Joe Hill

The IWW and the Making of a Revolutionary Workingclass Counterculture

Franklin Rosemont     2003     650p     5 x 8

A massive and thorough take on the life of Joe Hill (1877-1915), one of the best-known figures in the heroic history of the Industrial Workers of the World. U.S. labor’s most world-renowned martyr and celebrated song-writer, he is remembered above all for his songs in the Little Red Song Book: “The Preacher and the Slave” (“Pie in the Sky”), “Mr Block,” “There Is Power in a Union,” and many more that are still popular on picketlines today.

Franklin Rosemont’s work presents a fresh and in-depth study of the life and work of the famous Wobbly bard, and of the revolutionary counter-culture he came to personify. Older books on Hill focused on the crime he didn’t commit, his frame-up and martyrdom. This study sheds new light on those topics -particularly on the ongoing use of frame-up in the U.S.”justice” system – but its overall focus is on Hill’s ideas and activity: as songwriter, poet, artist, hobo, thinker, humorist, and archetypal rank-and-file Wobbly.

No other book discusses in such detail Hill’s views on capitalism, white supremacy, gender issues, religion, wilderness, law, and prison, as well as on songwriting, humor, direct action, and revolutionary industrial union-ism. Several chapters explore Hill’s little-known work as a cartoonist. Collected here for the first time is all his art, including his one surviving painting.

Examining Hill’s status as a “near-mythic” figure in history as well as his enormous influence-on Wob artists; other radicals, songwriters, and poets; on movements as varied as the 1910s Chicago Renaissance and the 1950s Beat Generation – Rosemont also examines the many appearances by Hill and the IWW in popular culture, including mass-market mysteries, science-fiction, and rock’n’roll.

Many modern-day wobs (and other anarchists!) would do go to read this surrealist take on Joe Hill and the playful, laid-back side of the IWW.

$12-20

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