Worker’s Music Jan 2012: Solidarity Forever

Here is a video of how “Solidarity Forever!” ought to be sung: with vigour, in a group, somewhat offkey. But it’s hella passionate.

Solidarity Forever was first published by Ralph Chaplin in 1915 in the IWW’s Little Red Songbook. A favourite of all variety of unions, it has been abridged and editted, such is the the nature of folk music. Too often, though, the most radical and important parts of the song are left out. In the lyrics below we have included a Canadian addition, concerning women. In the video about, Tom Morello sings about Arizona migrant workers.

Sing this song in its entirety, and think about the worldview it represents: a world where the 99% do all the labour. All the thinking, pulling, lifting, planning and cleaning. All of everything that surrounds us, has been accomplshed by the sweat and ingenuity of some workers somewhere.

That is the world we live in. It’s reality.

If we are smart enough and powerful enough to build all this, is it such a stretch to think we could make decisions about what we work towards, and how we do it as well? The third line of every verse is a call to action, and a hint of what we might accomplish by working together. The crux of it is in the fifth verse though:

They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn,
But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn.
We can break their haughty power, gain our freedom when we learn
That the union makes us strong

The IWW is founded on the belief that working people are smart enough, compassionate enough and tough enough to run the world without being told what to do every minute of the day by our bosses. We believe that a democratically-run economy would serve everyone the best. How can you have a political democracy without an economic one? We all know that money buys power. What if that was equally distributed?

Is this a “pie in the sky” idea? No. By building unions where we work together with all our sister and fellow workers today, we lay the groundwork for world where we run everything ourselves.

The song “Solidarity Forever!” is often used when we are fighting against bosses, but the real lesson is in working with each other. Solidarity isn’t just about the war, it’s about building a real peace. A world where our labour can go towards to benefit of all.

Solidarity Forever!

Ralph Chaplin, 1915

When the union’s inspiration through the workers’ blood shall run,
There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun;
Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one,
But the union makes us strong.

CHORUS: Solidarity forever, (x3)
For the union makes us strong.

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite,
Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might?
Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight?
For the union makes us strong. Chorus

It is we who plowed the prairies; built the cities where they trade;
Dug the mines and built the workshops, endless miles of railroad laid;
Now we stand outcast and starving midst the wonders we have made;
But the union makes us strong. Chorus

All the world that’s owned by idle drones is ours and ours alone.
We have laid the wide foundations; built it skyward stone by stone.
It is ours, not to slave in, but to master and to own.
While the union makes us strong. Chorus

They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn,
But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn.
We can break their haughty power, gain our freedom when we learn
That the union makes us strong. Chorus

In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold,
Greater than the might of armies, magnified a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old
For the union makes us strong. Chorus

We’re the women of the union in the forefront of the fight,
We fight for women’s issues, we fight for women’s rights,
We’re prepared to fight for freedom, we’re prepared to stand our ground,
Women make the union strong.Chorus

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