Solidarity Forever

Today is May Day, the day the rest of the world celebrates labor, and more generally, the left.(Of course, here in the US, George W Bush has declared May 1st Loyalty Day.)

I was thinking the other day that part of the problem with being a writer/reporter is that it’s relatively easy to get removed from the nuts and bolts of bringing social change about. And one can get trapped inside the circles of pundits and op-ed columnist and dueling, preening elites and forget the deep and inspiring tradition that makes me proud to declare myself part of the Left: the phenomenon of ordinary people banding together to demand justice, to declare their solidarity with each other, and to push mundane and often brutal institutions to be more humane.

So herewith in honor of May Day, the lyrics to Which Side Are You On which always gives me goosebumps every time I hear it:

Come all of you good workers Good news to you I'll tell Of how that good old union Has come in here to dwell

(Chorus)
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

My daddy was a miner
And I’m a miner’s son
And I’ll stick with the union
Till every battle’s won

They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there
You’ll either be a union man
Or a thug for J.H. Blair

Oh, workers can you stand it?
Oh, tell me how you can
Will you be a lousy scab
Or will you be a man?

Don’t scab for the bosses
Don’t listen to their lies
Us poor folks haven’t got a chance
Unless we organize

Finally, one of the best books I’ve ever read and one of the most heartfelt and moving books about the labor movement is Tom Geoghegan’s Which Side Are You On. If you haven’t read it, you must.

Chris Hayes is the host of All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC.


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