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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.

Chapter 13: The Communist Era

I wrote this and published it in the Redwood Ripsaw of Davenport, California last year (1965).

The Bolshevik Revolution in "Mother Russia" in November 1917 came like the thunder clap of the Atom Bomb. It caught the workers of all the world by complete surprise-and it dumfounded the master class as well.

Chapter 2: Era of the IWW

The Working Class and the Employing Class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among the millions of working people, and the few, who make up the Employing Class, have all the good things of life.

Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the earth and the machinery of production, and abolish the wage system. . . .It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism.

Dump the Bosses Off Your Back (John Brill)

By John Brill - 1920s
Tune: Take it to the Lord in Prayer

Are you poor, forlorn and hungry?
Are there lots of things you lack ?
Is your life made up of misery?
Then dump the bosses off your back.
Are your clothes all patched and tattered ?
Are you living in a shack ?
Would you have your troubles scattered ?
Then dump the bosses off your back.

The Popular Wobbly (T-Bone Slim)

By T-Bone Slim (Matt Valentine Huhta) - 1920; except for [*] added by Bruce "U Utah" Phillips -1981
Tune: "They Go Wild Over Me"

I'm as mild mannered as I can be,
And I've never done them harm that I can see.
Still on me they put a ban, and they throw me in the can,
They go wild, simply wild, over me.

They accuse me of rascality,
But I can't see why they always pick on me;
I'm as gentle as a lamb, but they take me for a ram.
They go wild, simply wild, over me.

The Commonwealth of Toil

By Ralph Chaplin - ca 1915
Tune: "Darling Nelly Gray"

In the gloom of mighty cities
Mid the roar of whirling wheels
We are toiling on like chattel slaves of old,
And our masters hope to keep us
Ever thus beneath their heels,
And to coin our very life blood into gold.

50,000 Lumberjacks

By Joe Glazer -1929

[Verse 1]
50000 lumberjacks, fifty thousand packs
50000 dirty rolls of blankets on their backs
50000 minds made up to strike and strike like men
For fifty years they've packed a bed, but never will again

"Such a lot of devils" -- that's what the papers say --
"They've gone on strike for shorter hours and some increase in pay:
They left the camps, the lazy tramps, they all walked out as one;
They say they'll win the strike or put the bosses on the bum."

The Red Feast (Ralph Chaplin)

Go fight, you fools! Tear up the earth with strife
And spill each others guts upon the field;
Serve unto death the men you served in life
So that their wide dominions may not yield.

Stand by the flag--the lie that still allures;
Lay down your lives for land you do not own,
And give unto a war that is not yours
Your gory tithe of mangled flesh and bone.

Chapter 36: (Appendix A) three poems

The Outgrown - By Ernie Crook

Like an ox in modern traffic
Like a sword in modern fray
Or a scythe in modern harvest
Is our scheme of buy and pay
Own and borrow, get and corner
Trade and barter, hire and loan
Taking interest, rent, and profits
While our Brothers sigh and moan
Millions idle, robots taking
Jobs from living, mortal men

Chapter 35: In Conclusion

In the year of 1912 I heard Eugene V. Debs predict the victory of Socialism over the forces of Capitalism. I believed it then-and I believe it now (in 1966)-more than ever before.

Radicals generally, have given up the fight for Socialism mainly because of a lot of false notions as to the invincibility of Capitalism. They see the continuing almost uninterrupted boom conditions prevailing since [World] War II. Some of them seem to think that the theory of Marx-Lenin is outdated. Events will soon prove them wrong, and Marx-Lenin correct.


The Fine Print I:

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The Fine Print II:

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