Industrial Workers of the World, Bill Haywood, Joe Hill, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

This 2015 video from the USA about the Industrial Workers of the World is called The Wobblies; Full Documentary.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

One big union, three giant labour heroes

Wednesday 1st July 2015

PETER FROST celebrates the leading lights of the Industrial Workers of the World, founded 110 years ago this week

BIG Bill Haywood was one of the most important and colourful leaders of the US and international working class. He led important labour battles from the 1890s until the 1920s.

Born in 1869 in Mormon Salt Lake City, Utah, by the age of nine he was working in the mines to help support his family. He helped organise the militant Western Federation of Miners (WFM), eventually becoming its general secretary.

In dozens of strikes Big Bill and the WFN battled court injunctions, state militia, private armies, government intervention, imprisonment, deportation and even lynchings.

The WFM was one of the major forces in founding the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905, just as the workers of Russia were engaged in their first revolution.

The IWW’s long-range goal was a general strike of the whole working class that would lead to the takeover of industry and the economy.

In 1906 Big Bill was accused of killing the former governor of Idaho. The trial was a government frame-up, engineered by the well-known anti-union Pinkerton detective agency. While in prison, Haywood ran for governor of Idaho. He was acquitted of all charges.

In 1910 he went to Europe, where he helped to organise strikes in Ireland and South Wales. At a conference of the Second International he met Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg and other revolutionaries.

This video from the USA says about itself:

Bread and Roses: The Lawrence Textile Strike

28 January 2013

The Lawrence Textile Strike was a strike of immigrant workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912 led by the Industrial Workers of the World. Prompted by one mill owner’s decision to lower wages when a new law shortening the workweek went into effect in January, the strike spread rapidly through the town, growing to more than twenty thousand workers at nearly every mill within a week. The strike, which lasted more than two months and which defied the assumptions of conservative trade unions within the American Federation of Labor that immigrant, largely female and ethnically divided workers could not be organized, was successful; within a year, however, the union had largely collapsed and most of the gains achieved by the workers were lost.

The Peter Frost article continues:

He led the IWW’s Lawrence, Massachusetts, 1912 strike of textile workers — the famous Bread and Roses strike. These strikers, mostly recent immigrants and nearly all women, underlined two key target groups of the IWW strategy.

During WWI, the US government launched a witch-hunt against left-wing unions and radical organisations. Big Bill and the IWW were prime targets. He was once again on trial.

In 1918 he was found guilty and faced 20 years in jail and a huge fine. He jumped bail and headed for Moscow to join the Communist International Trade Union Bureau. Just before he left he helped found the US Communist Party.

He died in Moscow in 1928 but the name of Big Bill Haywood is still remembered whenever working people fight to defend their rights.

JOE HILL from Sweden was the greatest songsmith of the Wobblies.

We have a special reason for remembering Joe this year because it was 100 years ago, in November 1915, that he was executed on a fitted-up murder charge by the copper mine bosses in Utah.

He learned English during the early 1900s, while working various jobs from New York to San Francisco.

As an immigrant worker he frequently faced unemployment. He became a popular songwriter as well as a cartoonist for radical publications.

His most famous songs include The Preacher and the Slave; The Tramp; There is Power in a Union; The Rebel Girl, written as a tribute to Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, and Casey Jones — the Union Scab.

This music video from the USA is Hazel Dickens, singing The Rebel Girl.

In 1914 two men shot dead John G Morrison, a Salt Lake City area grocer and former policeman, and his son.

Hill was convicted of the murders in a controversial trial. Following an unsuccessful appeal, political debates and international calls for clemency from high-profile figures and workers’ organisations, Hill was executed.

His famous last words, “Don’t mourn, organise” were immortalised in a number of songs. His life and death have inspired songs, books and poems.

Joe Hill was part of what was always an important IWW tactic, the use of song. In the famous Bread and Roses strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the mainly female and mainly immigrant strikers spoke over 50 languages. They could all understand and join in with the labour anthems they found in the IWW publication the Little Red Songbook. The Lawrence action became known as the singing strike.

In the 1960s, the US folk music revival brought a renewed interest in the songs of Joe Hill and other Wobblies. Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie sang many Wobblie songs from the Little Red Songbook.

However there is no doubt that the song that still has the power to inspire workers more than any other is I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night.

From the Stop the War Coalition in Britain:

Tony Benn, President of Stop the War Coalition: “There are many songs I would like to choose but Joe Hill sung by Paul Robeson would be among the top two. It says it all.”

The Peter Frost article continues:

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was born in 1890 in Concord, New Hampshire.

By the age of 15 she made a public speech on women under socialism. She began making speeches for the IWW and that activity got her expelled from school. She was soon a full-time organiser for the Wobblies.

Flynn fought for free speech for IWW speakers and helped at strikes, including the huge Bread and Roses strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and another at Paterson, New Jersey.

When WWI started, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and other IWW leaders opposed the war. Flynn, like many other war opponents at that time, was charged with espionage.

Charges against her were eventually dropped. Flynn defended immigrants like anarchist Emma Goldman, who were being threatened with deportation for opposing the war.

In 1920, Flynn helped found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

She was active in raising support and money for Sacco and Vanzetti, and she was a key figure in trying to free labour organisers Thomas J Mooney and Warren K Billings.

For many years ill health restricted Flynn’s activism but in 1936 she joined the American Communist Party. In 1941, Flynn was elected to the Communist Party’s central committee, and the next year she ran for Congress, stressing women’s issues.

After the war ended, as anti-communist sentiment grew Flynn again found herself defending free speech rights for radicals. In 1951 she and other communists were arrested for conspiracy to overthrow the US government, under the Smith Act of 1940. She was convicted and served a prison term from January 1955 to May 1957.

In 1961 she was elected national chairman of the Communist Party, making her the first woman to head that organisation. She remained chairman of the party until her death on a trip to Moscow in 1964. She was given a state funeral in Red Square.

8 thoughts on “Industrial Workers of the World, Bill Haywood, Joe Hill, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

  1. Pingback: Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, ‘Rebel Girl’ of the US labour movement | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Irish-American labour activist Mother Jones remembered in Ireland | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Joe Hill commemoration concert in Utah, USA | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Joe Hil, trade unionist killed 100 years ago | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: Violent oppression of Puerto Rican workers, 1916 | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  6. Pingback: Protest songs on women’s issues | Dear Kitty. Some blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.