INTRODUCTION
 
     This collection of radical songs has been in preparation on and off now for
a number of years.  It was originally intended as one of the usual mimeographed
songsheets the socialist movement produces from time to time, which people can pick
when the singing starts at a party or after a meeting, I later decided to
include many of the "Ballads for Sectarians" that had never seen print, and in particular
a selection of songs from the skits that the "YSL Players" produced during the
five years before the Young Socialist League united with the Young People's Socialist
League, the youth section of the Socialist Party-Social Democratic Federation, and
publisher of this book.

     As the songbook is still intended primarily for use at gatherings, it is being
sold near cost.  Unfortunately for over a decade now, we haven't had inexpensive
songsheets available for group singing.  This book, it is hoped, will at least fill
that gap.

     The songs have been divided into three sections; Labor and Radical Songs,
Satirical and Sectarian Songs, and Folk Songs.  This rather arbitrary labelling scheme
by no means allowed a unique place for each song, but it was clear that some distinc-
tions were necessary.  Incidentally, the middle section contains many songs that are
intended as jokes, and whose authors would be highly insulted if you took them
seriously.

                      * * * * * * * * * * * * *

     The socialist movement has always been a singing movement, as have the movements
for social justice that preceded it.  Whenever masses of people have moved forward
to fight against oppression, they have sung songs to give them courage and inspiration.
In our day of super sophistication, these heroic songs, at first blush, are likely
to strike a newcomer (or worn out ex) as pretentious, over-emotional and phony.  For
emotional commitment to a political ideal (or any ideal, for that matter) in these
time of prosperity, smug complacency, and "adjustment" takes on the appearance of
an emotional disorder.

     The socialist movement has a long and honorable tradition, and these songs are
a part of that tradition.  There is little in the America at mid-century to give one
a sense of history, and it is perhaps for this reason that the songs that millions
have had on their lips when fighting and dying for human freedom and dignity have
such an other-worldly ring to us.  These songs from the worldwide struggles and the
aspirations of many generations can impart a flavor of that historic continuity and
tradition, particularly to the young people who are now entering the socialist
movement.

     The Heroic songs all appear in the first section; many of them from the
European Socialist movements.  These have their counterparts in the early songs of
the American Socialist and labor movements, which were closely intertwined in their
beginning days.  For labor unions were not always as powerful and respectable as
they are today,  It took many generations of often bloody struggles with company police
and state troopers before the employing class finally gave in and accepted the fact
that unions were here to stay.  In this atmosphere of bitter class struggle, bloody
strikes with martyrs--sometimes in the hundreds--, these Heroic songs were sung by
radical union workers.  There are many radical verses to traditional union songs
like "Solidarity Forever" which are no longer sung in the unions.  The radical move-
ment and the Socialist Party were forces to reckon with in those days, both elect-
torally, and as a powerful current in the labor movement.  In very many important
unions, it was the socialists who organized them.  It should not be forgotten that
the first constitution of the A.F. of L., which it kept for most of its life,
declared its belief in the class struggle.

     It is  probably for this  reason that so  many of our satirical barbs are aimed at
the Communists.  Perhaps the most famous of these is the song "Our Line's Been
Changed Again", written after Hitler double-crossed Stalin by invading Russia in
June, 194l, ending the honeymoon days of the Hitler-Stalin Pact during which the
Foreign Minister of the USSR, Motolotov, had stated, "Fascism is a matter of taste."

               * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

     Many songs I would have liked to include in this collection just got squeezed
out by space considerations.  Others are missing because I had no copy of the words.
There are very few songs here from the famous "People's Song Book", known to so many
folk songsters, put out by the "non-political" "People's Artists", which has always
been friendly to the political line of the Communist Party.  These songs, some of
which are excellent, are readily available while many of those from the socialist
current are not.

     The songs from the YSL and earlier skits are by no means complete.  I had only
a partial collection, and selected my favorites from these.  The bulk of the YSL
songs were written by Priscilla Cheneweth; the "Mikado and the Mechayeh" skit is due
to me.  Some of the recent satires were written by Roy Berkeley, and have appeared
in the "Boss' Songbook".

     A good part of the makeup comes from the collection of the Students for
Democratic Action, gathered by Jerry Kramer.  Its folk song section has been taken
over almost intact.

     I wish to thank all those who have helped in amassing the original material.
If you know good songs that are missing, please send me a copy.  In particular, this
book would never have appeared had not my wife Lillian worked throughout a hot
summer typing these stencils, a task which I had been trying to induce upon various
comrades for over three years.  Thanks also go to Berny Bolitzer and some New York
YPSL's who collated the songbook.

     The cover is by Eugene Glaberman.

                                            Owen Fleischman

                                            August, 1959
 
 

The section of FREEDOM SONGS was added in February of 1964.

<>Previous page  Next page