The January 2009 issue of the Industrial Worker, the newspaper of the revolutionary union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
Industrial Worker #1712 (January 2009)
-Chicago factory occupation wins demands
-Can we rebuild the labor movement with the Employee Free Choice Act?
-N. Carolina IWW truckers picket Weyerhauser
-IWW referendum 2008 results
-Ottawa drops charges against panhandler organizer
-Minnesota baristas face intimidation
-Establishment union staff should not join the IWW
-IWWs agitate at SUNY social justice conference
-Review: Staughton Lynd tackles Wobblies and Zapatistas
-New Industrial Worker editors take over in 2009
-Let’s Not Get Organized By Barack Obama
Industrial Worker #1713 (February/March 2009)
The February/March 2009 issue of the Industrial Worker, the newspaper of the revolutionary union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
-Starbucks: Where’s Anna’s Money?
-Melbourne Wobs commemorate indigenous freedom fighters
-NYC Union Barista Fired on a Friday, Unfired on a Monday
-Starbucks Loses Round in Battle Over Union
-Parents sticking with the IWW
-Crisis Is Time For IWW Ideas, Organizing
-IWW Members Hold Organizer Training in South Texas
-Announcing the Lafayette Area General Membership Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World
Industrial Worker #1714 (April 2009)
Articles from the April 2009 issue of the Industrial Worker, the newspaper of the revolutionary union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
-Antilles in Struggle: Interview with a CNT-F militant
-Dealing with Childcare Collectively
-SDS and the Wobblies: Memories and Observations
-Starbucks Workers Union Pickets for 8 Hours
-Spanish CNT in conflict with Ryanair at Zaragoza
SDS and the Wobblies: memories and observations - Paul Buhle
An article by Paul Buhle about the commonalities and limited crossover between the 1960s radical group, Students For A Democratic Society (SDS) and the revolutionary union, the Industrial Workers of the World.
Student occupations of university buildings and student participation in campaigns and demonstrations happen more and more these days. More importantly, they have begun to happen in previously unlikely places, community colleges, religious schools, high schools and so on. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), reborn on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day in 2006, has often been in the lead because the name and the history give today’s students something to identify.
Wherever SDS exists, “student syndicalism” also exists in a germ of collective memory about the earlier SDS, or in the basic ideas that campus activists are bound to develop themselves. It’s a simple as the transition from the sit-down strike (IWW) to the civil rights movement sit-in to the antiwar teach-in. The logic of the movement contains a purpose beyond voting or waiting for leaders to make decisions.
Recently, former SDS National Secretary Carl Davidson (who coined the term “Student Syndicalism”) spoke on the Brown University campus, where I teach, on a range of issues, mostly practical experiences rather than theories and how students can learn for themselves what to do in today’s multiple social crises. One of Davidson’s vivid 1960s memories and one of my old favorites involves the SDS national office members of 1965-66 realizing that their Chicago headquarters was nearby the IWW office. They had stumbled across an inter-generational counterpart and shortly, regional travelers wore Wobbly buttons.
It was hardly the first SDS/IWW encounter. A lot of us had discovered little things along the way, often inadvertently, such as learning Marxism through Socialist Labor Party (“DeLeonite”) study classes, where IWW history was both applauded and hissed (that is after the 1908 Wob convention). What we gleaned sooner or later could be boiled down to the conclusion that the Wobblies were a totally unique radical outfit, and probably generations ahead of their time. History had to move to catch up with them.
The Rebel Worker, published by the Chicago surrealist group in the middle 1960s, is the best single case of IWW/SDS interaction. A splendid little mimeographed magazine, in the humble technology of the political age, it marked young Wobblies’ efforts to revive radical principles, reached a wide circle of young radicals (myself included) and foreshadowed much to come. The group also had a local bookstore, a share in the Wob effort to organize blueberry workers in Michigan and a presence in Chicago’s Roosevelt University, where a free speech fight preceded and perhaps inspired the famed Free Speech Movement in Berkeley. A few years later, Rebel Worker activist Penelope Rosemont was a printer in the SDS national office (in a couple decades, she and Franklin Rosemont would operate the Kerr Company, the IWW’s old friends of pre-1920 days). Hundreds of 1960s SDSers in various locations had soon become members or sympathizers with the IWW, and more would after the implosion and collapse of SDS in 1969. For that matter, the SDS journal Radical America was printed in Madison, WI, on a Wobbly press, emblazoned an early cover with Wobbly graphics, and carried many articles in sympathy with Wobbly traditions.
What happened from 1965 to 1969, embodying “Student Power” but also precipitating a crash and a catastrophic turn of the SDS leadership toward Maoism, may best be understood as a brilliant grappling with Wobbly traditions, a reinterpretation of syndicalism, and a failure to deal with the political crises on all sides.
The Port Huron Statement, drafted collectively by conference attendees in the Michigan town in 1962 and reshaped by SDS leader Tom Hayden, was the most important political manifesto of American radicals in 30 years, and the most important generational statement that young American radicals had made since perhaps the 1830s of New England Transcendentalists. Unlike earlier platforms of socialists and communists, with the distinct exception of the IWW convention documents of 1905, it was not shaped by European experiences. It was not about “socialism,” at least not in anything like classical terms. It was, or is (in-as-much as the new generation of SDSers holds to its central points) about values, along with generations.
That conference had only 59 attendees. Just enough, one might suggest, to work together on a complex document, and not too many to make such work phrase by phrase, formulation by formulation, all but impossible. In the next four years, SDS had become an organization of thousands on many campuses, and cut its ties with the social-democratic Old Left that had paid for its predecessor, the Student League for Industrial Democracy. The spirit of Port Huron had gone beyond the bounds of liberalism, not so much programmatically as philosophically. To these youngsters, the liberal ideology and the reform successes of the New Deal (and additions afterward) did not stand up against the threat of nuclear war and the American government’s own role in the proliferation of weapons. Nor did they explain away the persistence of US intervention, by hook and crook, against movements from Latin America and the Caribbean to Africa, Middle East, Asia and the Pacific that threatened American corporation holdings. Nor could they explain the fate of mainstream labor. Embodied in the thuggish George Meany, president of the AFL-CIO, organized labor’s leadership had become its ugliest in all American labor history.
How was a group of powerless young people to cope with the vastness of institutional authority? Students for a Democratic Society, an organization or movement so amorphous that a majority of its “members” never actually bothered to officially join, remains at the heart of the mystique and mystery of the 1960s. Naturally, along with the civil rights and Black Power movement, the Women’s Movement, marijuana and LSD, Bob Dylan and so much more. But within this mélange, SDS is unique, for better and for worse. It was the organization of student power on the campus, pinpointed by the FBI as the epicenter of trouble among the children of the white middle class. It skyrocketed to a following of perhaps 200,000 supporters. And what went up came suddenly down, very much like the ‘60s themselves.
Almost as suddenly, the memory of SDS and of the antiwar protest of the 1960s in general, has returned to fashion or at least public interest. What the Vietnam War and the public knowledge of FBI misdeeds did to the trust in the U.S. government during the 1960s, including its agencies and elected officials, the Iraq War and the Patriot Act’s varied manifestations have done again. And there is an element, a stronger reminder perhaps than any other of the lasting impress of SDS, in the circumstances of generational unrest. The generation of 9/11, come of age in the wake of the World Trade Center attack, the Afghanistan attack and occupation, the mass detentions without charges and so on, is also the generation facing the literal, undeniable effects of global warming in daily life. The world of secure consumers, circa 2000, is gone, and in its place is a world of politicians who barely manage to keep a straight face while issuing frequent denials of the obvious.
All this is still more true of the global working class now located, thanks to post-1965 immigration, within the United States. Never has the world of the original Wobblies become so nearly the world of today, with masses of foreign born, a terribly weakened official labor movement, and an urgent need for solidarity.
Speaking as a U.S. history teacher, I can say that the college courses on the 1960s, going back to the later 1970s or 1980s, never lacked for a certain appeal. Free love, communes, LSD and other reputed mass phenomena of the young naturally appealed to another generation of the young, especially with higher rents and rampant venereal diseases closing off the carefree low-income bohemia of earlier days. The boom in those courses has increased immeasurably since 2001 or so, for every good reason, but for many students seeking a “how to” rather than vicarious thrills or the chance to listen to music rather than reading textbooks. Meanwhile, as if by remarkable coincidence, a generation of young scholars just ten or twenty years behind the radicals of the 1960s came to press with their scholarly studies going back a decade in graduate school.
Only in the last decade, as the former members of SDS entered middle age, has the understanding of the movement seriously thus begun to probe and poke the aura and the memoirs of prominent minority. Hostile critics have pointed to the number of young intellectuals involved and the few essayists produced, as if this were a key test of virility or fecundity. It would be better to meditate the paucity of local historical studies, because SDS was above all a local movement, arguably the most decentralized and localistic movement since the Wobblies in the whole history of American radicalism. But perhaps one problem has also been overlooked: that a phenomenon so deeply set within popular culture would need an approach shaped by the techniques of cultural production. A song might be grand, but could not be expected to go far lyrically.
The graphic history of SDS that I produced with an array of artists in 2008, following the 2005 graphic history of the IWW by some of the same artists (and me as editor or coeditor), on the other hand, offers a crime (in the view of respectable society) to fit the punishment (forty years of liberal and conservative denigration). These books also could not have come, I believe, at a better time. Because these movements face the prospect of a great revival, young people in particular can learn visually, and also come to appreciate radical artists, like the half-dozen IWW members who drew or wrote stories for “Wobblies!,” striving to make the old story newly meaningful.
Paul Buhle is the founding editor of Radical America (1967-1992).
Originally appeared in the Industrial Worker (April 2009)
Industrial Worker #1715 (May 2009)
The May 2009 issue of the Industrial Worker, the newspaper of the revolutionary union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
-Direct Action Bloc Against the G20 in London
-Why I Became a Wobbly
-Starbucks Union Member Laid Off After Confronting CEO
-The Starbucks Problem
-Farewell, Fellow Worker Archie Green (1917-2009)
-IWW Professor Fired for Political Activity
Industrial Worker #1716 (June 2009)
Articles from the June 2009 issue of the Industrial Worker, the newspaper of the revolutionary union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
-First IWW Event in Wales Celebrates Past & Present
-Wobfest 2009 Celebrated in Scotland
-Swedish Radical Unionists Celebrate
-Rally and Picnic in Philadelphia
-Pittsburgh IWW Join Baltimore's Human Rights March for Living Wages
-Anzac Day Commemoration of the IWW Anti-Conscription Campaign
-The IWW Mourns Fellow Worker Franklin Rosemont
-Goodbye, Fellow Worker Jennie Cedervall
-North of 49° Assembly, June 1314, 2009
Goodbye, Fellow Worker Jennie Cedervall
An obituary of Jennie Cedervall, a longtime IWW member.
The IWW recently learned of the passing of longtime member and supporter, Jennie Cedervall, who died in Willoughby, Ohio, on January 22, 2009, at the age of 95. Born as Eugenia Anekite near Montreal, Canada to Romanian immigrants and IWW members George Anekite and Victoria nee Galason (Galtzan), she moved as a child with her family to Minnesota where she lived on a farm, and then to Detroit, where she worked as a book keeper at the Mt. Elliot Coal Company, which housed IWW workers.
FW Cedervall later worked as a stenographer, and was involved with several IWW locals in Detroit and Cleveland over the years. While she was not getting the publicity reserved for other members of the union, FW Cedervall nevertheless contributed tirelessly to the union and helped to keep the organization running through some bleak times. She met her future husband, IWW organizer Frank Cedervall, at an IWW event in Michigan, and later relocated with him to Cleveland, where some of the IWW’s most important work took place with the Metal and Machinery Workers Industrial Union from the 1930s into the 1950s. During the 1970s, she drove with her husband on an IWW speaking tour through the West Coast of the United States.
Jennie and her husband retired to Willoughby, Ohio, while continuing their union support. FW Cedervall was able to attend the IWW’s Centenary event in Pittsburgh in 2005, where she was recognized for her many contributions to the union. She stressed that while it is important to have a vision of a better world with a radical analysis, this is of little importance if it is not put to practical use, through bread and butter gains for workers.
FW Cedervall contributed her time in her later years to many organizations, including the Clean City Association of Willoughby, Edison Elementary School, and the Lake County Historical Society. Services were held for her at the DavisBabcock Funeral Home, with Rev. Arthur Severance of the East Shore Unitarian Universalist Church.
We will remember FW Jennie Cedervall for helping all of us “get the goods.” She is survived by daughter Pat and soninlaw Don Lewis, and many nieces and nephews. The family welcomes contributions to the IWW in her name.
Originally appeared in the Industrial Worker (June 2009)
Industrial Worker #1717 (July 2009)
The July 2009 issue of the Industrial Worker, the newspaper of the revolutionary union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
-Starbucks Settles Sixth Labor Complaint
-NLRB Is No Friend In Portland
-Recession: Time to Organize
-PIDC Hunger Strike Leader Assaulted, Threatened with Deportation
NLRB is no friend in Portland
An article by Chris Agenda coming out against contractualism in the IWW, based on experience with a contract shop in Portland.
During a two-month period I met with representatives from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on three different issues. All of the issues were related to grievances of workers who were represented by the IWW and employed by Janus Youth Programs in Portland, Oregon. The NLRB was not helpful in any of the situations.
The common line in each of these cases was that the NLRB had to defer to arbitration, since that was provided for in the contracts between the IWW and Janus. Once we charged the company with bargaining in bad faith, and despite a slew of evidence proving management’s malfeasance, the NLRB still sat on their hands. The NLRB representatives were all friendly to our union, but as an institution they could not provide any support. One agent candidly explained that even if there were grounds to become involved in the dispute, “there’s really nothing we can do.”
We shouldn’t be surprised at this turnout, but we should be paying better attention. The NLRB is a monolithic government agency that is detached from working people. To expect them to help is irrational. We shouldn’t rely on the NLRB’s help in resolving our disputes, at least not in most cases.
A government agency could intervene and possibly provide workers with a good resolution in a dispute, but this is problematic as the workers should be creating the resolution themselves. Relying on the government to resolve labor disputes extends the apparatus of the state and negates the concept of workers demanding things on their own. The workers do not receive any new skills or tools, they just get a handout from the government until the next time a problem arises, and the cycle continues.
This brings us to the issue we need to discuss throughout our union as we continue to grow— that is the IWW’s growing reliance on contracts. Historically in the IWW, representation at a workplace has not always equated with having a contract. We often wind up with contracts that are mediocre at best. Grievance procedures are often a joke, and additions such as “management rights” clauses add insult to injury.
Contracts rarely omit the “no strike, no lockout” clause, which cuts off one of our few effective weapons in disputes. The history of this union has always been one of militant action, not pleading for help from an ineffective government institution. We should take the next logical step and question what place, if any, contracts ought to have in the IWW.
My introduction to the IWW was through a workplace that had an outdated contract which we renegotiated over the course of eight months. There were some good things that came out of the contract as well as some bad. I had no historical perspective, however, until the last year, when I began to read more ing of our history and realized that, again, our history is one of struggle and direct action, not contracts.
My experience in Portland so far has been educational and inspiring, but I believe we are approaching an important crossroads. We are in the midst of an economic recession and have a great need for a strong, militant vehicle for the working class. If we are going to continue to grow from the local branch level to the international level, we have to be able to provide something that truly stands out from the business unions.
We have the theory and ideas to distinguish ourselves, but I think we are following their models in certain aspects of our actions. As IWW history has taught us, direct action and solidarity are the best weapons of the working class. These are what will build the One Big Union, not ineffectual contracts.
Originally appeared in the Industrial Worker (July 2009)
Industrial Worker #1718 (August/September 2009)
The August/September 2009 issue of the Industrial Worker, the newspaper of the revolutionary union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
-Korean Motor Workers Under Police Seige by Loren Goldner
-False Advertising? MPG Lays Off Workers While Profits Grow by Diane Krauthamer
-French Auto Workers To Blow Up Factory? By “Auto,” libcom.org
-Starbucks Workers Union Expands To Canada
-Oil: Dirtier Than A Can Of Worms? You Bet! by David Patrick
-Work Is The Only Power We Own by Gregg Shotwell
-Our Own Festival: A Wobbly Reports On His Recent Visit To Paris By Mischa Lebevre
-Scoop New York: One-Stop Shopping—For Labor Violations by Diane Krauthamer
-The Wheels Of Injustice Continue To Turn Against Immigrants by Rio Grand Valley IWW
-Trespassing Charges Against Denis Rancourt Dropped by Peter Moore
-London Workers Shut Down Underground for 48 Hours by Tom Levy
-High Stakes for Honduras by Ben Dangl
-How Sweatshop Bosses Are Responding
-Review: Capitalism and the Transformation of Africa: Reports from Equatorial Guinea by Mary Alice-Water and Martin Koppel
-Review: The Reader
-Korean Police Fail To Break Ssangyong Factory Occupation from libcom.org
-Safe Haven Tent Community Under Attack By Neil Parthun
-Canadian IWWs Move To Form Regional Organizing Committee by Peter Moore
-Cadillac Fairview “Could Not Sink Any Lower”
-CNT-PTT Regains Its Rights In France by John Kalwaic