Welcome once again to our annual revue of hard-hitting songs for the hard-hit people on the wrong side of the class divide — the laborers, the men and women who fuel the engine of American productivity for the purpose of funneling money upward to those who own the means of production.
If that sounds like Communist rhetoric to you — well, you’ve probably been hearing more of that since last we met. In the wake of a crucial electoral defeat for a Democratic party that’s spent the last four decades drifting steadily rightward into neoliberalism, corporatism, and public-private partnerships, honest-to-Engels leftist economic theory is going mainstream again. The Democratic Socialists of America — not a political party in itself, but an organization that does advocacy and action to empower working people and break the corporate hold on politics — has seen its membership triple in the last year alone. Media outlets like Jacobin magazine and the Chapo Trap House podcast have promoted class consciousness and economic solidarity to new and engaged audiences. Socialist policies that would have once been unmentionable in our political landscape — free college, Medicare for all, even universal basic income — are pushing their way into our national discourse by virtue of massive popularity.
Why should you care? Because the weekend off that you’re enjoying — not just the long holiday, but every mandated two-day rest period, every week — only became the standard after socialists took to the streets and demanded it, and paid the cost in blood. Your eight-hour workday? Same deal. Overtime pay, safety inspections, coffee breaks, workplace first-aid kits and eyewash stations, even paid holidays — all the results of collective action, either through union negotiation or socialist agitation. All the perks of comfortable middle-class employment, in other words.
This is how it must be. Because money speaks for money, and capital is power; and power concedes nothing except under force.
And there are forces — still! — who begrudge you your eight hours each day to do as you will, your two days a week of rest. Who resent your ability to be idle; who resent that they should have to assume responsibility for your safety on the job. They would take it all away, if they could. And they are, inch by inch — with the rollback of every protection, every regulation, every guideline that protects the American worker from rank exploitation.
Their control of our elected government is nearly complete.
It will fall to us, the working men and women, to resist them; to defeat them; to institute sane economic policies that put people ahead of profit; and to make of this nation a fit place for human beings to live and thrive and labor.
And y’know? I like our chances.
Select individual tracks provided for reference only; as always, we encourage you to download the full mix (1:17:20) for best enjoyment, and support the artists by purchasing their music.
Collect ’em all!
John Fahey – Come, Labor On from Yes! Jesus Loves Me (1980)
(montage with Teddy Roosevelt delivering his “Liberty of the People” speech)
Dave Edmunds – Here Comes the Weekend from Get It (1977)
LCD Soundsystem – Watch the Tapes from Sound of Silver (2007)
Act – Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now bonus track from Laughter, Tears and Rage (1988)
Gang of Four – It’s Her Factory (1979 B-side)
Exene Cervenka – Slave Labor from Running Sacred (1990)
Billy Bragg – Between the Wars from Between the Wars EP (1985)
Grace Potter – Instigators from Midnight (2015)
Johnny Warman – Here Come the Reds from Walking Into Mirrors (1981)
Martini Ranch – How Can the Labouring Man Find Time For Self-Culture? from Holy Cow (1988)
Richard Thompson – Stuck on the Treadmill from Electric (2013)
Bette Midler – Beast of Burden from No Frills (1983)
Blur – Ice Cream Man from The Magic Whip (2015)
John Cale – Mercenaries (Ready For War) (1980 single)
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Sunday’s Slave from Tender Prey (1988)
Boysetsfire – Management vs. Labor from Tomorrow Come Today (2003)
Daniel Lanois – For the Beauty of Wynona from For the Beauty of Wynona (1993)
Chuck Berry – Too Much Monkey Business (1956 single)
George Jones – Small Time Laboring Man (1968 single)
Sixteen Horsepower – Black Lung from Low Estate (1997)
Jon Boden and Fay Hield – Let Union Be In All Our Hearts (2011: from the “A Folk Song A Day” web project)
British Lions – Eat the Rich from British Lions (1978)
Kirsty MacColl – Last Day of Summer from Titanic Days (1993)
Dedicated to the memories of Heather Heyer, Chuck Berry, and Bill Paxton.