Monday, February 06, 2006

Die freie Wirtschaft

The Free Economy (1930)
By Kurt Tucholsky

Abolish those cursed tariffs
Trust your company director.
Walk out of the arbitration committees.
Leave everything else to your boss.
No more union talking their way in,
we want to be free economists!
"Away with groups" - on our banner!
Now, not you.
But us.

You don't need rest homes for your lungs,
no retirement and no insurances.
You should all be ashamed of yourselves,
taking money from the penniless State!
You should no longer stand together.
Would you please disperse yourselves!
No cartels in our territory!
Not you.
But us.

We're building into the farthest future
trusts, cartels, associations, concerns.
We stand next to the furnace flames
in syndicated groups.
We dictate the prices and the contracts -
no law will get in our way.
We stand here well organized...
Not you.
But us.

What you're doing is Marxism. Down with it!
We're assuming the power, step by step.
No one's disturbing us. Complacently
the ruling socialists stand by and watch.
We want you individually. To arms!
That's the newest economic theory!
The demand has not been made
that a German professor couldn't justify.
Working for our ideas in the factories
are officers of the old army,
the Steel Helmets, the Hitler garde ...
You, in cellars and attics,
Don't you see what they're doing with you?
With whose sweat the profit is gained?
No matter what might come.
The day will arrive,
when the crusading worker calls:
"Not you.
But us. Us. Us."


This originally appeared in "Die Weltbuehne" March 4th, 1930, page 351. The German original may be read at the Kurt Tucholsky Webblog. Interestingly, this poem - as reported by the linked source - has surfaced quite often on German Websites, Weblogs, and in the press, but with omission of the fourth stanza.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is another one that speaks to our time, for the first three stanzas. But I don't think Socialism can claim to be an answer anymore.

7:21 AM  
Blogger Indeterminacy said...

I agree, socialism or communism the way it's been implemented hasn't worked at all, not that I've ever read anything by Marx. I think Tucholsky reports honestly what happens when a group of people (in this case, workers) are pushed around again and again. Eventually they will become a force to be reckoned with.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Indeterminacy said...

I received some helpful background information from Friedhelm Greis of the German language Tucholsky Blog. I repeat his comments in part here:

I don't agree with the translation of "Regierungssozialisten" into "Sunday socialists". (My note: I've changed it ro "ruling socialsts")
Tucholsky wants to point out that even with a socialist government (= SPD) the companies can act as
they want. This is probably the reason why the fourth stance has been omitted. Of course, you find
this poem very often on PDS- and other leftist pages. But always without that part. (my note: PDS is the ultra left wing party in Germany).

He goes on to clear up the statement of the fourth verse, which my translation may have conveyed somewhat differently than the original:

The companies denounce every union movement as Marxism, with the object to prevent a social acceptance of the workers' interests. Tucholsky has
never been a marxist, nevertheless he supported strongly the labour movement. So, the question is
not if socialism is the solution, but the workers should fight for their right to organize their
interests. Only together they can be strong. (But in times of globalization has a national movement lost a lot of its force.)
I thought of translating marxism with communism which would be more like language we're familiar with. In contemporary America one often hears of ideas being denounced as communist (or socialist). I retained the older term, because I feel the language of the poems/texts should be an older language, to preserve the feel of the original.

3:42 PM  
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