"Between The Wars" as written by and Billy Bragg....
I was a miner
I was a docker
I was a railway man
Between the wars
I raised a family
In times of austerity
With sweat at the foundry
Between the wars

I paid the union and as times got harder
I looked to the government to help the working man
And they brought prosperity down at the armory
We're arming for peace, me boys
Between the wars

I kept the faith and I kept voting
Not for the iron fist but for the helping hand
For theirs is a land with a wall around it
And mine is a faith in my fellow man
Theirs is a land of hope and glory
Mine is the green field and the factory floor
Theirs are the skies all dark with bombers
And mine is the peace we know
Between the wars

Call up the craftsmen
Bring me the draftsmen
Build me a path from cradle to grave
And I'll give my consent
To any government
That does not deny a man a living wage

Go find the young men never to fight again
Bring up the banners from the days gone by
Sweet moderation
Heart of this nation
Desert us not, we are
Between the wars

Lyrics submitted by rossclark

"Between the Wars" as written by Billy Bragg

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Between The Wars song meanings
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  • +2
    General CommentIn addition, I think the song also discusses how governments are always unable to reflect the interests and needs of the working class and simply function according to the desires and perceptions of politicians - "Theirs is a land of hope and glory
    Mine is the green field and the factory floor.."
    bobkindleson May 07, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentits about a socialist workers perspective on international socialism contrated with european imperialism and the fact that the 20th century was marked by to world wars and the arms race so all workers where between the wars and the econmony was dependent on the arms race and so the anglo american and other europeans armed for peace due to the philosphopy of mad
    boggleson February 19, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think boggles is closer to the mark. The Great Depression is somewhat weakened by the fact the Great Britain weathered the Depression relatively well compared to other Western nations.
    Pugachevon July 09, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think Billy was trying to make a comparison between contemporary politics and that of the 30's (e.g. the arms race in the cold war, unions fighting the government, closing of industries in Britain).
    ndocon March 22, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think Billy was trying to make a comparison between contemporary politics and that of the 30's (e.g. the arms race in the cold war, unions fighting the government, closing of industries in Britain).
    ndocon March 22, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Commentit's about the changing social attitudes during the high unemployment of the early 30 which only improved after the government started to re-arm, which lea many to as people started to ask why, if the government could provide job to build weapons, couldn't the government provide jobs to supply basic necessities such as education, housing and healthcare for it's citizens
    loonyleftyon October 04, 2011   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationThe important thing to remember with this song is that it was written for and released on a 4 track EP dedicated to the UK miner's strike in 1985. The album was designed to garner support for the striking miners among the general public, and the proceeds from the sales of the EP went to the strike fund.
    So, while the song may bring to mind the depression, the 1930's, and the World Wars, the subject matter is meant to be much more timely than a song written to represent an historical period of long ago. This is why the song ends by pointing out that we are now between the wars (the last one and the inevitable next one).
    Bragg references raising a family in times of austerity, which for the working class seems to be all the time, no matter the period. First it was austerity in order to pay for the Great War, then it was austerity following in order to build up the country's economy again, followed by austerity during the second World War. This was then followed by austerity after the bombings of the war. At the time of the strike, and at the time Bragg wrote the song, Margeret Thatcher was implementing conservative policies and austerity measures under the guise that it was necessary to restore the economy. In short, the working class lives in perpetual austerity under various excuses.
    He points out that no matter who's in charge, Tory's or Labor, prosperity is often tied to imperialism, conflict and war. Thus prosperity is brought down at the armoury, where the working class finds employment and the country finds prosperity not in elevating the population but in preparing for the next war.
    Despite the hardships of the working people, they keep their faith in democracy, and they vote for a "helping hand" to solve societies problems rather than the "iron fist" which brings order through force. Those who do want the iron fist to enforce their will by force see their country as a land with a wall around it... seeing enemies everywhere and thus constantly in a state of war hysteria. They see life in terms of hope for a better world, brought about by the glory of war. But the working people just want the green fields, and the right to a dignified life through the fruits of their labor.
    The working people want a rational society, where basic needs are met throughout one's life, where things like education, economic security, and the better things in life are not just a fairy tale. The hope for such a society seems so remote that even if a worker's government is not possible, the working classes are willing to devote themselves to a government that can at least promise them a living wage.
    The song wraps up with a call to find the men that will form the society where war is a thing a past. It calls for bringing up the banners of the early socialist movement, when anit-militarism, democracy, worker's control, and internationalism were not only abandoned but made up the founding pillars of the movement.
    The final lines are in reference to the rather moderate road the UK took towards progress in comparison to the rest of the world. Unlike other European powers that pursued extremes such as fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the UK has maintained it's basic democratic structure. This is why moderation is called the heart of the nation, and the cry is that moderation not be deserted in favor of the extremes mentioned before, but that moderation remain as the working people try to implement a better society.
    ldlefton September 13, 2012   Link
  • -1
    General Commentit could also be considered the working man's frustration with his government's inability to ease the suffering of the blue-collars workers during the great depression... even after these workers fought for their nation's survival, twice.
    heartbeats_xxxon July 18, 2006   Link
  • -1
    My OpinionAll sorts of meanings here. "I was a miner/docker/railwayman", careers for life, now gone. Railing at government for allowing that change, but also at the unions for the same thing. Taken in the context of Thatcher's Britain, this is quite restrained - there are far more vitriolic pieces.
    But I think there is one more message "We're arming for peace, me boys". We are always between the wars and each time we have one, the workers lose out more. We'll be arming again, soon, America wants to replace its arsenal. Bragg is saying even then, "we can't afford another big one".
    MikeDKiwion December 06, 2016   Link

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