By Sharon Presley
The preface by Daniel Gross says oof this book: “You hold in your hands the most important book ever written about the Industrial Workers of the World/“ As I perused the Table of Contents, I could see why. Dozens of essays, cartoons, photos, songs, charts, posters— simply a feast for the eyes and brain. There are 19 essays about the philosophy of the IWW alone, plus essays about topics such as the tactics of direct action, the IWW free speech campaigns of 1908 to 1916, Joe Hill, several of the strikes mounted by the IWW, war and prison, and more. If you ever wanted to know about the in-depth history of the most radical union ever organized, this is the book.
The range of this collection is stunning—it includes, for example the last letters of Joe Hill, the “wobbly Bard,” as well as shete music for his famous song “The Rebel Girl” and lyrics for other of his songs. It includes so many IWW cartoons that there is a special commentary “A Short Treatise on Wobbly Cartoons” by anarchist publisher Franklin Rosemont of Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company. There are many tidbits in addition to the essays and cartoons— info about the IWW support of the CNT during the Spanish Civil War, a poem about Sacco and Vanzetti, poems from prison, a note about IWW entertainment in the Cook County jail, and so much more.
As the short history of the IWW on p. 7 shows, the IWW was one of the first and few unions to allow women, blacks, and Hispanics as members. Unlike many other unions that have sold out their principles for money and power, the IWW has remained true to its vision. It has continued to a source of inspiration to radical movements, not just union organizing. As the Overview from PM Press says: “The impact of the IWW has reverberated far beyond the ranks of organized labor. An important influence on the 1960s New Left, the Wobbly theory and practice of direct action, solidarity, and ‘class-war’ humor have inspired serval generations of civil rights and antiwar activists, and are a major source of ideas and inspiration for today’s radicals. Indeed virtually every movement seeking to ‘make this planet a good place to live’ (to quote an old Wobbly slogan), has drawn on the IWW’s incomparable experience.”
If you are an anarchist or labor history buff, you will want to include this magnificent compendium in your collection. We are indebted to PM Press for reprinting it in conjunction with the Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company. Kerr is a company that has been publishing classic anarchist literature fo rso many years that it’s almost a living legend. To see it teamed with the newer PM Press, which has a wide range of high quality books on anarchism and related radical subjects, is a true pleasure.