Musical interlude

Well, shockingly my involved post on insurgencies, American political unrest, and avoiding civil war is taking longer than planned. Doesn’t help that I spent several hours working from the wrong edition of the Army manual. Sigh.

Time for a break and some sleep.

In the meantime, here’s a lovely song about strike-breakers:



  1. mailliw says

    Thanks that’s a great song, from my home in North-East England. My favourite version is Richard Thompson’s, there’s an anger there that’s a bit missing from Steeleye Span’s version – fine though it is. Also there is Thompson’s incomparable guitar playing.

    I could go on at great length about songs that reflect the working class experience of coal mining and the industrial revolution, but only if you are interested…

  2. says

    By all means do. That’s very much the kind of discourse I’d like to see on this blog these days.

    To be honest, I grew up listening to Steeleye Span, and I didn’t know what a “blackleg miner” even was, until the last year or two. I always thought it was a rather horrific song in the vein of You Will Burn or Long Lankin, about abuse of some random village outcast, rather than someone who was undermining a collective effort to avoid being exploited into starvation.

  3. wereatheist says

    I really liked mailliw’s version, too.
    And yes, fuck the scabs!

  4. mailliw says

    By all means do.

    OK, just for starters. My mum had a copy of Ewan MacColl’s Shuttle & Cage Industrial Folk Ballads that I heard a lot as a child and the songs have stayed with me ever since

    Another singer/songwriter from NE England is Alex Glasgow, who wrote the songs for the play Close the Coalhouse Door that traces the history of coalmining in the area and the comradeship and suffering that went with it. There’s a lot of humour in there too, with songs like The Socialist ABC and As Soon as This Pub Closes (the Revolution starts).

    On the US side of things I think Ry Cooder is doing a lot to keep the industrial folk song alive – in particular his album My Name is Buddy which traces the story of the travels through depression America of Buddy the red cat and his friends Lefty Mouse and Reverend Tom Toad, encountering striking miners and corrupt election officials along the way.

    I’ve been a fan of Ry’s since the 1970s, for his guitar playing, his astoundingly eclectic knowledge of American music and his progressive politics.

  5. cafebabe says

    #1 agreed with regard to the Richard Thompson version, but a great song in any version.

    I am reminded of some of the now rarely seen commentary on industrial matters from the past. Here for example is novelist Jack London’s take on strikebreakers, AKA scabs:

    Ode To A Scab

    After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, and the vampire, He had some awful substance left with which He made a scab. A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul, a waterlogged brain, and a combination backbone made of jelly and glue. Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten principles.

    When a scab comes down the street, men turn their backs and angels weep in heaven, and the devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out. No man has a right to scab as long as there is a pool of water deep enough to drown his body in, or a rope long enough to hang his carcass with. Judas Iscariot was a gentleman compared with a scab. For betraying his Master, he had character enough to hang himself. A scab hasn’t.

    Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. Judas Iscariot sold his savior for thirty pieces of silver. Benedict Arnold sold his country for a promise of a commission in the British Army. The modern strikebreaker sells his birthright, his country, his wife, his children, and his fellow men for an unfulfilled promise from his employer, trust, or corporation.

    Solidarity wins

  6. mailliw says

    Perhaps now is a good time to remember Margaret Thatcher’s political use of the police to defeat the National Union of Miners in strike of 1984-85.

    The police force was used to defend blacklegs and to break up pickets.

    Nowadays we want to close down coal mines for environmental reasons, but the importance of protecting the communities based around the industry and providing them with alternative means of livelyhood cannot be overstressed.

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