'Solidarity Forever' Labor Anthem Endures "Solidarity Forever," the unofficial anthem of the American labor movement, was written in 1915 by a little-known poet named Ralph Chaplin and set to the civil war tune "John Brown's Body." Since then, it has been sung in union halls, jails and on picket lines across the country.
NPR logo 'Solidarity Forever' Labor Anthem Endures

'Solidarity Forever' Labor Anthem Endures

Social historian and folk singer Joe Glazer greets Ralph Chaplin (right), composer of "Solidarity Forever," in 1960. Courtesy Joe Glazer hide caption

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Courtesy Joe Glazer

Hear the Song

Listen to Joe Glazer's Rendition of 'Solidarity Forever'

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A version of Joe Glazer singing Chaplin's "Solidarity Forever" is included in a new CD from the Industrial Workers of the World marking the group's 100th anniversary. hide caption

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"Solidarity Forever," the unofficial anthem of the American labor movement, was written in 1915 by a little-known poet named Ralph Chaplin and set to the civil war tune "John Brown's Body." Since then, it has been sung in union halls, jails and on picket lines across the country. Even now, at a time when labor rolls are down, the song endures.

Lyrics to 'Solidarity Forever'

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.

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.