Viral Solidarity

by David Rovics

There's foreboding in the air Waiting for an earthquake Pandemic spreading No telling how it might remake A world so divided In so many, many ways Anyone can see It's no way to greet such days When you can shut your borders But it'll barely slow the spread With a million people homeless And not enough hospital beds In times like these we find out That a society Is only just as strong As our solidarity The foreboding in the air Can get only thicker As we see our leaders Passing blame and getting sicker A crashing economy Leaders fraught with indecision Only capable of thinking Like bought-off politicians Not enough testing kits And the ones you got were broken But hey The president has spoken Chorus A million people wake up In the morning thinking Thoughts they never had Til they found that they were sinking On a cruise ship full of holes Where if you can't catch the breeze There are no fences tall enough To keep out the disease Lifting every boat Or watching them all sink Ready or not We're standing on the brink Chorus Contain an epidemic Like in Wuhan or in Seoul Or watch a catastrophe Take its toll Hide behind our gates Cowering, afraid Or organize our neighbors In mutual aid In synchronicity Such great things can be done A planet to lose Or a world to be won Chorus
If you go to Pima County in the Sonoran Desert lands You'll find the town of Ajo among the cactus stands The only town you'll see, the only water, too When someone is thirsty there's no question what you do For well over a century, it was a normal thing To have an extra jug of water that you might bring In the harsh Sonoran Arizona summer heat We'd rather give the vultures something else to eat You didn't ask where I was going, nor where I had been I was hungry, you gave me food I was thirsty, you gave me drink I was naked, you gave me clothes I was a stranger, you let me in I have this book here, a story I learned well I always thought I understood the tale that it tells It's spelled out very clearly in Matthew 25 What a good Christian does when a stranger arrives Chorus Now there's a crackdown, with life and death on trial The only place with water for a hundred miles Facing twenty years in prison is a very mighty rod Now all of us are forced to choose between Caesar and God Chorus
1831, the age of industry begun For the working folk of Wales, life was short With wages cut again it was only sensible that then Folks took over and shut down the debtors' court The gentry pulled the wire, told their men to open fire And restore the rule of their estate But as the night descended and the battle ended The soldiers had all fled behind a gate They chanted “cheese and bread” And “our children must be fed” In the days when Wales rose against the crown They chanted “cheese and bread” With a bloody loaf above their heads When the red flag flew in Merthyr Town The message went out east and west to put the gentry to the test The cavalry was ambushed and turned back After so long playing defense, the time had come now when The workers were the ones on the attack Chorus The crown sent soldiers by the score until order was restored Then came Dic Penderyn's execution Another martyr for the cause, meant to give us pause The next time the people call for revolution Chorus
Iceland is an island with half a million or so Vikings Mostly known for volcanoes, hot springs and fishing Known for its welfare state, for being good and socialistic Certainly not known for being corrupt or nepotistic But in the USA and Europe when they were deregulating banks Iceland's politicians took bribes and joined their ranks Soon you had a situation, one would think just couldn't be A bank whose debt was worth ten times the country's GDP When Wall Street imploded, sure enough it spread Banks all over the world were floating in the red All over the world, governments made the plan To cut spending and raise taxes on the working woman and working man The banks were bailed out while the people had to pay But in Iceland people thought there must be a better way And the Earth stood still a moment, fear was struck in every toff When Iceland told the bankers to fuck off Folks were in the streets in Reykjavik and just couldn't be ignored They said this is a debt we Icelanders can't afford Let's guarantee deposits of all our people, yes indeed But as for all the speculators motivated by their greed To make really dumb investments, to them Iceland said good luck Sorry for your losses but we don't really give a fuck The 1% all trembled when they took away the trough When Iceland... Gordon Brown called them terrorists, said we cannot let this stand Who do these peacenik blonds think they are in Iceland They threatened isolation, an economy in flames But the Icelanders said sorry, but the banks can settle their own claims Though that might be harder for them now that they're under house arrest Or else they fled the country, as they were most unwelcome guests And now Reykjavik's recovery just makes the fatcats sputter and cough Since... If you haven't heard of this example, perhaps there's a reason why The owners of the world don't want this kind of shit to fly They say we all must pay up in this shakedown by the mob If we can't afford to pay the rent 'cause we don't have a job They say it's not their problem if we're forever shackled by their debt We must save the 1% from the fate they should have met But there is an alternative, though it makes the fatcats scoff That Iceland...
It's 2019, and looking around At the tents and trash and excrement scattered on the ground So many mansions overlooking the sea Stretch limos, Rolls Royces and movie stars all over Los Angeles County It's 2019, and one thing I know Is most people wish we could rewind to a couple of decades ago Before the rents tripled and folk began to move out Into their cars, then into their tents, where drivers look on, however loudly you shout It's 2019, but in a black and white photo It could be 1929 wherever you go In every single neighborhood, hungry people wonder why Some make billions on a blockbuster, while so many are left out to die It's 2019, where every eight hours Someone is found cold on the sidewalk beneath the glass and steel towers In the wealthiest nation in all of human history So far from paradise, so close to Walt Disney It's 2019, there's no dust bowl Just real estate speculators and all the lives they stole I don't know what to think when I hear the reporter say A thousand people died last year, living on the streets of LA It's 2019
If your rent has doubled there are different ways To cope with the situation and make it through your days There are therapeutic methods, such as playing darts With a picture of your landlord's private body parts You can get a roommate, or 2 or 3 or 4 Build a loft and squeeze more beds onto every floor You can scratch up each Mercedes that you find on your street Say “fuck off yuppie scum” to each yuppie scum you meet But do not kill your landlord – it will not end well You'll be living rent-free -- inside a prison cell You can pay a visit very early in the morn To where your landlord lives – but don't forget the bullhorn You can form a samba band, march up and and down his road You can play with firecrackers as you watch them explode You can sing a song about 1848 When renters burned the mansions down and overthrew the state You can talk about your landlord, how much you'd like to see him dead Just make sure it remains only something that you said Chorus You can say hi to your neighbors, organize a meeting Form a tenants' union so it won't be something fleeting Have some demonstrations, make plans for a rent strike Create a list of demands, perhaps something like No more rent increases, fix the things that break Get rid of all that mold in the walls, for goodness' sake No more no-cause evictions, no more acting like an ass No more acting like a member of a feudal ruling class Chorus
I'm writing you this letter 'cause among the choices It's probably better than listening to voices Raging in my head, saying point and shoot Then after you're dead, your face meets my boot I don't know your name, it's better that way 'Cause I can't play this game, who knows what I'll say I feel like I'm burning, I've had it up to here Time that you were learning the meaning of fear I live in these apartments – they're your private property Among your residents, most of us agree That you're a piece of shit – how does that make you feel We don't like you one bit – that's for real We think you're a thief, that you don't care Seems your one belief is whatever the market will bear Whatever you can get away with, what you can make us pay If we ever get justice, you should fear that day Landlord! But it's not just you – it's all your kin The things you do caused the state we're in You bribed the politicians so they'd let you off-lead Now the legal situation's just the one you need For you to make millions, for profits to be high Even billions won't be with you when you die I hope you find the death you seek, meet the devil that you serve If you live another week that's more life than you deserve Landlord! In the class war you are waging there's no question who is winning But if there's any justice, this is only the beginning The next act in this play will be written by the tenants And until your dying day, you'll be paying penance Your assets will be seized, that's a fucking given You profiteers of misery will start spending time in prison Then you can get a job – figure out what you do best You can keep the house you live in – but we're taking all the rest Landlord!
Across the ocean wide, where many ships have been Where many long remember those passengers within All of those whose families were buried or in jail In the killing fields of Spain, when the Winnipeg set sail Across the ocean wide, across the open seas A world better than the camps the French authorities Threw the people in, and if they lived to tell the tale They'd be the lucky few, when the Winnipeg set sail Across the ocean wide, the ship was met at bay By the throngs of people who just had to come that day In 1939, to cheer and cry and say all hail Solidarity – when the Winnipeg set sail Across the ocean wide was where they had to flee The thousands upon thousands of Spanish refugees From the lands of Europe, where humanity had failed To the shores of Valparaiso, when the Winnipeg set sail Across the ocean wide was where they would remain As dictatorship would rule for half a century in Spain Torpedoed in '42, now it lies upon the shale One voyage will outlive her – when the Winnipeg set sail Across the ocean wide
Jet fighters bombed the palace, we all watched it on TV The 11th of September, 1973 All across the world people cried in vain As we heard stories of the people being tortured and slain Stories of the workers, shop stewards and the rest Being slaughtered at the new dictator's behest Labor groups condemned it, said we were on the workers' side Including all the engineers of East Kilbride People organized a boycott of General Pinochet Who had overthrown Allende with a Hawker Hunter jet Then a few months later, March of '74 Bob Fulton came to work at the Rolls Royce factory floor He looked at the orders that had come in that day And found crates with jet engines from Chile Jet engines from the Air Force across the ocean wide Sent to be repaired in East Kilbride It didn't take a minute for Fulton and his mates To come to the decision that they would not touch these crates Soon four thousand Rolls Royce workers voted they agreed To stand with the Chileans in their hour of need Management decried them, the Tories screamed and cussed But the Hawker Hunter engines were left to sit and rust Nowhere else on Earth were workers qualified To repair the engines sitting there in East Kilbride It's often hard to know if you've changed anything a whit But decades later a Chilean general would admit For a time in Santiago there were no fighters in the sky Because the whole Chilean Air Force had not one jet that could fly They may not have changed the world, this group of union engineers But these crates of metal sat corroding for four years So here's to British labor, how for four years it tried To do what could be done from East Kilbride Jet fighters bombed the palace, we all watched it on TV The 11th of September, 1973
Behind these prison walls there's a man who's won awards For the work that he has done and all that it affords Such as the knowledge of the horrors committed in our name They can't stop the message, so the messenger gets blamed Behind these prison walls, in solitary confinement In a land of rolling hills and royalty and other such refinement Is someone who is a hero to whistleblowers everywhere Who helped them tell the world of the crimes of Tony Blair Behind these prison walls you will find a mortal man The reason why we know what happened in Afghanistan When the soldiers of the empire whose sun set long before Were torturing civilians in their terror war Behind these prison walls is a part of Wikileaks An eloquent orator, but you won't hear him speakh Locked away in silence, one who knows too well How those in power act when there's another war to sell Behind these prison walls is one who stands accused Of exactly what offenses, the US has refused To say precisely which, or to try to clear the mist Or to explain how he's not the same as other journalists Behind these prison walls is a person they'd deprive Of most of the things in life that keep us all alive A person being tortured, as we stand here now For revealing the war crimes – why, when, where, how Behind these prison walls, our very right to be informed Of what the hell is going on is the teacup in this storm With knowledge there is power, so the solution by the Crown A 24-hour-a-day, indefinite lockdown Behind these prison walls
My name is John Riley I'll have your ear only a while I left my dear home in Ireland It was death, starvation or exile And when I got to America It was my duty to go Enter the Army and slog across Texas To join in the war against Mexico It was there in the pueblos and hillsides That I saw the mistake I had made Part of a conquering army With the morals of a bayonet blade So in the midst of these poor, dying Catholics Screaming children, the burning stench of it all Myself and two hundred Irishmen Decided to rise to the call From Dublin City to San Diego We witnessed freedom denied So we formed the Saint Patrick Battalion And we fought on the Mexican side We marched 'neath the green flag of Saint Patrick Emblazoned with "Erin Go Bragh" Bright with the harp and the shamrock And "Libertad para la Republica" Just fifty years after Wolf Tone Five thousand miles away The Yanks called us a Legion of Strangers And they can talk as they may Chorus We fought them in five major battles Churobusco was the last Overwhelmed by the cannons from Boston We fell after each mortar blast Most of us died on that hillside In the service of the Mexican state So far from our occupied homeland We were heroes and victims of fate Chorus
A world war was raging, like the Earth had never seen A whole generation lined up in trenches with killing machines But aside from a few islands and some mountain peaks The pandemic killed more people in just 24 weeks No one knows where it began, speculation's gone on for years The trenches of Europe is where the deadly strain appears From packed trains and ships and hospitals, around the globe it spread This war strain of the virus that left so many dead The death toll was unequal, but barely anywhere Was left untouched – though the greatest share Of dying was reserved for the poorest, densest colonies Of the empires and their wars that created this disease If you have a couple hours, then do something with me Conduct a little research into your family tree If you look into it, it won't take long, quite likely you will find In 1918, you left an ancestor behind The pandemic knew no borders, it went from the front lines Which had increased its deadliness, as if by design It circled the whole planet, so many people died They dug mass graves everywhere and put your relatives inside A world war was raging, like the Earth had never seen A whole generation lined up in trenches with killing machines But aside from a few islands and some mountain peaks The pandemic killed more people in just 24 weeks
First you have to have a problem That part isn't hard The second step is everybody realizing They're like you -- they're holding the same card Step three is finding there's a tactic When everyone believes it could be true That if all the people work collectively There just might be something we can do Everything can change so quick The Congressmen and businessmen and TV sets Will try hard to make sure it isn't so "You don't have a problem and if you do it's not the SAME problem "And if it is, well, there's just nowhere you can go" But it's happened many times, the history is rich Though we easily forget How a meme can take hold and grab you How it can spread out like a net Everything can change so quick They'll say that we are lost, or we're dreaming Or they'll make a dream for us They'll try to come up with a good story, a convincing narrative About why we belong at the back of the bus About why we belong in this position About how we don't know what we meant About how there most certainly isn't any such thing As the 99% Everything can change so quick
Normandy 02:07
If I could live to see the day, say eighty years from now If I could live to be an old man, I sure hope I'd be hearing how Today was the beginning of an historic victory And I didn't come in vain to this beach in Normandy I wonder will this be the day when the tide began to turn When our leaders all around the world all began to learn That hatred, fear and nationalism won't bring us liberty I think all that from this beach in Normandy And as I look around me, comrades falling everywhere The very ocean crimson red, shells zipping through the air I hope at least the next generation might get a chance to see Something better than this beach in Normandy Yes if I weren't full of bullet holes, about to breath my last Propellers roaring above me as the planes are flying past I might not be so worried about the future of humanity If I weren't bleeding out on this beach in Normandy Lastly, if I could make a toast over my corpse I'd say Here's to the new world, once we make the fascists pay Here's to a future where all peoples live in solidarity As I die here on this beach in Normandy
Katharina Jacob, long before she took that name Was organizing workers in Hamburg just the same Organizing beneath the flag of deepest red A new dawn of peace and freedom clearly shining in her head Katharina Jacob first was sent to jail When the trappings of democracy all began to fail She was frequently arrested, in and out of custody While her first husband was in hiding from the Nazis Katharina Jacob was acquitted of a crime But the gestapo had the last word and they weren't finished with her this time She was sent to Ravensbrück, a killing hunger at her side She heard of the execution, how her second husband died For Katharina Jacob the end was close at hand She was on a death march with a ragged, starving band Marching through a forest, being led by the SS What would happen hours later seemed impossible to guess When the sun rose the next morning, it was the first of May And they all sang the Internationale Katharina Jacob thought about her children And the friends and comrades taking care of them Not knowing yet if any of them survived Not knowing that soon she'd see her daughters both alive Katharina Jacob watched the German soldiers fleeing Streaming from the east, that's what she was seeing Allied bombers flew above them, she thought they all might die and then Soon there was the silence of all the SS men Chorus Katharina Jacob saw red flags flapping in the breeze Above the Russian tanks and she fell upon her knees And so many different voices in so many different tongues Sang the most beautiful song that could ever have been sung In German, Lithuanian, in Polish and in Dutch A myriad of melodies as never had been such In Russian and in Yiddish, Italian and French Emerging from the forests beneath a trench Chorus Völker, hört die Signale! Auf zum letzten Gefecht! Die Internationale erkämpft das Menschenrecht


Canada's National Union of General and Public Employees (NUPGE) held a Viral Solidarity Concert on the web, quarantine-style. I did the concert at Big Red Studio, livestreamed on the web. Whether or not you caught it live, what we have here are all the songs I did, minus most of my talking and tuning, in a much, much higher-quality form -- as we were streaming, we were also recording.


released April 3, 2020

Billy Oskay was at the board. All songs written and rendered by David Rovics.




David Rovics Portland, Oregon

Singer/songwriter, writer, podcaster (on Spotify, Substack & Patreon), anarchist, dad, lover of life.


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