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Anti-Conscription Army Songs [1917]


By Ralph H. Chaplin

(Tune: "John Brown's Body")

When the Union's inspiration through the
workers' blood shall run,
There can be no power greater anywhere
beneath the sun.
Yet what force on earth is weaker than the
feeble strength of one?
But the Union makes us strong.



Solidarity for ever !
Solidarity for ever !
Solidarity' for ever !
For the Union makes us strong.

Is there aught we hold in common with
the greedy parasite,
Who would lash us into serfdom and
would crush us with his might ?
Is there anything left for us but to organise
and fight ?
For the Union makes us strong.

It is we who ploughed the prairies, built
tbe cities where they trade,
Dug the mines and built the workshops ;
endless miles of railway laid.
Now we stand, outcast and starving, 'mid
the wonders we have made ;
But the Union makes us strong.

All the world that's owned by idle drones
is ours, and ours alone.
We have laid the wide foundations ; built
it skywards stone by stone.
It is ours, and not to slave in, but to
master and to own
While the Union made us strong.

They have taken untold millions that they
never toiled to earn,
But without our brain and muscle not a
single wheel can turn.
We can break their haughty power; gain
our freedom when we learn
That the Union makes us strong.

In our hands is placed a power greater
than their hoarded gold.
Greater than the might of armies magnified
a thousandfold ;
We can bring to birth the new world from
the ashes of the old,
For the Union makes us strong.
(Tune-Take it to the Lord in Prayer)

Are you tired of fat's aggression ?
Of the war do you feel sick ?
Would you take a frank suggestion
From the boys who're going to kick?
All your rulers are designing
To compel you fight their foes.
If against them you're inclining
Come and join the "never goes."

Is your backbone made of jelly ?
Is your courage in a can ?
Has your heart dropped in your belly ?
Would you prove you are a man ?
When they've passed this conscript binder
To augment your many woes,
Send them back the sly reminder
You have joined the "never goes."

If you're not a bally weakling,
But a man who has a heart ;
If you're not a crawling creeping,
Come with us and play your part.
All of us are meaning action,
We are giving blows for blows;
Come and swell this growing faction ;
Come and join the "never goes."

When they'd sieze us for a soldier,
And would force us with their might
, We will send them out our bolder,
That for them we'll never fight.
We are going to stand together,
"All for one:" our motto goes;
Solidarity for ever--
We're the never, "never goes."

(Tune: "Yankee Doodle.")

Come listen all dear friends of mine,
I want to move a motion,
To make an Eldorado here
I've got a bonzer notion.


Bump me into Parliament ;
Bounce me anyway-ay ;
Bung me into Parliament
On next Election Day.

Some very wealthy pals I know
Declare I am most clever ;
Where some may talk for an hour or so,
Why I can talk for ever.

I have the poor man's cause at heart ;
I stand for revolutions ;
The quickest way to bring them on
Is talking "constitutions."

I know the Arbitration Act
Like a sailor does his riggings.
So if you want a small advance
I'll talk to justice Higgins.

The question's asked--" what would I do
If e'er the Germans came here ?
A regulation I would make
To say they sha'nt remain here.


To keep the cost of living down
A law I straight would utter ;
A hundred loaves for a tray I'd sell ;
With a penny a ton for butter.

'Tis said that kids are getting scarce.
I think there's something in it.
By extra laws I'll incubate
A million kids a minute.

I've read my bible ten times through.
And Jesus justifies me ;
The man who does not vote for me.
By Christ! he crucifies me.

(Tune: "The Wearing of the Green.")

I met a working man to-day who wore
in his lapel
A photo of a plutocrat, and a Union
Jack as well.
I looked into his toil-worn face, and a
simple look it bore.
I could tell he was a bonehead by the
button that he wore.

He asked me how I got along ; I told
him pretty tight ;
That for a country where men starved
I would refuse to fight.
He said he stood for Empire, though
he could'nt find a job ;
He praised the British Navy--and he
bummed me for a bob.

I asked him many questions then
why he was knocked about.
his answer it was usual, for he had'nt
thought it out.
"Thank Cod this Country'a free," he
cried, "and the people own the land."
But why the copper moved us on
he could'nt understand.

I told him how the rich grew rich by
plundering the poor ;
And that for us to organise was the
sure and only cure
The message I kept driving home his
frozen brain did thaw,
And now with every one round here
he's shouting "Stop the War!"

He took the buttons from his coat
and flung them to the wind.
He made a resolution that he never
will rescind.
He's pledged to solidarity, and a wiser
look he bears;
You can tell he is your comrade by the
button that he wears.



The Melbourne "Age" writes:--
The flagrant and dishonorable abuse of official trust to which certain "anti" types will descend in order to spread their pernicious gospel is in evidence in a copy of our latest "Telephone Guide," dated March.

Between the leaves of the book, and bound into the book as a whole with the other official leaves, is a copy of a pamphlet of "anti conscription army songs," dealing with such topics as a "maiden's sacrifice," the "greedy master class," "incubate the kids," and "bump me into Parliament."

It is not known how many leaflets have been distributed in such a manner, but the binding up of this particular leaflet in the guide under review proves almost conclusively that it is the work of an employe or employes in the Government Printing Office, whose low conception of their obligations as public servants makes it highly desirable that their identity should be established and fitting punishment imposed.


It is very likely that this article from the Melbourne newspaper the Age of Saturday 13 April 1918, refers to the 'Anti-Conscription Army Songs' song sheet above.

The title of the song sheet is mentioned as well the name of one of its songs 'Bump Me Into Parliament.' The topics referred to tally well with the song sheet -- "greedy master class" is close to "greedy parasite" in 'Solidarity Forever.' and "incubate the kids" refers to the second last verse of 'Bump Me Into Parliament.' The only missing topic mentioned seems to be 'maiden's sacrifice.'

That the version of 'Bump Me Into Parliament' has three extra verses in the song sheet compared to other published versions suggests that it was repurposed for the song sheet which could have been published as early as 1916 for the first WWI conscription referendum.

This copy of 'The Anti-Conscription Army Songs' was apparently collected in 1918 by W. G. Spence, a political ally of William Morris Hughes who insisted on the introduction of conscription while he was prime minister. The fact that the leaflet it was placed and bound into an early telephone guide dated March 1918 and printed in the Government Printing Office shows the reach and support that the anti-conscription movement had in Australia, a reach that was reflected in the no votes in the two referendums of 1916 and 1917. The soldiers sent overseas in the war were particularly prominent anti-conscription voters.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory