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Review of a new graphical history of the IWW, by Patrick Spackman

One hundred years of the Industrial Workers of the World is celebrated in print with this wonderful graphic history. Illustrated and narrated by a wide range of American artists, including Harvey Pekar of American Splendor fame, the book charts the history of the IWW from its 1905 inception in Chicago to the present day.

I have to say I am a fan of the comic strip and would like to see more in the labour movement. The Writers and Readers publishing co-operative of the late 1970s and 1980s produced the excellent Beginners series that, for me, was an engaging introduction to Marx, Lenin and Trotsky. And of course many strikes, including the Great Miners’ strike of 1984-85, have unleashed a multitude of artists from the rank and file, producing everything from bulletins, badges and banners, to stage plays, films and inspirational songs.

In this comprehensive account we find, among many others, the fiery Mother Jones, the bard of the hobos Joe Hill, the legendary “Big” Bill Haywood.

Bill, speaking at the Wobblies’ inaugural conference, says its purpose is, “to confederate the workers of this country into a working class movement because the American Federation of Labor ... does not represent the working class.”

The outstanding feature of the Wobblies, on the other hand, was their desire to organise the most downtrodden of the class: the hobos, migrant workers who travelled the States onboard railway freight cars, in search of a dollar.

The story of the Wobblies is one of working class heroism and solidarity. It is a tradition that ran deep in the hearts of the US working class and is a reminder to us of the socialist future of the United States and the whole world. After you’ve read our article on the IWW, I suggest you run out and get yourself a copy of this inspiring book.