Ben Fletcher at the Derry Radical Bookfair
“THE IWW IS THE SHIP, AND ALL ELSE IS THE DEEP BLUE SEA”
IWW Ireland chaired a book launch at Derry Radical Bookfair on Saturday 30 January - “Ben Fletcher the Life & Times of a Black Wobbly” (2nd edition, PM Press), by our friend Professor Peter Cole of Western Illinois University, is an examination of how beginning in 1913, Fletcher built up a powerful IWW branch on the Philadelphia waterfront which organised Black, Irish and other European immigrant workers in an unprecedented way.
They managed to galvanise the waterfront workers and saw many victories and the building of international solidarity through a strong union which maintained the right to strike, unlike others.
Fletcher was the consummate Wobbly, clearly aware that the working class must organise to free itself, and he applied workplace organising to such great effect that he was soon seconded round the USA in order to spread the IWW’s revolutionary industrial unionism.
Having previously escaped lynching, he was among over 100 IWW members who were jailed on trumped up treason charges and while serving a 10 year sentence helped found the ‘University of Radicalism’ in Leavenworth penitentiary. After three years his sentence was commuted and he returned to the fray.
The talk concluded with lively discussion about lessons for today from Ben Fletcher’s legacy, the place of racism as part of capitalism, and a clear recognition that there is much to be learned from Fletcher’s anti-racist, anti-capitalist workplace organising.
IWW Ireland Area Organiser
You can buy Peter Cole's latest publication 'Ben Fletcher: The life and times of a Black Wobbly' directly from PM Press or at all independent booksellers