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Solidarity Forever

An Oral History of the IWW

Authors:

Stewart Bird, Dan Georgakas, and Deborah Shaffer

Solidarity Forever

This study of the Wobblies is a vital part of our history that has never appeared in the traditional chronicles. It's time—high time—we knew of this indigenous American movement. An excellent book.

Studs Terkel

Millions of Americans enjoy liberties off and on the job that were pioneered by a working class organization that few of them are familiar with—the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

The standard of living for most working Americans was grim when the IWW was founded in 1905. Wages were low, housing squalid, civil liberties limited, safety regulations nonexistent, and job security tenuous. Employers routinely denied their workers the right to unionize, much less to strike or picket. Few major labor disputes ended without death playing a hand.

In Solidarity Forever, an oral history based on interviews done for the award-winning documentary, The Wobblies, by filmmakers Stewart Bird and academy-award-winning director Deborah Shaffer, a score of IWWs tell how they fought against these injustices while advocating a new economic system in which production would be geared for the public good rather than for private profit.

They speak at length of the life and culture of a modern working class during its formative years, often touching on historic labor struggles as well as more humble local conflicts. Told with vigor and humor, these first-hand accounts attest to the IWW passion for mass education, popular culture, and grass roots democracy, and they reveal an IWW far more ideologically sophisticated than is generally acknowledged.

Historical essays preface these personal stories and place them in the context of the IWW commitment to civil liberties, women’s rights, organizing the unorganized, and racial equality.

Solidarity Forever

Dan Georgakas is an editor of Cineaste magazine and co-editor of The Encyclopedia of the American Left and The Cineaste Interviews and The Cineaste Interviews 2. He teaches labor history at Queens College. His previous books include a study of autoworkers and urban rebellion, Detroit: I Do Mind Dying; two histories of Native Americans, The Broken Hoop and Red Shadows; and The Methusaleh Factor: Strategies for a Long and Vigorous Life.

Solidarity Forever

This study of the Wobblies is a vital part of our history that has never appeared in the traditional chronicles. It's time—high time—we knew of this indigenous American movement. An excellent book.

Studs Terkel

Solidarity Forever is a great book. I wish it were used in American history courses in every high school and college in the USA. The average American doesn't know much about his or her own history. They figure that history is a record of missed opportunities and let it go at that. But the story of the Wobblies has a lot to teach us and inspire us as well. I find the book inspiring.

Pete Seeger

In telling the story of one of America’s earliest and most inspiring protest movements, Solidarity Forever rings with the simple eloquence of working men and women who faced insurmountable economic and political odds with little more than courage in their hearts and a song on their lips. Their story gives new hope to a labor movement struggling against challenges that sometimes appear equally insurmountable today.

William W. Winpisinger, former president, International Association of Machinists

Astute scholarship undergirds a graceful and exciting presentation. It’s great to have a new work to keep up the interest in the IWW so that still another generation of readers can be inspired and hopefully moved to action.

Joyce Kornbluh, author of Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology