February 21, 2018

Solidarity forever!


It's a little known fact that "Solidarity Forever," the international anthem of the labor movement,  was inspired by events in West Virginia. Ralph Chaplin, writer and long time rebel worker, lived for a time in the Mountain State and edited a labor paper in Huntington, one of several then published in the state.

While here, he was inspired by the solidarity of coal miners during long and bitter strikes that raged in Kanawha County in the Paint Creek and Cabin Creek areas around 1912-1913. It took him a while to finish the song, which is sung to the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Today most people familiar with the song only know the chorus. In honor of West Virginia's teachers, service workers and public employees, here's the whole thing:

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.

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

(Note: this song has shown up in this blog before, but it seem especially relevant today.)