John Newsinger

The IWW has stood with the Negro'

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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.

The Corruption of Capitalism

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On the plus side, Guy Standing has put together a powerful indictment of contemporary capitalism. While some of his material is familiar, it seems fair to say that everyone will come away from this book knowing more about the inequities of capitalism than they did before.

He looks at the use of charities as a means of tax avoidance, for example. We learn that Lady Gaga’s Born This Way foundation raised $2.6 million in 2012 but gave away only $5,000. And the Cancer Fund of America over ten years raised getting on for $90 million, but only gave cancer patients a paltry $890,000.

Henry Ford's dirty history

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Donald Trump’s reluctance to denounce neo-Nazis marching on the streets of the US has shocked many people. But there is a long history of US businessmen flirting with fascism, writes John Newsinger.

Donald Trump is by no means the first US businessman to flirt with the far-right and even fascism. In the 1920s and 1930s many American businessmen looked to fascism as a way to protect their interests.

One particular individual stands out though — Henry Ford. Ford is still celebrated as one of the greatest US businessmen, as someone who transformed modern capitalism.

What is less often acknowledged is that he was also a vicious antisemite. Indeed, far from Ford being influenced by the Nazis, it was very much the other way round.

Ethel Mannin: hidden from history

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Ethel Mannin, successful author, activist and fighter for sexual liberation, has truly been hidden from history. She moved in the same circles as George Orwell, CLR James and other radicals in the 1930s, yet few have heard of her today. John Newsinger recounts her fascinating political life story.

Towards the end of the 1930s Frederic Warburg published a number of dissident left wing books, including George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, CLR James’s World Revolution, Boris Souvarine’s Stalin and Andre Gide’s Back from the USSR. These anti-Stalinist books are still readily available today.

There is one remarkable volume that he published at the same time, Ethel Mannin’s Women and the Revolution, which has been altogether forgotten, however. Indeed, Mannin has been pretty much written out of the history of the 1930s left.

Hanging is none too good for them'

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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

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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’

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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'

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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

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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

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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”.

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