USA history

IWW: songs the struggle taught us

Issue section: 
Issue: 

Part eight of our history of the Wobblies celebrates the great contribution of radical songwriter Joe Hill.

Song played a vital part in the struggles and campaigns of the IWW. On the picket line, at meetings, during the free speech campaigns, around campfires and in prison cells, the Wobblies sang their defiance.

In 1908 James Wilson reported from Spokane that the local Wobblies had been livening up their agitational meetings with “a few songs by some of the fellow workers”. He went on, “It is really surprising how soon a crowd will form in the street to hear a song in the interest of the working class.”

Staying human in the belly of the beast

Issue section: 

Grace Lee Boggs, who died last month, was an important figure on the US left. Working with CLR James and others she helped to rescue revolutionary socialism from the dead weight of Stalinism, as well as becoming a notable activist in the Civil Rights movement, writes Christian Høgsbjerg.

That the passing of Grace Lee Boggs, a remarkable Chinese American author, activist and humanist philosopher should merit a statement of condolence from President Barack Obama was quite fitting. Grace had been an inspiring and courageous organiser for the Civil Rights and Black Power movement in the US and had worked alongside Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Rosa Parks.

In 2008 she championed Obama for “providing the authentic, visionary leadership we need in this period”, even comparing him to Martin Luther King, and so it was only right that Obama returned the compliment.

Malcolm X: The road to revolution

Issue section: 

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the murder of Malcolm X. Antony Hamilton looks at his life and politics.

Malcolm X is one of the great icons of the Black Power movement. He inspired a generation to resist racism “by any means necessary”. His life was a battle of ideas in which he responded to institutional racism and segregation with tactics that evolved alongside the struggle for civil rights. Speaking in January 1965, a month before his murder, Malcolm X warned of impending social upheaval and global revolution:

Call for global resistance

Issue section: 
Author: 

Saladin Ambar, author of Malcolm X at the Oxford Union, spoke to Socialist Review about Malcolm's historic 1964 speech, and why his ideas will remain relevant as long as oppression persists.

I was looking at Malcolm X speeches for my students and I came across the Oxford speech. The more I looked at it the more I thought this was not just a speech; it was a moment. There was this “Oxford moment” both in Malcolm’s life and in the political life of the UK with the 1964 election and a changing dynamic in terms of colonialism, and in the US, with race relations starting to go in a different direction.

The hero of New Orleans

Issue section: 

After hearing that hundreds of racists had joined in the lynching and mutilation of a black labourer, Robert Charles called on black people to take up arms in self-defence. John Newsinger tells his incredible story.

On 23 April 1899 Sam Hose, a black farm labourer, was lynched in Palmetto, Georgia, after killing his employer in self-defence. An excursion train was run from Atlanta carrying over a thousand people to watch the spectacle with the guard famously calling, “All aboard for the burning.” Even by the standards of the time (more than 80 black men and women were lynched in the US in 1899), Hose’s lynching was a brutal affair. His ears, fingers, face and genitalia were cut off in front of a jeering crowd of men, women and children.

Bloody Streets of New York

Issue section: 
Issue: 
Author: 

Martin Scorsese's new film tells of American Civil War race riots. But this is only half the story.

One icy night in 1855, the celebrated street brawler John Morrissey walked into a Broadway saloon and spat in the face of Bill 'The Butcher' Poole, the even more renowned goliath of the New York streets. Poole, who led a murderous mob of anti-Catholic 'know nothings', was the arch-foe of Morrissey and other Irish gang leaders in the pay of Tammany Hall. Morrissey tried to blow Poole's brains out with his pistol but it misfired and Butcher Bill was preparing to 'bone the Irishman's cutlet' when the police intervened.

Subscribe to RSS - USA history