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by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn 

Occasional Paper No. 2k (1977) 



The American Institute for Marxist Studies (AIMS) 
is an educational, research and bibliographical institute. 
Its purposes are to encourage Marxist and radical scholar- 
ship in the United States and to help bring Marxist thought 
into the forum of reasonable debate to produce dialogue 
among Marxist and non-Marxist scholars and writers. Its 
policy is to avoid sectarian and dogmatic thinking. It 
engages in no political activity and takes no stand on 
political questions. 

To these ends it invites the support and participation 
of all scholars and public-spirited individuals. 


NEW YORK, N.Y., 10016 

ROOM 804 
SAN JOSE, CA 95113 

Copyright 1977 
All Rights Reserved 


Publishers ' Preface . ...... ...... 1 

Memories of the I.W.W. ., 2 

Questions from the Audience ...32 


Publisher's Preface 

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn addressed students and faculty 
members of Northern Illinois University, in DeKalb, on 
November 8, 1962, less than two years prior to her death. 
The talk was sponsored by the History Club of the University 
and its chapter of the Student Peace Union. Trie occasion 
was chaired by Kenneth Owens, an assistant professor of 
history at the University. 

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn's remarks were offered without 
notes; they were tape recorded and it is a transcript of 
that tape which is herewith published for the first time. 


~I am sorry but it lis -a la t tie easier for me fitting 
a own. .1 hope you don't mind, however, it possibly makes 
it a little less formal. 

When I was informed about the subject that .1 -was to 
speak on here tonight X had m strange feeling like ssome- 
body who might have driven a P^ny express, a sort of M T 
was there*' kind of topic* However, it is a topic which is 
of great interest to me when .1 take time to go back over 
the past, and I will plunge right into it because I do not 
want to spend 'too much time in introduction. 

I was asked to speak about primarily the IWW. Weill,, 
those are the initials for the Industrial Workers of the 
World which used to be called the "I Won't Works" which 
was ^extremely incongruous because actually the people who 
belonged to the organization were in the basic, mosi diffi- 
cult hard-working industries of our country. %o calU it 
the workers of the World was rather an ambitious name as 
actually it never did go beyond the confines of the .United 
States and it grew out of the desire of American workers 
to continue the traditions and the form of organization 
of the old Kn-ights of Labor, 

I was very young when I first <came in contact wi?fch 
the IWW. It was organized in Chicago in the year 1905 and 


I left school. I am not putting myself forward as any 
example to you because I felt that Socialism was just 
around the corner and I had to get into the struggle as fast 
as I could. My father and mother were Socialists, members 
of the Socialist Party. So all of us of the younger genera- 
tion were impatient with it. We felt it was rather stodgy. 
Its leaders were, if you will pardon me for saying so, pro- 
fessors, lawyers, doctors, ministers, and middle-aged and 
older people, and we felt a desire to have something more 
militant, more progressive and more youthful and so we 
flocked into the new organization, the IWW. 

It was not only the inheritor of many of the traditions 
of the SO's but personalities who were identified with the 
80 l s were present at the early conventions of the IWW. 
The names may not be known to you unless you are students 
of labor history but [included were] such figures as Gene 
Debs, Daniel DeLeon and Mrs. Lucy Parsons, who was the 
widow of Albert Parsons, one of the Chicago Anarchists in 
the 80* s, who was hung, during the very fierce struggles 
for the 8-hour day. Now, in addition to these Socialists 
and Knights of Labor figures, there were also figures from 
unions, unions that were more industrial in character than 
the craft unions that were identified with the AFL, such 


unions as the Brewery Workers, the Federation of Miners 
and others. 

Now, the IWW, strangely enough, could "be divided into 
two sections and the two sections didn't always, were not 
always identified in the same kind of struggle- In the 
west, west of Chicago, it consisted mostly of American-born 
migratory workers, young workers, young men who had followed 
the advice of Horace Greeley, "Go west, young man" and grow 
up with the country. Well, they might not have needed to 
grow up with it, they helped the country to grow up. They 
were engaged in agriculture, in the construction industries, 
in maritime, and they were miners, hard-ore miners in the 
far west, and iron-ore miners in the far range of Minnesota. 

These workers were transients, practically no roots 
in the communities of the areas where they worked. In fact, 
it was said that they seldom left the IWW halls to go up- 
town into what they called the scissors belt sections of 
the city. Naturally, as transients, they did not vote so 
they had little or no interest in the politics of the areas. 
There was a tendency on the IWW's to become more and more 
[limited] , to organize in the industries and [showl less and 
less concern in political action of any sort. This was 
strangely in contradiction to the fact that many of the 


struggles in which they were engaged were actually political 
struggles. There were many free speech fights. I had to 
pronounce that very distinctly, not because some of you 
come from speech classes but because I was also very seri- 
ously misunderstood by an attorney in the Subversive Com- 
mittee Control Board who said, "How many of these street 
fights were you engaged in?" "Oh, I didn't say street 
fights, I said, free speech fights", and he looked rather 
confused. They usually arose over city ordinances that 
were passed in communities like Missoula, Montana, where 
I happened to be at one time and also Washington, where 
these city ordinances forbade street meetings in the area 
of the employment agencies, and said that the IWW might go 
way out some place where there was a very nice park and no 
ordinance, of course, and speak there. 

Well, their techniques were something like the Freedom 
Riders of today. They would send out telegrams, and I am 
explaining, you understand, I am not agitating, they would 
send out telegrams something like this, and say: "Foot- 
loose Wobblies, come at once, defend the Bill of Rights", 
and they would come on top of the trains and beneath the 
trains, and on the sides, in the box cars and every way that 
you didn't have to pay fare, and by the hundreds literally, 


they would land in these communities, to the horror and 
consternation of the authorities and they would stand up 
on platforms or soap box and they would read part of the 
Constitution of the United States or the Bill of Rights. 

I remember one big and strong lumberjack who, frightened 
to death, went up on the box and read the First Amendment 
to the Constitution and then looked around rather help- 
lessly for the cops, but the cops went elsewhere so he 
read it again and when he read it about three times, the 
policeman came along and yanked him down, much to his 
relief, and these performances were repeated innumerable 
times. They would fill the jails and, of course, that was 
quite an expense to a small community. Eventually the citi- 
zens would say, let them speak, why not, and the ordinance 
would be declared null and void and a great victory was won 
for Civil Liberties, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights 
and they would go back to their criticisms of these employ- 
ment shops which, they said, had discovered perpetual motion, 
who always had a gang of workers going to a job, a gang on 
the job and a gang coming away from the job, all of whom 
had paid for the job. 

Well, those were the free-speech fights that are very 
well known and very characteristic of the I WW in the western 


part of the country. In the eastern part of the country 

the IWW dealt with workers, mainly, who were not eligible 

to join the AFL and which the AFL did not want. The AFL 

was the skilled workers' organization and its form and 

methods and principles were not the same as the IWW. The 

IWW believed in the class struggle. They didn't believe 

in the brotherhood of capital and labor and they believed 

that these unorganized foreign -born mass production workers 

should be organized in an industrial union - all together 

in one union and not split up into a dozen or more organizations. 

These foreign-born workers in the eastern part of the 
country at one time were men and women who just came off 
the boats. In fact, many of these big companies actually 
imported them. I saw, when I was in Lawrence, Massachusetts 
in the year 1912, I saw posters that had been put up in 
Montenegro, and these posters showed the workers of Lawrence, 
Mass. coming out of the mill on one side with bags of money 
under their arm and going into the bank on the other side. 
Well, naturally, when you lived in the sparse hillsides of 
Montenegro, that was quite an inducement, and there were 
actually in the City of Lawrence alone, twenty-five different 
nationalities who spoke forty-five different languages, but 


hardly any English. 

Now these foreign-born immigrant workers naturally did 
not possess any political rights. They were not yet natur- 
alized or enfranchised and therefore any protest that they 
might perchance make went unheeded because they did not 
represent any power, political power in their community. 
However, what precipitated the big strike in 1912, which 
is one of the great historical struggles in our country, 
was a political act on the part of the State. The hours 
of labor were reduced to 54 hours. You can imagine what they 
were before. That was only for women and children, but it 
affected something like 75% of the workers in the mills. 

On the first psy after the law went into effect, the 
employers cut the wacss proportionately to the cut in hours 
and the wages were on the average of $7 and $8 a week at 
that time, arid th'3. highest pay to loom fixers and more 
highly skilled were getting possibly, $15 and $20. It was 
a margin between. mere subsistence and starvation and so 
there was a spontaneous strike. 3STow, many people say such 
things dor^t happen, that they are really organized in ad- 
vance but, sometimes, as one writer, Richard Rostran Childs, 
who. afterwards became the Ambassador of our country to Italy, 
said, the melting pot boiled over and so they poured out of 


the mills. And, the AFL didn't want anything to do with 
them so they sent for the IWW and the IWW came on feet of 
lightning, and there came first Ettor and Giovannitti and 
they were there about three weeks or four weeks and then 
there was violence on the picket line as there often was. 
Not only the police were there but the State Militia was 
there. These two strike leaders were arrested and charged 
with incitation to murder although the person killed was 
a woman striker so they went out of the battle and they 
were charged many months after the strike was over and 
were acquitted. 

William D. Haywood, who had been the leader of the 
Western Federation of Miners, who had been tried out there 
on a similar framed-up charge of murder, came into Lawrence 
to lead the strike. Well, it seems like ancient history 
to say; but the man who subsequently became President of 
the United States, Mr. Coolidge, was then in the Legislature 
of Massachusetts and came on the investigation committee 
to see what the strike was all about. Well, I have been 
asked, because I understand some of you are interested in 
personalities, as well as this rather dry history, to ex- 
plain something about what kind of person was Big Bill 
Haywood. Well, Big Bill Haywood was, as his name implied, 


a man over six feet tall, he was a miner from the State of 
Utah and he had always organized and spoken to English- 
speaking people out there in the Western area. So we were 
a little dubious as to whether he would be able to handle 
the difficult task for all of us, of speaking to strikers 
who hardly understood English. 

We did have interpreters in these forty-five different 
languages, but half the time we didn't know whether the inter- 
preters were telling them to stay out on strike or go back 
to work. So you had to have other interpreters to watch 
the interpreters and it got pretty complicated. So Bill 
Haywood decided that we had to speak English so these people 
could understand it. And I will never forget the lesson he 
gave to us . I was very young at that time, I was 22, and 
he said, now listen here, you speak to these workers, these 
miners in the same kind of English that their children who 
are in the primary school would speak to them and they 
would understand that. Well, that's not easy — to speak 
to them in primary school English. 

Well, we learned how to do it. The only trouble is 
with me it kind of stuck and when I go to speak to a college 
audience I feel at a little bit of a disadvantage because 
I don 1 1 know all the big words. The small words, the short 


words, were the ones I was drilled in "by William Haywood. 
Well, I will give you an example of how he used to speak. 
We had to explain to them why we wanted them to be in the 
IWW, one big union and not in the AFL. Well, he would say, 
the American Federation of Labor, the AFL is like that, 
each one separated, but the IWW is like that, and they would 
all say, three cheers for the IWW and he had made his point. 

Well, he was a tower of strength. He was way head 
and shoulders above the average worker, and they followed 
him around from place to place and admired him and followed 
his advice and actually the strike was won, in spite of all 
the difficulties? the strike was won, however, at great 
suffering and sacrifice. We took some of the children away 
from Lawrence to other cities once or twice. And then they 
tried to stop us and they beat up the children and the 
mothers and the committee in the railroad station in Law- 
rence and took them to jail and a protest and roar went up 
from one end of the country to the other. 

They tore down that railroad station later. I am sure 
one reason is that . they didn't want people to be pointing 
it out as the place where the police and the soldiers had 
beaten the women and the children. The result was a Congress- 
ional investigation which was brought into being by Victor 


Berger, the Socialist Congressman from Wisconsin, and the 
condition of those workers were so exposed to the whole 
country that the employers were only too happy to call it 
a day and bring the strike to a close. There were sixteen 
witnesses down there before the Committee. Children, and 
every one of those children were actually workers in the 
mills. It was before the days when we had any regulation 
on child labor. You see it is a long time ago, I am speak- 
ing of, but these are the flesh and blood struggles that 
made the labor movement as it is today. At the same time 
that this Lawrence strike was going on, there was a great 
strike of timber workers in Louisiana, also under the aus- 
pices of the IWW, and I single that out, although we had 
strikes all over the place, we were just hopping all over 
from one place to another, because there for the first time 
the discrimination, the segregation rules were broken down. 
William D. Haywood went down there to speak and he said 
every striker sits wherever he wants to sit. Segregation 
in this hall of the IWW and the Negro and white workers, I 
think for the first time in American labor history, broke 
that taboo and met together. 

I worked with many interesting people in those days. 
I really wish I had time to tell you about all of them, but 


I am singling out those that I think are better known to 
you possibly and are of interest to you. It wasn't long 
after those big strikes in the east, the Lawrence strike, 
and the Paters on silk strike, that there was a great strike 
of workers in the State of Utah. And it was there that 
Joe Hill, I am sure that all of you have heard of Joe Hill, 
the song writer, the troubadour of the IWW, was arrested. 
The little red song book, which never dies, apparently any 
more than the memory of Joe Hill, has many of his songs. 
And if there is really one thing that I am proud of in my 
long labor history, it is that while he was in prison, be- 
fore he was executed, he wrote a song for me dedicated to 
me, that was called, the "Rebel Girl" and that song, I hope 
you will do it here some time, it may not be the best of 
words or the best of music, but it came from the heart and 
it was certainly so treasured. 

Now, after this period of which I am speaking, I became 
more and more specialized in what is called labor defense work, 
although I had been engaged in the defense of Bill Haywood 
and Pettibone back as far as 1919, and Ettor and Giovannitti 
and Joe Hill, and there came the arrest of Tom Mooney, Warren 
K. Billings and others, in San Francisco, and this labor 
defense work is something that is traditional in our country 


and with the American labor movement. Conferences were 
organized, that met regularly with delegates from every 
kind of organization, Socialist, Anarchist, IWW, AFL, no 
matter what, for the defense of Mooney and Billings. And, 
of course, it was many years before they were finally par- 
doned by Governor Olsen, but the agitation on their behalf 
and the conviction of their innocence was possessed liter- 
ally by millions and millions of working people in this 

Well, then we went into the period of World War I, 
that seems a very long time ago, I am sure, to you. I am 
still beyond the point where I don't think the majority of 
you had yet been born in this period of which I am speaking, 
but I am pretty sure of that. Well, in the period of World 
War. I. a tremendous onslaught was made against the IWW, the 
Socialists, all Progressives in our country. There was a 
very strong peace movement at that time. It was not like 
World War II, which was an anti-Fascist war. 

World War I, the war that President Wilson promised 
to keep us out of, was not considered a war of any great 
principles and the result was that there were hundreds, 
literally hundreds of young Americans, and older ones too, 
who were arrested; there were conscientious objectors, like 


Evan Thomas, the brother of Norman Thomas/ there were 
Socialists, like Congressman Berger, and others, there were 
IWW's, a hundred and some who were tried. 

In here, in the City of Chicago and many others who 
were arrested under a Sedition Act, a war-time Sedition 
Act which went out with the end of the war. However, many 
of the people were tried and sentenced after the war was 
over as well as Eugene V. Debs, and were sent to prison after 
the war was over. Now, the IWW was really not persecuted 
because of their opposition to the war. Although they did 
oppose the war, they didn't all oppose the war. It wasn't 
a principled matter, because the IWW's main job was to fight 
the bosses and they stuck to it, I tell you, with great 
tenacity, and they were preparing, especially the lumber 
workers of the Northwest and the Pacific Coast states, for 
an 8-hour struggle to be declared on the first of May, 1917 
and great preparations were made for it. It was to be what 
they called "blanket burn day." All the workers were to 
burn their blankets in a bonfire on that day and they were 
going to demand of the camp owners, clean blankets, a clean 
sheet, furnished by the companies and not being lugged around 
on their weary backs. 

Well, this preparation was going on and then the war 


came. War was declared before the first of May. some 
clients that were in jail as a result of their opposition 
to the war and then I had others that were in the war and 
when they came out, they were arrested. For instance, the 
other day in California, X met an elderly man, his naiae was 
J. W. Fruit. I will never forget his name. This mar. used 
to write to me from Germany when he was with the American 
occupation in Germany during the first World War, and he 
used to send money to me for the defense of the IWW prison- 
ers. I remember when he came back. He came back when 
Pershing came back and the Victory Parade took place on 
Fifth Avenue and he came up to my Defense Committee's office 
and he threw his tin hat and all the rest of his business 
in the corner and he was off to go to the IWW hall. Well, 
no sooner did he go back to California than he became the 
secretary of the IWW Defense Committee and the next letter 
I got from him was from San Quentin Prison and he said he 
was right back where I started. Well, this was one who went 
to the war. 

There were many others, of course, who refused and who 
went to prison as a consequence. We had a tremendous amnesty 
movement for their release and then, again, the degree of 
unity we had, as I look back on it, was remarkable. It 
ranged from religious circles, from the Quakers, all the 



way to the most extreme Left of that day. The Left of 
that day would be the IWW and the anarchists because this 
was before there was a Communist Party. There were no 
Communists around inciting all of this. This was pre- 
Communist Party days. The American Civil Liberties Union 
was born ifh. this struggle and many similar organizations. 
But the remarkable thing about it is that although sentences 
were 20 years and 10 years and 5 years, they were all re- 
leased within about 5 years. In fact, they were all out in 
about 1924 and strange as it may seem, the President who 
appointed an investigation committee and decreed amnesty 
for all those who were still in prison at that time, was 
President Coolidge, so let's say one good word at least 
for the man who, as Mrs. Longworth said, always looked as 
though he was weaned on a pickle. 

I really should tell you something about where the 
IWW stood in relation to other organizations because the 
picture probably is not yet too clear. Well, it was not 
a craft union; it was an industrial union and it was 
opposed to the AFL, bitterly so. It did not stand for any 
of the things that the AFL stood for, a fair day's wage for 
a fair day's work, a brotherhood of capital and labor, none 
of those things. It was strong for fighting the boss every 


time we got a chance and so some of the things sound very- 
strange, but it was the truth- They did not believe in 
making any contracts. They believed that as long as you 
were organized, you could hold the office to what it said 
it was going to do. But a contract, a piece of paper held 
you and so they didn-t make any contracts. Now, their 
attitudes towards what we call the white collar workers 
was not good. Not good at all, because they just considered 
that they didn't belong to the working class. You had to 
wear overalls, be muscular, you had to work. If you were 
a pen pusher, you were not a worker, according to the IWW. 
Now, this also applied to students. In other words, what 
they would call today a very sectarian organization. 

But to some extent the students of that day were 
responsible because the students had no sympathy with the 
labor movement. In fact, when there were strikes it was 
always possible, as I saw down in a hotel, at a strike in 
New York City, it was always possible to get students to 
go in and take the place of the workers. Well, times have 
changed, I am very glad to say. I doubt very much if any 
such situation could be developed even on the most conserva- 
tive campuses in our country today. I might be wrong, but 
it wouldn't be a common factor. 


Now, the IWW also differed from the AFL in that it 
stood for Socialism. Although it differed from the Socialist 
Party in that it rejected political parties and political 
action, and this might have been a reflection of its com- 
position. In the West, the migratory workers did not vote 
and in the k#st, the foreign- born workers did not vote. 
Now, you go to Lawrence, not only their children and their 
grandchildren are voters, they are running for office and 
in some instances getting elected. So that there is quite 
a difference as a result of the change in the political 
status of the generation, but they had this very peculiar 
attitude that the real struggle was in the industries, in 
the shops, what they call at the point of production. 

Now in 1912 we had a rather peculiar development that 
might have changed the history of the American labor movement 
if we had not been what we would call today, sectarians. 
At that time, William Z . Foster left the IWW, after touring 
in Europe, and meeting with the Syndicalists of Europe and 
there they pointed out to him that it seems to them very 
bad tactics to try to organize dual unions against existing 
unions, such as the miners, the machinists and other unions 
of the AFL but that other members of these categories we 
had in the IWW, we should send back into the AFL 




and, as he called it bore from within, and we should 
concentrate on the outside in organizing the unorganized 
workers with the aid of these people that we had sent back 
into the craft unions. Actually, from the point of view 
of today, actually he was right although I couldn't see 
it at the age of 22. 

Fifty years later it looks different to me and it is 
very likely that if we had anticipated the organization 
of such a movement as the CIO many years before it came into 
existence. Well, Foster was so convinced that he was right, 
that he went into the AFL and I can't tell you what an act 
of treason that was, and he organized two bodies of basic 
workers in this country who had never been organized before, 
the steel workers and the packing-house workers. The packing- 
house workers of Chicago and the steel workers all over the 
country and he led the strike, the great steel strike of 1919 
Now, he had about a corps of 15 or 20 AFL organizers that 
were loaned to him by the AFL unions and they paid their 
salaries so you see it was really a very good strategy, and 
not only that, but years later I learned something from my 
friend, Vincent St. Johns, who had been a secretary of the 
IWW for years and a personal friend of Foster's, that he 
went in there during 1919, to the steel workers' headquarters 


and, as he called it bore from within, and we should 
concentrate on the outside in organizing the unorganized 
workers with the aid of these people that we had sent back 
into the craft unions. Actually, from the point of view 
of today, actually he was right although I couldn't see 
it at the age of 22. 

Fifty years later it looks different to me and it is 
very likely that if we had anticipated the organization 
of such a movement as the CIO many years before it came into 
existence, Well, Foster was so convinced that he was right, 
that he went into the AFL and I can't tell you what an act 
of treason that was, and he organized two bodies of basic 
workers in this country who had never been organized before, 
the steel workers and the packing-house workers. The packing- 
house workers of Chicago and the steel workers all over the 
country and he led the strike, the great steel strike of 1919 
Now, he had about a corps of 15 or 20 A<FL organizers that 
were loaned to him by the AFL unions and they paid their 
salaries so you see it was really a very good strategy, and 
not only that, but years later I learned something from my 
friend, Vincent St. Johns, who had been a secretary of the 
IWW for years and a personal friend of Foster's, that he 
went in there during 1919, to the steel workers' headquarters 


where they had all bought Liberty Bonds, all the organizers, 
Foster, all of them, and he said now, look here Bill, what 
are you doing with those Liberty Bonds, just putting them 
in a safe place. Give them to me and we will use it for 
bail for the IWW and that was done. The AFL organizers all 
turned over their bonds, their Liberty Bonds, to the IWW 
Defense Committee and many an IWW was bailed out as a re- 
sult, although that wasn't known for many many years. 

Of course, you understand that there were many new 
fields, new industries that came into existence before the 
organization of the CIO which did not exist when the IWW 
was organized. In fac ( t, it almost seems to me that we lived 
in a kind of wilderness when I tell you what didn't exist. 
There were no radios, no TV, no movies, very little of ad- 
vertising as we know it today, there were no plastics, no 
artificial fabrics, no airplanes. Maybe some fliers, you 
know, and ther^ was no electronics or any of the big indus- 
tries that we know today connected with it but the IWW did 
sow the seed in steel, raining, in lumber, in textiles, in 
agriculture, in oil and in maritime and you can see that 
those seeds bore fruit when it came to organizing later in 
the 1930 's in the CIO. 

Well, we weren't through in the 20' s with just the war- 


time cases or with the amnesty campaign because as soon as 
the war was over and the workers had performed great patriot- 
ic services, kept no-strike pledges, etc., the employers 
opened up with an open shop drive and that's one reason why 
Foster was able to pull this great strike of steel and there 
were company unions that came into existence and there were 
criminal syndicalist laws that put temporary war-time sedition 
laws on the statute books as permanent legislation and there 
were deportation laws and all of this came in the wake of 
what we called the "Palmer Raids," 

Mr. Palmer was the Quaker Attorney General of that 
day. I don't hold it against the Quakers because he certain- 
ly belied anything that they stood for. Palmer was the 
one who organized, under his direction, these raids from 
one end of the country to the other. Hundreds of people 
were scooped up one night from one end of the land to the 
other and the foreign born was put on one side for deporta- 
tion, the native born were put on the other side for prose- 
cution under the Criminal Syndicalist Laws. There is a 
very good pamphlet which I hope you research people have 
found, called the "Illegal Practices of the Department of 
Justice" which was published at that time and signed by 
Professor Chafee, Professor Frankfurter and many other 


distinguished legal authorities of that day and it was at 
that time, I am not talking about modern times, I am talking 
about 1919, 1920, that Mr. J, Edgar Hoover first put in his 

He was put in charge of these raids and all reports 
of all over the country were to be made to him, and they 
were called "G" men. The FBI came into existence a little 
later - in 1924. So he has had this kingdom for 38 years 
now, regardless of administrations and it is not actually 
under Civil Service or under the control of the Department 
of Justice. 

The IWW was very hard hit by all of these prosecutions, 
persecutions, terrible acts of violence. Frank Little, one 
of its organizers, was lynched in Butte, Montana. There 
were many acts of violence from one end of the country to 
the other. In fact, the hatred against the IWW was so great 
that editorials in papers would say, "They should be arrested 
at dawn and shot before breakfast", without a trial. However, 
the IWW fought gallantly in its own defense and there was 
one of its last strikes in ( Denver in 1926 but by that time 
it was pretty well exhausted. 

In addition to this persecution, which was tremendous, 
there were certain immediate failings or immediate faults 


of the IWW which made it hard for it to continue a perman- 
ent existence although it tried to change its former organiza- 
tion and one very great effort was made in the agricultural 
field where they set up the AWO [Agricultural Workers 
Organization] by, hundreds and that was with the idea of 
immediately getting 500 members, which they did, far more 
than that. 

They had a mobile team of field organizers who went 
to work in the harvests in the very far South in the spring 
and traveled with the harvest right up to the Canadian line 
and right into Canada right into the fall. They carried a 
little, something like an attache case of today, a little 
black case in which they had membership books and buttons 
and literature and dues stamps and all the paraphernalia of 
organization and the most remarkable thing was that there 
was practically no defections. Maybe one or two. One man 
actually stole money and then afterwards hung himself, I 
understand. You see there was a" great devotion and loyalty 
to this mobile organization of migratory workers. 

However, one difficulty, except for this one great 
event, was to hold an organization after a strike. It was 
very difficult because there were so many divergent elements 
involved in a strike that it was hard to hold together. At 


least, if they spoke a common language, it might have been 
easier. It was very difficult to combine all of them into 
one organization, especially when you try to build a union 
and a Socialist organization in one body. Now, a union 
has the economic interests at stake, better wages, better 
working conditions, better hours, the immediate interests 
of the workers and you can involve thousands on that basis, 
whereas a Socialist organization naturally is what we would 
call today, on an ideological basis. 

I never would have used such a word today but it had 
to be unity for a particular idea, for a goal, and not only 
workers but non-workers could also be involved in that kind 
of an effort. And so today the methods to have political 
auxiliaries to unions is a much better and a much more 
effective thing. But we tried to put everything in one 
pot and it simply didn't work. We were unable, and we were 
pretty arrogant. We were young and had the right answer 
to everything. We didn't want to work with the AFL, we didn't 
want to work with the Socialist Party, we didn fl t want to 
work with anybody else. And naturally, when the Communist 
Party came along, they considered that a real party because 
here was a much more revolutionary organization than the 
old Socialist Party, and they didn't agree either with the 


concept of the Russian Revolution although they were glad 
that it was a revolution that overthrew the czar and they 
didn't stand with Keren sky but there was certain, you might 
almost call it, primitive concepts of a revolution. To 
the IWW a revolution meant that you take over the factories, 
and the shops and the mills, and the mines and the fields 
and you chase the bosses out, just chase them out, and 
that was the end of it. That was the revolution. 

However, they ignored the state. Their idea was that 
the state would disappear, when you abolish capitalism, you 
abolish the state, but that the state might continue to 
exist, that it might be necessary for it to continue to 
exist, was not exactly within the IWW picture so naturally 
they expected a great deal more from a revolution in another 
country than it was possible for that country to achieve 


Now, the IWW's positive side, certainly it was militant, 
it was courageous, that it fitted the period, that it belong- 
ed to the pioneer days and that it fought for the interests 
of the poorest, the most lonely, the most despised, those 
that the AFL could' t organize, the foreign born, the women, 
and as the Negroes began coming into industry, the Negroes. 
Of course, I should say that when we first started in 1905, 


there were not too many Negro workers in the north. They 
came up later. Henry Ford was responsible for bringing a 
great many of them, on all kinds of false pretenses and 
the steel industries brought them up also to act as strike 
breakers. However, they were very susceptible to the organi- 
zation put forward by Foster and others. 

Now, I am going to tell you of a few of the things 
that we never heard of in those days. It is very well to 
realize the difference in the environment, the difference 
in the composition, the difference in the level of our 
development. We couldn't see things with the eyes of 1962 . 
We saw them with the eyes of 1905 through about 1917. Well, 
we certainly never heard of such a thing and we never thought 
it would be possible, that there would be social security 
or unemployment insurance. Those were the results of the 
3 (Vs. The great struggle that came out after the decline 
of the IWW. Also, we never heard of vacations with pay. 
We never heard of vacations, let alone vacations with pay. 
We never heard of seniority as it is understood today. There 
were no pensions for retirement of workers. There were no 
welfare funds of unions. There were no health centers of 
unions, and there were no trade union schools such as there 
are today. 


All of these things have come with the unions that 
have come into existence since the period of the IWW, We 
had no political action committees and certainly we did 
not have and we didn't think of such a thing as being able 
to check-off the dues in a closed shop by the employer. 
Well, of course, the employers don B t like it and there is 
something about all kinds of repressive legislation to 
abolish it. We certainly never heard of paying farmers not 
to produce. That was something we would have said every- 
body was crazy if we said such a thing would come into exis- 

Now, picketing with us, was everybody getting out, 
man, woman and child, and you ran up against the men on 
horseback, etc., but that was picketing. The other day I 
saw a picture of teamsters picketing. Well, I wish I could 
show it to the strikers in 1912. Here they were, sitting 
at a table, a round table, with a TV on it, and they had 
a pitcher, and they had glasses, and I don't guarantee what 
was in it (laughter) and they had a big umbrella over their 
heads, like they have on the beach, and that was picketing 
by the teamsters but I'll bet they were just as effective 
in keeping anybody from going to work as we ever were with 
our mass picketing so many years ago. There is less 


violence against labor today, but there are more legal 
restrictions. There are more attempts to invade the rights 
of labor by repressive legislation and by all kinds of 
restrictions . 

One of the most important issues today, even more 
important than wages to the workers, to our struggling 
with something we never heard of, is automation, are the 
work rules, the kind of speedup that there is today with 
automation is entirely different from the speedups that we 
knew in the old days. We never thought of such a thing 
that there would be a decreased labor force and increased 
production and that part of the plant would be left idle 
and the other part would produce more than the whole plant 
at one time. Now this, of course, are all the results of 
automation and so are new problems that we couldn't even 
foresee or even imagine in these long ago days. We had our 
own problems but they were quite different. There has been 
labor protection by law but there has also been labor repres- 
sion by law, such as the Taft-Hartley Law and the Landr urn- 
Griff in Law. 

Now, today, education may be, I ought to say, that 
after I told you I left school at 16. Education is much 
more necessary today in industry than it was in these 


long ago years. In those days, we used to say that all 
you would need was the boss came out and looked the workers 
over, and if he was strong in the back and weak in the head, 
you wer-j the one he hired, but that is no longer the case 
because more and more, with the introduction of automation 
and the introduction of new methods of production, it is 
not a question of manual labor alone. 

It is a question of skill and it is a question of 
education and in the Socialist countries they do use auto- 
mation in this way. They use it to abolish menial and 
arduous work, and they educate people to a higher level 
to be ablo to cope with the complicated requirements of 
automation. Many will be laid off and are being laid off. 
Those that stay will need more training. Now, these are 
some of the problems of today. Now, you may ask me, and 
I am not going on any longer because I know you want to ask 
me, and I talked too long, have we made progress? 

Oh, we certainly have, we certainly have, in spite of 
all the difficulties, in spite of all the problems, the 
labor movement has made tremendous progress. There is a 
new role and a new outlook for youth today. One of the 
pamphlets that I read ye^rs ago, I don't know if any of 
you have ever heard of it, is Peter Kropotkin's Appeal to 


the Young , and it was a beautiful appeal to the young to 
carry forward their responsibility to make this world a 
better world to live in. How, I feel in our way we did 
our bes-c but the time comes when you know, they say old 
age isn't a disease but I say it is. The time comes when 
you have to slow down and lay off and give the benefit of 
your experience to a younger generation, if they want it. 
I feel very grateful to you for this opportunity. I very 
rarely speak on a subject like this and therefore I feel 
very grateful to you for the opportunity to relive my 
youth in a sense and to bring to you some of the tremendous 
struggles and sacrifices and ideals and hopes that went 
into the early years of this century to building the American 
labor movement. (Applause) 

I can answer questions from the audience for a short 
while, if we can get some house lights, and identify you, 
we will be pleased to have you. Thank you. 


Questions from Audience: 

Q. Were you ever arrested, Miss Flynn? 

A. 0, yes, many times. Let me see if I can tell you how 
many times. I was arrested in Missoula, Montana in a 
free speech fight; in Spokane, Washington, in a free speech 
fight. I was arrested in Paterson during the strike 
there. I was arrested in the IWW cases. I have to think 
a minute. I was arrested more recently under the Smith 
Act, and I was sent to prison under the Smith Act, for 
a three-year sentence which I served. Well, I might 
have been arrested — oh, I was arrested in 1906, when 
I was 16 years old for blocking traffic on Broadway in 
New York. 

Q. Joe Hill was executed - what were the legal reasons 
and circumstances? 

A. Well, Joe Hill had been involved in this copper strike 
that I spoke about. He was arrested in Salt Lake City 
on a charge of holdup* The witnesses that were against 
him were very vague and noncommittal but the prejudice 
against the IWW was so great that that was all you 
needed to be convicted in that time and place. There 
is a very fine play that has been written by Barry Stavis, 


called the "Man Who Never Died", which gives the whole 
story of, first of the Joe Hill case, and then of the story 
in a play form and I am sure you might be interested to 
read it. It was so generally believed that he was not 
guilty that the Swedish Government — he was born in 
Sweden ~ intervened on his behalf. President Wilson 
intervened twice on his behalf with the Governor of the 
State of Utah, and asked at least for a new trial. But 
these pleas were denied and he was executed. And I use 
the word executed advisedly because in the State of Utah 
they have shooting. They have five armed men, one of 
whom has a blank, and if the prisoner prefers to be shot 
rather than hung, this is the procedure. 

What was the personal character of Daniel DeLeon? 
I don't know what you mean by "personal character". 
He was a very mild man - if that is what you mean. Daniel 
DeLeon was at one time Professor of Law at Columbia Uni- 
versity. He was from Latin America originally and he 
was Editor of the paper of the Socialist Labor Party 
called the "Daily People" and also "The Weekly People". 
The "Weekly People" is still published. Maybe you have 
seen a copy now and again. Daniel DeLeon was one of the 
strongest proponents of industrial unionism in the early 


days in this country. He had belonged at one time to 
the Knights of Labor and he was one of the founders also 
of the IWW but when the IWW swung away from political 
action and became more and more anti-political, Daniel 
DeLeon quarreled with the leadership and severed his 
connections with the IWW. He continued as the Editor 
of the Weekly People up to the time of his death and 
was really one of the forerunners of industrial unionism 
in our country, regardless of his differences with the 
leaders of the IWW. 

Q. Will you comment on the Committee you served on to 
free Earl Browder? 

A. Well, that was at a much later date. That was in — 
you see I was asked to confine my remarks here to the 
labor history of the 20' s and around that period. I 
will answer the question just briefly but I was Secre- 
tary of the Defense Committee to free Earl Browder in 
the 40 's. I ^on't think it would be proper for me to 
go into all the details in view of the limitation of 
the subject here tonight. 

Q. What was your position in the IWW? 

A. Well, I was never an official of the IWW. I guess I 


was too young. I was a speaker. I was an agitator. I 
used to go round the country lecturing but I never was 
an official. I wasn't chairman or secretary or held any 
of those positions. 

From the chair: I would like to follow this up with a short 
question of my own. I have a reference somewhere when 
you were about 26, you wrote a manual on Sabotage . Did 
you ever — do you mean, commit sabotage or write about 
it? Well, write about it. 

A. Well, the circumstances of writing this particular 
pamphlet was that it had to do with a man who was 
arrested in the Paters on strike in 1912 and he was 
accused of inciting to destruction of property. His 
name was Boyd. Well, I made a speech from which this 
pamphlet was made, in which I attempted to show that it 
was the silk manufacturers and not the workers who were 
guilty of sabotage, that the sabotage in this instance 
consisted of the silk manufacturers loading the silk 
with lead in the dyeing process so that you thought you 
had a silk dress and you had a dress that was partly 
lead and that was one reason that they used to crack 


and split and so I went on from that to explain that 
sabotage, as the Scotch understood it, was chicanery, 
you know, take it slow, easy, and as the French under- 
stood it, was to obey the rules and if you opposed the 
rules, for instance on a railroad, the railroad got 
tied up in no time at all. This was the theme of my 
sabotage as I recall. There was no advocacy of vio- 
lence in it. However, it was used. This was in 1913. 
It was used in trial after trial of the IWW, until I 
asked the IWW to stop publishing it because I hadn 1 t 
intended it to be used as a weapon by the Government 
against the people who were on trial. So they did stop 
publishing it about the year 1917. However, an awful 
lot of copies got around and when I was before the Sub- 
versive Activities Control Board as a witness in more 
recent years, all of a sudden, what do I see but this 
little pamphlet pop up. I was as embarrassed as a man 
of 60 might feel if he were confronted with a love letter 
that he wrote when he was 17 and I said so, that I wrote 
this many years ago in connection with a strike. It has 
no reference to today, etc. But it is true that in my 
young and hot-headed and heedless days, I had written a 
pamphlet on the subject of sabotage. There was quite a 


wave of interest in sabotage at that time in this country 
as it was practiced in France; this railroad business that 
I talked about and it really did not mean act of violence 
as it was interpreted. 

Q, I would like to ask Miss Flynn what her present labor 
and political associations are. 

A. I had a feeling of being circumscribed by the subject 
so that it is rather difficult for me to answer that 
question under the McCarran Act, I am known as a spokes- 
man of the Communist Party, but whether I am a member or 
an officer, I will just have to take the Fifth Amendment 
on that because of the McCarran Act. I am not at the 
present time connected with any labor union. I am on 
social security. I don't think that I would be quite 
competent at the age of 72 to be working at any particular 
field of work outside the limited speeches and writing 
that I do today. 

Q. How large a role did the IftW play in the meat-packing 
strike in the early 1900 *s in Chicago? 

A. Chicago, well I don't know. The other day a young man 
came to see me from a college in New York. He was writ- 
ing a thesis on the Paterson strike and he went over 


there and looked all through the newspapers, and every- 
thing, and he said, "Do you remember a young woman who 
spoke in Havre tia Hall with 600 shirtmakers and they all 
joined the IWW r that was before the big silk strike?" 
I said, no, I don't remember who she was. And he laughed 
and he said, "It was you." So it was very difficult for 
me to say. I don't recall. There may have been efforts 
of the IWW to organize the packing houses. It wouldn't 
have been in 1900 because the IWW wasn't organized until 
1905, It might have been after that. I think the first 
real efforts to organize the packing house workers were made 
by William Foster with this Committee of the AFL which I 
have described in the years 1918-19. But I may be wrong, 
I just can 5 t remember everything about the IWW. Some of 
you students who are studying about it can refresh my 
memory . 

Q. Do you knew of any labor group today serving the function 
parallel to that served by the IWW? 

A. 'Well, I would say, yes, that the trade unions of today, 
with all their faults, of which many of them are very 
conscious, the combined organization of the AFL-CIO, and 
the independent unions, such as the Mine, Mill and Smelter 


Union, the Teamsters Union and others are doing good work 
in fighting for the interests of the workers and in fight- 
ing for the rights of the workers. Now, they could do 
better but, nevertheless, we, would be very bad off if we 
didn ' t have the labor movement as we ha ve it today and 
with struggle, undoubtedly, it will improve. I think of 
all the unions, that the one that may come the closest 
to the old IWW traditions would be the Mine, Mill and Smelter 
Workers Union, which grew out of the Western Federation 
of Miners . But there are many fine unions in our country 
today and we shouldn°t always believe the attacks we read 
in the newspapers on the leadership, and even if the lea- 
dership is sometimes stodgy and conservative, it doesn D t 
mean that the rank and file of those unions are not alert 
to their own interests and greatly disturbed about many 
of the problems that exist in connection with the industry 
today. I would say that automation is something that is 
profoundly disturbing the American workers today and may 
very well result in a struggle for the 35-hour week that 
may be comparable to the struggle in the 80 °s for the 
8-hour day. 

Q. Could you say something about the festivities tomorrow 

* -4 Cl- 

in your honor? 
A. Well, it is a birthday party. It is a little bit belated 
because ray birthday was in August, but I didn't get to 
Chicago until now. It is a birthday party and it is 
being held in the Hamilton Hotel and the proceeds are 
for the benefit of the defense of Gus Hall and Benjamin 
J. Davis. That's about all. I suppose I will make a 
speech, probably answer questions as usual and I wouldn't 
be a bit surprised if I get to the pearly gates and start 
answering questions right away, (laughter) 

Miss Flynn, we will close with this question. Thank you 
very much. 

It has been my pleasure. (Applause). 




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