will you hurl a question to their faces:
Why are we fighting?

Lone Wolf's picture
Lone Wolf
Joined: 1-03-06
Sep 25 2008 01:20

Hey there OP author!

What a cool username!!! Cool as. Obv. you are a techie!

We used to have a cool "Culture" forum for such subject matter. I miss that. sad But whenever i campaign for its reinstatement i appear to be a lone voice. sad Maybe i should write a poem about my angst? wink

Yes, political poetry tends to be pretty dire. But i find general stuff about despair and anomie pretty fitting really wink

Joined: 4-04-08
Sep 25 2008 05:17
David in Atlanta wrote:
Most overtly political poetry is just bad. For some reason the art doesn't lend itself well to politics.

I'm more inclined to think that it's just that contentless art tends to rule the day. There's really just not that much out there in the way of overtly political poetry (and much less whose political content isn't shit politics).

John Cage has a few good political poems, although you could probably charge him of being a bit of a proto-lifestylist. Here's one:

We don't need government
We need utilities.

Air, water, energy
Travel and communication means
Food and shelter.

We have no need for imaginary mountain ranges
Between separate nations.

We can make tunnels through the real ones.

Nor do we have any need for the continuing division of people
Into those who have what they need
And those who don't.

Both Fuller and Marshal McLuhan
Knew, furthermore
That work is now obsolete.
We have invented machines to do it for us.

Now that we have no need to do anything
What shall we do?

Looking at Fuller's geodesic world map
We see that the Earth is a single island, Oahu.
We must give all the people all they need to live
In any way they wish.

Our present laws protect the rich from the poor.

If there are to be laws, we need ones that
Begin with the acceptance of poverty as a way of life.

We must make the world safe for poverty Without dependence on government

Neruda is also nice... but Stalinist. Mayakovsky is fantastic.

Joined: 17-09-08
Sep 25 2008 12:15

This was an interesting one. Its translated, so apologies for any grammar mistakes.

These Foxes in Red.

The echo of your clapping signals
the screams of their bullets.
Your manic cries of nationalism heralds
the end of our class.
'Which side are you on?'
you question us.
But this is a game where both lose.
Or rather
they win
and we lose.
Yet your urges ring in our ears:
‘The flag must prevail!’
but for whom does this flag fly for?
Let’s be clear:
Those whom hand us rifles
and send us against our fellow workers whom
we have no quarrel with,
those who insist on our right
to be exploited in ‘our own country’
or a country with a familiar name
or a country, where, we can be exploited
by those with familiar names
let's be clear!
These people have an unquenchable jealousy.
The loss of their nation
means the loss of their profit.
Those who meddle with their crown
and coins
these: you proclaim to be our enemy.
We fight for their right to exploit us
and so you so-called emancipators urge us too.
Our leaders repeat to us:
we are all in the same boat,
their whips conveniently cracking behind us.
Our lives are chained to the oars,
Our fates sealed to the boat
Will it sink, or not?
We know it doesn't matter,
their pockets sag down
with the weight of their gold.
Our only hope:
To you foxes in red,
We are but pawns in a game of chess.
But to us,
this is a game not worth playing.

jura's picture
Joined: 25-07-08
Sep 25 2008 15:35

I'm a big fan of V. Mayakovsky and some of the other Russian poets (A. Blok, for instance), though I really don't like the more overtly "political" stuff, as it often ends up in sloganeering (and supporting an anti-working class regime). I do suspect, though, that the English translations of Mayakovsky are not very good due to the huge differences in rhythm and rhyme. There is also a lot of fascinating poets from the 20s & 30s Central and Eastern Europe, but unfortunately largely unknown in the West...

Gorters poem on councils is beautiful.

x359594's picture
Joined: 16-08-08
Sep 25 2008 19:14

Gary Snyder is a wobblie and anarchist and has written poems about work, the environment and war. Allen Ginsberg was a fellow traveler left-communist and wrote about war, capitalism, sexual identity, indictments of the bourgeoisie.

Joe Hill, Arturo Giovanneti, Ralph Chaplin and T-Bone Slim were wobblie poets who wrote about working class issues. Franklin Rosemount is a wobblie and surrealist poet who attacks bourgeois society from the depths of imagination. Philip Lamantia was an anarchist and surrealist poet who also attacked the bourgeoisie.

Joined: 24-08-08
Oct 7 2008 17:07

What do you think you're doing, pig?
Do you really give a fig, pig?
And what's your favourite sort of gig, pig?
Barry Manilow
Or the black and white minstrel show?

Alf's picture
Joined: 6-07-05
Oct 8 2008 08:47

What's your problem, hungry brother?
Why can't we all be nice to each other?

David in Atlanta
Joined: 21-04-06
Oct 8 2008 10:22

Brilliant , Alf! If only all left communist writing was that simple and to the point....

Jason Cortez
Joined: 14-11-04
Oct 20 2008 16:40

Christopher Logue (1926-)

Know Thy Enemy

Know thy enemy:
he does not care what colour you are
provided you work for him
and yet you do!

he does not care how much you earn
provided you earn more for him
and yet you do!

he does not care who lives in the room at the top
provided he owns the building
and yet you strive!

he will let you write against him
provided you do not act against him
and yet you write!

he sings the praises of humanity
but knows machines cost more than men.
Bargain with him, he laughs, and beats you at it;
challenge him, and he kills.
Sooner than loose the things he owns
he will destroy the world.

But as you hasten to be free
And build your commonwealth
Do not forget the enemy
Who lies within yourself.

playinghob's picture
Joined: 5-05-07
Oct 23 2008 22:07

Please check out Voltairine de Cleyre. One of her classic poems is entitled "Nameless".

Joined: 25-06-06
May 18 2009 19:27

Kenneth Patchen was a communist poet that sympathized with the left-opposition but did not join. He was ardently anti-Stalinist and anti-CPofA. His position against WWII hurt his career in poetry, limiting him to a sort of cult following. Later in life he went very much pacifist and semi-christian.

That said, his poem "I don't mean to startle you but they are going to kill most of us", was one that probably had more of an effect on me than any other poem or piece of political literature that I have ever read. He was one of the "proletarian" writers, who was actually a proletarian, a 2nd generation steel mill worker. Patchen wrote in similar vein to Surrealists and Dadaists, though not being a part of their school. He also painted, wrote plays, did an album with Charles Mingus and wrote full length poem novels like Journal of Albion Moonlight (and my personal favorite) Sleepers Awake.

Not a left-communist, but definitely a favorite and worth reading.

David in Atlanta
Joined: 21-04-06
May 18 2009 22:14

The Orange Bears by Kenneth Patchen

David in Atlanta
Joined: 21-04-06
May 18 2009 22:58


Joined: 19-04-06
May 19 2009 11:54

The Orange Bears, lovely poem.

I have to say poetry is a bit of a mystery to me, any suggestions for any good books which will help to penetrate and understand this art form?

Entdinglichung's picture
Joined: 2-07-08
May 19 2009 12:34

Oskar Kanehl (1888-1929) was a member of the KAPD and than of the AAUE, don't know if any of his poems were translated into English, the expressionist poet Max Herrmann-Neiße was for some years in the 1920ies a fellow traveller of the KAPD and than of the AAUE ... both belonged to the circle around Franz Pfemfert's - - journal Die Aktion

David in Atlanta
Joined: 21-04-06
May 19 2009 17:32
ernie wrote:
The Orange Bears, lovely poem.

I have to say poetry is a bit of a mystery to me, any suggestions for any good books which will help to penetrate and understand this art form?

I've never actually read much criticism or theory, just tons of poetry varying from godawful to magnificent. I'd recommend picking up as broad an anthology as possible, browsing it to find poets or maybe styles that appeal and go from there.

Joined: 27-03-08
May 19 2009 21:04

Whilst there is a working class
I am of it,
While there is a criminal element,
Then I am in it,
And whilst there is a soul in prison,
Then I am not free.

Poetry of the Class War

Boris Badenov
Joined: 25-08-08
May 19 2009 21:20
David in Atlanta wrote:
Most overtly political poetry is just bad. For some reason the art doesn't lend itself well to politics.

Agree 100%. And anyone who thinks Stalinist poetry is "nice" should be waterboarded. Socialist realism/proletcult is an absolute monstrosity, and this idea that poetry is "communist" if it reflects issues pertaining to trade unions, national liberation (I don't see how that's really a communist issue frankly) etc. needs to be done away with permanently. The only poetry worth reading is that which articulates something about your own life experiences in a manner in which you yourself could not think of on your own.