Poetry Corner: Ballads of Lenin by Langston Hughes

Ballads of Lenin by Langston Hughes, 1933

Langston Hughes was a poet and social activist of African, European and Native American heritage. A communist who was particularly involved with the struggle of African-Americans, he travelled extensively around the USSR and was involved in film making and Soviet anti-segregation propaganda before travelling to Spain to report on the Civil War.

After various accusations and a testimony in front of the US senates anti-communist Homeland Security Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations he was distanced from the Communist Party USA and the socialist movement as a whole. Although still venerated as a great African-American activist and poet large sections of his work are still shunned due to their intimate attachment to the communist movement.

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Langston Hughes, 1901 – 1967

Comrade Lenin of Russia,
High in a marble tomb,
Move over, Comrade Lenin,
And give me room.

I am Ivan, the peasant,
Boots all muddy with soil.
I fought with you, Comrade Lenin.
Now I have finished my toil.

Comrade Lenin of Russia,
Alive in a marble tomb,
Move over, Comrade Lenin,
And make me room.

I am Chico, the Negro,
Cutting cane in the sun.
I lived for you, Comrade Lenin.
Now my work is done.

Comrade Lenin of Russia,
Honored in a marble tomb,
Move over, Comrade Lenin,
And leave me room.

I am Chang from the foundries
On strike in the streets of Shanghai.
For the sake of the Revolution
I fight, I starve, I die.

Comrade Lenin of Russia
Speaks from the marble tomb:
On guard with the workers forever —
The world is our room!

Langston Hughes

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