In his opening address to the conference William D. ‘Big Bill’ Haywood of the Western Federation of Miners stated that ‘We are here to confederate the workers of this country into a working class movement that shall have as its purpose the emancipation of the working class from the slave bondage of capitalism’. The Preamble to the IWW made it clear that ‘The working class and the employing class have nothing in common’. As well as taking aim at American capitalism the conference also attacked what delegates saw as the inadequacy of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), the principal American labour organization of the period. As a craft-based organisation, the AFL, by design or default, excluded the majority of American workers from its ranks – women, those who were unskilled, migrant workers, and, of course, recent immigrants. The IWW saw its mission as to go out and recruit those workers into the struggle against capitalism and to avoid all forms of conciliation with their employers. In essence this meant organising in areas that had never been organised and often working with ethnic groups in whom the AFL appeared to have no interest and whose presence in America some of its membership actively opposed.
After a stuttering start the IWW grew into an impressive and, it might be argued, rather prescient organisation. It soon showed itself capable of remarkable creativity in its use of tactics. Banned from speaking at street corners in a city it would create a battle over free speech. Every time an IWW member was arrested for speaking, another would take their place with the aim of flooding jails and jamming the legal system. It employed the use of song and cartoons to rouse members and mock opposition. It practiced sabotage in all its aspects while encouraging and supporting strike action whether organised
I’m a supporter of the Bromley library strike, and I’d like to ask for your help if you can give it.
Since June 6th, the library workers across Bromley Borough’s library service have been engaged in all-out strike action in response to the mismanagement and running down of their workplaces. Greenwich Leisure Limited, the company responsible for the library service, have put the whole library network at risk. They’ve deliberately understaffed these libraries, forced new joiners onto weak and exploitative contracts, made junior staff take on responsibility for tasks they simply aren’t trained for, and refused to listen when Unite the Union came to them with their concerns about these goings-on.
Now, as a final insult, GLL have told the workforce that they’ll be cutting up to half of the jobs currently in existence in the library network in order to “restructure” the service. All of this is why the workers voted to go out on indefinite strike. The price of not fighting back would be to watch as the libraries, and the vital services they offer to Bromley, are run down and destroyed so that GLL can pay their executive staff bigger paychecks.
That’s why the library staff need your help to continue the fight and see it through to victory. Your donations and your solidarity will give them the money they need to feed their families while they’re out, but it will also do something more – it will show them that people see how important their struggle is, and that they don’t stand alone in defending the libraries from these attacks.
The stakes are high; if GLL succeed in gutting the libraries here then other companies will follow suit elsewhere in the country, and a once-proud public service will be destroyed for good. With your help, the Bromley library strike can draw a line in the sand and defend library services all over the country, not just in our borough.
Review by Ralf Hoffrogge
Every schoolchild on the globe knows something about the Russian Revolution from 1917. It was the origin of a state called Soviet Union and a political confrontation later known as the cold war which shaped the 20th century longer than any other political conflict.
Unlike the crucial events of 1917, the German Revolution of 1918 is not part of the global memory. It did not erect a socialist state as hoped by many of its protagonists and instead ended with a fragile republic that lasted only twelve years and was destroyed by the Nazi Party in 1933.
Therefore most readers might connect the German Revolution with the tragical death of Rosa Luxemburg, murdered by counter-revolutionary militias in January 1919. But Luxemburg became a legend not for being a martyr of the German Revolution. She is famous because of her brilliant writings that inspired not only historians and marxist economics but also leftist feminism and anticolonial struggles.
But, and this is demonstrated by Gabriel Kuhn and his outstanding edition – the German Revolution was more than Rosa Luxemburg. She and her writings were part of a social struggle that dated way back into the class conflics of pre-war Europe and found an eruption in the Revolutionary Wave of 1917-1919.
Kuhn features many documents by Luxemburg that show her as a revolutionary activist, trying to push forward the revolution with her Spartacus League, a political formation that broke away from the German socialists when they started supporting the German Government in WWI.
But Kuhn does not reduce the antiwar-opposition and the revolutionary effort to Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht and the Spartacists as it was done by marxist and non-marxist scholars alike during the cold war. His documentary history also presents documents from Gustav Landauer and Erich Mühsam, the famous Munich anarchists that took part in the struggle for a councils´ republic in Bavaria. He also presents documents from Bremen, Brunswick, Wilhelmshaven and Kiel – German cities that were taken over by workers´ uprisings or sailors and soldiers in mutiny. These original sources make clear that the German Revolution was not orchestrated by a political vanguard of some sort but a spontaneous eruption of the whole population. Very different groups from centrist social democrats to radical anarchists participated in the events, many others only got radicalized during the events.
One such group that formed during WWI were the “Revolutionary Stewards”, a group of rank and file unionists. They started with strikes for better wages in the war industry and ended up being one of the most radical advocates of a councils´ republic in Germany. When the Revolution unfolded in November 1918 this group was far more influential then Liebknecht and the Spartacists, because unlike them it had a wide network of supporters in the factories and workshops. By organizing three political mass strikes from 1916 to 1918 the group was decisive to bring along the political change that Germany saw in 1918.
Kuhn presents several texts by Richard Müller and Ernst Däumig, who were both spokesmen for the Revolutionary Stewards. None of their writings has ever been translated into English before, which makes Kuhn´s edition an achievement. Readers familiar with the historiography of the German Revolution will notice that some more systematic writings of Müller and Däumig on the council-system are missing because Kuhn focusses on the historical events. But nevertheless – by bringing in this group and others, framing the well-known names of Luxemburg and Liebknecht with the wider array of political groups active in Germany around 1918, Kuhn presents a well-balanced account of the German Revolution.
The edition comes with extensive annotations, an introduction and an index, which makes this book useful for scholars and students of the field, while others might just let themselves taken away by the original texts presented, most of them written during or shortly after the revolutionary events and still transporting the enthusiasm of that time.
Gabriel Kuhn (Editor): All Power to the Councils! A Documentary History of the German Revolution of 1918–1919, PM-Press, Oakland/CA 2012, paperback, 320 pages, 26,95 $.
Founded over 110 years ago on June 27, 1905, the Industrial Workers of the World, or IWW, created an iconic legacy and rich history of militant unionism in the U.S. The union was founded by radical unionists and currents within the labor movement with the purpose of building an alternative to the conservative trade unionism of the American Labor Federation (AFL) which promoted harmony between workers and capital and practiced exclusion in their organizing along the lines of race, gender and skill. Today the IWW continues to organize as an alternative to mainstream unions and we celebrate its vision of a labor movement committed to the emancipation of the working class.
Last year’s wave of public teacher strikes and walkouts was the highest number of workers walking off the job in three decades. Whether it will be the start of a larger trend across other sectors is yet to be seen. But understanding how these strikes came to fruition is an important lesson of modern labor history.
So how did a group of young, radical, education unionists manage to stage statewide walkouts across the nation in 2018?
This is the question that Eric Blanc seeks to answer in the much anticipated release of his first book, Red State Revolt. Blanc is a doctoral student at NYU and for the past year has acted as correspondent on the Left for the larger education struggles. Given that Blanc has spent the better part of a year covering these struggles, interviewing by his estimates over 100 participants, and being a former educator himself, Blanc is uniquely qualified to write about these matters in ways few others can.
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