Harold Walsby: A Ballade of the SPGB

(If sung, it goes to the tune of On Top of Old Smoky)

Now come all you workers
And gather around;
For here is a theory.
To keep your feet on the ground.

The theory is simple:
It gives us the key
To the actions of people
Throughout history.

All metaphysical notions
of Society
Based social relations
On philosophy.

They based evolution
On the will to be free
And all revolution
On the same fallacy.

But before men can sit down
And philosophize.
They must work to get shelter
And enough food supplies

Thus Reason is subject
To HUNGER and THIRST
Although men have notions
ACTION ALWAYS COMES FIRST.

The social relations
Of production, you see
Thus form the foundations
Of Philosophy.

All political changes
Must be sought, as you see
In the changing production
Of Society.

Now, the mode of production
Of our present time
Leads on to destruction
Or a new world sublime.

The present state of production
Could supply all our needs;
And all that’s required is
The ideas for the deeds,

Till these change you will never
Change this Vale of Tears;
To change the mode of production
You must change your ideas.

Great Scott! We’re propounded
That ‘action comes first’
Now the damn thing’s confounded
And somehow reversed!

This contradictory conception
In our philosophy
Reflects the condition
Of Society.

But that’s no exception
For the whole of our case
Reflects contradictions
In the material base.

So to change the mode of production
We’ve got to get you to see
This contradictory position
Of the S.P.G.B.!

It’s the mode of production
Of material things
That determines men’s notions
And the actions of kings.

(With thanks to John Rowan, who supplied the only known copy of the text)

from Ideological Commentary 17, March 1985.