Theres a few links in this post but before you look at any of them my advice is to take care. The history of American socialism is one of the most addictive substances known to man
It’s got everything – heroics, lynchings, show trials, executions, great songs, exiles and imprisonment….and best of all total abject glorious failure….
Let’s meet the Wobblies. Today the Industrial Workers of the World are at the vanguard of the struggle for justice for Starbucks employees. Naom Chomsky still a member by the way, and a presence in Scotland.
The One Big Union has a more glorious past than it’s present indicates. Here’s the pretty good Wiki..
Founded in Chicago in 1905 the IWW was the first American practical example of Industrial Unionism, what we would call here syndicalism. Logic encapsulated in the “One Big Union” slogan. If, during a miners strike railwaymen would refuse to transport scab labour then how could you lose? Simple really…
As usual Miners played a leading role – the Western Federation of Miners the key driver behind the set up of the IWW.
It’s worth a quick scan of some of the early members of the IWW
Eugene V Debs – the most successful socialist Presidential candidate of all time, Debs got 6% in 1912 and more votes but a lower percentage when he stood from prison in 1920. (Jailed for opposing conscription in WW1).
Daniel De Leon the Marxist theoretician was also an early member.
Joe Hill, famous victim of state murder was also an early member. Great Ballads and songs ( Here’s Joan). Here’s his last written words, awaiting execution:
My will is easy to decide – For there is nothing to divide
My kin don’t need to fuss and moan – Moss does not cling to a rolling stone.
My body? – Oh. – If I could choose I would to ashes it reduce
And let the merry breezes blow my dust to where some flowers grow
Perhaps some fading flower then would come to life and bloom again
This is my Last and final Will
Good Luck to All of you – Joe Hill.
Again his Wiki is well worth a read.
As an aside I didn’t realise that Helen Keller had been a member – You learn something new…
Oh and your man Larkin – Before the Yanks threw him in the clink
Which brings us to the best of the lot :
Big Bill Haywood, pictured above. There’s his life It’s got the lot – Haywood died in Moscow in 1927. He travelled Europe in 1910, meeting Lenin and Luxembourg but also coming to Wales. Here’s a speech he gave in New York City in 1911 The General Strike – I quote:
“And in Wales it was my good fortune to be there, not to theorize but to take part in the general strike among the coal miners. Previous to my coming, or in previous strikes, the Welsh miners had been in the habit of quitting work, carrying out their tools, permitting the mine managers to run the pumps, allowing the engine winders to remain at work, carrying food down to the horses, keeping the mines in good shape, while the miners themselves were marching from place to place singing their old-time songs, gathering on the meeting grounds of the ancient Druids and listening to the speeches of the labor leaders; starving for weeks contentedly, and on all occasions acting most peaceably; going back to work when they were compelled to by starvation. But this last strike was an entirely different one. It was like the shoemakers’ strike in Brooklyn. Some new methods had been injected into the strike. I had spoken there on a number of occasions previous to the strike being inaugurated, and I told them of the methods that we adopted in the West, where every man employed in and around the mine belongs to the same organization; where, when we went on strike, the mine closed down. They thought that that was a very excellent system. So the strike was declared. They at once notified the engine winders, who had a separate contract with the mine owners, that they would not be allowed to work. The engine winders passed a resolution saying that they would not work. The haulers took the same position. No one was allowed to approach the mines to run the machinery. Well, the mine manager, like the mine managers everywhere, taking unto himself the idea that the mines belonged to him, said, “Certainly the men won’t interfere with us. We will go up and run the machinery. And they took along the office force. But the miners had a different notion and they said, “You can work in the office, but you can’t run this machinery. That isn’t your work. If you run that you will be scabbing; and we don’t permit you to scab–not in this section of the country, now.” They were compelled to go back to the office. There were 325 horses underground, which the manager, Llewellyn, complained about being in a starving condition. The officials of the union said, “We will hoist the horses out of the mine.”
“Oh, no,” he said, “we don’t want to bring them up. We will all be friends in a few days.”
“You will either bring up the horses now or you will let them stay there.”
He said, “No, we won’t bring them up now.”
The pumps were closed down on the Cambria mine. 12,000 miners were there to see that they didn’t open. Llewellyn started a hue and cry that the horses would be drowned, and the king sent the police, sent the soldiers and sent a message to Llewellyn asking “if the horses were still safe.” He didn’t say anything about his subjects, the men. Guarded by soldiers, a few scabs, assisted by the office force, were able to run the pumps. Llewellyn himself and his bookkeeping force went down and fed the horses.
Had there been an industrial organization comprising the railroaders and every other branch of industry, the mines of Wales would be closed down to-day.”
I highlighted the bit that tickled me – meeting grounds of the ancient Druids indeed……….
I repeat – be careful not to get sucked in…