ORGANIZER 29:  SELF-DETERMINATION AND SELF-RELIANCE -- AND VOLUNTARISM -- FROM REFLECTIONS ON RALPH CHAPLIN, THE WOBBLIES, AND ORGANIZING IN THE SAVE THE WORLD BUSINESS -- THEN AND NOW  [JOHN R. SALTER, JR/HUNTER GRAY]   MAY 25, 2003

Note by Hunterbear:

"We were better off," said a black woman long active in North Carolina, to
me early in 1967, "when we ran our movements on our own nickels and dimes.
Now too many people won't even come to a meeting unless they get ten cents a
mile."  [Mrs Dimple Newsome to John  R Salter, Jr/Hunter Gray at Ahoskie,
Hertford County, North Carolina -- in the Black Belt.]

Critical to the initial Springtime sparking and momentum of any movement
Great and Good -- and very much to its long-distance endurance over the
Rivers and Mountains and Deserts -- are self-reliance and self-determination
at the grassroots and voluntarism.  Some unions of today continue to
exemplify that -- e.g., United Electrical Workers.  Most don't -- and we
need to recapture that if we're ever going to restart the Old Revival Spirit
of American Labor with pitchy pine wood and keep it going with long-burning
oak.

This is an addendum to the present discussion on the Redbadbear list
regarding labor unionism and its future.  This quoted material is taken from
my long [39 typed pages] essay, "Reflections on Ralph Chaplin, the Wobblies,
and Organizing in the Save the World Business -- Then and Now,"  written in
1985, under my original name of John R Salter, Jr.  I presented the paper at
the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association, Eugene, Oregon, on May 17,
1986. A somewhat shortened version of this appeared as the lead essay in the
Pacific Historian's  "Voices of Western Labor" edition, Summer, 1986.

Ralph H. Chaplin, born in 1887 in Cloud County, Kansas was a leading I.W.W.
poet, artist, writer and editor -- and wrote the great labor anthem,
"Solidarity Forever."  He was active in many good causes throughout his long
life.  In 1948, he authored his wide-ranging autobiography -- Wobbly:  The
Rough and Tumble Story of An American Radical [Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1948] -- an important companion volume to that of his
life-long friend:  Bill Haywood's Book:  The Autobiography of William D.
Haywood [New York:  International Publishers, 1929 and many subsequent
editions.]  Ralph Chaplin died at Tacoma in 1961, close to the Catholic
Worker Movement of Ammon Hennacy and Dorothy Day and active on behalf of
Native American rights. [See my bio of Chaplin in the Encyclopedia of the
American Left -- or on our Hunterbear website at
http://www.hunterbear.org/bio_sketch.htm

From John R Salter, Jr [Hunter Gray] -- Reflections:

"Some things were beginning to change in the South and the Nation.  Federal
civil rights legislation -- the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting
Rights Act -- had come to pass.  While vigorously supporting all of this, I
was also aware, thanks to Ralph Chaplin and the Wobblies, of some of the
negative effects of ostensibly friendly Federal legislation, especially in
the 30's.

At a large New York City gathering of supporters in February. 1964, before
the passage of the Civil Rights Act, I drew an analogy vis-a-vis the 30's,
discussed the pros-and-cons of the Wagner Act, and then said:  "There is
presently an unfortunate lull in activity at the grassroots -- a lull
traceable, among other things. . .to a wait-and-see attitude in regard to
the proposed Federal civil rights bill.  This bill merits a few words as
posing -- if it passes -- a possible problem to the freedom movement.
Indeed, it could become a real threat.  If it draws off the grassroots
militancy from the mass meetings and the picket lines and the sit-ins and
the mass marches and produces instead an endless labyrinth of long,
drawn-out test cases . . .then, obviously, we will be much better off
without the civil rights bill . . .Keep this movement rolling along with
ever greater scope and depth -- not just to token victories but to an
America where we will have that full measure of bread and butter, that full
measure of freedom, and that full measure of human dignity."  [John R
Salter, Jr., "The Danger of Legislation," The Southern Patriot -- organ of
the Southern Conference Educational Fund, then published at Louisville,
Kentucky, February, 1964.  Speech and copy of the newspaper in Salter
collections at State Historical Society of Wisconsin and Mississippi
Department of Archives and History.]

It was obvious by 1967 that the fires of the 60's were, with the exception
of mounting protests against the Viet Nam War, beginning to cool.  This was
certainly true in the South, where some important victories had been won:
the very right to organize and dissent and vote, wide-spread desegregation,
and a substantial reduction in terror.  But many activists were tired.
Others had been co-opted by tokenism, and many were severely compromised by
the frequently corrosive effects of the War on Poverty -- that shrewd
brainchild of the National Democratic Party.  As OEO unfolded it was obvious
everywhere that it was sprinkling just enough money around for people to
fight over and never enough to substantially challenge massive economic
deprivation. ["We were better off," said a black woman long active in North
Carolina, to me early in 1967, "when we ran our movements on our own nickels
and dimes.  Now too many people won't even come to a meeting unless they get
ten cents a mile."]


Hunter Gray  [Hunterbear]
www.hunterbear.org
 Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
and Ohkwari'

In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings.  Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunterbear]
 

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