To The Railway Strikers (1903)

A poem by J.K. McDougall©J.K. McDougall 1903

Railway men, on strike today,
Toss aside your gods of clay,
Freedom, smiling, points the way
Out of slavery;
Toilers of a sweater State,
Calmly front the fools that prate,
Let them, red with rage and hate,
Spue their knavery.

Let cold Dagon cackle law,
Till he kinks his regal jaw;
He would cut your shoulders raw
With the despot whips
That his rebel kindred knew,
Who for something counted true,
Felt the blood-sweat torture drew,
Freeze on martyred lips.

Tyrant souled and backward bred,
Let him, till his hand is red,
Throttle and throw out the dead-
Give him rope and bolt;
While he stands with studied frown,
See him prem from bush and town,
Servile scabs to trample down
Manhood's last revolt.

First in Mammon's pirate van,
He with thieves in conclave plan
How to trap the working man.
By a legal cheat;
Heartless as a beast that thrives
On the sap of weaker lives,
He by subtle shifts contrives
Justice to defeat.

Callous as a fiend that leers,
He has laid the land in tears,
Ruined men and wrecked careers,
Tyrants to excel;
Boosted-but a schemer prime,
He shall pass, and ribald Time
Will, with pertinence sublime,
Carve his name in hell.

You have struck -the tale has spread-
Run your engines into shed;
" Stopped- the wheels," the Torles said ;
" Flouted God and law;
Spat defiance at the Crown,
Sacked the country, starved the town,
Turned the nation upside down,
Fighting for a straw!"

Bloated Midas in the street,
Whimpers to his fellow cheat;
Pilferers and parsons meet -
Woeful is their wail;
Judas, from his lair enticed,
Draws and quarters Labor's Christ,
Markets Labor, tagged, and priced-
Blood and bone for sale.

Some will write you down for gold;
Some will trim and some will scold;
But for principle you hold,
Stand forever true;
Mammon's bloodhounds dog your heels:
Barter, at his market, squeals;
Commerce, thwarted in his deals,
Calls a curse on you.

At the sordid shrines of Trade,
See your rulers, devil paid,
Selling youth and tender maid,
Sweated slaves to be;
See the rich in court and hall,
Forging fetters for you all,
Chains to drag and yokes to gall,
Bars to bind the free.

Hear the barristers in court
Briefed to serve the robber sort,
Damn with question and retort.
Causes that you plead;
Perjured bosses of the press,
Taunt you in your dire distress,
Slander you and truth suppress,
In your hour of need.

Will you longer suffer dumb,
And, while Moloch beats the drum,
See your driven children come,
Cattle to be slain?
Will you make each girl a drab,
And each boy a perjured scab?
Will you mount on carven slab,
Fratricides like Cain?

Lo, each wife - a beggar she-
Pale with care and slavery,
Children wail about her knee,
Famishing for bread;
Guarding them from hungry graves,
In the foetid slum she slaves,
God of pity, how she craves
Pow'r to have them fed!

You are doomed by letters dread,
Bent and Hell behind you tread,
If they vanquish – look ahead,
Slavery the terms;
Freedom's honor still endures;
Thrust aside the doubt that lures;
Glory's chance to-day is yours -
Win - or yield like worms.

Thugs who hold you yet in awe,
Subtle chains about you draw,
Making it, before the law,
Felony to strike;
Chartered libertines of trade,
First themselves to fake and raid;
Deftly always they evade
Statutes they dislike.

Till the evil days depart,
Watch and foil the despot's art,
One in principle and heart -
One in unity;
Face the wrath of Mammon's tribes,
Scorn the fool who taunts and gibes,
Set above the gold of bribes,
God and Liberty.

Lift the Labor banner high,
Shake its stars against the sky,
Freemen, give your battle-cry,
Cheer your flag unfurled;
Put the hand to Labor's plough,
Set the crown on Labor's brow,
Labor's cause is godlike now,
Labor rules the world.


This poem was published in a collection THE TREND OF THE AGES AND OTHER VERSES By J.K. McDougall Labor Call Print, Patrick Street, Melbourne, 1922

Eight years after the poem was written the pensions and compensation rights of the strikers were restored:–
Bairnsdale Advertiser and Tambo and Omeo Chronicle Sat 7 Oct 1911  p. 3.

In the Assembly, this afternoon, Mr. A. A. Billson, Minister of Railways, moved a motion restoring pensions and compensation rights to the strikers who participated in the railway strike of 1903. There are 308 men affected by the motion, and the sum involved is £101,795. This amount will be spread
over one year, and not paid in a lump sum.

After the motion had been passed members on both sides of the House congratulated the Government on endeavoring to obliterate all memory of the unhappy strike.

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