Wednesday, 30 January 2013

I Will Win the story of the Wobblies

Well I promised and I deliver (eventually) I made three videos about the Industrial Workers of the World detailing its history, some of its core beliefs and a few of its modern activities. In making them I made use of already existing videos posters made by some artists I know and for the last two talked another Wobblie whose a folk singer on the side into letting me use some of his songs.

I Will Win

Unfortunately you'll have to excuse the adverts in the above, one of the songs "I Dreamed I sae Joe Hill" by Tom Morello of the Nightwatchman and Rage Against the Machine and also a member of the IWW is copyrighted by several labels. Fortunately they're of the let us slap ads on it and get the money (If any) and we'll call it even persuasion. But it really rubs me up the wrong way so here have a download link advert free.

Union Democracy

A big thank you to John Paul Wright for his permission to use his songs in these two videos, the one above is called Shove it up there Delegates and is about an organisational argument in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen about how to structure there organisation, one member one vote vs a hierarchy of delegates. As such I used to try and illustrate the Wobbly concept of Industrial Democracy and its structure which technically does have delegates but unlike other Unions in the IWW there supposed to represent the branch that elected them only and can be recalled if those whom elected them take issue with there behaviour. In many other Unions the delegates are very difficult to remove and are free to vote as they feel and often work more closely with the layer(s) above them then the rank and file.

Have a download link

The Whistling Wobblie

The link between the music and images is a bit tenuous but the I loved the imagery of a worker travelling and seeing were he ended up. It also gave me an excuse to show off some of the IWW branches from around the world.

Download link

I'm very much a fan of the 1979 documentary The Wobblies I think its an excellent documentary that grabs your attention and through use of songs effective editing of interviews and still imagery makes for an entertaining history lesson. Although at the time I thought there was something a little off about it, and my suspicions were later confirmed on an IWW blog about the history of the film. Basically despite being very informative about the history of the American IWW it contained very little if any (Its been awhile since I last watched it) information on the IWW's activities outside the US. This makes the second W (World) look full hardy but could be excused for practical consideration, maybe there wasn't enough time to cram in the other Wobblie sections or research them enough.

 But this focus on Yankee Wobs, makes the other flaw with it more glaring, despite being a documentary about the IWW and getting many of its surviving organisers of the period to take part the film contains no mention at all that the IWW in America was still active. Now lets be honest the American IWW had shrank to a tiny number by the late 70's to a few hundred active members much smaller then its peak of over 100,000 during the period covered. But it did still exist and was still an active Union organising workers and taking part in strikes so the complete absence of any current (at the time) activities was a very strange omission.

Apparently the omission was deliberate, the films main makers Deborah Shaffer and Stewart Bird were and are (I think there still alive) Trotskyist's and while that revelation won't mean anything to most basically the Trotskyist believes in a completely different way of Union organising to the Wobblies, one that's big on top down leadership and so the allegation was that whilst making a film about an important part of the American and in my view global Labour movement the film makers took advantage of the IWW's almost total lack of publicity at the time to give the impression that the One Big Union and its emphasis on leadership from below was very much a thing of the past. In short the film tried to give the IWW a Eulogy, a very well done and positive sounding eulogy but a eulogy all the same.

I hear there's now a DVD of The Wobblies available in America and it comes with a special "making of" feature were Shaffer and Bird talk about the interviews so maybe they admit the lack of acknowledgement of the still existing IWW was a mistake, I haven't seen it but the few reviews I've seen of it are very positive to the point of fawning so I doubt it. Anyway finding that out and how angry the members being interviewed in it were once it was released were left me feeling pretty raw. Which is why I made the above videos, to try and correct the oversight. I still recommend given The Wobblies a watch though it was very well made documentary, just remember that the IWW not only still exists but is currently growing.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Interview with the Israeli Workers Party

From FSRN,
Another party running in today's elections is the Da'am Workers Party, a socialist-based party that focuses on economic inequality and social inclusion. In the 2009 elections, the Party failed to receive enough votes to send a representative to the Knesset, but it has received a surge of attention after the protests in 2011 that focused on housing and economic disparity. Members call the party the face of the new Left in Israel. Asma Agbarieh-Zahalka is the  leader of the Da'am Workers Party. If elected she would become one of the few Arab women in the Knesset. She joins us on the phone from the town of Umm al Fahem in Israel.
 The Da'am Workers Party gained over 3,000 votes in the recent Knesset elections and failed to gain a seat. That seems damming but a political party or association can still be influential without parliamentary representation. The Da'am Workers party is mainly active in building Arab and Israeli links within communities and organising workers into what it calls an independent Labour association to end workplace discrimination and the two tiered workforce.

Israel's main Trade Union association the General Federation of Labour in Israel or Histadrut  has just like the Trade Union movements of Britain, the United States and South Africa among others has actively contributed to the discrimination and disparity in living standards within Israel by restricting membership to Jews (membership became open to Arabs living within Israel's borders in 1959, migrant workers in 2009) and being a key supporter of what's been called Labour Zionism and the establishment of the state of Israel by employing many Jewish migrants from the 1920's onwards, which has caused problems for non Jewish workers in Israel. Histadrut also has very close ties to the Israeli Labor party the party that founded Israel and until 1977 every Israeli PM had some connection to the party and Histadrut. And the current Defence Minister responsible for the blockade of Gaza, the recent attacks on Gaza city and providing security for the Settlers is Ehud Barak whom led the Labor party not once but twice. Joining Histadrut will bring some protections but can also be considered acceptance of Zionist principles, which is very problematic since those principles include accepting Israel as a "Jewish" State which is tantamount to non Jews declaring and accepting second class citizenship. 

There's also the nagging problem that despite opening up membership the working conditions for Arab(Palestinian, Bedouin and Druze) and migrant workers  (especially Africans) remain far behind their Jewish colleagues. So an independent Labour association not attached to any Nationalist project would be very helpful to many sections of Israel's society.

And of course a political party based on the ethnic equality of class based Socialism would also solve the ethnic tensions within Israel. So long as the Israel-Palestine conflict remains a Nationalist struggle between Ethnic/cultural groups then the Arab population of Israel will always be seen as potential Fifth Columnists and will naturally be treated as such. Currently the suspicion of Arab Israeli's runs so deep that Yair Lepid leader of Yesh Atid the second largest party in the Knesset gave away the chance to become Prime Minister by turning down a proposed coalition with the Labor Party (third largest) and a coalition of minor Leftist and Arab political parties specifically because of the Arab members

Saturday, 26 January 2013

New Years Resolution

Firstly I'd like to apologise for the lack of up dates and yes I am aware that a depressingly high fraction of my posts have started with a Mea Culpa of sorts. As is usual for most 20 something's real life gets in the way of internet surfing. In addition to winter illness I've been focussing on getting my "Career" back on track so far I've had some part time work as a writer and a few interviews for other jobs. Also a lot of the things I wanted to talk about this month have strangely been jumped on and thoroughly explored from every angle before I can even think of a clever pun for the title. Oh and I've also decided to give my passion for writing fiction a go over the past few months and have been entering a few competitions and begging for feedback, if your interested you can find a few of them here. And I've also been indulging my hobby of photography on the side. Though I haven't been completely inactive, far from it I've been making videos about news and current events from around the world and have been busy making pdf's of the history of the Labour Movement around the world and getting more active with the British section of the Industrial Workers of the World*.

So in short I've been quite busy but given that this blog and the research I did as part of my quest to have something interesting to write about on it was the catalyst for much of the other stuff I've been doing (I'll leave it to you to decide if that's heart warming or just sad) I can't help but feel a bit guilty about neglecting it. So take this as my news years resolution, to contribute more to this blog and keep it active.

 *In fact I and some fellow Wobblies have something special in the works regarding the IWW, currently in the quality checking stage.
*Black Rose artist laghing-rabt

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