"THE RED FLAG."
NZ Truth , Issue 689, 31 August 1918, Page 1
"THE RED FLAG."
Histery aad Peetry of a Great Hipe
Periodically, and generally at a time when the daily press a being used to crush or delude the workers, a great fuss is made over what is commonly culled "The Red Flag." Lately, the cabled news from Australia dealt with an' incident m Melbourne (Victoria), where the trades unionists decided to fly the red, flag at the Trades" Hall, along with the' Australian flag. It will serv« to show what little reliance can be placed on cabled news, when it is learned that the only paper In Australia which affected. to be. corioerned at the incident was the plutish Melbourne "Argus," and. In view of the fuss, raised by this jingo journal, it seems safe to assume that the cabled news for New Zealand consumption was manufactured m that newspaper ©nice. However, m view of this particular fuss and of future fusses, it is Just as well that we should learn all there is to bs known concerning red flags, .and it is not generally known that the red' na'g'iis'customarily hoisted by British seamen to indicate that no concession will be made. What more "loyal" and admirable thing could there be than this? Surely one of the finest sights under God^s heaven is to see a British seaman hoisting the red flag of no concession? • # # The Australian penny plutish / prints ■were horribly indismant the other, day because it was said that, when the delegates to the Commonwealth Labor Conference at Perth. (W.A.) were leaving ,by train for the East, some unregerierate persons struck up the strains of "The Red Flag." It is a very terrible thing, according to some newspapers, that anybody should sing a eong about the red flag; and yet the English poet, Gerald Massey, would* probably never have attracted attention anfl have been a Government pensioner when he died, had he not written a song .about that same red flag. !This was called "The Song of the .Red pepublican." It was published m a Jlttle volume of poems that attracted no attention until one day Hepworth Dixon, the 'editor of that well-known literary English • periodical, "The Athenaeum," happened to pass a shop m which Massey's poems were exposed for . sale. A volume was N open at a page, which displayed the following words: . Fling out the red Bannerl Its flery front under. Come, gather ye, gather ye, Champions of Right, And roll, round the world, with the voice of God's thunder, Tha Wrongs we've to reckon; Op- j . pressions to smite. . ■ ' • ■ •.■ ■• - . • • ... ! Hepworth Dixon may have been i In the right m considering this verse from "The Song of the Red Republican" to be poetry of a high order, or he may not; but m his periodical, ■> the "Athenaeum," he' declared it to be good poetry, and many other literary men agreed with him. The result was that Gerald Massey became a famous and respected man, and among his 1 most faithful friends and admirers was the poet Tennyson, who said of > Massey that he was "a poet of fine lyrical Impulse, and of a rich half- Oriental imagination." Gerald Massey not only wrote songs m praise of the 'red flag, but he was a : Red Republican himself, and it was generally believed, and, we think, correctly, that he. was the original of the famous George Eliot's R Felix Holt the 1 Radical." . / * ,* . : •*. . "The Red Flag," which has become popular m Labor and Socialist circles throughout the world, was not written by Gerald Massey, but by one J. Connell. In' the opinion of many, it is not poetry of the highest order, but Is a very remarkable production. It floes not contain anything which justifies the -epileptic convulsions of the plutish prints. It has been set to tunes that have made it very "catchy," one of these tunes being "Maryland." The words of- this song are as follows: The people's flag is deepest red; It shrouded oft our martyred dead. _ AriMere their limbs grew stiff or cold, ThW heart's blood dyed its ev'ry fold. •VTV; . . . Chorus. -v t . . the scarlet standard high! Within its shade we'll live and die. cowards flinch and traitors ' sneer, : •. .■ . > . • We'll keep the Red Flag flying here. Look round, the Frenchman loves its The sturdy' German chants its praise; In Moscow's vaults its hymns are sung; . ■■' . . ■ Chicago swells the surging throng. It waved about our infant might, . When all ahead 'seemed dark, as night; It witnessed 'many a deed and vow— We must not change -its color now. It well recalls the triumphs past; It. gives the hope of peace at last; The banner bright, the symbol plain N ©£ human right and human gain.
It suits to-day the weak and base, Whose minds are fixed on pelf and place, > To cringe before the rich man's frown, And haul the sacred emblem down. With heads uncovered swear we all To bear it onward till we fall. Come dungeon dark, or gallows grim, This song shall be our parting hymn. The red flag has had a most interesting history, which, one .day will be written, perhaps, by a man of humanitarian sympathies, keen sense., of justice, and a capacity for understanding and describing the Bufferings - of- the poor, the. toiling, the unfortunate, and the oppressed. It was' m France first, apparently, that it .became the; flag of the less fortunate classes of society. It appears to have been but little used during the great French Revolution that was inaugurated with; the fall of the Bastille m 1789; but, what was used during the French Revolution as a revolutionary emblem was the red' cap of liberty, called by the French, "le bonnet rouge." This cap was an imitation of the limp, close-fitting article, shaped something like the, half of an egg, which was, m ancient Roman da5 r s, bestowed upon a slave *upon his being given his freedom. It was thus a liberty cap; and this red cap was worn by both men and women during the French Revolution or borne at the head of a flagpole, or placed upon the head of, the statue of the goddess of liberty. ■ ■- , • ■•■.•' # ■ The true revolutionists — the men who shed their blood tg make a revolution—always were inclined, however, to regard the red flag as the symbol of international 'fraternity and social republicanism; and, when they |made the revolution of February,: 1848, m France, they asked the French' Government that they established to accept the red,flag as that of the republic. The poet Lamartine, on behalf of the /French Revolutionary Government, put off, the revolutionists with a neatly turned poetical epigram. But what the Republican Government . of February, 1848,. rejected has- now been adopted by the Russian Republican Government, The red flag is regarded as an international flag; but is not thereby considered to' be also anti-national. Nationality, indeed, is the basis of internationality. Without nations, there is not internationalism, but only amalr gamation or fusion — there might even -be confusion. We have no right to make a fuss against the exhibition of any emblem that merely appeals to humanitarian instincts. Far better, indeed, is it that the workers instead of allowing themselves to become prejudiced by the jaundiced diatribes of daily newspaper writers, ' should . endeavor to make themselves acquainted with facts, and by becoming acquainted with facts will then be' able to place what reliance they prefer on the frenzied fables which pass muster as news, cabled news, m our daily newspapers, When they makfe themselves familiar with the history of red flags and the songs of red flags they will appreciate their worth, and also, at the same time put to shame the ignorance of daily newspaper leader "skiters" and cable "cookers." It is by ignorance batten■ ing- on ignorance that so much .. fear, misery and superstition exists In the world to-day. When the workers learn, i when they value knowledge, and are prepared to make any sacrifice m order i that their children shall attain knowledge, then, indeed, will the potent and mischievous influence of the cap'i. talistic daily newspapers be set at : nought.. , . ■ ■ ■