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Roughneck: The life and times of Big Bill Haywood Hardcover – 1983
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1983: by Peter Carlson- Opinions of Big Bill's character vary between considering him a martyr, and a dangerous unprincipled nihilist.
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Top customer reviews
Big Bill Haywood is really the stuff of legions in the annals of Labor history. But it does seem that Labor in America has many legendary figures; Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Mother Jones, Joe Hill, William Z. Foster, Emma Goldman, - and the list goes on and on.
This book established my curiosity on Labor in the U.S. and I have been reading about Labor Unions and Labor heroes and traitors ever since.
I think this is a fairly objective book. Many accounts are totally negative when it comes to IWW or American communists. But the fact is that the American communists and anarchists were the most ardent and idealistic fighters for the poor and minorities. Most of the benefits that working people enjoy today they owe to these type communists and radicals.
If you are interested in this subject, you may also be interested in my book "America on Strike."
Richard Edward Noble - The Hobo Philosopher - Author of:
"America on Strike" A Survey of Labor strikes in America
The widespread negative caricature of anarchism in the US probably stems from WWI, when a war-hysterical nation and a crusading Attorney General busted the IWW, the "one big union" that dared to agitate for workers' rights. Prosecuted on catch-all charges generated by the infamous Espionage Act, IWW leaders were labeled in the press as bomb-throwers and quickly tried and imprisoned or deported in the space of a couple of years. Thus ended one of the noblest experiments in workers' rights ever to be conducted in this country.
The head of the IWW was "Big" Bill Haywood, a miner and lumberman from the Rockies whose deep sense of justice led him first to union organizing, then membership in the Socialist Party, then leadership of the IWW, and finally exile to the Soviet Union, where he died a disillusioned man. Biographer Peter Carlson explores both the public and private Haywood in this excellent book, which is as much a chronicle of the US government's persecution of dissent in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as it is a biography of Haywood.
And it's precisely this (along with the fact that Carlson is an engaging writer) that makes the book so interesting. For readers who know nothing about the Haymarket massacre, the Espionage Act, the Palmer Raids, the Sacco and Vanzetti case, Carlson's book will be a hair-raising eye-opener. For readers well-versed in the history of labor in this country, Carlson's command of Haywood's role in it will be informative. And for all readers who are either interested in the goals of anarchism or who need to be disabused of their belief that it's identical to "chaos," Carlson's careful analysis of IWW principles will be just the ticket.
Highly recommended. Readers who enjoyed Carlson's biography might also wish to take a crack at Big Bill's Autobiography.