Chelmsford TUC

Working Class Culture

Progressive Poetry


  • 24/7 (Jim Drysdale)

Never Give Up

Northern Star 22 February 1845

NEVER give up! it is wiser and better
Always to hope than once to despair:
Fling off the load of Doubt’s cankering fetter,
And break the dark spell of tyrannical care;
Never give up! or the burden may sink you -
Providence kindly has mingled the cup,
And, in all trials or troubles, bethink you,
The watchword of life must be, Never give up!

Never give up! there are chances and changes
Helping the hopeful a hundred to one,
And through the chaos High Wisdom arranges
Ever success - if you’ll only hope on:
Never give up! For the wildest is boldest,
Knowing that Providence mingles the cup;
And of all maxims the best, as the oldest,
Is the watchword of Never give up!

Never give up! - tho’ the grape-shot may rattle,
Or the full thunder-cloud over you burst,
Stand like a rock, - and the storm or the battle
Little shall harm you, though doing their worst:
Never give up! if adversity presses,
Providence wisely has mingled the cup,
And the best counsel, in all your distresses,
Is the stout watchword of Never give up!

What is a Peer?

7 May 1842

What is a peer? A useless thing;
A costly toy, to please a king;
A bauble near a throne;
A lump of animated clay;
A gaudy pageant of a day;
An incubus; a drone!

What is a peer? A nation’s curse -
A pauper on the public purse;
Corruption’s own jackal:
A haughty, domineering blade;
A cuckold at a masquerade;
A dandy at a ball.

Ye butterflies, whom kings create;
Ye caterpillars of the state;

Now that your time is near!
This moral learn from nature’s plan,
That in creation God made man;
But never made a peer.

To Working Men of Every Clime

Northern Star 28 November 1840)

Working Men of every clime,
Gather still, but bide your time,
Bide your time, and wait a wee,
Yours will be the victory.

Britain’s sons, whose constant toil
Plies the looms and tills the soil,
Lift the voice for liberty,
Yours will be the victory.

Toil-worn sons of Spain advance,
Give the hand to those of France,
Join you both with Italy,
Yours will be the victory.

Serfs of Poland, gather near,
Raise, with Austria’s sons, the cheer,
Echo’d far through Germany,
Yours will be the victory.

Danish workmen, hear the cry,
Scandinavia’s quick reply,
Workmen, "panting to be free,"
Yours will be the victory.

Dutchmen, linger not behind,
Working men should be combined,
Russian slaves themselves will see
Yours will be the victory.

Europe’s workmen, one and all,
Rouse ye at your brethren’s call,
Shouting loud from sea to sea,
Yours will be the victory.

Kings and nobles may conspire,
God will pour on them his ire;
Workmen shout, for ye are free,
Yours is now the victory.

From Shelley’s Notes on Queen Mab

P.B. Shelley

There is no real wealth but the labour of man.
Were the mountains of gold and the valleys of silver,
the world would not be one grain of corn the richer;
no one comfort would be added to the human race.
In consequence of our consideration for the precious
one man is enabled to heap to himself luxuries at the
expense of the necessaries of his neighbour;
a system admirably fitted to produce all the
varieties of disease and crime, which never fail to characterize the two extremes of
opulence and penury.

In memory of the Paris Commune, Born March 18, 1871, and Died in June the same year

Walter Crane March, 1891.

What wingéd shape, with waving torch aflame,
Wild with winds of March, and streaming hair
Above the storm clouds, doth to men declare
What message, and a memory doth claim?

A star through drifting smoke of praise and blame -
The toilers’ beacon, still to re-appear
With spring-tide hopes new quickening year by year
Since bright in Freedom’s dawn the COMMUNE came.

Maligned, betrayed, short-lived to act and teach,
Whose blood lies still upon the hands that slew: E’en now, when Labour knocks upon the gate
That shuts on Privilege, He thinks of you,
And what men dared and suffered, and their fate
Who ruled a City, once, for all and each.

He is my brother

Antoni Slonimski

This man, who his own fatherland forgets
When of the shedding of Czech blood he hears,
Who, as a brother feels for Yugoslavia,
Who in the pain of Norway’s people shares.

Who with the Jewish mother wrings his hands
In grief and bends with her above her slain.
Who Russian is, when Russia falls and bleeds,
And with Ukrainian weeps for the Ukraine.

This man, with heart to all compassionate,
French, when France suffers in captivity,
Greek, when Greeks in cold and hunger perish,
He is my brother - man. He is Humanity.

Honour to Labour

Ferdinand Freiligrath

He who swings a mighty hammer,
He who reaps a field of corn,
He who breaks the marshy meadow
To provide for wife, for children,
He who rows against the current,
He who weary at the loom
Weaves with wool and tow and flax
That his fair-haired young may flourish.

Honour that man, praise the worker!
Honour every callous hand!
Honour every drop of sweat
That is shed in mill and foundry!
Honour every dripping forehead
At the plough. And let that man
Who with mind and spirit’s labour
Hungering ploughs be not forgotten.

The United Fruit Co.

Pablo Neruda

When the trumpet sounded, it was
all prepared on the earth,
the Jehovah parcelled out the earth
to Coca Cola, Inc., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, and other entities:
The Fruit Company, Inc.
reserved for itself the most succulent,
the central coast of my own land,
the delicate waist of America.
It rechristened its territories
as the ’Banana Republics’
and over the sleeping dead,
over the restless heroes
who brought about the greatness, the liberty and the flags,
it established the comic opera:
abolished the independencies,
presented crowns of Caesar,
unsheathed envy, attracted
the dictatorship of the flies,
Trujillo flies, Tacho flies,
Carias flies, Martines flies,
Ubico flies, damp flies
of modest blood and marmalade,
drunken flies who zoom
over the ordinary graves,
circus flies, wise flies
well trained in tyranny.

Among the blood-thirsty flies
the Fruit Company lands its ships,
taking off the coffee and the fruit;
the treasure of our submerged
territories flow as though
on plates into the ships.

Meanwhile Indians are falling
into the sugared chasms
of the harbours, wrapped
for burials in the mist of the dawn:
a body rolls, a thing
that has no name, a fallen cipher,
a cluster of the dead fruit
thrown down on the dump.

Chile Stadium

Victor Jara Written between 12-15 September 1973, just before he was murdered by the Pinochet regime.

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Victor Jara

There are five thousand of us here
in this little part of the city.
We are five thousand.
I wonder how many we are in all
In the cities and in the whole country?
Here alone
are ten thousand hands which plant seeds
and make the factories run.
How much humanity
exposed to hunger, cold, panic, pain
moral pressures, terror and insanity?
Six of us were lost
as if into starry space.
One dead, another beaten as I could never
have believed
a human being could be beaten.
The other four wanted to end their terror -
one jumping into nothingness,
another beating his head against a wall,
but all with the fixed look of death.
What horror the face of fascism creates!
They carry out their plans with
knife-like precision.
Nothing matters to them.
For them blood equals medals,
slaughter is an act of heroism.
Oh God, is this the world that you created?
For this, your seven days of wonder and work?
Within these four walls only a number exists
which does not progress.
Which slowly will wish more and more for death.
But suddenly my conscience awakes
and I see this tide with no heartbeat,
only the pulse of machines
and the military showing their midwives’ faces
full of sweetness
Let Mexico, Cuba and the world
cry out against this atrocity!
We are ten thousand hands
which can produce nothing.
How many of us in the whole country?
The blood of our companero Presidente
will strike with more strength than bombs
and machine guns!
So will our fist strike again.

How hard it is to sing
When I sing a song of horror.
Horror which I am living
Horror which I am dying.
To see myself among so much
and so many moments of infinity
in which silence and screams
are the end of my song.
What I see I have never seen
What I have felt and what I feel
will give birth to the moment......

To Nearly Everybody in Europe Today

Hugh MacDiarmid
A war to save civilization, you say?
Then what have you to do with it, pray?
Some attempt to acquire it would show truer love
Than fighting for something you know nothing of.

Eat More

Joe Corrie

’Eat more fruit!’ the slogans say,
’ More fish, more beef, more bread!’
But I’m on Unemployment pay
My third year now, and wed.

And so I wonder when I’ll see
The slogan when I pass,
The only one that would suit me, -
’ Eat More Bloody Grass!’

I Am The Common Man

Joe Corrie

I am the Common Man.
I am the brute and the slave,
I am the fool, the despised
From the cradle to the grave.

I am the hewer of coal,
I am the tiller of soil,
I am serf of the seas
Born to bear and to toil.

I am the builder of halls,
I am the dweller of slums,
I am the filfth and the scourge
When winter’s depression comes.

I am the fighter of wars,
I am the killer of men,
Not for a day or an age
But again and again and again.

I am the Common Man.
But Masters of mine take heed,
For you have put into my head
Oh! many a wicked deed.

’How few there are...’

Joe Corrie

How few there are with unsoiled hands,
And educated tongues,
Who’ll stand by us, my working friends,
And help to right our wrongs.

They go a certain length with us,
But faint of heart return
When we meet someone with a cross,
Bearing a crown of thorn.

Party Card

Yevgeny Yevtushenko

A SHOT-UP forest full of black holes.
Mind-crushing explosions.
He wants some berries, he wants some berries:
the young lieutenant, lying in his blood.
I was a smallish boy,
who crawled in the long grass till it was dark
and brought him back a cap of strawberries,
and when they came there was no use for them,
the rain of July lightly falling.
He was lying in remoteness and silence
among the ruined tanks and the dead.
The rain glistened on his eyelashes.
There were sadness and worry in his eyes.
I waited saying nothing and soaking,
like waiting for an answer to something
he couldn’t answer. Passionate with silence
unable to see when he asked me,
I took his party card from his pocket.
And small and tired and without understanding
wandering in the flushed and smoking dark,
met up with refugees moving east
and somehow through the terribly flashing night
we travelled without tickets, the priest
with his long grey hair and his rucksack,
and me and a sailor with a wounded arm.
Child crying. Horse whinnying.
And answered to with love and with courage
and white, white, the bell-towers rang out
speaking to Russia with a tocsin voice.
Wheatfields blackened round their villages.
In the woman’s coat I wore at that time.
I felt for the party card close to my heart.

From the Universal Soldier

Buffy Sainte - Marie

He’s fighting for Canada, he’s fighting for France,
He’s fighting for the U.S.A.
And he’s fighting for the Russians, and he’s fighting
for Japan,
And he thinks we’ll put an end to war this way.
He’s fighting for democracy, he’s fighting for the
He says it’s for the peace of us all.
He’s the one who must decide who is to live or is to
And he never sees the writing on the wall.
But without him how could Hitler have condemned
them at Dachau,
Without him Caesar would have stood alone.
He’s the one who gives his body as a weapon of the
And without him all this killing can’t go on.



History is more than the cobbled streets of the past.
History is more than cathedrals and castles,
more than triumphal arches in Rome, Paris or Madrid.
History is more than churches and mosques,
more than the crosses and statues of Christ
that crowns so many Spanish hills.
History is people.
History is the students demonstrating,
the ecologists striving to protect
the human race.
History is at the heart of every popular movement -
the Levellers, the Chartists, the Popular Front,
the women at Greenham Common and the liberation
History is people.

Communist May Day Demonstration in Madrid, 1985

J.R. Jump

Red are the flapping banners,
fluttering red the flags.
Pulsating red the aspirations
of the people on parade -
red hope of the mothers for their toddling children;
red hope for the vociferous students
who stride beside limping veterans
of the Civil War.

"A people united will never be defeated!"
they shout,
but the socialists are not here with us.
They have their own demonstration
where they, too, shout,
"A people united will never be defeated!"
but they march along a different route.

Miners’ Strike 1984

J. R. Jump (George Jackson, a Cowdenbeath miner, was killed outside Corbera, Spain,in August 1938, whilst serving in the International Brigades.)

I was close behind you, Geordie,
when a fascist bullet ended your short life -
a life blackened and scarred at the coal-face.
From that moment, Cowdenbeath and Corbera were
twinned towns;
Scotland and Spain were linked by ties of blood,
the blood, rich and red
that you shed
high on a parched mountain.

If you were alive today, Geordie,
I know where you would be,
for you were always a front-line fighter.
Not for you the snug safety of the rear;
not for you the hanging back when others went

not for you the hesitation, the doubt that breeds
Maybe I would have seen you on TV
in the front line of fire,
being clubbed by a mounted policeman
or dragged, arms twisted, to the black maria.
Maybe I would have seen you lying dead,
not outside Corbera where you were hit
by a fascist bullet
but outside a strike-shut pit.

Today, Geordie, your comrades
are fighting freedom’s battle over again,
carrying on the fight we fought in Spain.

Pledge for Justice

G. William Gleeson

Let me be strong, healthy and gay
To fight injustice my particular way
May the world’s poverty totally dismay
So I may fight for a better way.

May I always be sensible
That the poverty of man is quenchable
Every denizen flowering potential
Distance of rich from destitute detestable.

May I with intelligence, talents
Help redress poverty’s imbalance
Help alleviate sickness, handicaps
Nationally and in distant habitats.

May I reject the set up that is
And struggle for Global justice
Contra, dominative tyrannis
Liberty, Peace as praxis.

Fight War Instead

G. William Gleeson

Don’t mourn the Dead
Fight war instead
Awful bloodshed
That the Brave fought
In war were caught
By rulers wrought
That Youth should die
And mothers cry
For Power’s lie.

Don’t mourn the Dead
Fight war instead
For Life has fled
Warfare kills men
Women children
Kind men kill then
Drags you down low
Eats up your soul
Makes friend now foe.

Don’t mourn the Dead
Fight war instead
Starts in your head
Duty Might’s Tool
It makes you cruel
So they may rule
Slaughter gory
Makes our story
That’s no glory.


Pat Arrowsmith

Science is a two-edged sword:
Millions the world over now are cured
Of disability, disease;
We speed from continent to continent with ease;
Enjoy instant water, light and heat:
Some parched, starving people get relief.
Our labs, observatories, computers
Help us discern the bounds of space,
Even a second universe;
Fathom the very source of life,
Ingredients of brain and mind.
But beware, the ultimate disaster
May lie in wait around the corner:
Carelessness, stupidity or greed
May mean we use our graphs, equations,
Observations, calculations
To pollute the Earth; even breed
Cloned monsters who may well displace us,
Decimate countless other species;
Invent diabolical devices
That surely will infect, irradiate,
Slowly poison and debilitate,
Then ineluctably destroy us,
Devastate our fragile planet.

An Ode to a Committee

Oh give me your pity, I’m on a committee
which means that from morning to night,
we attend and amend, and contend and defend
without a conclusion in sight.

We confer and concur, we defer and demur,
and reiterate all of our thoughts,
we revise the agenda with frequent addenda,
and consider a load of reports.

We compose and propose, we support and oppose,
and points of procedure are fun
but though various notions are brought up as motions,
there’s still very little gets done.

We resolve and absolve, but never dissolve,
since that’s out of the question for us!
What a shattering pity to end our committee
for where else could we make such a fuss?

Why do you believe in peace...Why?

Amira Bashir

Amira lives in Gaza, Palestine. She and her family were under constant attack from Israeli settlers who had been trying to force them from their land for several years.

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Amira Bashir

Why do you believe in peace...Why?
Because peace is the sky
Where we can all fly,
live, and enjoy our time.
Because the baby and the child
have to work and try to stop the pain and cry.
Because the sons of Abraham,
have to work and try to stop
the massacre and the crime.
Because with peace we can fly
like the bird in the sky.
Have you known why? If not, here is the sky.
So let’s never be terrified of stopping the crisis
but let it be terrified of killing our lives.
All the world and his wife just cannot deny
that peace is the sky where we all can fly.
So choose either being high in the sky or,
oh dear, in the wind’s eye.

Going Cheap

Benjamin Zephaniah

A dollar head shouts ‘Buy’,
A pound head shouts ‘Sell’,
A shopkeeper’s shouting ‘Capitalism will eat itself’,
A prophet’s asking ‘When?’

A caring father on the futures market has just
A family on the West Coast of Africa to five years
hard labour.
A speculator called that a result.

Now here’s a New World order... Large Burger and
fries please.

It’s business as usual.
Earthquakes cost money,
Dams damn the needy
And Palestinians don’t count.

Now here’s a New World order...
One oriental woman
Supermodel skinny
Blonde hair
Black girl bottom
Surgically modified nose,
And genetically modified shit.

Thoughts Are Free

Hans Litten

Thoughts are free, who can guess them?

They flee by like nocturnal shadows.

No man can know them, no hunter can shoot them

with powder and lead: Thoughts are free!

I think what I want, and what delights me,

still always reticent, and as it is suitable.

My wish and desire, no one can deny me

and so it will always be: Thoughts are free!

And if I am thrown into the darkest dungeon, all this would be futile work,

because my thoughts tear all gates

and walls apart: Thoughts are free!

So I will renounce my sorrows forever,

and never again will torture myself with some fancy ideas.

In one’s heart, one can always laugh and joke

and think at the same time: Thoughts are free!

I love wine, and my girl even more,

Only I like her best of all.

I’m not alone with my glass of wine,

my girl is with me: Thoughts are free!

Be Kind to Mankind

By Rameez Naqvi, aged 15. Read on the 27th of July 2013, at the Multi-faith programme in Lawford Mead School, held by the Muslim Shia Ithna Asheri Jamaat of Essex.

The harmless child, the innocent baby,

Possibly a few animals maybe,

These creatures alone, they do not judge,

Against man or woman they hold no grudge,

Everyone equal in their eyes,

Don’t judge on looks, words or size,

Not by religion or colour of your skin,

Not if you’re a youngster or a has-been,


Many of you would be able to relate,

Whether you’re sixty, seventy or eight,

Whether you’re the adjudicator or the victim,

The abuser, the abused, or the one who kicked him,

In the end, you’re their brother in faith or humanity,

Whether they’re Hindu, Sikh or follow Christianity,

Not judged on their word, but rather their thought,

Learning maths is good, but tolerance should be taught.


But on a serious note, this has gone too far,

Regardless of what you think or who you are,

When the value of life has so greatly decreased,

You can see the result in the middle-east,

Whether it’s a bomb or a terrorist attack,

It is a clear sign of people, who’ve gone off the track,

If these ‘Muslims’ followed what their book said,

There would be no people injured or dead.


Though the damage is done, can no longer be preventive

For brotherhood and equality, there is no worldly incentive,

Apart from living with others in peace,

Breaking all barriers, hatred can cease,

Spreading the message is all we can do,

This was tolerance from a Muslim boy’s view,

Religious or not, we must have respect towards others,

Because in the end of the day, we’re all sisters and brothers.


Jim Drysdale

most people go to work, their hours are nine to five,

why they go and what they do, it’s their means to stay alive.

the owners of the world attend this self-same place,

why they go and what they do, an entirely different race.

not for these a weekly wage,

this they’d merely scoff at.

their only reason to be there,

to give birth to a profit.

strange thought, two worlds existing in one place,

but what you see is what you get,

this is the human race.

so there it is a swirling sphere and none of us get off it,

and day by day and year by year,

the only purpose…..profit.

Further poems by Jim Drysdale can be read at in the updates section.