Solidarity Forever

Melody: William Steffe, 1856
Words: Ralph Chaplin, 1915
Arranged: Chrissie Shaw, Liz Blyth

By the beginning of the twentieth century the industrialisation of Western Europe and the USA was bringing new social and political movements into world history. Trade Unions were making headway in a grim struggle to win for working people a fairer share of the benefits of industrialisation, the right to earn a decent living from their work. In particular the Industrial Workers of the World – known affectionately as ‘the Wobblies’ – advocated a single union to unite all workers against their capitalist exploiters. In 1915 an IWW organiser named Ralph Chaplin was inspired by the Kanawha Valley coal strike in West Virginia to write new words to an old American tune, John Brown’s Body,  and the result has endured in the union movement ever since as Solidarity Forever.

Lyrics:

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 for us to do but organise and fight?
For 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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Author: solidaritychoir

Activist choir in Sydney Australia

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