Australian workers’ songs and poems

This video is called Free Speech and the IWW.

By Alex Salmon from Australia:


Wobbly workers’ words of wisdom

14 September 2007

Fanning discontent’s Flames: Australian Wobbly Poetry, Scurrilous Doggerel and Song, 1914-2007
Corrosive Press, 2007
43 pages, $2

“He claims to be the bosses foe. On workers friendship doting. He says ‘Don’t fight on the job, But do it all by voting.’

Written in 1916, this line comes from a song entitled “Hey Polly” criticising the pro-capitalist Australian Labor Party and its reliance on parliament. It is one of many songs and poems in the pamphlet Fanning Discontent’s Flames written by members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Founded in the US in 1905, the IWW was formed with the aim of organising all workers into one big union in order to take control of the means of production and overthrow capitalism. In Australia, preaching their message to people through street meetings, articles, songs and poems in their newspaper Direct Action, the Wobblies were vocal in their opposition to the First World War, seeing it as a means to divide workers of different countries against each other for the benefit of rival capitalists seeking to make more profits. When war was declared in August 1914, an anti-war sticker printed by the Wobblies started appearing on the streets of Sydney with the following message:

“To Arms! Capitalists, Parsons, Politicians, Landlords, Newspaper editors and other stay at home patriots. Your Country needs you in the trenches!! WORKERS Follow your masters.”

Apparently, from the expression ‘stay at home patriots’, in 1914 the expression ‘chickenhawk‘ had not been invented yet.

World War I and theories on imperialism: here.

Gallipoli: here.

History of the Australian Labor Party: here.

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