Thursday, 24 October 2013

“We’ve been robbed long enough. It’s time to strike” : Remember the 1916 strike on Minnesota’s iron range

“We’ve been robbed long enough. It’s time to strike” : Remember the 1916 strike on Minnesota’s iron range
Jeff Pilacinski takes a look back at a 1916 IWW struggle in northern Minnesota.
On Saturday, June 3 we remember the valiant struggle of over 15,000 fellow workers and through our continued agitating in 2006, carry their fighting spirit forward. This date marks the 90th anniversary of the great mine workers strike on Minnesota’s Mesabi, Cuyuna, and Vermillion Iron Ranges – a strike that threatened the economic grip of the U.S. Steel war profiteers and strained relations between several prominent Wobbly organizers and the union’s general headquarters.

After a large uprising was crushed with the help of immigrant strike breakers in 1907, Minnesota mine workers were poised to confront the steel trust once again. In a report to the Minneapolis headquarters of the IWW’s Agricultural Workers Organization dated May 2, 1916, one organizer had “never before found the time so ripe for organization and action as just now.” The appeal from one Minnesota miner in the May 13, 1916 issue of the Industrial Worker summarized the workers’ discontent best as “the spirit of revolt is growing among the workers on the Iron Range,” and that there was a need for “workers who have an understanding of the tactics and methods of the IWW and who would go on the job, and agitate and organize on the job.” Less than a month later, an Italian worker at the St. James underground mine in Aurora opened his pay envelope and raged over his meager earnings under the corrupt contract system, whereby wages were based upon the load of ore dug and supplies used, not hours worked. By the time other miners arrived at the St. James for the night shift, production at the mine was halted. All pits in Aurora were soon shut down as the strikers proclaimed, “We’ve been robbed long enough. It’s time to strike.”

40 striking workers from Aurora, along with their families, then marched through other mining communities on the Iron Range and discontent spread like wild fire. By month’s end, almost 10,000 mine workers were out on strike. Frustrated by previous experience with Western Federation of Miners and having been ignored by the Minnesota State Federation of Labor, the disorganized strikers appealed to the Industrial Workers of the World for assistance. Wobbly organizers, including the likes of Carlo Tresca, Joe Schmidt, Frank Little, and later Joe Ettor and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn arrived to help local strike leaders draw up a list of demands. IWW membership in the Metal Mine Workers’ Industrial Union swelled amongst the strikers with the following list of demands crafted: an 8 hour working day timed from when workers entered the mine until they were outside; a pay scale based upon the day worked; pay days twice a month; immediate back-pay for hours worked upon severance; abolition of the Saturday night shift; abolition of the contract mining system. With a majority of the strikers being non-English speaking European immigrants, IWW and local leaders conversed with the workers in their native language - from Polish, German, and Croatian to Finnish and Italian. This commitment to engaging workers in the language of their homeland was sustained through IWW publications and the Work Peoples College well into the 1970s.

Without asking for union recognition or IWW affiliation, the strikers closed the mines that shipped vast quantities of iron ore to plants producing the highly profitable materials of the great European war – iron and steel. This direct threat to wartime profits forced the employing class to mount an all-out attack against the striking workers. U.S. Steel companies on the Iron Range deputized 1,000 special mine guards and strike breakers to keep the picket lines open. Bloodshed soon followed.
In the town of Virginia (where the strike was headquartered), armed company thugs confronted a group of pickets holding signs of “One Big Union, One Big Enemy” and opened fire on them. When the smoke cleared, a Slovenian striker by the name of John Alar was dead from gunshot wounds. Despite city bans against mass marches, several thousand mourning workers marched from Virginia to the fairgrounds in Hibbing where speeches in many different languages urged the strikers to maintain the struggle and fight back in spite of company repression. With this show of boldness by the workers, the U.S. Steel bulls struck back and raided the Biwabik home of a Montenegrin miner in search of a “blind pig” or illegal alcohol still. Violence ensued, leaving one deputized strike breaker and a bystander dead. Philip Masonovich and his wife were arrested along with three immigrant boarders in their home. Within a day of the incident, a number of IWW organizers (who were at strike headquarters in Virginia during the scuffle) were also jailed on the grounds that they were accessories to murder. It was claimed that their impassioned speeches against the bosses encouraged chaos. Despite violent repression and with strike leaders locked up, the miners’ struggle pressed forward.

The mining companies refused to recognize any of the strikers’ demands and instead red-baited the workers by calling them IWW revolutionaries and vile anarchists in the newspapers. After futile negotiations between U.S. Steel and local businessmen/public officials in support of the strikers, the workers looked to the federal government to mediate. Mediation broke down, and with winter fast approaching, the Iron Range locals of the IWW voted to end their strike on September 17, 1916. Though heralded as a defeat for the workers, their bold confrontation struck fear in the companies, who by mid-October granted a few of the strikers’ primary demands. In November of 1916, only two months after the strike’s end, large wage increases were introduced by all of the mining companies. The bosses claimed these increases were meant for workers to benefit from wartime prosperity, but the IWW and even the otherwise hostile local papers realized what prompted this action. The Duluth News Tribune accepted that the concessions by the bosses were an “answer to the threat of a renewed IWW strike on the ranges next spring.”

Attentions then turned to defending those still in jail from the Biwabik episode. A large defense campaign was mounted, with support coming from the IWW’s AWO office in Minneapolis and other workers from around the country, including Eugene Debs. Shortly before the murder trials were to begin, a settlement was reached between prosecutors and attorneys speaking on behalf the IWW whereby Masonovich and two of his immigrant boarders would plead guilty to manslaughter, and all others would be released. Masonovich and the two immigrants accepted the offer with the understanding that they’d serve one year. However, the three were handed terms up to twenty years with parole eligibility after one year served. This outcome angered Bill Haywood, the IWW’s General Secretary-Treasurer for what he saw as a betrayal of the workers in exchange for the freedom of the Wobbly organizers. Haywood lashed out at Gurley Flynn and Ettor, who in turn criticized the IWW’s leader of withholding much needed defense funds for the case while transforming the organization into a top-heavy bureaucracy. Some say this tension led Tresca, Ettor, and Gurley Flynn to withdraw from IWW involvement. Whatever the organizational fallout from the legal settlement, the workers on Minnesota’s iron ranges continued to participate in IWW agitation, with many of the 1916 strikers involving themselves in the great lumber workers struggle the following year.
With the 90th anniversary of the strike upon us, Twin Cities and Duluth IWWs will host a public event on Saturday, June 3rd in the old Virginia Socialist Hall, where the 1916 strike was headquartered. The program will feature music, historical presentations, poetry, and the stories of area residents about the strike. The event is free and open to the public. Area residents with old stories from the strike or the IWW are encouraged to attend and share.

We gather to remember those who came before us, and also to celebrate the renewed organizing efforts on Minnesota’s iron ranges. Fellow Workers, we’ve been robbed long enough. We must continue to bite the hand that robs us of the products of our labor.
Originally posted: May 30, 2006 at
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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Blog Action Day 2013

Today is Blog Action Day (BAD), and since I have a blog and the liberal press has told me non stop how bloggers are21st century Che Guevara's and the laptop the new AK 47 why not take part? If you're unfamiliar BAD is a day where bloggers do what they do every other day of the year only around a certain theme. So its sort of like collective action.

This years theme is human rights and BAD has received backing by Unions to raise awareness of attacks on members and workers rights.Now I didn't know about this day until yesterday so instead of preparing something I've just taken a number of stubs I was working on and put them here so it'll be brief.

First some good news, the Ugandan section of the Industrial Workers of the World has successfully completed another in a series of fund raising initiatives to turn a good idea into a fully functioning branch and organising committee. In addition to successfully funding and completing a series of organiser trainings and establishing a functional office for administration and communication Ugandan Wobblies established a local producer for Union propaganda and local fund raising and purchased a motorcycle so organisers can travel to more remote parts outside of the cities.

This is pace of growth has been phenomenal, while the IWW has had contacts in Uganda for some time the actual work to establish an active presence in the country was started only a few months ago. Further information can be found on page five of the Industrial Worker.


In Scotland local Wobblies have recently formed the "Scottish Education Workers Network" that aims to build links between those who work in education, from porters to lecturers and students. Its early days but it has a lot of potential. Since education doesn't work like a business the lack of direct return for investment means universities will always be under pressure to "Make economies" i.e. cut funding.

And despite the student bodies famous history of radicalism student lead movements very really if ever come closer to achieving their goals. There's a couple of reasons for this, the first is simply that the Student Union isn't a Union its a social club, and an opportunity for corporate climbers to pad out their CV's with a flashy title. But since its the only organising body most Universities have its the one that takes the lead when things kick off. So its lack of experience often means the whole movement muddles about and then either fizzles out or breaks down into isolated and not very effective stunts and violence.

The ruling parties offices were occupied, and nothing changed. In other countries when that happens everyone has to learn a new anthem and hang up a portrait or two.
 And then there's the disgusting snobbery of students towards staff who aren't bearded Professors. Earn a wage without letters after your name and some students will treat you like a robot with squeaking joints. So naturally whenever staff or students are threatened there's little in the way of support from the other side. This is bad because in addition to limiting the potential support from the start and preventing some important experience being passed on it can open up a divide and rule strategy for the Administration. I know a few cases were staff strikes  where post grads and Doctoral students were used as replacement lecturers and assistants, and where porters have been used as extra security to remove demonstrators and occupiers.

So any initiative to organise the education sector and build links between the two groups is welcome in my opinnion.


I've got not one but two good news stories from America. In the city of Minneapolis (spelt that right first time) IWW members working for the Sisters of Camelot a "Non-profit"* food service for the community, have been in a long term strike due to the management (Who call themselves "the Collective") refused to recognise the Canvassers Union, and bring the canvassers into "the collective". Oh and they fired one the "ring leaders" for good measure. If you have no experience of charities beyond giving change to tin shakers this may surprise you. As someone whose work for and with a number of charities and "Social partnerships" I can tell you it doesn't surprise me that the boss or bosses of a charity act the same way as a CEO when there fiefdom is threatened.

Anyway while the strike goes on the Canvassers have decided to set up their own food sharing organisation to serve their community while the strike continues, since they used to bring in over 90% of Sisters of Camelot's funds and have experience in most of the roles required to run a food shelf.

 You maybe wondering why I'm including this in the "good" section since the struggle is still ongoing, well because in addition to the Canvassers maintaining a strong strike the establishment of a new food shelf means the local community will still be served, the Canvassers will now be receiving at least some regular funding for their families rather then depending on strike fund donations. And they are showing just how little use the boss and upper management types are in economic production. And the preamble of IWW does end with

The army of production must be organized, not only for everyday struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.
Which is just what the Canvassers are doing, one box of fruit and veg at a time.

Are second feel good story from the land of the free, concerns the return of the IWW to the Railways with the Mobile Rail Workers Union. The MRWU represents workers at a specialist truck company that services the rail way network. The MRWU has resisting retaliatory suspending and won recognition by ballot, as well as forcing a safety investigation which validated a number of the staffs grievances.

Again a small start but a promising one, that workers would seek out the IWW despite its lack of name recognition and material assets is encouraging, as is the hard work that the MRWU have taken to defend themselves and their fellow workers at Mobile Rail. I look forward to my inbox receiving further promising updates in the future.

Now its time I'm afraid for the bad news.


Not really surprising to see this country in the bad column for Workers rights is it? This time the complaint concerns the arrest of Colombian Trade Union leader Huber Ballesteros Vice President of an agricultural workers Union. Who was busy organising a series of protests that grew into a general strike of Colombia's farmers which recently shook the Colombian government and forced them to rethink their controversial seed laws.

Here's what Labourstart and Justice for Colombia had to say
Colombia is the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist. According to UN figures almost 3,000 trade unionists have been killed since 1986. In the first six months of 2013 at least 11 trade unionists were killed. State authorities are directly involved in many of these killings. In addition to physical attacks, imprisonment is often used to punish and silence trade unionists. On Sunday 25 August 2013, trade union leader Huber Ballesteros was arrested and imprisoned. Huber is one of Colombia's most recognised trade union leaders. He sits on the Executive Committee of Colombia's largest trade union federation, the CUT, as well as being Vice President of FENSUAGRO Agricultural Workers' Union and National Organiser for the union-backed Patriotic March movement. At the time of his arrest he was organising mass strikes across the country. His arrest is a clear attempt by Colombian authorities to punish him for his trade union activities and has been condemned by the ETUC and the ITUC. His release must be secured to send a clear message to the Colombian authorities that persecuting trade unionists will not be accepted.

Petition link

South Korea: 

The Korean government has given the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU) until 23 October to amend its by-laws to ban dismissed and retired teachers from union membership -- or face deregistration. Currently, the KTU's constitution allows dismissed workers to remain members of the union. However, the Trade Union and Labour Relations Adjustment Act contains provisions prohibiting dismissed and unemployed workers from keeping their membership and making non-union members ineligible to stand for trade union office, in violation of international labour law. Recently, the Ministry of Employment and Labour refused, for the fourth time, to register the Korean Government Employees Union for the same reason. The International Labour Organization and the National Human Rights Commission of Korea have repeatedly criticized these exclusions, and recommended the government amend its legislation in order to comply with international labour standards.

 Yes the South Korean government is gearing up for a fight with the Teachers Union to prepare for education reforms. The Union has two choices, either accept empowering administrations to fire teachers more regularly as once they've lost their contract they lose all protections and legal support. This will of course open the Union to a slower but assured demise as its membership haemorrhages with each round of redundancies. Or as seems likely the Union will resist meaning the entire organisation will lose its legal bargaining power.

Petition link to add your support.


 Crown Holdings, a U.S.-based multinational company, is one of the major metal container companies in the world, producing cans for beverage and food containers in 149 countries. Despite almost doubling its profits in 2012, Crown has launched its latest attack on workers in Toronto, Canada, where members of the United Steelworkers (USW) were forced on strike. Crown is demanding the elimination of a cost of living allowance, the establishment of a two-tier wage system, and the continuation of an already nine-year freeze on pensions. These demands came soon after Crown gave these union members an achievement award for their "dedication, commitment, teamwork and personal accountability." USW members have drawn a line in the sand and are leading the "Take-Backs No More" global campaign to stop years of Crown building its profits on the backs of workers. Unite (UK), the International Association of Machinists, and IndustriALL are building a global union network to stop Crown's attacks. Join the "Take-Backs No More Campaign" by sending a letter to Crown Holdings CEO John Conway.

 The classic, "You've worked much harder and made us much richer.... however we still need to cutback our outgoings so here's a wage freeze and forget your cover". If you've had a fizzy or alcoholic drink you've held some of these workers handiwork. Its also good to see some international solidarity, I have my criticisms of craft and business unions but its good to see them putting some of there dues money to good use. Of course I think the best network is the One Big Union model offered by the IWW but I must be honest and admit that'll be awhile coming.

Untill then I'll lend a hand and hope you do like wise.
Petition link

*There's been some controversy about this, apparently in 2005 they reformed themselves in a way that meant they were now profitable but kept the status.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

1912: The Lawrence textile strike

The IWW in addition to pulling off some impressive Industrial victories against very powerful and ruthless opponents, from scabs and private Detective Agencies to the FBI and State Militia Wobblies have also had a big impact on culture. The phrase Pie in the Sky was popularised by the Wobbly song Preacher and the Slave, and they were early advocates of Direct Action while other Union groups stuck to delegations and appeals.

Another very prominent cultural icon that's tied to the IWW is the phrase Bread and Roses. Now they didn't invent the phrase, Rose Schneiderman coined it a year earlier in a speech but the phrase didn't become well known until the textile workers strike in Lawrence Massachusetts in 1912 when reporters noticed a prominent placard that read "Bread yes, but roses too" and as such the Lawrence Textile strike became known as the Bread and Roses strike. The IWW was a very active and important supporter of the Strike as the account below goes on to detail.

Strikers face off with militia in Lawrence
A short history of the strike of 20,000 textile workers, mostly women and girls who included native and immigrant workers, which won big concessions over wages, conditions and hours for the entire textile industry

At the turn of the 20th century, Lawrence, Massachusetts was one of the most important textile manufacturing towns in the United States. The mills in the area were principally under the ownership of the American Woollen Company, which employed about 40,000 people. The Company's consolidation of thirty-four factories across New England had a yearly output of about $45,000,000. The dawn of the Industrial Revolution had allowed many employers to lay off skilled workers in favour of large numbers of unskilled, immigrant labourers who were working on average for less than $9.00 for a full week’s work. A large proportion of the work was done by women, and about half of the workers in the four mills in Lawrence owned by the American Woollen Company were girls aged between fourteen and eighteen.

The workers lived in small, cramped, and often dangerous tenement buildings and survived mostly on bread, beans, and molasses as their staple diet. 50% of the children brought up in these conditions did not survive to reach the age of six, while thirty-six out of every hundred men died before the age of twenty-five. As well as these inhumane conditions, workers had to contend with rent prices that were higher than rent prices in the rest of New England, and ranged from about $1.00 to $6.00 a week for the small apartments the workers lived in. 58% of these homes found it necessary to take in lodgers in order to be able to pay the rent.

The conditions in the mills became steadily worse before the strike began in January of 1912. With the introduction of a two-loom system, the pace of work became much faster for the workers, which in turn led to a series of layoffs and wage cuts for those that remained.

The skilled textile jobs in Lawrence were mostly held by 'native-born' workers of English, German and Irish descent, about 2,500 of whom, in theory, belonged to the United Textile Workers, a section of the conservative American Federation of Labor (AFL), although it is estimated only a couple of hundred of them were fully paid up by 1912. The unskilled workforce was made up mostly of Italian, French-Canadian, Portuguese, Slavic, Hungarian and Syrian immigrants who the revolutionary syndicalist union the Industrial Workers of the World... had been attempting to organise since 1907, they claimed over a thousand members in the area, but as with the United Textile Workers, only about 300 were regularly paying dues by 1912.

Following a reduction of hours from fifty-six to fifty-four hours a week to comply with new state legislation, a letter was sent from the small English speaking IWW branch to President Wood of the American Woollen Company asking how the new law would affect wages. Wood did not reply. Anger with the company increased when workers realised that a reduction of two hours pay would mean (as the IWW publicly pointed out) three fewer loaves of bread a week to put on the table.

Polish women in the Everett cotton mills were the first to notice a shortage of thirty-two cents in their pay envelopes on January 11th, stopping their looms and leaving the mill shouting, "Short pay, short pay!" Similar events happened throughout Lawrence and the next morning workers from the Washington and Woods mills also walked out, within a week there were 20,000 workers on strike.
The IWW immediately took hold of the strike and after a mass meeting, a telegram was sent to the IWW in New York, requesting that Joseph Ettor (an Executive Board member well known for organising in Lawrence) be sent to Lawrence to lead the strike. He arrived quickly and set up a strike committee, two representatives from each ethnic group of strikers sat on the committee and took responsibility for most major decisions. The meetings of the committee were also translated into 25 different languages for the immigrant workers. The strike committee decided on a set of demands it was to make to the American Woollen Company; a 15% increase in wages, a return to the fifty hour work week, double time for overtime work and a stopping of discrimination for union activity.
In response to the circulation of strike leaflets, the Mayor ordered out the local Militia to patrol the streets, and the city's alarm bells rang for the first time. The strikers responded with mass picketing of the mills, and the women of the strike adopted the now famous slogan, "We want bread and roses too!" The sight of mass picketing (which had never been seen before in New England) prompted a vicious response from the authorities and strikers were attacked with water hoses from the rooftops of adjoining houses, the strikers responded by throwing chunks of ice. Thirty-six strikers were arrested and sentenced to one year each in prison.

A few days after the strike began, Arturo Giovannitti (another well known IWW organiser) arrived in Lawrence to organise strike relief. Relief committees, a network of soup kitchens and food distribution stations were set up to help the strikers, and families received between $2-$5 cash a week from a strike fund.

Lawrence was the first time large numbers of unskilled, immigrant workers had followed the leadership of the IWW John Golden, president of the United Textile Workers denounced the strike as 'revolutionary' and 'anarchistic' and unsuccessfully tried to take the leadership of the strike away from the IWW and into the hands of the AFL in order to break it up. Failing this, the AFL offered token words of support to the strikers.

Less than a week later, dynamite was found in several places around Lawrence, and the press was quick to lay blame to the strikers. However, a local undertaker was arrested and charged with planting the explosives in an attempt to discredit the workers. He was fined $500 and released, President Wood of the American Woollen Company was implicated in the plot, but cleared by the court although he could not explain why he had made a recent large cash payment to the undertaker.

Contemporary cartoon from Industrial Worker depicting the bosses' brutality in Lawrence
On the evening of January 29th, a woman striker, Anna LoPizzo was killed by the police when they tried to break up a picket line, and, although three miles away at the time addressing a large rally of workers, Ettor and Giovannitti were arrested as 'accessories to murder'. They were refused bail and held for eight months without trial. The IWW responded by sending Bill Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn to take over leadership of the strike, and later, Carlo Tresco, an Italian anarchist, who was met by 15,000 strikers at the train station and carried down Essex Street to Lawrence Common, where he addressed 25,000 workers, each nationality singing the 'Internationale' for him in their various tongues.
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn organised for several hundred children from Lawrence to be temporarily fostered at supporters homes in New York for the duration of the strike, and on February 10th 120 children were met in New York by 5,000 members of the Italian Socialist Federation and the Socialist Party singing the 'Marseille' and the 'Internationale'. A few weeks later, ninety-two more children left for New York, and before going to their foster homes, were paraded with banners down Fifth Avenue. Troubled by the publicity this was creating for the strikers, the authorities in Lawrence ordered that no more children could leave for their temporary foster homes, and on February 24th when a group of 150 children were ready to leave for Philadelphia, fifty policemen and two militia companies surrounded the Lawrence railroad station. They took children away from their parents and threw 30 women and children into jail. The assault on the children and their mothers was all caught by the press, there to photograph the event. The matter ignited public outrage, to which Congress responded with investigative hearings into the matter, hearing many testimonies from the children of Lawrence.
On March 1st, the workers were offered a 5% pay rise, which they rejected. They then held out for another two weeks and the American Woollen Company conceded to all four of their original demands. Other textile companies soon followed, as well as other textile companies throughout New England who wanted to avoid a strike similar to Lawrence.
Poster calling for strike action in defence of Ettor and Giovanitti
Poster calling for strike action in defence of Ettor and Giovanitti
However, Ettor and Giovannitti were still in prison after the strike had ended. The IWW had raised $60,000 for their defence and had campaigned for their release, holding demonstrations and mass meetings throughout the country. In Boston, every member of the Ettor-Giovannitti Defence Committee was arrested, and 15,000 workers in Lawrence went on strike for a day on September 30th to demand Ettor and Giovannitti's release. Swedish and French workers proposed a boycott of all woollen goods from the United States and a refusal to load ships heading for the U.S. and Italian supporters rallied in front of the United States consulate in Rome.

The trial of Ettor and Giovannitti took place in Salem, Massachusetts at the end of September and lasted for two months during which workers would wait outside the courtroom and cheer the two men as they arrived and left each day. They were both acquitted on November 26th, 1912.
The strike and subsequent struggle for the release of Ettor and Giovannitti lasted nearly a year. However, within the next few years nearly all of the gains fought for by the workers and the IWW had been chiselled away by the mill companies and there were drops in pay and conditions, and the installation of labour spies to keep an eye on the workers, leading to the firing of many union activists. The workers had won a temporary victory in Lawrence, but eventually lost all that they had fought for due to the bullying and intimidation of the American Woollen Company of union members, and the coming economic decline in the US.
Sam Lowry
Lightly edited by

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Wednesday, 9 October 2013

1905-today: The Industrial Workers of the World in the US

1905-today: The Industrial Workers of the World in the US
A short history of the US branch of the most revolutionary mass organisation in American history, the Industrial Workers of the World union, the IWW.
The IWW changed American trade unionism forever, being the first big union to organise black and white across entire industries, and calling for the abolition of the wage system and industrial democracy. It was largely defeated by a massive campaign of repression launched by bosses and the government

A ‘Wobbly’ Century

In late 18th century America, European immigrants with anarchist ideas combined with strong anti-statist traditions of US workers to create a burgeoning anarchist current. By the 1880’s, anarchist influenced ideas dominated the emerging US revolutionary movement, with anarchist groups developing across North America, producing a diverse range of papers and magazines in a myriad of different languages.

It was no accident that anarchists in Chicago were at the centre of a movement that looked to the unions as a means of bringing about an anarchist society. They had been active in the workplace for many years, and had taken a prominent role in the struggle for the 8-hour day that led to the fateful demonstration on May 1st in 1886, after which eight anarchists - the Haymarket Martyrs - were framed and condemned to death.
Anarcho-syndicalist ideas also developed in numerous anarchist groups especially in Paterson, New Jersey where Italian and Spanish anarchists were active. They published numerous articles reporting the development of European revolutionary syndicalism, and created a silk workers’ union which was to later join the IWW. They were also important in helping to spread anarcho-syndicalism amongst western mine workers who were to play such an important part in future developments.
In the manifesto from the meeting in January 1905 that led to the creation of the IWW, the basic principles of anarcho-syndicalism were clearly evident. The main author, Thomas J Hagerty, was influenced by European anarcho-syndicalist ideas.

Political parties
The original manifesto saw no role for political parties, arguing that workers should organise industrially to “take and hold that which is produced through an economic organisation of the working class”. On the basis of the January Manifesto, a convention was organised on the 27th June 1905, again in Chicago.
IWW Poster - the Pyramid of the capitalist system
Early IWW poster. Click image to see full-size version
The Western Federation of Miners (WFM), led by “Big” Bill Hayward, who chaired the convention, provided the largest presence. The WFM was a radical western industrial union that had in recent years fought a number of bitter disputes with owners who had engaged private armies against workers. There were also in attendance delegates from socialist organisations, including the two main US socialist parties (and bitter rivals), the Socialist Labour Party (SLP) and the Socialist Party of America (SPA).

The convention produced a preamble that sought to link the immediate struggle to the wider aim of overthrowing capitalism. The main tactic was unambiguous; the newly formed IWW was to set about organising workers into “One Big Union”, whose aim was revolution, after which the union would take over the running of society in the newly established co-operative commonwealth. In the build-up to the revolution, the IWW would wage class war against the capitalist class, developing workers’ revolutionary consciousness in the process.

From the outset, the new union condemned racism. The convention declared that any wage earner could be a member regardless of occupation, race, creed or sex. Anti-discrimination and internationalism quickly became part of its culture and two of its major strengths. Racism especially was recognised as a major factor used by capitalism to divide the working class, affecting both black Americans and newly arrived South East Asians and Europeans. The American Federation of Labor (AFofL) was openly racist - for example, it produced stickers drawing consumers’ attention to those goods that had been produced by white workers.

From the IWW’s earliest days, a source of controversy was its stance on political parties. The clause excluding a role for parties in the workers’ struggle had been dropped from the January Manifesto on the insistence of Daniel de Leon, the SLP leader. De Leon, a recent convert to industrial unionism, was much admired by Lenin, who was later to develop the idea of using workers’ economic power to win himself state power in Russia. After much debate, a compromise was reached under which the general strike was included in the constitution as well as a role for political action.

Turning point
At the 1908 IWW convention, a Chicago motion was passed which removed all reference to political activity from the constitution. In response, the SLP delegates formed a rival IWW based in Detroit, which had little impact. This proved to be a turning point. Detached from the SLP, the IWW developed its core revolutionary policies over the next few years. The strategy that emerged stated that in building “One Big Union”, the IWW would seek to “form the new society inside the shell of the old”. In time, the point would be reached where the workers’ organisation would be powerful enough to use the general strike, take over the means of production, and abolish the wage system. In a nutshell, this would lead to the establishment of industrial democracy, in a workers’ commonwealth.
IWW members strike
IWW members on strike
The voting strength that had enabled the organisation to escape the influence of the SLP had come mainly from the west coast groups. Over the next few years, it was this vibrant part of the IWW which would create the culture of struggle that formed the central essence of the organisation. Often politicised by anarchism, they despised both capitalism and the state. They also had a deep mistrust of politicians and leaders in general, extending to the IWW leadership. Eastern-based radicals did not look too favourably on the western workers. Dismissed by the likes of de Leon as the “Overalls Brigade”, criticism was not confined to the socialist intelligentsia. Some East Coast anarchists also berated them as “this bunch of pork-chop philosophers, agitators who have no real, great organising ability or creative brain power”.
To organise unskilled workers in the west was no easy task. The western US was far less industrialised than the east. The workers were largely migrant and so had no permanent workplace through which they could be physically organised. As an alternative, western workers made the “mixed local” the basis of their organisation. Centred on the union hall, the mixed local was a geographically based organisation, which included both the employed and unemployed. This contrasted with the workplace-based locals in much of the eastern IWW.

The union hall began to evolve as the centre of working class organisational life, and developed into the local intellectual and cultural centre. Here was to be found the basis of an alternative working class culture centred on the idea of solidarity and struggle. Combining art and politics, the western IWW groups produced plays, poems, songs and cartoons. In meaningful, emotional and personal expressions, Wobblies (as IWW members became known) sought to analyse the world from a working class perspective and create a rich culture of both unity and diversity.

Free speech
From this culture of solidarity and self-respect emerged the famous free speech campaign which propelled the IWW to prominence before the First World War. It grew out of the struggle against employment agencies which operated in gateway towns for the mining, lumber, and agricultural industries in the west. The IWW called for a boycott of the agencies and for workers to be recruited via union halls - similar to the recently successful syndicalist union CGT campaign in France. “Soapbox orators”, the most common form of IWW agitation, set up outside employment agencies to denounce their corrupt practices. The police responded by prohibiting street speaking.

From 1908 to 1916, the free speech campaign became the focus of a bitter battle between the IWW and the US state, during which some 5,000 IWW members were imprisoned. The prisons rapidly filled, forcing the state to back down. In the process of winning the campaign, the IWW also exposed the brutality of the US prison system.

The emphasis on community, culture and free speech did not stop the IWW from taking on the capitalists in the workplace. After a difficult few years, by 1910 the IWW had recovered some of its early strength, organising many strikes. Perhaps the most prominent strike was in Goldfield, Nevada, where the IWW attempted to organise all of the 30,000 population. They won an 8-hour day and a minimum wage of $4.50, before being brutally repressed by the state militia. By 1912, the IWW was strong enough to embark on what became two of the most famous strikes at Lawrence and Paterson.

In Lawrence, a Massachusetts textile town, 30,000 immigrant workers toiled in appalling conditions. Organising was particularly difficult as workers were from over a dozen countries, and spoke many different languages. The Lawrence strike took on an insurrectionary nature from the outset. The IWW made no attempt to play down its revolutionary ideas; on the contrary, they sought to raise revolutionary consciousness among workers. The state brought in 1,500 militia, backed up by the police.

Shock waves
During the bitter dispute, these forces used guns, clubs and bayonets to try and force workers back to work, resulting in a number of deaths. Hundreds were arrested, some on false murder charges. Despite this, the IWW organised a tremendous victory, with a pay rise for unskilled workers of 25%. As a result, the American Woollen Federation was also forced to increase wages by 8% across 32 cities. The strike sent shock waves across America and acted as a rallying cry for the unorganised.

Paterson was next, in 1913. As already noted, this silk weaving centre near New York had a strong anarchist tradition. The IWW sought standardised, improved wages and conditions for 25,000 workers. However, after months of ruthless militia activity, with several workers killed and hundreds imprisoned, the strike ended in failure. This was a bitter blow despite the consolation that events in both Lawrence and Paterson had ensured that the IWW was now seen as the formidable organisation.

The IWW’s growth was not just confined to the US. Powerful IWW unions now existed in Australia and Chile, and IWW-influenced unions like the Industrial Workers of Africa and many smaller syndicalist outreach groups sprung up across the globe.

Behind the IWW’s growth and success, however, was a rising controversy over internal democracy. Western locals were concerned that the IWW was too centralised. At the 1911 convention, western delegates had attempted to pass resolutions to limit the power of the General Executive Board (GEB) and devolve it to the regions. Though defeated, the resolutions reflected a growing rift between the eastern and western wings of the organisation.

At the following convention centralisation again reared its head. This time eastern sections argued for the free speech campaign to be brought under GEB control. This outraged the western delegation, reinforcing fears of centralisation.

The 1913 IWW convention is often portrayed as a conflict between anarchist de-centralisers on the west coast and the more socialist centralisers of the east coast. This is too simplistic. The division between east and west in many ways reflected two different cultures based on different conditions. To the eastern IWW, workplace organisation was far more important. The west was far less industrialised, with a large migrant workforce who campaigned on a wide range of issues.

Undoubtedly, anarcho-syndicalism was, and remains, anti-centralisation, so it is not surprising that many found the IWW over-centralised. That is not to say that anarcho-syndicalists would have backed many of the one hundred motions put forward by western delegates. If passed, these would have reduced the IWW to a loose-knit confederation of autonomous groups, with the attendant difficulties of maintaining cohesion.

In the event, the 1913 convention ended in defeat for the western delegation. Not only did their motions fall, but their fear of centralisation was justified by the passing of a motion bringing all publications under the supervision of the GEB. Worst of all, the acrimonious debate left the whole organisation deeply divided.
Anti-IWW propaganda cartoon
Cartoon from the New York Globe during World War I, trying to portray anti-war Wobblies as linked to the German Kaiser
The outbreak of World War I led to increased economic activity and a shortage of labour. The IWW took advantage to win concessions and recruit workers, and entered its heyday period. By 1917, membership was 150,000, with large sections and unions in the metal, mining, railway, forestry, agriculture and marine transport industries. From this point on, its success and revolutionary politics combined to bring it into ever-increasing direct conflict with the state.

State repression
From the start, the IWW voiced its total opposition to the war. Hayward declared it was better to be a traitor to your country than a traitor to your class. The IWW continued to organise strike action wherever possible. The state response was a wave of repression.

In September 1917, the state authorities raided all the national, regional and local offices of the IWW. They seized everything they could lay their hands on and arrested every IWW member they could find. Thousands of members, along with other anarchists and socialists, were harassed, arrested, imprisoned and deported as the state attempted to destroy the IWW. The intense, sustained tide of repression continued for the remainder of the war and after.
As well as direct state terror, the IWW was also subject to violence from state-backed vigilantes. Being a wobbly during the war was to risk beating, shooting or lynching – Frank Everett was a victim of one such attack. Legendary union songwriter and Wobbly Joe Hill was framed for murder, and executed. In a cynical move, the state also enrolled the support of reformist unions. Federal labour laws introduced state mediation, the right to collective bargaining for AFofL affiliates; minimum pay and the basic 8-hour day. The reformist unions were quick to respond to the state attempt to win them over to the war effort.

In 1919, 23 states introduced criminal syndicalist laws. Overnight, the IWW found itself liable to prosecution all over the country simply for existing. The impact of the state terror campaign on the IWW was serious, but amazingly, not terminal. Despite the IWW’s involvement in the Seattle General Strike, by May 1919, the membership was already down to 30,000.

Internationally repression of the IWW was also on the up – the Chilean White Terror of the capitalist class decimated the organisation there, and large numbers of Australian Wobbly organisers were arrested, imprisoned and/or framed.
Where state repression had failed to destroy the IWW, internal division was soon to succeed. The dispute was triggered by communist attempts to take over the IWW, which in turn reopened the wounds of the bitter centralisation debate. The western sections opposed the statist communist-influenced GEB’s attempt to affiliate the IWW to the Third International, run from Moscow, and demanded the expulsion of all communists from the IWW. The communists concentrated their efforts on attempting to win over the eastern sections to the idea of statism, though ultimately they were to fail in this endeavour.

The GEB pursued a strategy based on the idea of left wing unity. In 1920, a communist who was attempting to take over the Philadelphia dockers’ local accused the IWW of loading arms for the interventionist troops in Russia. This was a long-standing local, which had been successful in uniting black and white workers.

Though the accusations were later to be found groundless, the damage was done. The GEB immediately suspended the Philadelphia dockers’ local who, appalled that they could have been suspended on the say of one communist, left the IWW stating: “The history of the Philadelphia longshoremen’s union is one of unswerving loyalty. Some have died while hundreds have been jailed as standard bearers of the IWW.”

The IWW began to publish reports of the repression of workers in Russia, which had begun to appear in anarchist papers around the world. Those responsible were then condemned as traitors to the revolution by the growing communist movement within the IWW. The dispute came to a head at the 1924 convention, which soon descended into chaos as fighting broke out between centralisers and de-centralisers.

The de-centralisers put forward the “Emergency Programme”, advocating that the GEB should be abolished, while the centralisers sought more control at regional and GEB level. The communists made the atmosphere worse and the convention ended in a decisive IWW split, with a ‘real IWW’ being set up in Utah (while the Chicago based IWW continued). The split, coming so soon after the state repression, and coinciding with the growing popularity of communism, proved too much. While the Chicago-based IWW was able to resist communist infiltration and did go on to organise major strikes in the coalfields, in Colorado (1927) and Kentucky (1930), these were temporary high points in the decline of the IWW.

The IWW grew from humble beginnings and, in a few short years, was able to shake the foundations of the world’s most powerful state and capitalism’s powerhouse - the United States. In the process, it drew on anarcho-syndicalist ideas from Europe and adapted them to its own unique conditions.

Strength a weakness
The single greatest strength of the IWW was its emphasis on the culture of revolution. Unfortunately, in a relatively
IWW truckers organise
IWW truckers meet and organise in Stockton, 2005
short time this strength was overcome by a combination of state oppression and internal weakness. While the former was clearly inevitable, the latter was borne out of an uncomfortable alliance between an anti-authoritarian, pro-autonomy camp and a centralist camp - a situation made worse by the efforts of the opportunist authoritarian communists. In a nutshell, the IWW’s apparent early strength of appealing to all sharing the same goals and economic tactics, irrespective of political agenda, soon turned into a fatal weakness, as party political opportunists sought to take over and undermine the deep revolutionary politics of the organisation.

The IWW in the United States was never completely destroyed. A rump organisation, with some isolated industrial strength remained for decades – in one town the IWW continued to print a daily paper in Finnish until 1977!
In January 2005, the IWW’s centenary year, the Sacramento local paper declared on its front page that the “Wobblies Are Back!” as the still very small organisation has begun once again to have industrial successes.
Edited by libcom from an article in Direct Action
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Monday, 7 October 2013

Joe building: The Stalin memorial lecture - Jonathan Meades

Sketch of the proposed Stalinist Skyscraper
A sequel of sorts to Jerry Building this time examining Stalin and the Soviet Union.
First broadcast in 2006 this documentary examines the influence and importance of Soviet architecture during the Stalin years and its role in codifying the regimes ideology.

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  It's also that least Stalinist of endeavours, an attempt to tell at least partial truth about the past rather then rewrite it.

Jerry building: Unholy relics of Nazi Germany - Jonathan Meades

Nazi eagle turned to rubble
Jonathan Meades documentary on the role of architecture and urban planning in entrenching the Nazi regime and perpetuating its ideology.
Filmed in 1994 this documentary analyses how the Nazi party used buildings as a crucial part of its project to build a new society. Going beyond the obvious obligatory Swastika's and explicitly propagandistic statues and murals to the very brickwork from holiday camps to the schools that trained doctors who would carry out experiments in the extermination camps.

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  Nazism did not die in the ruins of Berlin in 1945, nor on the gallows of Nuremberg in 1946. It merely buried its uniform slipped into mufti and sauntered into the post war world.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

1917-1921: The Industrial Workers of Africa

The history of four years of the revolutionary multi-racial union in South Africa, the Industrial Workers of Africa, and the labour movement at the time.
"Fight for Africa, which you deserve"

Johannesburg, South Africa. May 1918. A group of African workers, and a handful of white radicals, meet in a small room behind a general store on the corner of Fox and McLaren streets, as they have done on a weekly basis for over a year. Several new faces are present, so Rueben Cetiwe, a key African militant, outlines the purpose of the gathering:

"We are here for Organisation, so that as soon as all of your fellow workers are organised, then we can see what we can do to abolish the Capitalist system. We are here for the salvation of the workers. We are here to organise and to fight for our rights and benefits."

This is a gathering of the Industrial Workers of Africa, a revolutionary syndicalist union that aims to organise the black workers who bear the brunt of capitalist exploitation in South Africa.
Since the country's industrial revolution began in the wake of diamond and gold discoveries in the 1860s and 1880s, hundreds of thousands of workers from Australia, America, Europe and southern Africa have been drawn to the mines and surrounding industries that spring up almost overnight.
For the white workers drawn to the mines and cities of the vast new Witwatersrand complex from across the world, it is worth risking endemic silicosis for unmatched wages for skilled men. For poor white Afrikaners, the mines offer employment as share-cropping and family farming disintegrate in the wake of war and landlordism.

For Africans, the mines offer the wages needed to pay the tax collectors in the British and Portuguese colonies. These workers enter the cities as a conquered people, their lands under imperial authority, their chiefs colluding in labour recruitment to the mines. Weighed down with indentures, forbidden to organise unions, locked in all-male compounds on the mines, or segregated in grim ghettos in the interstices of the towns, their movement controlled by the internal passport, or "pass law" system that affects every black working man, their families forced to stay in the countryside: these men are the bed rock of South African capitalism.

By 1913, there are nearly 40,000 white workers, and around 240,000 African workers on the Witwatersrand. And ruling them all: the "Randlords," the millionaire mine owners, and their allies, the rural landlords.

There is resistance, however. In 1907, the white miners strike, but are driven back to work after scabs are brought in. In 1913, a general strike by white miners (joined by sections of the African labour force) succeeds in forcing the Randlords to the negotiating table (but not before imperial dragoons gun down 30 workers in downtown Johannesburg outside the Randlord's "Rand Club"). A second general strike in 1914 is suppressed through martial law.

The African workers also rise. In 1902, as the Anglo-Boer war ends, there is a labour shortage as Africans refuse to come to the mines. There are also a series of strikes, but these are suppressed. In 1913, African workers on the mines strike in the wake of the white miners' strike - but their strike is put down by troops.

Then, in mid-1917, a notice appears in Johannesburg, calling a meeting on the 19 July 1917 to "discuss matters of common interest between white and native workers". It is issued by the International Socialist League, a revolutionary syndicalist organisation influenced by the Industrial Workers of the World union and formed in 1915 in opposition to the First World War, and the racist and conservative policies of the all-white South African Labour Party and the craft unions supporting it.

Initially rooted amongst white labour militants, the International Socialist League is orientated from the start towards black workers. The League argues in its weekly paper, the International, for a "new movement" to found One Big Union that would overcome the "bounds of Craft and race and sex," "recognise no bounds of craft, no exclusions of colour," and destroy capitalism through a "lockout of the capitalist class."

From 1917 onwards, the International Socialist League begins to organise amongst workers of colour. In March 1917, it founds an Indian Workers Industrial Union in the port city of Durban; in 1918, it founds a Clothing Workers Industrial Union (later spreading to Johannesburg) and horse drivers' union in the diamond mining town of Kimberly; in Cape Town, a sister organisation, the Industrial Socialist League, founds the Sweet and Jam Workers Industrial Union that same year.
The meeting of 19 July 1917 is a success, and forms the basis for weekly study group meetings: led by International Socialists (notably Andrew Dunbar, founder of the IWW in South Africa in 1910), these meetings discuss capitalism, class struggle and the need for African workers to unionise in order to win higher wages and remove the pass system.

On the 27 September 1917, the study groups are transformed into a union, the Industrial Workers of Africa, modeled on the IWW and organised by an all-African committee. The new general union's demands are simple, uncompromising, summed up in the its slogan: "Sifuna Zonke!" ("We want everything!").
It is the first trade union for African workers ever formed in South Africa. The influence of the new union is widespread, although it numbers under two hundred people at this point.

After meeting the Industrial Workers, Talbot Williams of the nationalist African Peoples Organisation makes a speech (reissued as a pamphlet complete with the IWW preamble) calling for "the organisation of black labour, upon which the whole commercial and mining industry rests today."
In May 1918, Industrial Workers like T.W. Thibedi speak at an International Socialist League May Day rally, the first May day directed primarily towards workers of colour.

Within the main nationalist body on the Witwatersrand, the petty bourgeois-dominated Transvaal Native Congress, key Industrial Worker militants such as Cetiwe and Hamilton Kraai form part of a left, pro-labour, bloc that helps shift this sleepy organisation to the left in 1918 as an unprecedented wave of strikes by black and white workers begins to engulf the country.

After a Judge McFie - "a bear on the bench," in the words of the International- jails 152 striking African municipal workers in June 1918, the Transvaal Native Congress calls a mass rally of African workers in Johannesburg on the 10 June. Industrial Workers present call for a general strike, and an organising committee of International Socialists, Industrial Workers and Congressmen is established to take the process forward.

A week later the committee reports back: "the capitalists and workers are at war everywhere in every country," so workers should "strike and get what they should." On the 2 July, there will be general strike by African workers: for a 1 shilling a day pay raise and "for Africa which they deserved."
But weak organisation - and perhaps nerves and inexperience - lead the committee to call off the strike (although several thousand miners do not get the message and come out anyway).
Government does not forget, though, and arrests and charges seven activists - three from the International Socialists, three from the Industrial Workers, and two from Congress - for "incitement to public violence." The trial is a forerunner of the Treason Trials of the 1950s: it is the first time white and black activists are jointly charged for political activities in South Africa.
The case falls through for lack of evidence but Kraai and Cetiwe are among those who lose their jobs as a result of the trial. Both are central to a Native Congress-sponsored campaign against the pass laws, launched in March 1919.

When the conservatives in Congress call this struggle off in July, the two comrades move to Cape Town to establish an Industrial Workers branch, leaving Thibedi in charge of the Industrial Workers in Johannesburg. Organising amongst dockworkers, the syndicalist militants helped organise a joint strike by the Industrial Workers of Africa and two local unions, the Industrial and Commercial Union and the (white) National Union of Railways and Harbour Servants.
Supported by the Industrial Socialist League, the strike by more than 2,000 workers demands better wages and opposes food exports, which many workers believe is contributing to the country's high post-war inflation rate.

Although the strike does not win, it helps lay a basis for cooperation on the docks, and some years later, the Industrial Workers of Africa, the Industrial and Commercial Union and several other black unions merge to form the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union, or ICU.
Not a syndicalist union - the ICU is influenced more by nationalist and traditionalist ideologies than anti-capitalism, and is run from above by a parasitic layer of petty bourgeois officials - the ICU still retains some syndicalist colouring during its dramatic rise and fall in the 1920s. This colouring includes the goal of One Big Union, and a constitution calling for "workers through their industrial organisations [to] take from the capitalist class the means of production, to be owned and controlled by the workers for the benefit of all, instead of for the profit of a few."
This must be reckoned part of the legacy of the Industrial Workers of Africa, a revolutionary syndicalist union fighting capitalism and racism in the heart of capitalist South Africa, at the height of colonialism in Africa.

In its "glorious period," between the 1880s and 1930s, revolutionary syndicalism was not just an international movement - it was also internationalist and anti-racist.
Here is their 1917 manifesto:
(Manifesto of the Industrial Workers of Africa, issued in Johannesburg, September 1917, in Sesotho and isiZulu)
Workers of the Bantu race:
Why do you live in slavery? Why are you not free as other men are free? Why are you kicked and spat upon by your masters? Why must you carry a pass before you can move anywhere? And if you are found without one, why are you thrown into prison? Why do you toil hard for little money? And again thrown into prison if you refuse to work? Why do they herd you like cattle into compounds?
WHY? Because you are the toilers of the earth. Because the masters want you to labour for their profit. Because they pay the Government and Police to keep you as slaves to toil for them. If it were not for the money they make from your labour, you would not be oppressed.
But mark: you are the mainstay of the country. You do all the work, you are the means of their living. That is why you are robbed of the fruits of your labour and robbed of your liberty as well.
There is only one way of deliverance for you Bantu workers. Unite as workers. Unite: forget the things which divide you. Let there be no longer any talk of Basuto, Zulu, or Shangaan. You are all labourers; let Labour be your common bond.
Wake up! And open your ears. The sun has arisen, the day is breaking, for a long time you were asleep while the mill of the rich man was grinding and breaking the sweat of your work for nothing. You are strongly requested to come to the meeting of the workers to fight for your rights.
Come and listen, to the sweet news, and deliver yourself from the bonds and chains of the capitalist. Unity is strength. The fight is great against the many passes that persecute you and against the low wages and misery of you existence.
Workers of all lands unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to win.
Written by the Bikisha Media Collective 

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Saturday, 5 October 2013

1924: K.K.K. and IWW Wage Drawn Battle in Greenville

1924: K.K.K. and IWW Wage Drawn Battle in Greenville
A 1924 article from the Portland Press Herald about conflict between the Industrial Workers of the World and the the Ku Klux Klan.
From the Portland Press Herald – Tuesday, February 5, 1924
K.K.K. And I.W.W. Wage Drawn Battle in Greenville
175 Workers Patrol The Street After Clash Saturday Night
Woodsmen Ordered Out But Refuse to Leave – Reinforcements Pouring in By the Hundreds

Greenville, Me., Feb. 4 — With the thermometer hovering around the zero mark, about 175 members of the Industrial Workers of the World walked the streets of the town tonight as a result of a clash with local members of the Ku Klux Klan Saturday night.
About 40 members of the Klan marched to a local boarding house known as the Lake House, in which several leaders of the I.W.W. were stopping and ordered them to leave town at once or they would use force and put them out.
The I.W.W. leaders called to Deputy Sheriff Davis S. Cowan for protection against violence. An officer was placed on guard at the boarding house Saturday night.
Sunday and today the I.W.W. delegates as they termed themselves, sent out a call to the lumber camps and today there has been a steady flow of I.W.W. members into this little Maine town. Tonight it was estimated that there were fully 175 I.W.W. members walking the streets.
Bob Pease of Bangor, leader of the I.W.W. organization in Maine arrived in town tonight and told the PRESS HERALD representative that he would establish headquarters for the I.W.W. in Greenville.
“We are going to stick,” asserted Pease. “and if the Klan starts anything, the I.W.W. will finish it. The slave drivers, the Great Northern Paper Company and Hollingsworth and Whitney people do not want us here, but we are too strong for them.”
“Why are they against you,” asked the PRESS HERALD representative.
“Because we want good wages, eight hours a day in the lumber camps and clean linen on our bunks,” replied Pease. “The day of the old logging camp and the lumberjacks is about over with.”
Pease claims that that the Ku Klux Klan in Greenville has been bought by the merchants and the lumber interests.
Refuse to Leave Town
It was understood tonight that the selectmen of the town ordered the I.W.W. members to leave town, but Pease and his men refused, saying they would walk the streets and would build bonfires to keep from freezing.
The I.W.W. members were denied admission to any of the local boarding houses and the Y.M.C.A. boarding houses according to Pease.
Sheriff Roscoe Macomber from Dover-Foxcroft was here today and placed two of his deputies in charge tonight with instructions to arrest anybody starting trouble.
Klan Organizing
It was said tonight that the Klan members are organizing and the K.K.K.’s leaders have not given up the idea of forcing the I.W.W. men to get out of town. Deputy Sheriff Cowan said late tonight that I.W.W. members from surrounding lumber camps were steadily coming into town and that he expected that several hundred would be here before another twenty-four hours had passed.
Pease, the I.W.W. head, said late tonight that he intended to open a branch of his organization in Kingfield, but that headquarters would be established here for the present. He said many of the men in his organization were French Catholics.
Taken from Puerile Cur
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Thursday, 3 October 2013

Levellers, True Levellers, and the Diggers of 1649

Levellers, True Levellers, and the Diggers of 1649

A dramatisation of the birth and growth of radical movements especially the "Diggers" movement during the English Civil Wars. Founded by Gerrard Winstanly the Diggers were groups of commoners and soldiers mostly dispossessed during the conflict who staved of starvation by farming common land.

In addition to building agriculture Communes the Diggers agitated for greater political and social freedom from Parliament "true freedom lies where a man receives his nourishment and preservation, and that is in the use of the earth". I'm sorry about the abrupt cut off but this is as much of the film that I've been able to find, it does at least show the Diggers main beliefs, actions and challenges.
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 A dramatisation of the birth and growth of radical movements especially the "Diggers" movement during the English Civil Wars. Founded by Gerrard Winstanly the Diggers were groups of commoners and soldiers mostly dispossessed during the conflict who staved of starvation by farming common land.

More documentaries
You can download the film here

In addition I have PDF's of several Digger and Leveller pamphlets

The case of the army Truly Stated
Agreement of the People
A representation of the Army
The Putney Debates

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

March in Manc

On Sunday I went with some friends in UNITE and UNISON to the Tory Conference in Manchester. The weather was very warm and the turnout was around 55,000, apparently that's a record for Manchester. I took my camera along and for the most part the atmosphere was bright, I believe the news described it as jovial and like a carnival.

I took my camera so here's a few of the least blurry snaps. It was mainly the Labour party with a few SWP and SP stalls. Though I was close to a small Communist Party of Britain section, and I did see an Anarchist flag with a small group of UNISON members. There was also quite a few Badger masks and placards protesting the ongoing cull.

Preventing the sale of alcohol, they really are the nasty party

In addition to being a local banner its a good example of the problem being a street level photographer can be

Saw a couple other Wobblies here and there

They did a very good rendition of the Internationale

Spotted Scargill's lot

You'll have seen these chaps on the telly I'm sure

Caught up with Batman, the recession must of hit Waynecorp pretty hard
Overall the march went well, doubt much will have changed, a protest march and sit ins and the like are useful when they're part of a more extensive series of actions like strikes and blockades. Though it looks like the Trots either have no presence in Manchester or have haemorrhaged members, most SWP and SP stalls had two members and the leafleters combined with the AWL (another Trotskyist group) looked to be matched by the Peoples Assembly guys. And as far as I'm aware the only political party other then Labour to have a proper section on the march was the CPB. 

And in addition to the CPB the Morning Star supporters showed up

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