Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Song of the Chinese Workers 1938

(cartoon: anti-chinese riot)

Wei Min 1973-April vol 2 no 6 page 9

(the following poem was written in 1938 and reprinted in the Wei Min Chinese language setion in 1973. In 2008 it was translated from Chinese into English)

"In Celebration of May 1st and May 4th


"This poem is taken from a thirty-five years-old publication titled “Mutual Aid.” It was a monthly publication of the “California Chinese Worker Mutual Aid Association.”

"We are reprinting this poem in celebration of the upcoming May 1st and May 4th holidays. May 1st is the holiday of the laboring masses. May 4th is the special day to commemorate the new art and literature. To publish this poem written by a worker is a meaningful commemoration of both holidays.

"We are reprinting this poem to also remind readers not to be fooled by the present-day silliness. The current newspapers that are full of social gossips and writings that are bordering on illiterate (and?) cannot be seen as the measure of the literary standard of the Chinese American community.

"Those crass, low-level 'literature', with a hint of something rotten, can only represent the few good-for-nothing literati and their financial backers.

"We must never forget that the majority of those who built the Chinese American community are the laboring masses. They, and only they, can truly represent the Chinese community. They, and again only they, can create literature with a high standard. This poem is a perfect example!

"In this poem, we do not see fanciful bellyaching nor do we see subservient coyness. What we see are words that are pure and simple but full of feelings. What we see are the blood and sweat in between the verses. What we see are the passing of darkness and the coming of a bright future.

"This poem brings forth the yearnings of workers who make up the majority of the Chinese community and pours forth a heroic spirit that can battle heaven and earth. This is where we must set the standard for Chinese American literature. Let’s share this poem in celebration of May 1st and May 4th."

Song of the Chinese Workers

Long before 1938,

our forefathers set sails,

across oceans, forsaking homeland,

arriving on the soil of America.

Oh the America of that time, still barren,

mountains after mountains, sparsely inhabited;

oh through the toil of our forefathers,

it became the cities and skyscrapers of today!

Look, which piece of land, forest and mine,

not dripping the blood of our forefathers, flowing their sweat?

Look, which railroad, farm and factory,

not built by their hands?

With the shrills of the foreman’s whistle,

they would carry their hoes, lift their shovels,

stepping into early dawn,

hastily, breaking the horizonless ground of sandy deserts and barren hills.

Laboring the days away without concept of time,

yet without a thread of regret;

even if a little sadness surface, what can one do but to swallow that whole,

this is how they were stripped of their youth, and robbed of their remaining years!

How would they know:

their sweat and blood would turn into the chains that enslave them?

How would they know:

their labor only goes to fatten someone else’s belly!

Looking back a century later,

we set sails again across the ocean to foreign shores,

but, we will not be as dumb,

we will not follow in the footsteps of our forefathers!

We will not travel down the

dark and endless path,

let me tell you, blood-sucking devil,

don’t even think of using us again to forge your private right to power!

We are already a people with consciousness and organization,

we’ve already learned how to live, how to struggle, to unite for survival,

from today on, we are no longer docile slaves,

we will unite with American workers to build a link that is inseparable!

Sometimes there will be scoundrels formed within our ranks,

who complains of your dark complexion, or your colorful hair,

but these are the yellow canines under bribes,

who long ago have lost their ability to hide within our rank.

We have already seen through the traps that our enemy set,

we will no longer blindly march;

things that we create, we will enjoy for ourselves,

as long as we determine to struggle, the bright future is at our feet.

Our blood, will wash away the weakness of our forefathers,

our lives, will lock in scourging battle with the enemies!

We have solidified into a chain of fortresses,

Having the stamina of a fighting bull, our strength can hold up the sky!

We cannot despair because of small setbacks,

and certainly cannot be conceited because of small victories,

we must maintain a spirit of always getting back up after a tumble,

make our enemy, no matter how fierce, submit!

At this moment, the bandit of the East has viciously invaded our homeland,

countless sufferings and hardships are upon us;

we must sacrifice ourselves: to protect our motherland,

to build a new society!


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