The Slow Burning Fuse

an atheisitic anarchistic scorcher

today in anarchist history

18 May 1855: The birth of George Speed, anarchist and IWW organiser


My idea of life is this: that the whole history is one of pain and struggle. That there are two classes in society absolutely antagonistic to each other—an employing class and a working class—and that the interest of the employing class is to buy labor in the cheapest market. I came to that conviction young, and when I got hold of a Marxian leaflet in 1883, it inspired me with a new life. Before that time, I was a little indifferent and a little careless, and after that I tried to devote my whole time to make life better for myself and for my fellow workers. (George Speed addressing the court during an anti-IWW trial in 1919)

 George Speed was born in Maryland and played important roles in a number of large strikes in the USA.  He was also one of the first to refuse to make distinctions between union members based merely on race.

In 1903 Asian-American and Latino farm workers asked for a union charter from the AFL who turned them down saying they would never accept members of Japanese or Chinese descent.  Speed attacked this stance by saying, “The whole fight against the Japanese is the fight of the middle class of California, in which they employ the labor faker to back it up,” adding, “…One man is as good as another to me; I don’t care whether he is black, blue, green or yellow, as long as he acts like a man and acts true to his economic interests as a worker.”

Speed’s most notable role was during the Pullman strike of 1894 when 3000 Illinois railroad car manufacturing employees went out on strike after their wages were cut and their workday expanded to 16 hours.  The strike paralyzed travel and shipping in two-thirds of the USA and spread among other groups of workers. At its peak, the strike encompassed a quarter of a million workers in 27 states, making it one of the largest strikes in United States history.  The strike was broken when USA Marshals and the army were sent in to break it, an action that resulted in 13 workers being killed and a further 57 wounded.

Pullman Strike--soldiers attacking AmericanRailwayUnion

Speed was also one of the founding members of the IWW in 1905, and as chairman of the organization he was arrested along with 99 other members in 1917 and charged with violating the World War I Espionage Act as a consequence of the IWWs anti-war stance.  All 100 were found guilty and the 14 most prominent IWW members, including Speed, received 20 years imprisonment.






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This entry was posted on May 18, 2013 by in anarchy, history and tagged , .
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