[Marxism] FW: book review: WOBBLIES! A Graphic History of the IWW [X-Labor-Arts]

Mark Lause MLause at cinci.rr.com
Fri May 20 14:18:31 MDT 2005

This strikes me as important enough to crosslist...

Mark L.

-----Original Message-----
From: H-Net Labor History Discussion List [mailto:H-LABOR at H-NET.MSU.EDU]
On Behalf Of Seth Wigderson
Sent: Friday, May 20, 2005 3:46 PM
Subject: book review: WOBBLIES! A Graphic History of the IWW

From:  John Pietaro <leftmus at earthlink.net>
[Cross-posted, with thanks, from H-Labor-Arts. SW]

Subject:  book review: WOBBLIES! A Graphic History of the IWW


Following is my review of the wonderful new historic-document-as-
underground-comic (my description) on IWW history. Only the mind of a
Paul Buhle could have sprung forth such a piece at such an important
time. For each of us who dedicate ourselves to Labor activism or any
other fight for social justice and spend hours trying to figure out
how to get this info to teens and college-age people----you now have
your answer! Please pass the following along, as we all need to make
this book as accessible to the younger folks as possible...

In Solidarity,
John Pietaro

Book Review by John Pietaro:

Edited by Paul Buhle and Nicole Schulman

2005, Verso

Like a beacon in the night, this collection of comic book depictions
of the founding and struggle of the Wobblies beckons the reader.
Here's one Labor history book that is infectious, exciting, informing,
intense, hip. And it will piss you off in the best possible way; but,
hey, that's what cultural workers do. This collection is prepared with
all of the documentation and artistic integrity one would expect from
editors Buhle (one of the upper echelon of progressive historian-
authors) and Schulman (international artist and an editor of 'World
War 3 Illustrated'). WOBBLIES! offers an eclectic collection of
underground-type comic book settings which are very dedicated to an
accurate telling of some of the Labor's greatest victories, as well as
many of its saddest losses. But it also includes beautiful artwork and
selections of poetry and prose that were produced by Wobbly creative
forces at any point over this last hundred years. In telling of the
IWW's fights for social justice, they explain the story of all working
people. Hence, this book should be viewed not only as a piece in honor
of the IWW's 2005 centenary, but as a staple of the people's history.
Strong segments on Mother Jones, Big Bill Haywood, Joe Hill, Lucy
Parsons, the 'Bread & Roses' strike, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Carlo
Tresca, the Paterson Pageant, free-speech battles, Emma Goldman, Black
Wobblies, Ralph Chaplin, Frank Little and Mexican agrarian revolts
stand out. But there is no weak material to be found between these

WOBBLIES! opens with a kind of prologue, a brief introduction to the
advances of the early twentieth century which bridged the arts to
progressive thinking. Artist and writer Sabrina Jones (who also
contributes other pieces)includes Isadora Duncan, Emma Goldman,
Margaret Sanger, Dada, the Ashcan School, , Cubism and more in just a
few swirling frames. And this is but the intro. The "chapters" which
follow all begin with opening statements by the editors and then delve
into the comic book stories. But these have little to do with
the "Justice League of America" or "Batman" comics I read as a boy.
These are the type of stories and artwork that the genre
title 'graphic novel' was created for. Often dark, heavily-outlined
frames detail visions of striking workers, mine collapses, factory
scenes, picket lines, fat-cat bosses, and free-speech fights. And
these are constantly imbedded with the pride of the workers. And with
so many contributing artists and writers, there is ample room for
every powerful grain of information.

Surely too numerous to be fully credited here, some of the artists and
writers include Carlos Cortez, Mike Alewitz, Fly, Trina Robbins, Sue
Coe, Ralph Chaplin, Tom Keough, Jay Kinney, Mike Konopacki, Peter
Kuper, Franklin Rosemont, Mac McGill, and bits of Joe Hill and T-Bone
Slim, as well as contributions by the editors. And continuous quotes
by IWW heavies. The variety of art styles---sketches, inks,
traditional cartooning, paints, realism, purposeful distortions,
Modernist imagery crossed with youthful enthusiasm and underground
edginess---makes for an immediate impact. You will not tire of this
reading. And i don't think the kids in your life will either, and that
seems to be the whole idea. I am surely going to buy copies for my
teenaged nephews and neices. And for those who are traditionalists,
there is also a section on IWW originals. No stone is left unturned.

Buhle and Schulman, in making certain that this collection is not a
mere history book, includes a section on  more recent IWW struggles,
from 1966 till today. Wobblies in SDS are discussed, as well as the
IWW's connection to Judi Bari and UCWA. And they also list current
contact info the the IWW and a detailed section of source material.
Now, if we could just get this same group to put out volumes on every
fight the people have waged for social change, we might be able to
influence every child to take a closer look at what's happening in
Washington---and their parents' workplace----right now.

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