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Nov 6, 20

Ben Fletcher and Building the IWW’s Anti-Racist, Class War Politics

On this episode of the It’s Going Down podcast, we again speak with labor historian and professor Peter Cole, author of Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia, Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area, and co-editor of Wobblies of the World: A Global History of the IWW.

In particular, we speak about Cole’s new book published by PM Press, Ben Fletcher: The Life and Times of a Black Wobbly, which centers around the exploits of African-American labor leader Ben Fletcher, who played a key role in Local 8 of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a radical syndicalist and anti-capitalist labor union. Local 8 was known for its militancy and willingness to strike on the Philadelphia waterfront, as well as being one of the most integrated unions in the United States, with white, Black, and immigrant union workers.

During our discussion, we talk about how the IWW rejected white supremacy and promoted anti-racist politics, went up against the KKK in some instances, and worked to bring together both African-American workers and European immigrants into one fighting union. We also discuss how Fletcher was targeted during the Red Scare, did time in prison, and how he came to be seen as both a national and international labor figure.

More Info: Peter Cole on Twitter, Ben Fletcher: The Life and Times of a Black Wobbly at PM Press, The IWW and the Black Worker on LibCom

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