John Newsinger

IWW: A tale of two cities

Issue section: 

Part seven of our series on the IWW looks at a victorious strike in Lawrence in 1912 and a defeat in Paterson a year later.

The two most famous strikes led by the Industrial Workers of the World were those in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1912, and in Paterson, New Jersey, in 1913. The first of these battles opened the way for IWW organising in the East while the second seemed to close that door.

The IWW has stood with the Negro'

Issue section: 

In part six of our series on the Wobblies, John Newsinger tells how, at a time when lynchings were common, the IWW fought for unity between black and white workers.

One of the great weaknesses of the US labour movement was the way that many white workers fell for the race card and played into the hands of their employers, both North and South.

The concern of many white workers was to keep black workers off the job rather than to build a united movement to fight the bosses and their political representatives.

They stood by while black workers were oppressed, denied the vote, discriminated against and brutalised on a daily basis. The public torture and lynching of black men and women was almost an everyday affair.

Hanging is none too good for them'

Issue section: 

Part five of our series looks at the free speech campaigns the Wobblies waged in their efforts to organise agency workers.

The Industrial Workers of the World set about organising migratory workers across the west of the US. In this effort they encountered fierce resistance.

The corrupt and exploitative role played by employment agencies was a particular focus. The Wobblies would have found the role of employment agencies and the working conditions at the likes of Sports Direct in Britain today very familiar.

Every obstacle was put in the way of their campaigns. Street meetings were banned, speakers were arrested and the distribution of literature prevented.

Gurley Flynn will be the boss

Issue section: 

The fourth part of our series on the Wobblies looks at the role of women in the workers’ and socialist movement.

Only 12 of the 200 delegates at the founding convention of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) were women, but they included the African American anarchist and veteran revolutionary Lucy Parsons. In her speech to the convention, Parsons urged all women to read August Bebel’s Marxist account of the position of women, Woman in the Past, Present and Future (first published in 1879).

Solidarity Forever: ‘Driven by rage and desperation’

Issue section: 

The third part of our series on the IWW looks at the victorious battle to unionise steel — an industry dominated by migrant workers.

One of the great historic defeats suffered by the US working class was the crushing of union organisation in the steel industry. The decisive moment was the Homestead strike of July 1892 when the multi-millionaire “philanthropist” Andrew Carnegie declared the plant non-union.

Solidarity forever: 'Undesirable citizens'

Issue section: 

Part two of our series on the Wobblies looks at the bosses' attempt to have Bill Haywood framed and executed.

When the IWW was formed in 1905 the most important constituent was the Western Federation of Miners (WFM). Under the leadership of Bill Haywood and Charles Moyer, the WFM had fought strikes in the West that sometimes assumed the dimensions and characteristics of small wars.

The History Thieves

Issue section: 

Nothing demonstrates the importance of Ian Cobain’s new book better than the secrecy that surrounds British involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen today. Not only will we never be told the truth by our masters but the records that could have exposed the truth to the light of day will almost certainly be destroyed to prevent any such eventuality. And this, as Cobain shows, is as it has always been.

Founded on the class struggle

Issue section: 

In a new ten-part column John Newsinger tells the the remarkable story of US revolutionary trade unionists the Industrial Workers of the World, known as the Wobblies

On Tuesday 27 June 1905 Bill Haywood of the Western Federation of Miners called the first and founding convention of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) to order. He told the 200 delegates assembled in Brand’s Hall, Chicago, that they had come together “to confederate the workers of this country into a working class movement that shall have for its purpose the emancipation of the working class”.

The Norman joke

Issue section: 

The death of billionaire landowner and Duke of Westminster George Grosvenor was announced on 10 August. John Newsinger reminds us where the wealth of such parasites came from in the first place.

The sad death of George Cavendish Grosvenor, the 6th Duke of Westminster, has left the nation – or at least Prince Charles – distraught.

He leaves an estimated fortune of £9.35 billion (a billion down since Brexit) upon which the family is expected to pay absolutely minimal death duties. One could almost say that the British tax system seems to have been designed around the principle of rich toffs like Grosvenor having to pay as little as possible whether alive or dead.


Subscribe to RSS - John Newsinger