Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

A Poem To Leftists Who Object to Violence

As uprisings sweep the United States, there is a small minority of socialists who object to “violence,” “looting,” etc. We have published a number of articles about this — but really, this poem sums it up better than any article. It is about a revolutionary who wants to avoid damaging street lights at all costs.

Left Voice

June 8, 2020
Facebook Twitter Share
Revolutionary poet Erich Mühsam

This poem was written by the German anarchist Erich Mühsam in 1907 and dedicated to the German social democracy. The reformist leaders of the Social Democratic Party at the time were formally committed to revolution, but in practice they were conservative and defended the existing order. The title of the poem, Der Revoluzzer, has no direct translation in English. It is a diminutive to describe a wannabe revolutionary in contrast to a real one. The original German is available on Wikipedia. This English translation was published on Reddit without attribution.

The Revolutionary – dedicated to the German social democracy

Once there was a rebel fighter
Earning pay as a lamplighter
Marching revolutionar’ly
With the revolutionaries.

He shouted out: “I do revolt!”
And wore the red cap, very bold
In revolutionary’s dress,
Feeling brave and all reckless.

But revolutionaries strode
Right in the middle of the road
Where usually and without fail
The lamps he lit to earn his pay.

Removing them all from the ground
The rebels tore the lanterns out
From all the streets and the arcades
In order to build barricades.

Seeing this our rebel fighter
Shouted out: “I’m the lamplighter
Of these lanterns bright and warm.
Please, please don’t do them no harm!

If we turn off all their lights,
Citizens can’t see at night.
Let the lampposts stand, I bid!
Else revolution’s game I quit!”

But revolutionaries sneered
And did just what the man had feared,
The lighter left through the debris
Whining oh so bitterly.

Henceforth he just stayed at home
Spending his time writing a tome
On how rebels ought to fight
Without breaking any lights.

Facebook Twitter Share

Left Voice

Militant journalism, revolutionary politics.


Cillian Murphy as Robert Oppenheimer stares into the camera with a hat pulled over his eyes and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth

“Oppenheimer” Shows the Betrayals of Stalinism and the Dangers of Lesser Evilism

Christopher Nolan's "Oppenheimer" is a striking tale of a man who leaves the Left because of the betrayals of Stalinism. The film is also a warning about where lesser evilism in the face of the Far Right can lead us.

Sybil Davis

March 10, 2024

Exploitation in Storytelling: The Conditions of Manga Artists in Japan

Anime and Manga are popular forms of storytelling from Japan that are becoming more and more popular in the West. Here we observe the labor conditions of Manga authors themselves as well as the general labor conditions in Japan.

Carmin Maffea

August 14, 2023

Turning the Greatest Anti-war Novel Ever into Bourgeois Propaganda

All Quiet on the Western Front won four Oscars, and it’s not hard to see why. The production — depicting the horrors of World War I — is spectacular. Yet the producers did not at all understand Erich Maria Remarque’s novel. Spoilers follow.

Nathaniel Flakin

March 16, 2023

Five Years after Ursula K. Le Guin’s Death, We Need Her More Than Ever

Ursula K. Le Guin tended the embers of revolt in a new age of imperialism and counterrevolution. She tasked us with stoking them into a blaze.

Jason Koslowski

January 22, 2023


A group of masked protesters gather around a chair where a protester stands with a megaphone

What the Movement for Palestine Can Learn from the Rutgers Encampment Deal

The Gaza solidarity encampment at Rutgers New Brunswick ended in a deal between the administration and a negotiations team at the camp. It’s been a highly controversial decision. The experience at Rutgers shows the need for a truly democratic, bottom-up fight for Palestine.

Jason Koslowski

May 17, 2024

Victory for the UAW at Volkswagen Plant in Chattanooga Represents a Potential Turning Point for Labor

Following a year of strong union struggles, a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee has voted to unionize with the UAW. This victory, in the traditionally anti-union South, shows that the terrain of labor struggle in the U.S. is shifting.

Joey Eichler

May 17, 2024
Pro-Palestine encampment at UCLA in May, 2024.

“The Working Class has the Power to Stop this Genocide”: Interview with a UAW 4811 Rank and Filer

On Thursday May 15, 48,000 UAW Academic workers voted to authorize a strike, the largest academic workers union in the country to do so. Left Voice interviewed UAW 4811 member Peter Ross about what sparked this historic vote, and the labor movement’s fight for Palestine

Julia Wallace

May 16, 2024
A rally in Brooklyn, people hold up UAW signs

University of California Academic Workers Authorize Strike to Defend the Right to Protest

48,000 workers are one step closer to going on strike to demand that charges and academic sanctions be dropped for the students and faculty who protest the genocide in Palestine and UC’s financial and academic ties to Israel.

Madeleine Freeman

May 16, 2024