Happy May Day (the real Labor Day)

Solidarity Forever!

Origin of Solidarity Forever:
SOLIDARITY FOREVER (RALPH CHAPLIN) (1915)
Tune: “Battle Hymn of the Republic”

PLAY MIDI FILE (13 KB) IN BACKGROUND

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“Solidarity Forever” is the most popular union song on the North American continent. If a union member knows only one union song it is almost sure to be this. It has become, in effect, the anthem of the American labor movement.

Ralph Chaplin, the famous poet, artist, writer, and organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World, wrote “Solidarity Forever” on January 17, 1915. That day, while lying on the rug in his living room, he scribbled stanza after stanza. The idea had come to him earlier while he was in West Virginia helping the coal miners in the great Kanawha Valley strike. Little did he dream then that song would live on after all his other work was forgotten.

Chaplin recalls: “I wanted a song to be full of revolutionary fervor and to have a chorus that was singing and defiant.”

Edith Fowke and Joe Glazer, eds., Songs of Work and Protest, New York, NY, 1973, p. 13.

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,
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 organize and fight?
For the union makes us strong.

It is we who plowed the praries; 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 wheel 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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