“Solidarity Forever”

This is the 100th anniversary of the song “Solidarity Forever,” first written in 1915 by Ralph Chaplin, who was a writer and artist for the IWW publication Solidarity. It was first sung at an enthusiastic labor rally of workers and immigrants (including Chaplin) at Jane Addams’ Hull House on Chicago’s south side to the tune of “John Brown’s Body.”

In 1917, Chaplin ended up in Cook County jail and then Leavenworth (along with 100 other union activists) convicted under the Espionage Act, charged with hindering the draft and encouraging desertion. He served four years and was released after the war.

Chaplin’s attorney insisted before Chicago’s Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis: “The IWWs say there must be a fundamental change … the reorganization of industry, for public service, so that the purpose shall be that we will work to live and not merely live to work. Work for service rather than work for profit.” The words to “Solidarity Forever” embody this spirit and disparage the abuse by wealthy capitalists of the value of the work of those who toil for them. Its words still ring true. Occasionally before our IFT Union meetings, BK will bring out his guitar and we will all belt out this song.

xxxxx
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 
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