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"This Land is Your Land, This Land is my Land" The Communist Side of Woody Guthrie

Updated on December 12, 2010

“This land is your land, this land is my land” A song that millions today sing in honor of their home, America. Little do they know that the song was actually written as a protest against American capitalism. And that its author Woody Guthrie, was actually communist.

Written in response to the song “God Bless America”, The lyrics that we hear in the song today do not truly represent Guthrie’s original meaning. In fact, up to three whole versus, versus that change the entire tone of the song have been omitted.

The first of these is infamously known as the “private property verse” it goes:

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;

Sign was painted, it said private property;

But on the back side it didn't say nothing;

This land was made for you and me[1]

Just adding these simple lines to the song, completely changes the meaning. Instead of being a song about “how great it is to live here and how beautiful everything is” it is clear that the song is literally talking about possession. All of the sudden you can see the communist over tones, the idea that there should not be, private property. But instead this land is yours and mine.

The next line that is not included serves to further this point.

Nobody living can ever stop me,

As I go walking that freedom highway;

Nobody living can ever make me turn back

This land was made for you and me.

Again, when put into context with the previous line. We see that he is speaking out against private property, against the rich corporations who owned huge pieces of land and paid their workers meager wages. It is clear that Guthrie believes all land should be shared “Nobody living can ever stop me” because he has as much right to the property as everyone else.

The final additional line needed to understand the song goes as follows:

In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;

By the relief office, I'd seen my people.

As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,

Is this land made for you and me?

This line again attacks the established principles of America and most apparently, the church. Guthrie seems to be asking “Why are there starving people in front of a church? Why isn’t the church helping?” He goes on to ask “Is this land made for you and me?” This question is one that propels people to ask what is going on. He seems to be saying that the government has perverted the land and while it should be clear that the land is “for you and me”. Apparently, in our society, it is not.

Woody Guthrie is an American folk legend. When people hear his song “This Land is Your Land, This Land is my Land” they tend to think he must have been a very patriotic man. I wonder what Guthrie would think if he were to find out that his most precious possession, his protest against the American way, had actually been taken over and used in such a way as to promote the American way. When you think about it, his property has become common property. Just not in the way he envisioned. Oh the irony.


[1] All song Lyrics Copied From Wikipedia, original source: July 3, 2000, National Public Radio report by Nick Spitzer

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    • merobinson2 profile imageAUTHOR

      merobinson2 

      7 years ago

      Thank You!

    • moncrieff profile image

      moncrieff 

      7 years ago from New York, NY

      Very interesting. I know little of Woody Guthrie and have never heard the song before, however I found your conclusions and the history of the song intriguing.

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