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lumber workers

Part 8 - Pioneers of Unionism

It is hard for workers in most of the other industries--especially in the East--to understand the problems, struggles and aspirations of the husky and unconquerable lumber workers of the Northwest. The reason is that the average union man takes his union for granted. He goes to his union meetings, discusses the affairs of his craft, industry or class, and he carries his card--all as a matter of course.

Part 7 - Sinister Centralia

But Centralia was destined to be the scene of the most dramatic portion of the struggle between the entrenched interests and the union loggers. Here the long persecuted industrialists made a stand for their lives and fought to defend their own, thus giving the glib-tongued lawyers of the prosecution the opportunity of accusing them of "wantonly murdering unoffending paraders" on Armistice Day.

Part 6 - Autocracy vs. Unionism

This unprecedented struggle was really a test of strength between industrial autocracy and militant unionism. The former was determined to restore the palmy days of peonage for all time to come, the latter to fight to the last ditch in spite of hell and high water. The lumber trust sought to break the strike of the loggers and destroy their organization. In the ensuing fracas the lumber barons came out only second best-and they were bad losers.

Part 5 - The Eight Hour Day and "Treason"

Nineteen hundred and seventeen was an eventful year. It was then the greatest strike in the history of the lumber industry occurred-the strike for the eight hour day. For years the logger and mill hand had fought against the unrestrained greed of the lumber interests. Step by step, in the face of fiercest opposition, they had fought for the right to live like men; and step by step they had been gaining. Each failure or success had shown them the weakness or the strength of their union. They had been consolidating their forces as well as learning how to use them.

Part 4 - Why the Loggers Organized

The condition of the logger previous to the period of organization beggars description. Modern industrial autocracy seemed with him to develop its most inhuman characteristics. The evil plant of wage slavery appeared to bear its most noxious blossoms in the woods.

The hours of labor were unendurably long, ten hours being the general rule-with the exception of the Grays Harbor district, where the eleven or even twelve hour day prevailed. In addition to this men were compelled to walk considerable distances to and from their work and meals through the wet brush.

Part 3 - The Human Element "The Timber Beast"

Lumber workers are, by nature of their employment, divided into two categories-the saw-mill hand and the logger. The former, like his brothers in the Eastern factories, is an indoor type while the latter is essentially a man of the open air. Both types are necessary to the production of finished lumber, and to both union organization is an imperative necessity.

Part 2 - Lumber: A Basic Industry

It seems the most logical thing in the world to believe that the natural resources of the Earth, upon which the race depends for food, clothing and shelter, should be owned collectively by the race instead of being the private property of a few social parasites. It seems that reason would preclude the possibility of any other arrangement, and that it would be considered as absurd for individuals to lay claim to forests, mines, railroads and factories as it would be for individuals to lay claim to the ownership of the sunlight that warms us or to the air we breathe.

Part 1 - A Tongue of Flame

The martyr cannot be dishonored. Every lash inflicted is a tongue of flame; every prison a more illustrious abode; every burned book or house en-lightens the world; every suppressed or expunged word reverberates through the earth from side to side. The minds of men are at last aroused; reason looks out and justifies her own, and malice finds all her work is ruin. It is the whipper who is whipped and the tyrant who is undone. -—Emerson.



Introduction to the 1973 Edition

By Eugene Nelson, IWW (August 1971)

Lumberjack (Tom Scribbner)

By Tom Scribbner - IWW, 1966

Image (right): statue of Tom Scribbner with his musical saw, located in downtown Santa Cruz, California.

Web Editor's Introduction: this book is included primarily for historical accounts as well as entertainment.

Tom Scribner was a timber industry worker and a union organizer his entire life. He joined the IWW in 1914 and was a part of the LWIU's fight for the eight-hour day. He participated in the formation of the once radical International Woodworkers of America (IWA) of the CIO (now merged with the International Association of Machinists (IAM) in the AFL-CIO). He was an unabashed member of the American Communist Party during its heyday in he 1930s. He founded two newspapers, Lumberjack News and Redwood Ripsaw. He was a radical all his life, and wrote a great deal. Much of his best work, he self-published in Lumberjack.

This website includes a complete, unabridged copy of Tom Scribner's self-published book, Lumberjack, originally published in 1966. Between 1990-94, the members of Santa Cruz General Membership Branch of the IWW reproduced several hundred copies of Lumberjack, however they made a conscious decision not to make any alterations to Scribner's original work. This meant that no corrections were made to spelling, grammatical, or punctuation errors. Furthermore, it meant that they made no annotations or clarifications where Scribner's politics differed from their own, even though the work was circulated and sold as unofficial IWW literature. As a result, there are several potential problems that we found it necessary to address.

It is most appropriate to leave unaltered numerous grammatical errors made by Scribner, as he was a timber worker his entire life and not a scholar. Scribner himself apologizes in his own introduction for "bloopers on the Kings English". Members of the Santa Cruz IWW believed, as do we, that to change these would be to ruin the character of the writing and the tenor of the work. however, where we part company with our Fellow Workers' concerns spelling and punctuation errors. We have cleaned these up, as we found it necessary to do so, because retention of spelling errors could cause unsuspecting visitors to this website to regard us as dolts and radicals on the left are always subject to much greater criticism then just about anybody else. Furthermore, corrections of such errors make the writing easier to understand. We feel nothing has been lost in the translation and transcription.

We have also made some additions, notably the assignment of "chapter numbers" to allow for easy reference (even though Scribner didn't even include a table of contents). Furthermore, we have made an occasional annotation (in the form of footnotes) to clarify points that might be obscure to most readers. A few footnotes note, admittedly ideological difference that we have with Scribner. Most of these concern his position on Communism. Scribner was an unapologetic pro-Soviet Communist, i.e. he believed that the Soviet Union represented a step forward for the Working Class (it is not clear whether or not Scribner was a Stalinist. He has nothing to say about Mao or Trotsky in any of the writings featured here, nor does he offer any criticism of Stalin for that matter). History has, in our opinion, proven Scribner quite wrong. Furthermore, the IWW Constitution and the theories that most Wobblies have about industrial unionism differ very sharply from Scribner's concept of Proletarian Revolution.

The IWW believes that the only way that we can achieve true, maximum individual freedom for everyone as well as a world in which we can all live sustainably, is through industrial organization. Direct action at the point of production, and organization in the workplace (or at the community level). Political parties (not to be confused with political action which is any action that involves political issues, be they labor, environmental, or social justice) and seizure of state power are a tactical and strategic cul-de-sac that will only result in the continued oppression of he working class. Scribner did not hold the same views and because of this, he quit the IWW after the organization suffered a damaging split in 1924.

Why include his writings then, if he was no longer a complete believer in the industrial unionism of the IWW? The answer is simple. He was a member of the IWW (at least for ten years) and a timber worker all of his life. Despite his ideological disagreements with the IWW, he rightfully points out that the IWW did more for timber workers in North America than any other organization. Furthermore, he describes aspects of the timber industry that can be found nowhere else. Finally, he was a union organizer, whatever his politics, and the IWW believes that organizing the unorganized is essential to abolishing wage slavery.


The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

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