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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Working class culture is class struggle culture

Did you know that the tradition of the "singing IWW" (Industrial Workers of the World) grew directly out of the class struggle.
When the IWW organised skidroad meetings of workers to fight the gang-boss "sharks" on the West Coast of the US in 1907, the Salvation Army "ran interference" with their band and its big bass drum which drowned out the IWW speakers. The union organisers, led by J.H. Walsh, "hit upon the device of making parodies to be sung to the music furnished free by the Army".
The refrain "Hallelujah, I’m a Bum" became particularly popular because it was set to one of the Sallies most common tunes. From song cards eventually came the IWW song book.
If the church can have hymn books to rally the faithful, the unions can have song books to rouse the downtrodden.
(See The I.W.W.: Its First Seventy Years (1905 – 1975) by Fred Thompson and Patrick Murfin, published in 1976 by the IWW)

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