Category: Music

Song in rags by Silvio Rodriguez

As most of the songs of cuban protest song writer Silvio Rodriguez, “Song in rags” (Cancion en Harapos) is open for interpretation. According to some, who contend Silvio himself has clarified this, the song is about the Cuban intellectual elite at some point in the revolution, in which from their comfort zone presumed to lead the Cuban working class because “they knew best.” Nevertheless, some verses are very clear on their meaning. The song is a fierce critique of the non-organic intellectual, alienated from the reality of the working classes, writing papers on Marxism and “the history of hunger” hoping “history makes them a place.” There is no doubt that writing theoretical papers is a fundamental part of anti-capitalist struggle (Imagine if Marx had not written Capital because instead he wanted to strictly and exclusively agitate and organize workers). There is no revolutionary practice without revolutionary theory, said Lenin. However, the critique is against the alienation of theory from practice. The same critique is valid the other way around. Militants who refuse to develop their revolutionary theory because they’re tired of talking and want to act!, are just as problematic as the arrogant intellectual, trapped inside the classroom, who feels above going to a weekly meeting with working class militants. Too many universities are filled with Marxists discussing Marxism between professors and students, when they should be, simultaneously, be discussing Marxism with workers, communities, and other marginalized sectors of capitalist society. Below is the song, open for analysis and interpretation.

Song in rags (Cancion en Harapos) by Silvio Rodriguez

How easy it is to wave a handkerchief at the solar troop of the Marxist manifest and the history of hunger.

How easy it is to sigh at the acts of a man who fulfills his duty,

and give some clothes to the chauffeur’s poor daughter.

How easy to mask; the opportunity rises.

How easy it is to deceive those who don’t know how to read.

How many colors, how many facets, have the petty bourgeoisie.

How easy it is to transcend with fame for originality.

But it is known that among the blind the one eyed often lead.

How easy to prop up, the old morality comes

that masquerades of barricade

of those who never had anything.

How well, prepares his mask, the petite bourgeois

Long live the rags, lord,

and the table without tablecloth.

Long live he who smells of bystreet,

of profanity and workshop.

From a laden table anyone could decide to applaud the ragged caravan of all the poor.

From an imported tablecloth and an aged wine, one “struggles” very well.

From a giant table and an elegant car, one “suffers” as well.

In a lovely feast, one usually sees him in “combat.”

If it’s easy to abuse, easier is to condemn

and write papers for history, so it makes you a place.

How easy it is to protest against the bomb that fell,

a thousand kilometers away from your closet and refrigerator.

How easy it is to write something that invites us to action

against tyrants, against assassins,

against the cross or divine power

always at reach of the china cupboard and the dining room.

Long live the rags, lord,

and the table without tablecloth.

Long live he who smells of bystreet,

of profanity and workshop.