‘Music: One of the Most Powerful of the Natural Forces’ by James Wilson from Industrial Union Bulletin. Vol. 2 No. 21. July 25, 1908.

‘Music: One of the Most Powerful of the Natural Forces’ by James Wilson from Industrial Union Bulletin. Vol. 2 No. 21. July 25, 1908.

Among the physical forces, made useful to men, sound has played one of the most important parts. We use the word light, in a literal as well as figurative sense. But sound has more often a real, plain meaning.

Is not the ear the most perfect of the organs of sense? We can remember a tune, long after the words have been forgotten.

The association of sounds, and in a higher degree, music, is one of the most lasting and forcible of impressions.

What old cavalry veteran does not know that even the war horse remembers the different bugle calls, and will neigh and paw the ground with excitement when he hears the stirring blast of the trumpet?

We know that music stirs the emotions in every way. The majestic funeral march of Beethoven appeals to the mind with its solemn and awful grandeur; the latest rag-time dance tune fills us with the feeling of gaiety and enlivens our care-worn existence.

What more powerful to excite ridicule than a comic song? How very useful to bring out the hollowness of the sham religionists, with their sounding drum and doleful chants while they pick our pockets and tell us that “he that giveth to the poor, lendeth to the Lord!” The debt to be repaid in the next world-probably Mars-for that its the world nearest to the earth!

The sky-pilots have long told us of reviving grace-whatever that may be. They also tell us to “taste of the Lord and see that He is good.”

How comforting to a hungry man!

They have sung us this song, “Revive Us Again,” till we are anything but revived, rather are we more than ever exhausted, and our patience too! Here is the way this song or so-called hymn, is now sung to meet more fully the aspirations of the hungry worker for more dinner and less work:

O, why don’t you work
As other men do?
How in hell can I work
When there’s rib work to do?

Hallelujah! I’m a bum!
Halleluiah, bum again.
Halleluiah! give us a hand-out.
To revive us again!

O, why don’t you save
AH the money you earn?
If I did not eat
I ‘d have money to burn I
O, I like my boss-
He’s a good friend of mine;
That’s why I’m starving
Out in the bread-line.
I can’t buy a job;
For I’ve not got the “dough,”
So I ride in a box car,
And am a hobo.
Whenever I get
All the money I earn;
The boss will be broke
And to work he must turn.

James Wilson.

Ridicule and sarcasm are the only weapons to meet these people who long since refused to reason and whose only excuse for existence is to try to dull the sharp edge of the class struggle-the scavengers of the employing class! They would pray for our souls, while they prey on our miser

But while we hold up to scorn and derision the lackeys and camp-followers of the employers’ strong organization, let us not forget to shout defiance to the band of robbers, great and small, powerful and contemptible alike.

What is a “patriotic air,” of which we hear so much and which is so much reverenced? Generally a song of praise to the virtues, such as hatred, cruelty and avarice. The masters would persuade us that robbery is just, that cruelty is kind; and that hate is pure love, when done under the particular flag of a national band of robbers.

They send their spies, the missionaries, to teach the native of a conquered and bleeding province, the wickedness of idolatry.

They would teach our children at home to worship a piece of cloth consecrated by the stripes of negro slaves, and therefore a fit emblem to wave over the “bull-pen” of our own times.

But we Industrial Workers recognize but two nations-the nation of the slaves and the nation of the thieves!

We also have our flag-the Red Flag-of Brotherhood, the only one not stained by the tears of slaves, and fanned by the wails of the helpless conquered!

In time to come, as we are able to have the education of our children in our own hands, they will associate all noble aspirations around our truly holy emblem, and the songs of the Social Revolution will take the place of the savage war-songs of the masters drunk with cruelty and blood.

O, that some new Rouget de Lisle would write us a fitting song to express our hopes and rouse our often flaggering energies!

An old Russian exile, condemned to the lonely existence of a Siberian prison post, would often, when Spring called with the smell of flowers and all the varied voices of eternal Hope, listen eagerly for the song of the cuckoo in the neighboring forest.

Being isolated by many a weary mile from the nearest dwelling of men, it was not thought needful to confine the prisoners, as the vast wilderness took the place of walls and bars.

When the cuckoo sung, the prisoner knew that the weather would permit of travel, and for many years the exile would escape to the forest only to wander back to the hateful prison when Winter came.

At last, grown old and feeble, he feared to go at the call of “General Kukushka,” as the cuckoo was known by the prisoners of Siberia.

But the old association of the call of the cuckoo was not to be resisted.

The exile for Freedom’s cause, came one day to the Governor of the prison-camp , and said, “I am too old to go to General Kukushka for orders; I fear that I will perish in the wilderness; please lock me up, Your High Nobility, so that I can’t run away!”

The simple song of the cuckoo rang of Liberty to that man. He could not disobey the call.

Let us also have our song of Liberty and grim determination.

The battle is on. We often sing “The Red Flag,” written by James Connell, long prominent in the labor movement in England.

The old German tune of “Tannenbaum” fits the words to perfection.


The people’s flag is deepest red.
It shrouded oft our martyred dead,
And e’er their limbs grew stiff and
Their hearts’ blood dyed its every
Then raise the scarlet standard high,
Beneath its folds we’ll live and die,
Tho’ cowards flinch and traitors
We’ll keep the Red Flag flying here!
Look round, the Frenchman loves its
The sturdy German chants its praise,
In Moscow’s vaults its hymns are
Chicago swells its surging song.
It waved above our infant might.
When all ahead seemed dark as night.
It witnessed many a deed and vow;
We will not change its color now.
h suits today, the meek and base.
Whose minds are fixed on pelf and
To cringe beneath the rich man’s
And haul that sacred emblem down.
With heads uncovered, swear we all
To bear it onward till we fall;
Come dungeons dark or gallows grim.
This song shall be our parting hymn!

May not this serve as our “Chant du Depart?”

In and through all the battle, and the daily toil; in spite of all the obstacles met and overthrown, painfully, one by one; in spite of the epithets hurled at us by the wise and good of the employers’ world; let us remember that music and harmony and the magic of sound can be made not only instructive but stimulating.

Here, then, is one of the “physical forces” hard to resist.

Let us use it!

The Industrial Union Bulletin, and the Industrial Worker were newspapers published by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) from 1907 until 1913. First printed in Joliet, Illinois, IUB incorporated The Voice of Labor, the newspaper of the American Labor Union which had joined the IWW, and another IWW affiliate, International Metal Worker.The Trautmann-DeLeon faction issued its weekly from March 1907. Soon after, De Leon would be expelled and Trautmann would continue IUB until March 1909. It was edited by A. S. Edwards. 1909, production moved to Spokane, Washington and became The Industrial Worker, “the voice of revolutionary industrial unionism.”

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/industrialworker/iub/v2n21-jul-25-1908-iub.pdf

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