November 19th: Gratitude for Joe Hill

by Scott Parkin
I’ve been thinking about Joe Hill a lot lately, listening his music, reading a novel about an IWW strike in the early part of the last century and just reflecting on the work that radical labor did 100 years ago.
Today is the 107th anniversary of Joe’s execution by firing squad for a crime he didn’t commit. But really the state killed him because he organized, resisted capitalism and fought fascists.
It’s also the same day that Kyle Rittenhouse has been acquitted of killing two men and wounding a third man at a protest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, WI.
I’m outraged and heartbroken by the news of Rittenhouse’s acquittal. But, I’m not surprised and don’t have much expectation from our current system. People who resisted capitalism, police violence and fascism were gunned down by a teenage vigilante and he got away with it.
To me, this moment around Rittenhouse’s acquittal is a moment to fight back and organize. My friend Joshua says that we need to integrate gratitude and connection to historical movements into our organizing work to help sustain us.
In this moment where the far right is on the rise and the capitalist political economy is allowing them to flourish, I feel gratitude to Wobbly organizers like Joe Hill who organized and radicalized labor over 100 years ago and created a cultural identity for the left that persists.
Here’s Joe’s will that he wrote on his last day of life:
“My will is easy to decide,
For there is nothing to divide.
My kin don’t need to fuss and moan —
“Moss does not cling to a rolling stone.”
My body? — Oh! — If I could choose,
I would to ashes it reduce,
And let the merry breezes blow
My dust to where some flowers grow.
Perhaps some fading flower then
Would come to life and bloom again.
This is my last and final will.
Good luck to all of you. [Joe Hill]”

#TDIH: The Wobblies Start the First-Ever Sit-Down Strike in 1906

In 1906, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) began the first ever sit down strike at the General Electric plant in Schenectady, New York

Three thousand IWW members stopped work at a General Electric plant by remaining seated in the building. This action was taken in response to the firing of three IWW members and the company’s refusal to rehire them. This is the first record of a sit-down strike of the 20th Century. When management called in scabs, the striking workers stood in place and took control of the machinery, making it impossible for the plant to be run by scabs.

One of the principal organizers of the action was the famous Irish Marxist, James Connolly.

An IWW leaflet retorted, “…the question of numbers does not enter into the matter. For the simple reason that if discrimination is permitted in one case. Who then can feel protected? The principle of organization is that protection reaches down to the last man.”