MADISON WISCONSIN, 2011... A medley of songs and videos from the workers' struggle for the right to organize and have unions

The following article was originally posted at on February 24, 2011. At the time, Substance was unable to post graphics because of a bug in our software that had been caused by the failure of our Web host, Network Solutions, to inform us of changes they had made. By March 1, we were back up with all graphics, but decided rather than go back to the thrilling days of February we would simply continue from here. If you go to Back Issues we apologize for the lack of graphics through most of February.

As this is written, Madison continues to be the focal point of the struggle, but not the only site of struggle. So...

Be inspired and also be smart. We can be both. With hundreds of hours of videos and audios now being shared across the Internet, it's almost impossible to begin to cite any one. But the following video has been praised by many Chicago Teachers Union brothers and sisters who have joined the struggle in Madison from Chicago, and so it will do, not only as one five-minute collage of images from Madison, but also because it links to dozens of others.

URL at

A second video, reminding all of us of what's at stake, comes from MSNBC and Rachel Maddow, explaining how Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has deliberately created a "fiscal crisis" to try and break the unions. But the 15-minute Maddoe video goes further, explaining the relationship between the billionaires who want to run the world and the last thing between them and absolute power: America's labor unions. This video can be reached at:

If you can't get the hot link.

Other songs worth remembering will finish out this report. The first, "This land is your land," is available in a large number of versions, but it might be best heard in the voice of Woody Guthrie sung in 1945, the year the war to end fascism was won. The video that accompanies this song also shows Woody's guitar, which says on it "This machine kills fascists."

If Woody's song "This land is your land" is a sweeter version of that time in the struggle, try "All you fascists bound to lose." And just to remind everyone what Woody's work was really about, try listening to the song "All You Fascists Bound to Lose" which begins with one of our favorite Woody Guthrie quotes: "You fascists are gonna see what a couple of hillbillies can do..." Check out the sign on Woody's guitar: This Machine Kills Fascists. No ambiguity back in the 1930s and 1940s, when Woody, Paul Robeson, and others were helping lead the struggle for workers' rights and against the enemies of working people, freedom and democracy.

The URL, for those who can't get the hot link above, is at:

Another song that workers will want to hear from one of the most famous voices of labor, Pete Seeger, is Solidarity Forever, the classic union song, which is also available at the following UFL:

It's also probably time that someone updated the other classic union song, "Which Side Are You On." Anyone who wants to know the story behind the story of "Which Side Are You On?" can get the videos "Harlan County Wars" or "Matewan" to get the flavor of organizing a union in the coal fields back when union busters like 2011's Scott Walker (Governor of Wisconsin) were also running many states. It's never been easy.

The URL for "Which Side Are You On" (Pete Seeger singing) is:

There are other songs that stand tall in all struggles for human freedom and democracy. That struggle, we are reminded, came "out of Egypt" in part more than 2,500 years ago and has come out of Egypt once again. But these struggles go on generation after generation, as the struggles for freedom take on different forms in different generations.

One song that might not be known to many in the current generation of fighters now assembling in Madison and across the USA for the first battles in what will be a long class war is "Lili Marlene." Its words were known and sung by men on both sides of the massive conflicts that brought millions of deaths to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (the songs of the Pacific War were different) between 1939 and 1945 and need to be remembered as part of this medley. Substance will give a subscription to the person who explains, in a comment here, why this song — and especially the woman who sings it — deserves the same place as the other songs of strife, strike and struggle that are unfolding as we write these words. From a previous struggle against evil: Lili Marlene, sung by Marlene Dietrich.

As usual, if you can't make the link work, try the URL:

The English translation in the version here might help, along with the photographs, to show some of what was going on at the time. Dietrich, who was German, had been declared a traitor by the Nazis and chose to entertain Allied soldiers and other military people at the front, beginning in North Africa and continuing through France, Belgium and Germany during the final years of World War II. The photos that accompany the version of the song offered here show some of what she offered to men who fought, and many died, in those struggles for freedom. The struggle for freedom and democracy is always complex, as these photographs might show to some who never had the chance to learn much of the history of those years. The URL, for those who can't make the link above, is:

One of many historical moments forgotten or whited out of any people's history is the origin of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," the tune to which "Solidarity Forever" was brought to us. The greatest struggle for human freedom and democracy in the United States during the 19th Century was the fight to end slavery, the crucial battle of which was the U.S. Civil War from 1861 to 1865. There are thousands of versions of that song available today, in 2011 and beyond. The song was the recessional at the funeral of Chicago Teachers Union president Jacqueline Vaughn in January 1994, and marches on today when union people sing the newest version of the Union's marching song. The Union marching song during the struggle to end slavery was The Battle Hymn of the Republic. In addition to hearing the words again as this small essay ends, the history of the Battle Hymn is also worth remembering. One brief rendition of that history can be found at the following URL (if you can't get the hot link) and is also reprinted here (below the URL):

Battle hymn of the Republic by Mrs. Julia Ward Howe. Published by the Supervisory Committee for Recruiting Colored Regiments. [n.d.] Music Division

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord

He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored . . .

"The Battle Hymn of the Republic" went through a number of versions in the years immediately before the Civil War. Its tune and its early lyrics were written by William Steffe about 1856. Its first verse and refrain were:

Say brothers, will you meet us?

Say brothers, will you meet us?

Say brothers, will you meet us?

On Canaan's happy shore?

Glory, glory hallelujah!

Glory, glory hallelujah!

Glory, glory hallelujah!

For ever, evermore!

The song first gained popularity around Charleston, South Carolina, where it was sung as a Methodist Camp Meeting song, particularly in churches belonging to free Blacks. By contrast, it was also used early on as a marching song on army posts.

The song gathered new verses following the insurrection at Harper's Ferry, led by John Brown and carried out by a cadre of nineteen men on October 16, 1859. Brown's actions, trial and subsequent execution made him a martyr to Abolitionists and African-Americans and prompted some people to add the following lines to Steffe's by then popular song.

John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave,

John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave,

John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave,

His soul is marching on!

Some have also theorized that the new verses were written about an inept Army sergeant named John Brown, thus giving the lyrics a kind of humorous double entendre.

By the time of the Civil War "John Brown's Body" had become a very popular marching song with Union Army regiments, particularly among the Colored troops. The Twelfth Massachusetts Regiment, in particular, has been credited with spreading the song's fame on their march to the South, where Confederate soldiers then inverted the meaning of their words and sang, "John Brown's a-hanging on a sour apple tree." The war's rivalry continued to be carried on in music as the northerners then sang in turn, "They will hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree."

But it was when Julia Ward Howe visited Washington, DC in 1861 that the tune properly came to be called "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Howe and her husband, both of whom were active abolitionists, experienced first-hand a skirmish between Confederate and Union troops in nearby Virginia, and heard the troops go into battle singing "John Brown's Body." That evening, November 18, 1861, Ward was inspired to write a poem that better fit the music. It began "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord." Her poem, which was published in the Atlantic Monthly in February 1862 soon became the song known as "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Finally, we need to remind one another of the harsh betrayals that await people who are deceived by false promises of "Hope" and shallow Madison Avenue versions of commitment.

It's been only three years since a U.S. Senator from Illinois sprung into national prominence as a candidate for President of the United States after the famous Iowa caucuses of 2008. And it's only two years since the first waves of betrayals of those hopes came to all of us with the appointment of Arne Duncan as U.S. Secretary of Education in January 2009 and the beginning of the fascist "Race to the Top" programs of market based competition and privatization aimed against one of the treasures of American democracy, the nation's public schools. Let's not forget that some of our greatest betrayals come after our greatest hopes have been raised.

Anyone who wants to remember how big the Barack Obama betrayal was could do no worse than to go to the You Tube video of Obama's "Hope" speech after he won the Iowa caucuses in 2008. In the background is Bruce Springsteen singing "This Land is Your Land". Even as he was delivering the Iowa speech, Obama was making arrangements to have his fundraising effort taken over by Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker, and by the time he was elected in November 2008, only a few months after that Iowa "Hope" speech, Obama was already planning to betrayal of the people — teachers and steelworkers, union people, nurses, and all those who shared those "hopes" ‚ who elected him, precinct by precinct, county by county, state by state. Whether the betrayal was by putting Arne Duncan and "Race to the Top" as the nation's market driven program for destroying public schools or Obama's betrayal of his promise to win "Card Check" for union organizers, whether that betrayal was developing a "Health Care Reform" program that will make the health gougers and insurance companies wealthier or continuing the twin imperialist wars...

The link to the Iowa speech for those who can't access the hot link about is:

Let's not forget how quickly some men can betray the hopes of a generation and a nation, while our songs play in the background.


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