Solidarity -- and a couple of thoughts

Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at
Sun Nov 17 07:20:06 MST 2002

The discussion line, "Solidarity -- and a couple of other thoughts," may be
one of the longer-lived Marxism lines that I've initiated.  At that
point, I quoted a short section from John Gambs' excellent Decline of the
I,W.W. [Columbia University Press, 1932] on the American nature of the
I.W.W.  and, since I was focusing on Bert Cochran's splendid American
Socialist magazine and the bold Socialist Union thrust, I also made it
clear that Gambs' comments applied very much to traditional Debs socialism.
My fundamental point, of course, was/is that we in what's called the United
States, have big radical/socialist fish to fry  and, as I put it, we're
going to have to do it in an American skillet -- over a
long-burning fire from the timber of our own forests.

An interesting discussion which involved the contemporary I.W.W. then began.

Several years ago, in response to a friend who belonged -- who is also a
political socialist -- I joined [rejoined] the I.W.W. [IU 210, for Mike's
info.]  As best as I can, I've kept up with its doings and am impressed with
its verve and commitment.  I've never picked up any hint that I -- or any
other person with political socialist leanings -- are a whit unwelcome.
Frankly, quite the contrary.  I  belong as well to two somewhat more
"conventional" unions.

But I also belonged to the "old I.W.W." from the very beginning of 1955
through 1960.  By '60,  most of the old-timers were gone or
essentially inactive and its ranks had thinned very substantially.
During that period, [and beginning about 1949], the I.W.W. was formally
listed as "subversive" by the United States AG  as "an organization which
seeks to alter the form of government of the United States by
unconstitutional means."  I joined it at Seattle, where the
anarcho-syndicalist sentiment was historically most pronounced --
and it was at that hall that I first saw many copies of
The American Socialist. A slightly older Wobbly friend of mine -- a grad
student at University of Washington -- had nicely done photos of Debs
on his apartment wall. Later, when I was in both the Intermountain West
and finally my native Southwest and back-and-forth, I was not surprised
 to see Wobblies sprinkled throughout the militant Left --
the dominant -- wing of the  International Union of Mine, Mill and
Smelter Workers.

Fred Thompson, the veteran I.W.W. organizer, writer, and long-time
editor was very much a mentor of mine.  We kept in close touch until
his death at close to 90 in 1987 -- my youngest son [a high school
journalist] and I visiting him at Chicago in '86 where I'd gone for a union
convention.  We spent a full day with Fred, who successfully [as it
turned out], encouraged my son to major in journalism. Back when I
was still a relative kid, Fred vigorously encouraged me to read the
American Socialist and a send a thing or two to it [which I did] and,
hardly a Communist, also suggested I send some of my radical
fiction to Mainstream -- whose maverick CPUSA editor, Charles
Humboldt, was reaching out in an ecumenically Left fashion [and
I did.]  All of that worked out for me very nicely indeed.

The most genuinely authoritative book on the I.W.W.  over the long
haul is Fred's own The I.W.W.  Its First Fifty Years [Chicago:  I.W.W.,
1955] and  subsequently updated editions.

Initially, the I.W.W. Preamble, written by revolver-toting Father Thomas
J. Hagerty of New Mexico in 1905, had the political action clause in it as
That was removed via the fight with DeLeon.  But it would be a great
mistake to assume that many Wobblies did not support the Socialist
Party [and, in a few cases, SLP.]  Many did -- Butte's strong socialist
movement, for example, bearing strong testimony to this over many

Here's a post I made much earlier -- now on our large website --
that many may not have seen.


[Some July 2001 discussion list writings by Hunter Gray]

This is with respect to David's post/question on Wobblies,
anarcho-syndicalism, and anarchism.

The primary driving force -- not the only one but the basic one -- behind
the formation of the IWW in 1905 was the Western Federation of Miners:
frontier unionism born in the Coeur d'Alene crucible of North Idaho in
1892-93 -- and then developed by a flow of extremely rugged conflicts across
the Mountain West [and into the Canadian West.]  From the beginning, WFM was
certainly socialist -- but its socialism contained a very understandable
wariness of politicians [not many of whom were dependable friends and most
of whom were foes] and a powerful reliance on direct action --  primarily
strike action but also other mass action -- as  the primary economic/social
justice and social change force. For workers in the hard-rock metal mining,
milling, smelting and refining industry context, this has continued into
contemporary times.

Although the IWW initially was committed to political as well as direct
action, this changed at its 1908 convention -- with the ouster of Daniel
DeLeon of the Socialist Labor Party  and the revision of the Wobbly

I think DeLeon's personality had a good deal to do with the 1908 split --
but, again, was  just one of several basic currents.  In his excellent and
colorful memoir, Bill Haywood's Book: The Autobiography of William D.
Haywood  [New York, International Publishers, 1929] -- and many subsequent
editions -- Haywood's recollection of DeLeon is certainly jaundiced: saw him
as a supercilious, dogmatic, theoretical, factional ideologue.  Vincent St
John  certainly disliked DeLeon intensely in an obviously personal way. It
was very much mutual. For his part, DeLeon referred to many of his critics
at the 1908 convention as "The Bummery" -- and, following his ouster from
the IWW, then endeavored to set up the not very successful Workers'
International Industrial Union [I think I have that correctly] as a rival
IWW, based at Detroit.

The Western Federation of Miners and its leaders -- Haywood, St John,
Charles Mahoney, Al Ryan et al. -- were the founding force behind the
organization of the IWW in 1905.  That ethos played a major role in Wobbly
history and sociology for many, many decades.  And it  also blended easily
with the traditions of other Western [oft-migratory, unskilled and
semi-skilled workers. ]

By 1907,  relative "conservatives" in the WFM were taking factional
advantage of Haywood's incarceration in Idaho in the infamous frameup  case
involving the murder of an anti-labor, [former] Idaho governor -- Frank
Steunenberg --  in which  Clarence Darrow secured acquittal for  the WFM
defendants in the Boise Trials; and were engineering what eventually became
the withdrawal of the WFM from IWW. But many WFM rank-and-file remained
Wobblies, still, or at least strongly sympathetic;  and the IWW  launched
its own and essentially quite successful metal mine workers' union.

WFM eventually reaffiliated with AFL [they had been briefly together years
before --  and was rechristened International Union of Mine, Mill and
Smelter Workers [Mine-Mill.]  Fading to only a tiny handful of Western
locals by the early '30s, it revived rapidly in the New Deal period -- very
radical and very militant, was a founder of CIO and then, in 1950, was
forced out of CIO [and the CCL of Canada] on the phony charges of
"Communist-domination."  It survived unrelenting attacks from all sides --
mine bosses and managers, local and state and Federal governments,
vigilantes, AFL-CIO unions [especially Steel] until, in 1967, it merged in
the 'States and Canada with the Steel union [save for one local -- 598,
Falconbridge Nickel, Sudbury, Ontario, which, very much preserving its
unique Mine-Mill identity and autonomy, hooked up with CAW several years
ago.]  The Wobbly traditions always remained very strong in Mine-Mill --
and continue in many of the surviving old locals -- and, as I've indicated,
the WFM traditions continued very strongly in IWW over the long haul.

Western metal miners [and, to a large extent, the integrally related  ore
millmen and smelter and refinery workers] have always been characterized by
a very strong and necessarily dominant sense of solidarity engendered by the
dangerous nature of the work. And that strong solidarity is certainly
strengthened, too, by the consistently vicious opposition of the mining
bosses and their [ e.g.,"copper-collared" ]  governmental allies to any kind
of bona fide effective unionism.  This adamantly anti-union opposition by
mine owners and managers has certainly contributed to the inherently and
explicitly exemplified  homegrown radical nature of metal mine workers'
unionism [a very basic and  usually non-hairsplitting radicalism] -- and to
its consistently militant, hard-fighting character.

The generally [not always but mostly]  isolated and insular nature of the
mining, milling, smelting and refining towns -- mainly in the context of the
still quasi-frontier Rocky Mountain West -- are certainly factors
strengthening the strong solidarity among the metal mine workers and, in the
broader social sense, great cohesion among their respective families. In
this local context, the metal mine workers' local union is  very much a
broad-based,  multi-faceted and vitally important community organization.

And workingstiff inter-dependency and strong all-around cohesive solidarity
add up to a very strong and vital sense of rank-and-file democracy -- and
racial and ethnic egalitarianism -- consistently very strong characteristics
of  unionism in the hard-rock metal mining industry.

In all of this, government  -- certainly state and Federal -- tends to be
seen as relatively remote and an uncertain ally at best.  It's often seen,
with considerable justification, as an implicit enemy  and  sometimes as a
very open one.

Direct action --  i.e., militant strikes -- are always  seen by metal mine
workers as the most fundamental, primary means through which economic and
social justice can be secured.  [Until 1960, many of the IUMMSW [
Mine-Mill ] contracts still provided  -- "legally" -- for wildcat strike
action in lieu of arbitration in the resolution of grievances -- and wildcat
strikes in this context are still not uncommon.] Political action is
recognized, of course, as necessary -- but it's never been seen as the
tactic of reliable first choice!

The class struggle, a reality everywhere,  has always been,  because of the
particular nature of its employing class, brutally obvious in hard-rock
metal mining, milling, smelting, refining.    It is  also brutally candid,
course,  in countless other frameworks as well. But for Western metal mine
workers it has always been Written Big -- and often Bloodily.  In the old
days, hard-rock mining strikes became -- because of the violent tactics of
the bosses -- virtual civil wars in the Rocky Mountain states.  In
contemporary times, metal mine strikes are frequently prolonged and
extremely bitter struggles -- again, because of the ruthless opposition by
the bosses and their political allies.  Red-baiting is anathema to most
mine workers.  Union leaders have been called "Reds"  by reactionaries since

[Because of all of this, the Western miner always wants his own union.
International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers was genuinely
excellent in all respect --  from the revival of Mine-Mill in the early '30s
all the way through  -- always.]

All of these elements were certainly much to the fore in the  fateful 1908
IWW convention in which the rough-and-tough metal miners and other Western
workers [often unskilled and migratory] clashed with the dogmatic and
arbitrarily professorial personalities of DeLeon et al. -- and other
Easterners.  The primary open arena in which all of this was fought out was,
of course  "direct action vs. political action" and the Western
direct-actionists won.  DeLeon and his followers were forced out and the
"political  action clause" stricken from the Wobbly Preamble.

Hit somewhat by the fallout of the fight was Gene Debs who, although never
attacking the IWW [ which he, and DeLeon also of course, had helped found]
and, certainly -- unlike DeLeon -- maintaining friendly relations with it,
never played again  a conspicuous role in the IWW.  But many Wobblies,
including Haywood, maintained a Socialist Party affiliation. Some of these,
including Haywood,  were forced out of SP in 1912 by conservative, "Yellow"
Socialists who deliberately distorted the non-violent nature of  the Wobbly
meaning of "sabotage" and used fear/hysteria tactics to purge the Reds
[e.g., Haywood et al.]  from the Socialist Party.  This bore bitter fruit
when the US was maneuvered by the capitalists and Wilson et al. into World
War I.

In time, relationships between the dwindling IWW and the always relatively
small SLP improved significantly.  I personally recall , in the
Seattle/Tacoma Skid Road settings of many decades ago, the toughness of
Wobblies and former-Wobblies  frequently providing free speech protection
for the SLP and other radical groups.

What emerged as the basic philosophy of the IWW was, then, its own kind of
anarcho-syndicalism -- usually referred to by the Wobblies as "Industrial
Unionism" : the pervasive organization and thrust of militant and democratic
revolutionary unionism ["One Big Union"] which will achieve basic systemic
change [via, among other things, the general strike] and will then
administer the new  cooperative industrial democracy [in which formal
governmental bureaucracy will be quite minimal.]  This was never
intricately finessed -- and the Vision tended to vary somewhat here,
somewhat there, depending on the spokesperson and the setting.  But, all in
all, it remained a pretty consistent version of indigenous Western American
anarcho-syndicalism:  grassroots, very worker-oriented and worker-led,
democratic, egalitarian.  As I mentioned yesterday, a primary radical mentor
of mine and a founder of IWW in 1905, was C.E. "Stumpy" Payne -- almost 90
when I was barely 21.  An influential organizer and writer and editor, he
was very much a Western anarcho-syndicalist --  and he drew his thinking in
large measure from the communalistic nature and structure of certain Pacific
Northwestern Native tribes with which he was quite familiar. He eventually
put his thoughts into a pamphlet -- Industrial Government -- which he gave
me and which I  have in my huge collection of old-time Wobbly and long-time
Mine-Mill materials.

But there were always Wobblies who also considered themselves -- all the way
through the years -- to be socialists.  An old and very long-time IWW friend
and another  key mentor of mine, Fred Thompson [Scottish and Micmac],
prominent Wobbly organizer and editor over many decades [Fred died in 1987,
almost 90], started his radical career as a Canadian socialist and always
remained a socialist as well as a vigorous Wobbly.  Based in Chicago for
much of his latter life, Fred often sent me socialist material -- much of it

The old IWW was not "anarchist" -- and the contemporary IWW is not. Then and
now, its version of anarcho-syndicalism -- Industrial Unionism reaching to
and achieving a global Industrial Democracy -- is that of a very
well-organized , egalitarian, and democratically coordinated humanistic

The legacy of Haymarket certainly affected the IWW from its outset and there
were anarchists who were, of course, quite cordially close to the IWW .
Carlo Tresca would be a notable case in point.

But, in ultimate response to David's question -- finally!  The IWW from the
outset -- and, in the organizational sense, completely after 1908 -- saw the
workingclass and it alone as the emancipating force.

There are probably as many anarchist views on the components of emancipation
as there are anarchists.

Again, on IWW defense of the free speech rights of other radicals:   I
myself  directly saw this at a number of points in the mid-1950s in the
Seattle and Tacoma Skid Road districts. [In the West, it's always Skid
Road -- and never skid row!]  In those settings,
Wobblies and former Wobblies -- all tough and capable -- often provided
protection for SLPers, Trotskyists, and Communists in a time and setting
where right-wing thugs were rife.

I miss those old rough days where a  good fist carried  much more effective
weight than a leaflet.

In Solidarity -
Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]


Louis has stated that, "It is no accident that all the major leaders of
the IWW switched to the new CP after 1917."

Quite the reverse, actually.  The substantial majority of IWW leaders, of
whatever echelon in that essentially decentralized [and NOT anarchist]
organization,  did not convert to Communism.

Many certainly remained for many years with the IWW through continued
repression [a myriad of vicious  Western state "criminal syndicalism"
prosecutions through much of the '20s], heavy factionalism in 1924 [much of
it on a US East v Far West basis], a number of
significant labor struggles over the years ahead [again, mostly in the
West -- but some substantial organizing victories and struggles in Ohio as
well.]  By the '30s,  most of the old guard leadership had either become
inactive or passed away [ e.g.,Vincent St John]   or continued with the IWW
[ such as C.E. Payne, a founder of the IWW in 1905, who mentored me in 1955
when he was almost 90 and the IWW was then formally listed by the U.S.
Attorney General as "subversive"], or went with many Wobbly concepts into
the CIO industrial union movement [ e.g., Mine-Mill and International
Woodworkers of America and National Maritime Union.]

Those Wobblies who joined the emergent  and attractive Communist movement
did include some very capable individuals.  [William Z. Foster, BTW, had
left the Wobblies years before American involvement in World War I.]
William D. Haywood, of course, and George Andreytchine were two of the ten
who, among the 150 convicted under the phony  Federal "Espionage Act,"
understandably enough jumped bail and went to the USSR in 1920.  In the
United States, very capable Wobblies such as Jim Cannon, Harrison George,
Vern Smith, and George Hardy joined the new faith -- but Elizabeth Gurley
Flynn did not until  almost a generation had passed.  The IWW  very early
rejected affiliation with the Third International and the Red International
of Labor Unions.

Of the rough-and-tough  rank-and-file Wobblies, only rarely a real ideologue
among them, it's safe to say that proportionately even fewer affiliated with
the Communist movement than was the case with the leadership.  Some
certainly did -- sooner or later -- but most remained with the fading IWW
and/or went eventually into the burgeoning CIO movement as their prime

Awhile back, I read an old post by Ken Lawrence which claimed that the
Wobblies involved and victimized in the tragic Centralia Massacre of 1919 --
[ where Wesley Everest was castrated and lynched]  -- and, where a number of
other Wobblies convicted of "murder" as a result of their self-defense
served long prison terms at Walla Walla -- all [or mostly all]
joined the Communist Party.  None of them did -- but their capable and
courageous attorney, Elmer Smith, did eventually.

I've always respected age and experience.  I've learned a great deal from
many veterans of radical and militant labor struggles -- and some of those
from whom I learned much indeed that was extraordinarily valuable were
people who had Communist backgrounds: especially those in militant Western

But, in 1955,  in the Pacific Northwest, I was privileged to hear
authoritative and extensive accounts of the Centralia Massacre and
aftermath -- and many other heroic IWW struggles -- directly from a whole
crew of very sharp old-timers [and many  somewhat younger Wobblies ] who
were delighted to pass their traditions and stories along to an eager
half-breed kid from Northern Arizona who has always so very much appreciated
their friendship and their teaching.

Hunter Gray  [Hunterbear]
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
and Ohkwari'

----- Original Message -----
From: "Mike Friedman" <mikedf at>
To: <marxism at>
Sent: Saturday, November 16, 2002 11:55 PM
Subject: Re: Solidarity -- and a couple of other thoughts

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