Blitzstein Labor Songs

Blitzstein Labor Songs

Into the Streets May First
words by Alfred Hayes, 1934
(set to music by Aaron Copland, Elie Siegmeister, Marc Blitzstein, Lan Adomian,
Isadore Freed, Wallingford Riegger, Charles Seeger, Mitya Stillman, and "XYZ")

Into the streets May First,
Into the roaring Square
Shake the midtown towers,
Shatter the downtown air.
Come with a storm of banners.
Come with an earthquake tread.
Bells hurl out of your belfries.
Red flag, leap out your red.
Out of the shops and factories
Up with the sickle and hammer.
Comrades, these are our tools:
A song and a banner.

From our hearts roll song,
Banner leap up and be free
Song and banner together.
Down with the bourgeoisie.
Sweep the city forward.
Today is a barricade.
We hurl the bright bomb of the sun,
The moon like a hand grenade.
Pour forth like a second flood.
Thunder the alps of the air.
Subways, roar out our millions.
Comrades, into the square.

Copland's setting won the Workers Music League/New Masses May Day song competition.
Blitzstein's music was later used, with new words, in the Memorial Day Parade that opens
Act II of Leonard Lehrman's completion of his opera, Sacco and Vanzetti.

Strike Song by Marc Blitzstein (1935)
Copyright by Stephen E. Davis and Christopher Davis
[reprinted from Marc Blitzstein: A Bio-Bibliography by Leonard Lehrman, Praeger, 2005, p. 211]

We won't work today.
Strike, workers, strike!
This is our call to shirkers,
strike, fellow workers!
Until we get more pay,
strike, fellow workers!
The bosses
will have losses
and they'll come around.
But we'll meet with them on the workers' ground,
when we like!
And the thing to do is strike!

Down with all our tools.
Strike, workers, strike!
Look out for spies and lurkers.
Strike, fellow workers!
If they take us for fools,
strike, fellow workers!
Let's show them
that we know them
for the guys they are,
And that we're all set.
Let them go as far as they like!
For our answer is to strike!

First of May
by Eva Goldbeck (1935)
set to music by "Hammer" (Marc Blitzstein)

Workers fill the streets today;
What's it all about?
Workers fill the world today
Marching on the first of May
Listen to our shout...

First of May. Pass the word.
All the world. Rank and file.
Shoulder to shoulder,
always growing bolder,
Never turning back,
Never growing slack,
Till the work is done,
Till the battle's won.
We march. We sing. We work. We fight.
We know that we are in the right.
For you, for me, for everyone,
Fight for freedom!
What are you parading for
With a single tread?
More and more, and always more,
Challenge no one can ignore,
Workers march ahead.

What's the meaning of your song,
Rising with one voice?
Comrades workers, we are strong.
Build a world where we belong,
World of our choice.

Finale of I've Got the Tune by Marc Blitzstein (1937), adaptation by Leonard Lehrman (1970; 2005)

Because this is our day,
Because this is our time,
We demonstrate today
And we don't care if it's a crime!
The world is full of people who can see that they're oppressed.
Will you join us and protest?
We'll fight to live in peace,
So fight, and come our way.
We'll live in peace as brothers
[changed in 2005 to: As sisters and as brothers]
We will demonstrate today!

Outside Agitator from No for an Answer (1941)
Copyright by Stephen E. Davis and Christopher Davis. Renewed.
As recorded by Leonard Lehrman on Original Cast Records OC 4441

When they decided to build the Brooklyn Bridge,
They seemed to know that a bridge is a serious thing.
Well, they didn't bring
just anyone from Brooklyn:
They sent for a man who lived miles away -
But he could build a bridge!
They seemed to know a bridge could crack,
a bridge could break, a bridge could fall;
They seemed to know that wasn't all.
To build a bridge that was fine and strong,
And to be sure that it would last long -
An expert man
to build and plan -
And he could come from God knows where -
They didn't seem to care!
Now suppose they want to build a union just like a bridge...

Ever hear the story of the Outraged Employer? He said:
"Men, if problems arise, we need no
go-betweens, no trouble-makers from
up north, no paid propandists from
outside. We work in harmony, you and I.
Come to me, seek my counsel, I am always
ready to make an appointment."

Then he said: "Men, we have the pleasure to hear a talk
By my friend, come all the way to us from New York.
[alt.: it gives me pleasure to have you greet
My friend, come all the way to us from Wall Street.]
He will show us where
to speed up here and there."
The men did not give him the bird.
They only said, "My word!
You kicked our own boy outa the state -
You said he fanned the flames of hate.
Now who's your new friend? Well, well, well?
It ain't polite to bring it forth -
Did you say New York [alt.: Wall Street] way up North?
Let's throw him out like t'other cuss,
And have it out, just you and us!
Now, how 'bout nine o'clock?"
Well, it seems that the poor employer, he died of shock.