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The Wobblies (2006)

Deborah Shaffer , Stewart Bird  |  NR |  DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)


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Product Details

  • Directors: Deborah Shaffer, Stewart Bird
  • Producers: Deborah Shaffer, Stewart Bird
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: June 27, 2006
  • Run Time: 89 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000FBFZ2M
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #258,616 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Wobblies" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Filmmaker interview
  • Interview with historian and author Paul Buhle
  • Original recordings of IWW songs
  • Still gallery
  • Filmmaker bios

Editorial Reviews

"Solidarity! All for One and One for All!" With that slogan, the Industrial Workers of the World, aka the Wobblies, took to organizing unskilled workers into one big union and changing the course of history. Along the way to winning an eight-hour workday and fair wages in the early 20th century, the Wobblies were one of the few unions to be racially and sexually integrated and often met with imprisonment, violence, and the privations of prolonged strikes. This award-winning film airs a provocative look at the forgotten American history of this most radical of unions, screening the unforgettable and still-fiery voices of Wobbly members--lumberjacks, migratory workers, and silk weavers--in their 70s, 80s, and 90s. Eerily echoing current times, THE WOBBLIES boldly investigates a nation torn by naked corporate greed and the red-hot rift between the industrial masters and the rabble-rousing workers in the field and factory. Replete with gorgeous archival footage, the film pays tribute to American workers who took the ideals of equality and free speech seriously enough to die for them. Directed by Stewart Bird and Deborah Shaffer, THE WOBBLIES is a rare and challenging invitation to rethink both past and present through the eyes of an organization largely omitted from memory. DVD Features: Filmmaker Interview with Stewart Bird and Deborah Shaffer; Interview with Historian and Author Paul Buhle; Original Recordings of IWW Songs; Exclusive Photo Gallery; Filmmaker Biographies; Interactive Menus; Scene Selection

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD
A review of the life of Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, also known as Wobblies) leader Big Bill Haywood. An appreciation of the role of the Wobblies in early 20th century labor history by American Trotskyist leader (and former Wobblie) James P. Cannon. An urgent call to help old time Wobblie folksinger/storyteller Utah Phillips. A reading of a biography of "Rebel Girl" Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (later, unfortunately, an unrepentant Stalinist hack). And now a DVD review of the film The Wobblies. For a writer who holds no truck with anarcho-syndicalist solutions to the problems of the class struggle this certainly has nevertheless turned into the Year of the Wobblie. And, dear friends, that is as it should be. Before the formation of the American Communist Party in the immediate aftermath of World War I the Wobblies were, front and center, the central revolutionary labor organization in this country. We honor those struggles, the memory of those old comrades and try to learn the lessons from their fights. And that, ultimately, is the beauty of the film under review.

Most docudramas or documentaries are filled with learned `talking heads' telling us what the historical significance of this or that event meant. And that concept has its place in our search for understanding of our history, good or bad. The filmmakers had seemingly gone out and found every last old time rank and file or middle level cadre Wobblie that still uttered breathe at the time of the film creation (1979). Here we get the voice, sometimes loud, sometimes confused, sometimes haltingly, sometimes not very articulately telling the story of the Wobblies down at the base-the place where all class struggle ultimately has to be resolved.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "To be people, not nobody" July 20, 2008
Format:DVD
"To be people, not nobody"--that, according to a Patterson, NJ, woman interviewed in the film "The Wobblies," was what she and her fellow-workers wanted to be. And after enduring both the exploitation of the bosses and the apparent indifferent of the conventional labor unions, they believed they found the vehicle to humanity in the Industrial Workers of the World, the "one big union" founded in Chicago in 1905.

"Wobblies" is the story of the IWW, from its origins to its near destruction during World War I. Disliked by industrialists and labor leaders alike, the IWW was really the only radical workers organization the US has ever spawned. It accepted everyone who earned a wage, crossing all color lines in a day and age when the more conventional labor unions refused to admit people of color. Led by stalwarts such as Big Bill Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the IWW grew in strength from coast to coast, organizing first lumberjacks and miners, and then factory workers, stevedores, and other unskilled laborers. It fought the Lawrence textile mills in 1912 and won; the Patterson factories in 1913, and lost; the the railroads on the Pacific coast in 1917, and won again. It was an up and coming force, and it scared the heck out of the political and financial powers that be.

So in 1917, with Woodrow Wilson's blessing, the government busted the IWW on rigged charges that it encouraged young men to resist serving in the armed forces. Virtually all the leadership was sentenced to incredible prison sentences under the Espionage Act, and the Wobblies, already beginning to splinter internally from feuds between anarchist and communist members, declined.

But it was a great and glorious dream.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A Kid's Review
Format:DVD
This is a good beginning point for anyone who wants to grasp whatever it is that can be called a "labor movement." In my eyes, the IWW (Wobblies) had it mostly right and its been downhill since. The Wobs were internationalist, anti-racist, militant, and understood the fact that an injury to one only goes before an injury to all (solidarity). They grasped that hierarchy and leadership can be a contradiction that is resolved in social practice. They were anti-racist, action oriented, and, to a notable degree, anti-sexist. Their critique of the AFL was on target; it was an is an arm of the employer disguised as a union and, today, the AFL-CIO and it'stepchild, Change to Win, stand for nothing the Wobs saw as vital principals. Educators, in particular, should use this dvd in high schools and universities to give our youth a view of what could be, and what has been--how the past, present, and future, connect. A great deal of leftist activity in the US can be tracked back to the founding days of the Wobs. The IWW was mostly demolished in the Palmer Raids but the IWW lives today, small, but still insisting, correctly, that "the working class and the employing class have nothing in common..." Anyone can see the influence of the IWW on the big education activist group in the US, the Rouge Forum. A good companion book would be Kornbluh's, "Rebel Voices."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ENCORE ! September 17, 2010
Format:DVD
My wife & I both enjoyed this. She went for the old footage. She likes American Pickers, Antiques Roadshow, all historical but the real McCoys. And I enjoyed The Real McCoy revolutionary workers of the world UNITED! concept getting legs across the country. The capitalist, then, as now had the control, the means to power's strings. Although, as the film makers said(great extra section where they discuss the whole process of the film), the organizers had all passed on, so they dealt with the workers; I wanted to know the organizing side of the workers better. The captitalist perform to serotype, as typical of there being. Sort of a reverse Popeye, in other words the counterarchetype/Iams what I'ams. Power takes what they were & warps them, shapes them, and then spits them out into monsters that crave power and will DO ANYTHING to keep it.
Regardless of the label put on economics, Broad-Based(many workers) purchasing power(demand) remains essential for healthy markets, just as Broad-Based Ownership(many well-paid workers) remains indispensible for healthy democracies. The Washington consensus of Chicago economics(closed system vs. Web of Debt by Ellen Brown) puts the economic health of communities worldwide at risk.
Needless to say the battles hard fought to win worker's rights are being stripped away, as I write this. So I looking for an ENCORE performance 21st style. Altough labor's legs are wobbly, there numbers are Titanic in Strength. Just needs a way to get past the corporate press/media, to organize and get back what was lost and then some.

Yes, I like it! Workers of the World UNITE!

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED !!!!!!!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The story is great, but the execution is a little lacking.
I loved the story this movie tells. I really loved hearing the stories these people have to share. I had to watch this film for class to write a paper, and this movie makes it... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Arrielle
3.0 out of 5 stars High School Students Did Not Enjoy This Documentary
I ordered this dvd for my AP U.S history class, hoping that this would shed more light on the Wobblies because our textbook only had a little snippet about their endeavors. Read more
Published 19 months ago by rinab30
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wobblies -- DVD, 1979
This documentary film produced and directed by Stewart Bird and Deborah Shaffer contains a treasure trove of Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) memorabilia reminiscent of Joyce... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Craig A. Breighner
5.0 out of 5 stars Direct action gets the goods!
The Wobblies is a wonderful, moving documentary about the great radical American labor union. I showed this to my labor law students, most of whom were far from hard-core union... Read more
Published 24 months ago by Eric M. Fink
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wobblies DVD
"The Wobblies" came quickly in the mail in its original sealed wrapping. The documentary had many filmed interviews of members sharing their experiences in the IWW. Read more
Published on October 6, 2012 by JimC
4.0 out of 5 stars The History You Didn't Get in School
They were seasoned seniors in 1979, so most of them are undoubtedly gone by now. This movie was made as part of an oral history project to capture the memories of those involved... Read more
Published on May 11, 2012 by Barbara Frederick
5.0 out of 5 stars Maybe the best labor history documentary ever
This is the labor history they don't teach in public schools, or even many colleges, for that matter. Read more
Published on March 5, 2011 by Green Man
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Documentary of Unsanctioned History
At times there are very significant events in American history that are never covered as the parties to it did not get much input into the history text books. Read more
Published on December 12, 2010 by Yetanotherguy
5.0 out of 5 stars A must see
Good history for any union member. We really need to appreciate where we come from and what sacrifices were made by strong people in much tougher times!
Published on August 17, 2010 by Lee Jones
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