ORGANIZER 27: 

BIG BILL HAYWOOD -- AN APPRECIATION  [HUNTER GRAY  4/16/03]

MIMEOGRAPHED REBELLION  [HUNTER GRAY  4/17/03]

 

BIG BILL HAYWOOD [AN APPRECIATION]  HUNTER GRAY  4/16/03

Note by Hunterbear:

These past several days, as a number of  socialist "respectables" and ex-radicals and some  liberals mount their latest efforts against Cuba [and, in a very real way, against Left socialism] via a statement whose final sentence refers to that perennially threatened and embattled Revolutionary country as "just one more dictatorship, concerned with maintaining its monopoly of power above all else," I've been thinking a good deal about Big Bill Haywood.
 
He was an enduring Red socialist and Wobbly -- always with guts -- who was frequently attacked by the Yellows but who Kept Fighting all the way through. He's been a hero of mine ever since I was a boy in the Arizona mountains. But I never saw his book until very early in 1955 when I read that great autobiography -- Bill Haywood's Book [1929] -- in a  Wobbly Hall on Seattle's Skid Road.  There, coffee and stew pots perked and old-timers spent many hours indeed telling their rich and dramatic stories of Strikes and Struggle to an eager kid, just recently out of the U.S. Army -- and now out to Save the World.  The old library in that IWW bastion -- where the framed photographs of the Great Martyrs [Joe Hill, Frank Little, Wesley Everest]  looked down from the wall -- contained many hundreds of books: mostly radical ones, and some fine fictional works as well. 
 
But Bill Haywood's book -- there so heavily read it was almost falling apart -- was my favorite and when, after wandering and unwinding through the Intermountain West, I finally arrived home at Flagstaff, my parents were quick to call a used bookdealer via an Atlantic Monthly ad.  And an excellent copy soon arrived which I still have.  And happily, in 1958, its publisher -- International --  brought out an on-going new edition and, from time to time, I secured those, eventually giving copies over the years to my children along with copies of another great classic, that by Haywood's life-long friend, Ralph Chaplin:  Wobbly [1948]. 
 
Several studies of Haywood began to emerge by the end of the '60s -- notably a book by Joe Conlin:  Big Bill Haywood and the Radical Union Movement [1969].  A popular bio came forth in 1983 -- Roughneck, by Peter Carlson.  I took advantage of its appearance to do a substantial review essay for the Wisconsin Magazine of History -- a big and solidly academic [but always readable] journal.  Here it is --the lead book review in the Winter 1983-84 issue of the WMH:

Roughneck:  The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood.  By Peter Carlson. [W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1983.  Pp. 352. Photographs, notes on sources, index.  $17.50.]  Reviewed by John R Salter, Jr [Hunter Gray]


In the concluding portion of Roughneck, a biography of William D. "Big Bill" Haywood, author Peter Carlson perceives the Haywood legend as something which "withered and died" soon after his 1928 death in the Soviet Union, becoming "a footnote in history books, a name entombed in dusty archives, a faded photograph on a yellowed newspaper clipping."  This may be have been true in the fickle U.S. East.  But when this reviewer was growing up in the Northern Arizona mountains in the 1950s, the memories of Utah-born Haywood, one of America's great radicals, and of his two primary organizations -- the Western Federation of Miners [WFM] and the Industrial Workers of the World [IWW]  -- had lost little of their freshness and lustre.  And in the early 1960s at Tougaloo College, my students and I studied the historical IWW, its tactics, and its leaders very closely as we developed the massive Wobbly-type Jackson Movement in Mississippi's capital.

Carlson's book, more than a half-century after Haywood's passing, and in an era when too few survive of the red card-carrying old timers who followed the shooting-stars of the IWW ["Organization, Education, Emancipation"], is designed to cover the activist and personal dimensions of Haywood from the 19th century western frontier through increasingly and bitter class warfare into the late 1920s and his death.  Roughneck is sympathetically [and well] written and is a fairly detailed synthesis drawn mostly from various other works on the WFM and the IWW and less from archival materials and author-conducted interviews.

The events of the Haywood/WFM/IWW saga are basically covered.  Among them are Haywood's birth in 1869 at Salt Lake City and his boyhood in Ophir, his early work in the mines of Nevada and his experiences as cowboy and homesteader, the impact on Haywood of Haymarket anarchist martyrdom [1887], his growing involvement within the WFM in the late 1890s and early 1900s, and his rise to national secretary-treasurer of that increasingly radical industrial union, the founding of the egalitarian and syndicalist IWW in 1905 and Haywood's eventual ascendancy some years later to the top post of secretary-treasurer, the Haywood/Moyer/Pettibone Idaho murder frameup [1906-1907], the great strikes such as Cripple Creek [1903-1904],  Lawrence [1912], Paterson [1913], Western copper and lumber [1917], and farmworker organizational drives in 1910s.  The roll call of Wobbly martyrs is set forth, e.g., Joe Hill [1915], Everett Massacre victims [1916], Frank Little [1917], Wesley Everest [1919].  Carlson touches the IWW conflicts with the craft-oriented AFL and the "yellow" Socialists, and sketches a graphic picture of the corporation-initiated and government-backed domestic hysteria and repression which culminated in U.S. of America vs. William D. Haywood et al. and related examples of "legal" attacks and in bloody vigilante activities -- all of which made a mockery of the Constitution and the United States justice system during and after World War I.  The rise of the Communist movement and the decline of the IWW, Haywood's 1921 flight to the Soviet Union, and his final years in that setting round out the chronological scope of the book.  Problems between Haywood and his wife, Nevada Jane, their eventual separation, his mistresses, his great love for his daughters, as well as his drinking and health problems, are all well integrated into the primarily activist-oriented thrust of the book.

Minor flaws involve misspelling several individuals' names, inaccurately naming several reference works, and misspelling Mormon "Morman" a number of times.  More fundamentally, several important works are not listed and, too, there is little exploration of the key issues in radical circles of the period [issues which are still very much to the fore today] in which Haywood was deeply involved:  pragmatism vs. ideology, centralization vs. decentralization, political action vs. direct action, nonviolence vs. violence, the rights of minorities and women.  The frontier origins of American syndicalism and its development -- still an appealing perspective to many in a time when the same basic socio-economic-political problems faced by Haywood and his colleagues continue, with the more recent addition of massive bureaucracy -- is scarcely discussed.  Various individuals closely associated with Haywood, e.g., Ralph Chaplin, Clarence Darrow, Eugene Debs, Daniel DeLeon, Mabel Dodge, Elizabeth Flynn, Emma Goldman, Samuel Gompers, Thomas J. Hagerty, Mother Jones, Frank Little, John Reed, Vincent St. John, could be much more fully depicted.

Carlson's assessment of Haywood is general and not much more than two paragraphs exemplified by "the blows he landed left his enemies a little weaker and a lot more willing to compromise with the reformers who followed in his wake."  Carlson's perception of Haywood's relationship to the Soviet Union ["When his naiveté was crushed by the cruel realities of the Russian Revolution, Haywood was left a bitter, broken man"] may very well be true.  But little evidence is offered by Carlson to justify this conclusion, for which considerably more evidence does in fact exist than, say, in the case of John Reed.

Within its limits, Roughneck is a sound piece of craftsmanship.  But it is not art nor is it a full study of Haywood.  It is popular biography, offering little that is new to those already familiar with the period and its issues and organizations and participants.  It is, however, fun to read and a good introductory stream which, hopefully, will encourage those interested "new-timers" to pursue the man and the lessons in such important works as Bill Haywood's Book:  The Autobiography of William D. Haywood [1929 and various recent editions], The I.W.W.: Its First Seventy Years[1905-1975] by Fred Thompson and Patrick Murfin, Wobbly: The Rough and Tumble Story of an American Radical [1948] by Ralph Chaplin, and Joseph Conlin's Big Bill Haywood and the Radical Union Movement [1969].  Hopefully, too, a full biography of Big Bill will ultimately appear -- doing so well before the centennial of his death!

John R. Salter, Jr. [University of North Dakota]


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

 

MIMEOGRAPHED REBELLION  [HUNTER GRAY  4/17/03]

 

Jim's interesting SSOC comments about mimeographed publications prompts this
from me.  In August, 1962, our growing Jackson NAACP Youth Council  was
planning what a few months later became the highly effective economic
boycott of Jackson -- out of which grew the large-scale Jackson Movement
which climaxed in May and June, '63.  I began that August to put together a
frequent [every three weeks or so] mimeographed journal, North Jackson
Action.[I'd had some journalism courses in college and had once even taught
the subject.]

Anyway, I typed  it out carefully on blue stencils -- on my ancient
Underwood -- and Tougaloo College mimeographed it for us.  It grew rapidly
in size -- to several pages on each side -- and the circulation moved out
into the general Jackson area and then nationally. At one point, we had a
basic  mail circ of about 250 -- not counting those many distributed
directly on the local scene. When I mailed them in Jackson -- via first
class in sealed envelopes-- we used no return addresses and I carried them
always to a number of outside mail boxes -- putting in a batch here and a
batch there. Well received, it drew financial contributions for our work --
and boycott support actions from around the United States.  And even in
Canada:  Kimberley [B.C.] Mine and Mill Workers sent us a check for one
hundred bucks!

By the same token, when Juan Chacon, president of Amalgamated Bayard
District Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers [Local 890] in Southwestern
New Mexico mailed us the three 16 mm reels of Salt of the Earth -- in which
he's the leading male role [we used Salt very effectively several times in
Jackson with Eldri running the film projector] -- it always came to me very
inconspicuously which is how we always sent it back to Local 890.  North
Jackson Action played an important role in developing the Jackson Boycott
and helping lay the foundation for the Jackson Movement.  All told, we put
out about 15 issues or so -- into May, '63, at which point all sorts of
Movement things and attendant publicity were surging up in the Jackson
setting.  I gave my file of North Jackson Action to Mississippi Dept of
Archives and History and it's among my collected papers.  [And a copy of the
file is also in my comparable collection at State Historical Society of
Wisconsin.]

Later, when I was SCEF Field Organizer, Jim Dombrowski gave us our own SCEF
mimeograph machine --  an eccentric creature which occasionally, in the
fashion of a Gatling Gun, sometimes threw huge globs of sticky ink on the
wall of my little office.

I miss those days when every Radical Movement had, first and foremost, its
mimeograph machine.  Kinko Copy and comparable outfits just don't begin to
have the same bated breath drama.

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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