Friday, 23 September 2016

Solidarity Forever - Ralph Chaplin (1887-1961)

This  Labour Song ' Solidarity Forever' was  written by Industrial Workers of the World songwriter and their poet Laureatte Ralph Chaplin, he wrote the song for a hunger march, which was led by Lucy Parsons in Chicago in mid January 1915. He wrote of the songs origins in Wobbly an IWW journal, ' I wanted the song to be full of revolutionary fervour and to have a chorus that was ringing and defiant.  It was sung to the tune of 'John Brown's Body'  and was inspired by 'the Battle Hymn of the Republic'.
Ralph Chaplin was born in Ames, Kansas in 1887. The family moved to Chicago 1893, he did a variety of low-paid jobs before moving to Mexico  where he became a supporter of Emilliano Zapata He  joined the International Workers in 1913,but got distracted  after converting to Roman Catlolicism but  continued to back grass-roots activism and libertarian radicalism and to publish poetry. He died in Tacoma in 1961.
The following version of  his song was recorded in 1941 by Pete Seeger and the Almanac Singers  and is contained on their album ' Talking Union'. It is still probably one of the most well known union anthems after the Internationale.
It is still being sung by people still at war against capitalism's tyranny, and by those who are convinced in nothing less than the solidarity of freedom. As austerity grips, its message resonates even more,as  the greedy still try to lay the blame at the doors of the ordinary man. The song still chimes today because it describes the realization that collective power of workers and unions is greater than those with armies or hoarded gold etc.
The wobblies and the IWW still going strong, standing as a dedicated force for social change, internationally across the globe. It is still a member led union, for all workers, (whatever your job, whether unemployed or not.) Their motto being 'an injury to one is an injury to all.

Solidarity Forever

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


Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
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 organise and fight?
For the union makes us strong.


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.


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.


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


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.

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