An Oral History of the IWW
By Stewart Bird, Dan Georgakas, and Deborah Shaffer
Lake View Press
Millions of Americans enjoy liberties off and on the job that were pioneered by a working class organization that few of them are familiar with—the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
The standard of living for most working Americans was grim when the IWW was founded in 1905. Wages were low, housing squalid, civil liberties limited, safety regulations nonexistent, and job security tenuous. Employers routinely denied their workers the right to unionize, much less to strike or picket. Few major labor disputes ended without death playing a hand.
In Solidarity Forever, a score of IWW members tell how they fought against these injustices while advocating a new economic system in which production would be geared for the public good rather than for private profit.
They speak at length of the life and culture of a modern working class during its formative years, often touching on historic labor struggles as well as more humble local conflicts. Told with vigor and humor, these first-hand accounts attest to the IWW passion for mass education, popular culture, and grass roots democracy, and they reveal an IWW far more ideologically sophisticated than is generally acknowledged.
Historical essays preface these personal stories and place them in the context of the IWW commitment to civil liberties, women’s rights, organizing the unorganized, and racial equality.
Although they failed to achieve their long-term goals, the Wobblies are seen to have won many a local battle for short-term gains, to have paved the way for the eventual triumph of the CIO, and to have set a high standard for subsequent movements for social change. More than 50 period photos and graphics, the result of years of archival research, provide vivid illustration of the IWW style, IWW philosophy, and the physical settings within which the IWW worked.
Now, at a time when the standard of living for working Americans is in decline, Solidarity Forever affirms that the militant spirit and aggressively democratic perspective of the IWW remain pertinent to present and future struggles for social justice. The Wobblies dared to err on the side of personal liberty, and their testimonies reveal how such daring and devotion to principle inspired ordinary Americans to extraordinary deeds.
“This study of the Wobblies is a vital part of our history that has never appeared in the traditional chronicles. It’s time—high time—we knew of this indigenous American movement. An excellent book.”—Studs Terkel, author of Working
|Dimensions||8.5 × 5.5 × 0.75 in|