This interesting article from Freedom, Vol 43, number 16, 21 August, 1982.
Another poem from the rather good Manchester magazine of working class writing, Voices. This is from issue 4, 1974
New Sounds of Motown
The happy coupon seller made a mint
wading through sunlight with his heart rolled up to his knees
hostile glances breaking like surf on his smile
the breeze rippling over his stomach no shirt
was it a streaker?…
no, was going to say
no shirt buttons
burst off on soup run
ran too fast?…
no, drank too much soup
before summer came
milk shakes and root beer
dry grass and warm stars
red sunset hanging on bedroom wall
out over the ocean
padding softly now
down the lines of cars
bare feet on hot tarmac
was it a hippy?…
no, shoes being mended
new uppers fitted
said his name was dylan
you mean it was …
no, spelt dillon
came from detroit
to get away from the fighting
was it a draft dodger then?…
no, not the fighting in vietnam
it was at general motors
not that kind of fighting, you see
ferry docks now
cars and lorries rolling off
dust and diesel fumes
dillon does not like
dives over fence and into forest
sits on carpet dappled shade and sunlight
chewing not gum
birds chirp rustle
unhurried hedgehog passes
single track beneath the bushes
dragonfly wings whirring
fern and foxglove growing
sounds of forever
cars in line again
standing at ease
chains and siren playing
ferry moves off
afternoon sun hot on tin roofs
counts his change
half his coupons sold already
was it a lottery then?…
no, it was annual bathtub races
coupons in commemoration of
not even gummed on the back
but marketed by a leading citizen
who won considerable acclaim
For his spirit of enterprise
but if dillon thought that
no, he did not think
hairs rising on back of neck
at the front
the lady with the cadillac
why he is smiling
and dillon gives her his last coupon
but she cannot undo her safety harness
and remains seated
behind her credit card
and goes to look for
nanaimo girl …
You mean this was real?…
like a dream
the arbutus trees
do they stay green
through the winter
underneath the fir trees
does it stay warm at night
knowing well the answer
the sun slipping away
end of summer
first chill in the water
or the early morning ferry
said it was time
to stop dreaming
did he write to you?…
just a postcard picture of lak eerie
said it didn’t show the poison
said he couldn’t find a picture
of what it’s really like
said he was lost for words
i saw his photograph
in last week’s paper
said he was a wildcat
wild? no, not that sort
more like a bird
he just needed to be free…
that letter you were reading this morning
yes, he wrote to say
you may have read about this militant
pulling the power-switch
with a three-hundred man bodyguard
holding to ransom
taking orders for exports
forced to change our supervisor
well, next time
we may be nearer three thousand
and general motors
may be forced to take orders
from his own infantry
and start changing what’s being supervised
but can you believe
we re just trying to get some peace
they won’t let us breathe
please don’t think i begrudge you
the new vega your father was buying you
someone’s got to buy the goddamn things
and please don’t expect poetry
from a sixty hourweekcontinuousprocessworker
you see, i’ve realised
it’s someone else’s language
he always used to let me use
the parts he didn’t need
but now the parts we need
he’s using for something quite different
something completely unnatural
so we’re beginning to question
what he’s doing with our language
as well as our lives
was he always a bit of a trouble-maker?…
trouble? he was always
running away from it saying
they won’t let me breathe
always used to talk about “me”
now he says
you wouldn’t recognise me
there’s a million of us
we can’t all hit the trans-canada highway
now he talks about “us”
as if he’s struggling
with the beginnings
of a new language
Gigs were violent in the late 70s and early 80s. Music was a space where ideas were fought over.
Attila believed that talking to the converted was a waste of time, and so gigged wherever he could, and still does.
There was, and is, a hardcore of twats but ranting poetry was keen to reach everyone.
Sometimes the talking wasn’t verbal.
Alex Glasgow (1935-2001) was a Geordie singer/songwriter. He also wrote the songs and music for the successful musical plays Close the Coal House Door and On Your Way, Riley! by Alan Plater, and scripts for the TV drama When the Boat Comes In, the theme song of which he sang.
The Socialist ABC
When that I was and a little, tiny boy,
Me daddy said to me,
‘The time has come, me bonny, bonny bairn,
To learn your ABC.’
Now Daddy was a lodge chairman
In the coalfields of the time
And his ABC was different
From the Enid Blighton kind.
He sang, ‘A is for Alienation
That made me the man that I am, and
B’s for the Boss who’s a Bastard,
A Bourgeois who don’t give a damn.
C is for Capitalism,
The bosses’ reactionary creed, and
D’s for Dictatorship, laddie,
But the best proletarian breed.
E is for Exploitation
That workers have suffered so long, and
F is for old Ludwig Feuerbach,
The first one to say it was wrong.
G is all Gerrymanderers,
Like Lord Muck and Sir Whatsisname, and
H is the Hell that they’ll go to
When the workers have kindled the flame.
I’s for Imperialism,
And America’s kind is the worst, and
J is for sweet Jingoism,
That the Tories all think of the first.
K is for good old Kier Hardy,
Who fought out the working class fight, and
L is for Vladimir Lenin,
Who showed him the left was all right.
M is of course for Karl Marx,
The daddy and the mommy of them all, and
N is for Nationalisation –
Without it we’d tumble and fall.
O is for Overproduction,
That capitalist economy brings, and
P is for all Private Property,
The greatest of all of the sins.
Q’s for the Quid pro quo,
That we’ll deal out so well and so soon, when
R for Revolution is shouted and
The Red Flag becomes the top tune.
S is for Sad Stalinism
That gave us all such a bad name, and
T is for Trotsky, the hero,
Who had to take all of the blame.
U’s for the Union of Workers –
The Union will stand to the end, and
V is for Vodka, yes, Vodka,
The vun drink that vont bring the bends.
W’s for all Willing Workers,
And that’s where the memory fades,
For X, Y, and Zed,’ my dear daddy said,
‘Will be written on the street barricades.’
Now that I’m not a little tiny boy,
Me daddy says to me,
‘Please try to forget those thing that I said,
Especially the ABC.’
For daddy is no longer a union man,
And he’s had to change his plea.
His alphabet is different now,
Since they made him a Labour MP.
This poem comes from Vol 1, issue 9 of Emma Goldman’s magazine Mother Earth. The magazine ran from 1906 to 1917. From 1907 to 1915 Alexander Berkman was the editor.
Over the years essays and poems from the likes of Voltairine de Cleyre, Maxim Gorky, Rudolf Rocker, Martha Gruening, Errico Malatesta, Lola Ridge and many more.
By Christopher Caustic
I hate your hypocritic race,
Who prate about pretended grace;
With tabernacle phizzes,
Who think Oninipotence to charm,
By faces longer than my arm!
O, what a set of quizzes!
I hate your wretches, wild and sad,
like gloomy nights in Bedlam mad,
Or vile Old Bailey* culprits;
Who, with a sacrilegious zeal,
Death and damnation dare to deal
From barn-erected pulpits.
I hate that hangman’s aspect bluff,
In him, whose disposition’s rough,
The porcupine surpasses;
Who thinks that heaven is in his power,
Because his sullen looks might sour
A barrel of molasses.
* English Insane Asylum and Prison.
Edith Nesbit, author of, among others, The Railway Children, had poetry published in anarchist magazine Freedom. She was a follower of William Morris, one of the founders of the Fabian Society, and a friend of Peter Kropotkin and Eleanor Marx. This poem from Freedom, 1888.
All in All
WHEN all the night is horrible with clamour
Of voiceless curses darker than the night,
When light of sun there is not, neither starshine,
Nor any beacon on the hill of Right,
Shine, O thou Light of Life, upon our pathway—
Freedom, be thou our light!
Since all life’s ways are difficult and dreary,
And false steps echo through eternity,
And there is naught to lean on as we journey
By paths not smooth as downward paths would be,
We have no other help—we need no other;
Freedom, we lean on thee!
The slave’s base murmur and the threats of tyrants,
The voice of cowards who cringe and cry ‘Retreat,’
The whisper of the world, ‘Come where power calls thee!’
The whisper of the flesh, ‘Let life be sweet.’
Since all these with thy divine commanding;
Guide thou thy children’s feet!
For thee, for thee we bear the cross, the banner,
For thee are all our battles fought and won;
For thee was every prayer we ever uttered,
For thee has every deed of ours been done;
To thee we press—to thee, triumphant splendour,
O Freedom, lead us on!
Where thou shalt lead we do not fear to follow.
Thou hast our hearts; we follow them in thee.
Spirit of Light, whatever thou shalt show us,
Strong in the faith, we shall not fear to see;
We reach to thee through all the waves of darkness
Of all the days to be.