An indispensable collection of documents for the history of the Amertican Labor movement. A fascinating book, & a most important contribution to that otherwise inexplicable dismal discipline known as American labor historiography. Note new, expanded edition:Kornbluh, Joyce L., ed. Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology, Reprinted by Charles H. Kerr Co., Chicago, 1988 with newAn indispensable collection of documents for the history of the Amertican Labor movement. A fascinating book, & a most important contribution to that otherwise inexplicable dismal discipline known as American labor historiography. Note new, expanded edition:Kornbluh, Joyce L., ed. Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology, Reprinted by Charles H. Kerr Co., Chicago, 1988 with new introduction & essays, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, illustrated, 419 pages. ISBN 0-88286-237-5....
|Title||:||Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology|
|Number of Pages||:||447 Pages|
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Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology Reviews
Moving from one extreme to another, I met Pualani Fowler in Michigan while reading Machiavelli's Prince, despaired of her love, then received an unexpected postcard from Honolulu. A correspondence ensued. Her photograph went into my wallet. Eventually, that winter, I and my parents received letters inviting a visit the following winter. Dad said okay, so long as I paid my freight, so I shovelled into springtime, switching to lawn work, earning the money for a ticket and expenses while, meanwhile, working hard for the campaign of Eugene McCarthy.Arriving in Hawaii, I was greeted by Pua's folks and little twin sisters. She, however, was off the island and remained physically distant in one way or another throughout the summer. Her mom and the twins were nice, but I was basically on my own, again despairing of her love.I spent my time hiking the mountains or at the downtown offices of the McCarthy campaign and at the university campus, reading whole books in their bookstore. One, Kornbluh's, I actually purchased, spent the next few weeks reading and actually brought home.My politics in the sixties, during adolescence, was torn, as the country was, between idealistic reformism (McCarthy) and idealistic radicalism (the Socialist Party, War Resisters League and Students for a Democratic Society). The Industrial Workers of the World represented the Left of a previous epoch of national division and many of the persons brought into its fold, such as the beloved Eugene Victor Debs, were similarly torn. Kornbluh's virtually multimedia anthology made this come alive, serving as a history of the United States of America from the turn of the century until the thirties in terms of the issues of class, internationalism and war. It helped me begin to understand capitalism and the systemic oppressions engendered by class between persons and peoples. It helped me realize how each generation must learn anew the truth in the face of the self-serving deceptions of the mass media. It helped me comprehend the existential crisis of politics, the role and importance of idealism in the face of harsh reality and probably informed my later understanding of the historical perdurance of Christianity, its living heart.Rebel Voices is the best anthology I have ever read.
Kornbuh’s 1964 collection of primary documents of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) has to be the single best primary source history of the “Wobblies”. She heavily focuses on both the militant legacy which opened so many doors for labor in the 20th century, and the cultural impact of the IWW’s height, which produced grassroots folk satirical class war music, still used in protests and labor today. The IWW continues until today, but the bulk of its impact on the labor movement is in 1905-1925. Kornbuh divides the book into chapters that look at the Wobblies major impacts, with writings, speeches, song lyrics, cartoons and pictures from IWW papers. The first chapter looks at the philosophy and ideology of the Wobblies, rooted in the Western Federation of Miners but joined by various socialists and anarchists of the day, laid out a vision that would focus on organizing all workers, especially the unskilled, regardless of color or national origin. Chapter two looks to the politics of direct action, where the IWW used the language of sabotage and rhetoric of militancy to engage in organizing campaigns in Steel industry of western Pennsylvania, which had previously been untouchable by labor. Chapter three moves to one of the images of western Wobblies as train riding migrants, singing songs of class war as IWW members moved all across the west. Chapter four explores the famous Free Speech fights, in which IWW members tried to end the practice of “sharks”, or agents who would find migrants jobs in return for a cut of their paycheck, by holding speak-outs in public. In response, Salvation Army members tried to drown them out, which evoked Wobbly songs that mocked the SA. Soon, IWW migrants would pour into town to replace arrested Wobblies, in a mass civil disobedience in places little Spokane. Chapter five focuses on the Joe Hill mythology, who wrote many of the IWW’s songs that are still in use today, and was executed in a quick trial, making him amongst their first martyrs. Chapter six through ten focuses on organizing campaigns. Chapter six analyzes the 1912 “Bread and Roses” strike in Lawrence MA, where half the workers in textiles were women ages 14-18, living under harsh conditions. Chapter seven moves to Patterson NJ, in 1913 to the silk workers strike, for the 8 hour day and limits to how many looms a worker could work. Chapter eight moves to one of the most successful projects of the Wobblies, the Agricultural Workers Organization, organizing the so called unwinnable workers, the migratory pickers, achieving 70,000 workers by 1917. Chapter nine moves to the Lumberjacks campaigns, which totally remade labor conditions in the Pacific Northwest, and in the Gulf States was the first time where black and white workers all belonged in the same union (in fact, the IWW insisted on multiracial unions for farm workers, calling for Jim Crow laws to be broken against multiracial meetings.) Chapter ten explored the Wobblies in the mines, as the WFM left the IWW after a losing strike but was quickly displaced as the IWW used militant tactics that miners wanted, especially in a strike Butte, Arizona. Chapter eleven looks at jailhouse culture of the Wobblies, after they started to be arrested in mass numbers because of their active or perceived opposition to WWI. Because of their no-contracts rule, business owners feared their strikes in a wartime environment of high demand, though the IWW never actually planned any strikes in war industries. They were labeled as German spies and sympathizers, meaning thugs and paramilitaries attacked and brutally murdered a number of Wobs. Chapter 12 looks at the Wobblies after their heyday, in their involvement in auto industry, anti-war activities, and shrinking to a small group of old activists by its publication in the 1960s. (IWW members, which number around a couple thousand at any given time, would give me grief if I did not point out that it still exists, though largely as an at-large membership organization with a few running campaigns and workplaces represented.)Key Themes and Concepts:-Culturally, the Wobblies of the 1905-1925 were committed revolutionary unionists who also believed in propaganda through song and humor.-The IWW believed in building unions in entire industries rather than by skill, which the conservative AFL favored. The CIO would later adopt this approach wholescale.-The 1905-1925 IWW was heavily focused in Eastern factory towns amongst immigrant groups, and Western vagrant migratory workers, as well as seabased industries on docks and marine transport.-The IWW ultimately believed in organizing all unskilled workers into a big union that would effectively come to control industries and bring about industrial democracy where workers ran their own communities and workplaces.-The IWW officially opposed World War One but debated whether to tell its members to resist the draft or not.-The Wobblies opposed contracts since it limited the ability of workers to strike, only agreeing to “temporary truces in the class war.”-After a series of debates, the Wobblies adopted a strict “economic” organizational approach, rejecting building political power and winning the state through elections or coups. They would split a few times over this until the deadly split of 1925 that left it a shell of itself.
I have both editions and love to dip into them frequently to recall the debt America owes to the Wobblies. And how they still struggle to organize the workers. That the big unions cannot be bothered with like the Starbucks baristas.
truth be told I didn't finish this book front to back. This is a massive book with so much in it that I simply didn't have the time to finish it before it was due back at the university. I would suggest this book for those doing research on the IWW, not as a causal summer read.
The definitive history.