[Marxism] Re: Friendly Wobbly Talk

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Aug 15 11:33:13 MDT 2005

(I am glad to see that Hunter Gray is keeping up with the discussion on 
Marxmail. Here are his comments on the current thread.)

>With the last of the really old-time IWWs six feet under and years so [Fred
>Thompson, a younger old timer, passed into the Spirit World, almost 90, in
>1987 -- soon after my son, Peter, and I spent a great afternoon with him at
>Chicago] --  it's become broadly fashionable in a number of diverse circles
>to "interpret" the Wobblies through one's favorite glasses.  My
>qualifications for commenting on the old Industrial Workers of the World
>involve plenty of archival work -- but far more than anything else, they
>involve my spending a vast amount of time visiting and informally
>interviewing genuine old timers in the Pacific Northwest and the
>Intermountain West and the Duluth [Minnesota] region from the beginning of
>1955 into 1961.  I doubt there are very many on any current discussion list
>that can say that.  I also add that I have a Finnish/Saami/Scandinavian
>spouse of more than 44 years and an ancient IWW card -- #323147 -- issued at
>the very onset of 1955 [only my Social Security and Army numbers are as well
>remembered] -- which can be seen on our Website and at the bottom of our
>To cut quickly to the bone [apropos of several recent discussions in various
>quite reputable discussion quarters], the Industrial Unionism of the
>Wobblies [sometimes called syndicalism or anarcho-syndicalism; I like the
>term, "frontier syndicalism"] was hardly, as some say, "reformist."  It was
>Blood Red -- indigenously so, and has been that way all the way through. It
>was also, especially in its hey-day years and in their afterglow,
>substantially multi-racial.
>When war-time inflation in 1917 carried  prices sky high in the context of
>static wages and huge corporate profits, the IWW carried out many
>essentially economic strikes.  And its many opponents used the War as an
>excuse to smash its militant unionism. It did not take a clear cut formal
>position on World War I -- though its basic inclination was certainly
>against that sanguinary debacle. [Frank H Little, one of its key
>spokespersons and a Cherokee Indian, referred to "that sonofabitch of a
>War."  He was lynched at Butte on August 1 1917.]  Indicted and subsequently
>convicted by the Wilson Administration under the infamous [anti-Labor]
>"Espionage Act", some of the 150 defendants [in the Chicago, Wichita, and
>Sacramento drum-head trials], such as W.D. Haywood, spoke eloquently and
>movingly of their personal opposition to the War and militaristic war in
>Many IWW leaders [not all] rejected personal affiliation with the Communist
>movement -- as was the case with most [not all] rank-and-file.  The
>organization itself formerly turned down any affiliation with the Communist
>International and the Red International of Labor Unions at the very
>beginning of the 1920s and remained with that position.
>In the late 1940s, as yet another Red Scare mounted, the surviving and
>former Wobblies in and around the International Union of Mine, Mill and
>Smelter Workers were consistently steadfast in their support of Mine Mill --
>against the metal mining corporations, the Federal government, some state
>governments, and vigilantes. [A case in point was Eli Hill, a veteran
>Finnish-American Wobbly and copper worker at Great Falls, Montana, who had
>started out decades before in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.] IUMMSW was,
>of course, one of the several Left unions that was ousted from CIO in 1950
>on trumped up charges of "Communist domination."
>Here are two of several [previously posted] pieces of mine which might be
>  Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
>  www.hunterbear.org
>Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
>  and Ohkwari'
>Check out Surprise Tribute:
>In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
>game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
>high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
>inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
>on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings.  Then
>it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
>remembering way. [Hunter Bear]



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