Big Bill Haywood and the Radical Union Movement

By Joseph R. Conlin | Go to book overview

7

Bête Noire

The only factional fight which Haywood ever won took place within the IWW during 1913 and 1914. Division within the union amounted to a certain tension between the IWW's revolutionism and its practical unionism and, curiously, it drew along sectional lines. The Wobblies of the West came to represent the IWW's revolutionary commitment. Drifting from logging camps to construction sites to large-production farms, the western Wobblies worked and lived under conditions as wretched as any in the nation. Their misery on the job was exacerbated by their outcast status off it. Although they were essential to the development of the West, they were almost universally despised as the scum of society. It was an attitude which, among other things, provided their employers with a rationale for their exploitation. 1

Not surprisingly, the response of the migrant workers was indelicate. The rhetoric of class warfare rang true to them, and they meant to put it literally into practice. The western Wobblies came the closest to the anarchistic image of the IWW which the newspapers painted. They provided most of the colorful legends which have earned the IWW its niche in American folklore, and it is to them that old-timers refer when they speak of the IWW's "matchless spirit." The spokesman for the westerners on the IWW's General Executive Board was Frank Little, a one-eyed half-breed who summed up their attitude with: "better to go out in a blaze of glory than to give in." 2

-170-

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Big Bill Haywood and the Radical Union Movement
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Big Bill Haywood and the Radical Union Movement *
  • Big Bill Haywood and the Radical Union Movement *
  • Preface vii
  • Contents *
  • 1 - Worker 1
  • 2 - Unionist 20
  • 3 - Undesirable Citizen 52
  • 4 - The Eminent Man 77
  • 5 - Wobbly 118
  • 6 - Socialist 148
  • 7 - Bête Noire 170
  • 8 - Communist 191
  • 9 - Frustration of a Radical 210
  • Bibliographical Note 215
  • Notes to Chapters 219
  • Index 241
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