Solidarity Forever

(To the tune of “John Brown’s Body” & “Battle Hymn of the Republic”)

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.

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 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 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.

Ralph Chaplin worked for “Solidarity”, published by his union the Industrial Workers of the World (the IWW or “Wobblies”). He began writing “Solidarity Forever” in 1914, while covering the Kanawa coal miners’ strike in Huntington, WV. He completed the song on January 15, 1915, in Chicago, on the date of a hunger demonstration.

Chaplin was inspired by Julia Ward Howe’s Civil War hymn, to the tune of an earlier abolitionist anthem. Although “Solidarity Forever” was written for the IWW, other unions, like the UAW, and union movements, such as the AFL-CIO, have adopted the song as their own.