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The Lumber Industry and Its Workers (James Kennedy)

This lengthy text was published by the Industrial Workers of the World in 1922. While by now some of the information is considerably dated, this study is still thoroughly exhaustive for its time. The breadth of knowledge possessed by the workers in the Lumber Industry is demonstrated here, and it shows that, even in 1922, control of the industry by the workers was entirely possible. So while technology and conditions have changed, the song remains the same. The working class and the employing class have nothing in common.

The IWW in the Lumber Industry (James Rowan)

By James Rowan, Lumber Workers Industrial Union #500 - IWW; Seattle, Washington - 1920

About the author:

James Rowan began organizing in the Lumber Industry for the IWW as early as 1916, witnessed the Everett Massacre, and became involved in the great IWW LWIU organizing campaigns from 1917-23. During this time he became to be known as the "Jesus of the Lumberjacks".

Unfortunately, post World War I defeats and factional disputes led to James Rowan leading a splinter faction called the "Emergency Program" (or "E.P.") which ultimately failed. The "E.P." died out around 1930. James Rowan was quite possibly its last remaining member.

Before this disastrous split, however, Fellow Worker Rowan's efforts contributed to and documented the success of the LWIU 120 (then known as LWIU 500).

The following represents the complete, unabridged edition of James Rowan's Sixty-One Page account of the (then) short but colorful history of the IWW in the Lumber Industry of the American Pacific Northwest from 1907-20. 

Helen Keller: Why I Became an IWW

An Interview, written by Barbara Bindley, New York Tribune, January 15, 1916

I asked that Miss Keller relate the steps by which she turned into the uncompromising radical she now faces the world as Helen Keller, not the sweet sentimentalist of women's magazine days.

"I was religious to start with" she began in enthusiastic acquienscence to my request. "I had thought blindness a misfortune."

"Then I was appointed on a commission to investigate the conditions of the blind. For the first time I, who had thought blindness a misfortune beyond human control, found that too much of it was traceable to wrong industrial conditions, often caused by the selfishness and greed of employers. And the social evil contributed its share. I found that poverty drove women to a life of shame that ended in blindness.

"Then I read HG Wells' Old Worlds for New, summaries of Karl Marx's philosophy and his manifestoes. It seemed as if I had been asleep and waked to a new world - a world different from the world I had lived in.

"For a time I was depressed" - her voice saddened in reminiscence- "but little by little my confidence came back and I realized that the wonder is not that conditions are so bad, but that society has advanced so far in spite of them. And now I am in the fight to change things. I may be a dreamer, but dreamers are necessary to make facts!" Her voice almost shrilled in its triumph, and her hand found and clutched my knee in vibrant emphasis.

"And you feel happier than in the beautiful make-believe world you had dreamed?" I questioned.

"Yes," she answered with firm finality in the voice which stumbles a little. "Reality, even when it is sad is better than illusions." (This from a woman for whom it would seem all earthly things are but that.) "Illusions are at the mercy of any winds that blow. Real happiness must come from within, from a fixed purpose and faith in one's fellow men - and of that I have more t+han I ever had."

"And all this had to come after you left college? Did you get none of this knowledge of life at college?"

"NO!" - an emphatic triumphant, almost terrifying denial - "college isn't the place to go for any ideas."

"I thought I was going to college to be educated," she resumed as she composed herself, and laughing more lightly, " I am an example of the education dealt out to present generations, It's a deadlock. Schools seem to love the dead past and live in it."

"But you know, don't you," I pleaded through Mrs. Macy and for her, "that the intentions of your teachers were for the best."

"But they amounted to nothing," she countered. "They did not teach me about things as they are today, or about the vital problems of the people. They taught me Greek drama and Roman history, the celebrated the achievements of war, rather than those of the heroes of peace. For instance, there were a dozen chapters on war where there were a few paragraphs about the inventors, and it is this overemphasis on the cruelties of life that breeds the wrong ideal. Education taught me that it was a finer thing to be a Napoleon than to create a new potato."

"It is my nature to fight as soon as I see wrongs to be made right. So after I read Wells and Marx and learned what I did, I joined a Socialist branch. I made up my mind to do something. And the best thing seemed to be to join a fighting party and help their propaganda. That was four years ago. I have become an industrialist since."

An industrialist?" I asked, surprised out of composure. "You don't mean an IWW - a syndicalist?"

"I became an IWW because I found out the Socialist party was too slow. It is sinking into the political bog. It is almost, if not quite, impossible for the party to keep its revolutionary character so long as it occupies a place under the government and seeks office under it. The government does not stand for the interests the Socialist party is supposed to represent."

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