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Ralph Chaplin (1887-1961) was an American artist, writer, and IWW organizer.


"I wrote 'Solidarity Forever' at a time when there was a life-or-death struggle between fiercely competitive ideological groups to see which of them would shape the future of the then embryonic left-wing labor movement. It was a knockdown-drag-out fight with no holds barred, and every available weapon from gentle persuasion to brass knuckles was used to gain a fair or unfair advantage. Indicative of the final outcome is the fact that it was returning Russian-born IWW members who manned the Soviet Union's last barricade of freedom when Trotsky's janissaries liquidated the anti-Communist sailors of the Red fleet after their unsuccessful rebellion at Kronstadt. Many of those young men and women came from Chicago's West-Side close to the IWW headquarters, their rich voices singing what the Communists sneeringly referred to as the 'Anarchists' Marching Song'. As for me, the thunderous rhythm was full of the revolutionary affirmation I tried to weave into the pattern of 'Solidarity Forever'. Those voices still haunt me, coming as they did from the Russia of Turgenev, Tolstoi, Kropotkin, and Pasternak. All of this harkens back to the beginning of the war of ideas that was starting to jell in the first decades of the last century, and that was to split the contenders into warring camps for a long time to come. It is my opinion that those ideas have made history, and a whale of a lot of it. Unless present-day historians can identify and define the conflicting elements involved in this confused situation, they will be unable to make the world upheaval that followed in their wake understandable. Every now and then some nitwit theoretician will brush the IWW aside with the owlish observation that we were 'the Communists in those days!' Certainly the ideas of such divergent personalities as Lucy Parsons, Victor Berger, Daniel De Leon and William Dudley Haywood were important factors in the struggle, but it was the larger clash of irreconcilable social and economic philosophies that met head on and refused to merge that was back of the prevailing ferment. What hung precariously in the balance at the time 'Solidarity Forever' was written was first a choice between political action at the ballot box and direct action at the point of production for the attainment of immediate objectives, and secondly a choice between armed insurrection and the general strike as a means of putting 'the parasite and outmoded capitalist system in its place'. It was as simple as that.... It was from the lips of Eugene Victor Debs that I first heard the world 'solidarity' uttered, and from Debs also that I first learned of the Western Federation of Miners, and of Bill Haywood, who, like Debs, brought down on his battle-scarred head the wrath of the employers and the invective of the capitalist press. Naturally, I could not remain neutral. It wasn't in the cards, however, for me to meet Haywood until eight years later and through him to contact that One Big Union of the Industrial Workers of the World that was to become a lifetime dedication.... What we were seeking was a united labor movement—'all for one and one for all'—and it was this principle that I tried to embody in 'Solidarity Forever'. That is why, if for no other reason, that the story of 'Solidarity Forever' may be worth the telling."—Ralph Chaplin, "Why I Wrote 'Solidarity Forever'" (1968)


All Hell Can't Stop Us
The Commonwealth of Toil
IWW Prison Song
Joe Hill
Joe Hill in Jail
May Day Song
Mourn Not the Dead
November
Paint 'Er Red
The Red Feast
Solidarity Forever
Some Day a Silent Guard
The Song of the Rail
That Sabo-Tabby Kitten
To My Little Son
Up from Your Knees

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