The terse mottoes, the defiant songs. These were the liturgy and hymnody of the One Big Union’s cause.To the hard-bitten laborers of the I.W.W., the union was a home, a church, and a holy crusade.It lived always in the blast furnace of conflict and was battered into helplessness over eighty years ago. But, the central idea, to form the structure of a new society within the shell of the old has been dormant, but never really died. “Big Bill” Haywood was the union’s chief strategist and toughest campaigner, strike leader Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was a battling Wobbly at sixteen, Carlo Tresca acquired his fiery radicalism in his native Italy, Joseph Ettor was a bold organizer, Arturo Giovannitti preached the radical Wobbly gospel in flowery verse…
Where are my boys?
They are in deepest water
Where are they now?
They are over the hill and far away
But they are broken men who lie low
Waiting for miracles
Old men of rock and roll
Came bearing music
Where are they now?
They are over the hill and far away
But they’re still gonna play guitars
On dead strings, and old drums
They’ll play and play to pass the time
The old wild men
Old wild men
Old wild men, waiting for miracles ( Old Wild Men, 10cc )
Old men still muttering “no” to the status quo. “An injury to one is an injury to all” was the motto of The Industrial worker. The Industrial Workers of the World, the working class crusade came to birth and grew amid storms of dissent in 1905 after a proclamation by William D. Haywood, “a working class movement that shall have for its purpose the emancipation of the working class from the slave bondage of capitalism.”
We can look back, and see that old society still here; in fact thriving more vigorously than ever. Has invidious comparison, status and distinction ever gone out of style? Today’s so-called social revolutionaries are pitching all manner of goods and services. The I.W.W’s young radicals attempts to burst the bonds is now history: full of poets and tramps, bloodshed and cruelty, and roads not taken by the labor movement. Its a history not merely of an organization but of an impulse that stirred men from the lower depths of the economy; the vagrants, craftsmen, loggers, harvest hands, immigrants, millworkers, and set them marching in step with Greenwich Village literary radicals to the tune of gospel hymns and innocent ballads fitted with new, class-conscious verses.
But it was not all ballads and broadsides. The I.W.W. was radical in the word’s truest sense. When it denied that the working and employing classes had anything in common, it meant precisely what it said. The I.W.W. put no faith in the promises of bourgeois politicians or in the fairness of bourgeois courts. It made no contracts with employers, and it spurned other unions, such as those enrolled in the American Federation of Labor, that did. It was composed of hard, hard working men, little known to respectability. As a result, it badly frightened millionsof middle-class Americans, and it meant to.
Yet, it must be understood that the I.W.W. did not grow magically out of a card trick or sleight of hand; a Houdini gesture of smoke and mirrors. The industrial situation for which the adjective, “grim” is pallid and hardly an illusion. In the America that moved to productive maturity between 1880 and 1920, there was little room or time to care about the workers at the base of it all. It was an America in which children of ten to fourteen could and did work sixty hour weeks in mine and factory; in which safety and sanitation regulations were virtually unknown, in which industrial accidents took a horrible toll, in which wages were set by the market place and people lived by cramming themselves into sickening tenements or company owned shacks. In fact, conditions similar to American outsourcing of work to China, India and beyond.
Thomas Frank:He is what sociologists Paul Leinberger and Bruce Tucker have called “The New Individualist,” the new and improved manager whose arty worldview and creative hip derive directly from his formative sixties days. The one thing this new executive is definitely not is Organization Man, the hyper-rational counter of beans, attender of church, and wearer of stiff hats. In television commercials, through which the new American businessman presents his visions and self-understanding to the public, perpetual revolution and the gospel of rule-breaking are the orthodoxy of the day. You only need to watch for a few minutes before you see one of these slogans and understand the grip of antinomianism over the corporate mind:
Sometimes You Gotta Break the Rules –Burger King
If You Don’t Like the Rules, Change Them –WXRT-FM
The Rules Have Changed –Dodge
The Art of Changing –Swatch
There’s no one way to do it. –Levi’s
This is different. Different is good. –Arby’s
Just Different From the Rest –Special Export beer
The Line Has Been Crossed: The Revolutionary New Supra –Toyota
Resist the Usual –the slogan of both Clash Clear Malt and Young & Rubicam
Innovate Don’t Imitate –Hugo Boss
Chart Your Own Course –Navigator Cologne
It separates you from the crowd –Vision Cologne…
…In most, the commercial message is driven home with the vanguard iconography of the rebel: screaming guitars, whirling cameras, and startled old timers who, we predict, will become an increasingly indispensable prop as consumers require ever-greater assurances that, Yes! You are a rebel! Just look at how offended they are!…
…Our businessmen imagine themselves rebels, and our rebels sound more and more like ideologists of business. Henry Rollins, for example, the maker of loutish, overbearing music and composer of high-school-grade poetry, straddles both worlds unproblematically. Rollins’ writing and lyrics strike all the standard alienated literary poses: He rails against overcivilization and yearns to “disconnect.” He veers back and forth between vague threats toward “weak” people who “bring me down” and blustery declarations of his weightlifting ability and physical prowess. As a result he ruled for several years as the preeminent darling of Details magazine, a periodical handbook for the young executive on the rise, where rebellion has achieved a perfect synthesis with corporate ideology. In 1992 Details named Rollins a “rock `n’ roll samurai,” an “emblem … of a new masculinity” whose “enlightened honesty” is “a way of being that seems to flesh out many of the ideas expressed in contemporary culture and fashion.” In 1994 the magazine consummated its relationship with Rollins by naming him “Man of the Year,” printing a fawning story about his muscular worldview and decorating its cover with a photo in which Rollins displays his tattoos and rubs his chin in a thoughtful manner. Read More:http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/f/frank-dissent.html