An interview with…a Wobbly

The Heckler continues to find out about local and national campaigns and social-change groups, this time interviewing a member of the Bristol branch of the workers union, the Industrial Workers of the World (or Wobblies).

Heckler: Could you briefly explain what the Industrial Workers of the World is, what you aim to achieve and how you go about this?

Wow, that is a big question, which could take many a branch meeting to discuss.  The IWW is a workers union, which organises across all trades and industries, and is open to all workers and unemployed people. It is a member-led union, with the ethos of true democracy and solidarity at the heart of it. In my opinion, we are opposed to wage labour, and hope to build a new society in the structure of the old.  As a syndicalist union, we want to take control of the modes of production, and organise ourselves as workers.  We should enjoy the profits of our labour, whilst ensuring that nobody goes without.  It is a completely different way of thinking about how we live and work together.  Profit is a complete irrelevance to us, and we would work for the common good.  To be fair, we are miles away, and our main role at present is organising our class, mainly through workplace organising, fighting for workers rights and education.  One of the major positives of the IWW, is that it is ours as member, and up to us to do the work.  With that responsibility comes ownership, and we would decide collectively as to the best way forward.

Heckler: You say it’s the union for all workers, so it’s not just about factory workers as the name might suggest?

Good point comrade, the name is a bit disceptive.  We were formed in 1905, right in the middle of Fordism.  Most of our class worked in massive factories, or farms.  It was far easier to collectively organise, it could be argued.  Now, we have members in many different occupations, and the IWW, prides itself on helping those who do not normally get trade union support, like sex workers, charity callers, and cleaners.  This also includes those who work cash in hand.

Heckler: How is the IWW different from other mainstream unions?

We are different in many ways, but our organisation does not require paid officials.  As a dual carder (a member of a mainstream trade union) I find trade unions held back by paid officials.  Their interests are differnet from the rank and file members.  Also they “service” the membership.  The IWW encourages the membership to be active.  We all have ownership of our branch.  Also we have officers under instant recall, therefore if they do not work for members interests they can be removed. 

Heckler: Judging by a quick internet search, the IWW has a long and colourful history. Could you explain it’s roots and shed some light on some of the union’s past?

The roots stretch back to the USA.  Personally I am proud of the anarchist roots, some would disagree.  The IWW most recognisable catch phrase, if you like, is ‘an injury to one is an injury to all.’  Anyone who was not an employer could join.  This included black people, women and the unemployed.  As distasteful as this is, this was not the case in all trade unions, who at times progressed an open racist or sexist agenda, and membership. The IWW recognised early about the issues of our class, and gender etc are barriers constructed by those who wish to keep us apart.

IWW also celebrate direct action, because it gets the goods.  The strikes that they organised and engaged with were member led, and the violence of the employers was matched.  Also I like the way they engage with issues that might not be seen as main stream trade union issues.  The free speech movement for example.  The IWW in Britain are just about to engage in the ‘right to march’ struggle in Scotland.  This is not work based, or determined by a single trade.  But if we cannot voice our opinion or march in solidarity, we are truly fucked.

IWW rally in New York, 1914

Heckler: How active is the IWW in this country, and what campaigns is the union involved in?

The IWW is growing daily, as people turn away for the main stream TU’s and political parties, who have let us down time and time again.  We support any campaign the membership builds.  A recent victory was the John Lewis cleaners in London.  These were low paid, without proper contractual status, many did not speak English.  Many main stream trade unions would not approach this group.  Not only did the IWW secure better terms and conditions, but we have influenced the whole attitude towards this work group, and many other cleaners are getting active, and standing up for themselves.  In Bristol, the IWW are active in the anti-cuts campaign, and have just supported the national Pizza Hut campaign, but we need focus.  The Pizza Hut campaign is another benefit of the IWW. This dispute started in Sheffield.  Within a month restaurants in a number of cities were picketed, and Sheffield members got their pay increase.  It was a freezing snowy winter day; and every time the picket was breeched, we got a whiff of pizza up our hungry noses.  But nobady said that the class struggle was easy.

IWW Cleaners’ Branch members on a recent strike at John Lewis’ store at Oxford Street, London

Heckler: Last but not least, who should join the IWW and why? (And if you want to, how do you go about it?)

All workers should join the IWW, and shout ‘an injury to one, is an injury to all.’  We need to start to thinking differently about our relationship with capitalism, and our communities.  This system has had it.  The Con-Dem government are in the process of dismantling the welfare state.  This will effect everyone.  Also we have the worst employment rights in Europe, and they are getting worse.  We create all the wealth, food, services etc etc.  We need to start organising how we do this, and for what purpose.  None of us need to be working 30+ hours a week.  That is stupid, we have far better things to be doing.  But this change is not going to happen in the very near future, and will take struggle.

However, whilst I have been in the IWW I have met some of the best comrades you could hope for.  They give me hope, a solid network of people willing to stand up for each other and organise for themselves in the workplace and beyond, and their comradeship makes me happy.  This is important, and is a start for building a new society in the shell of the old.

If you want to join, please see the links below.  If you live in or around Bristol, pop into the Hydra Bookshop at 34a Old Market.  We also have regular meetings at the shop.  If you look hard enough, you will find us.

For more information or to join the IWW you can visit:

Bristol IWW blog :

UK IWW website:

International IWW website :


*The Heckler previously interviewed a Hunt Saboteur in our ‘An interview with…’ series.

**The views represented in this interview are those of the individual interviewed and not necessarily those of IWW as a whole.

International Workers Day 2012 – In Pictures

Here’s a few snapshots of May Day protests from around the world…

Anti-Workfare protesters close down stores on Oxford Street, London

Thousands join May Day rallies in Spain

Riot police flank revolutionary left-wing May Day demonstration in Germany

Protesters try and tempt police with doughnuts. Montreal, Quebec

Anarchists get stuck into stores in Downtown Seattle, USA

Flag waving anarchist gets water cannoned in Santiago, Chile

A lighter shade of policing. Bogota, Columbia.







Review – ‘Soccer vs. the State: Tackling Football and Radical Politics’ by Gabriel Kuhn

Football. It’s something that us at the Heckler are very passionate about.

At any radical political gathering you will almost always find football being talked about by some, and avoided like the plague by others. Within the revolutionary Left and anarchist movements opinion is divided over the ‘beautiful game.’ It is seen by some as a ‘counter revolutionary’ distraction from the struggle against the capitalist system which enslaves us, much in the same way that Karl Marx describes religion as the ‘opiate of the masses.’ By others, the pitch or the terraces are seen as a legitimate arena to let our hair down, forget about work or politics and have a laugh with our mates. Some even see football as a possible force for change, bringing people together and encompassing the most essential of our beliefs; solidarity, collective endeavour and individual creativity.

In ‘Soccer vs. the State,’ activist, author and ex semi-pro footballer, Gabriel Kuhn, pulls together articles, interviews, leaflets and pictures, along with his own analysis and opinion to discuss these radical debates and interventions in the game and in wider football culture.

The book starts off covering the history and background of the sport, tracing it back from the medieval ball games played between English villages, to the public schools, and stadiums in the heart of industrial cities. In this section Kuhn covers the class-background of the sport, detailing some the truths and myths surrounding the idea of football as ‘the sport of the working class.’ Issues also covered include the ‘taming’ of the sport and the start of Football Associations, its growth worldwide, as well as early moves to repress the women’s game and forms of dissent within the game.

Kuhn goes into some detail with the radical debates surrounding modern football, covering the politics and some of the less appealing sides of the game; the trends of nationalism, sectarianism, bigotry and violence, commercialisation and its use, abuse and control by the powerful, including some notable dictators throughout history.

One of the most interesting parts of the book is the section looking at radical politics within football. Here, Kuhn gets stuck into some lesser reported stories, showing examples of football being used as a platform for protest, the part that is has played in social justice campaigns and football players, fan groups and clubs with radical beliefs and backgrounds.

Grassroots fan initiatives, such as Football Club United of Manchester, AFC Wimbledon and AFC Liverpool are included, and Bristol’s Easton Cowboys & Cowgirls Sports and Social Club, boasting many international tours and over half a dozen football teams also gets a lengthy review, looking at the relationship between the club and the wider community.

Kuhn also looks at the great work done to oppose sexism, racism and homophobia both on and off the pitch, by the formation of supporters groups set up against discrimination, female football networks and gay football teams. Campaigns by anti-fascists who have tackled far-right and neo-Nazi groups around football grounds and in the terraces are also touched upon.

As ‘Soccer vs. the State’ covers so many important topics and questions, it does tend to jump around, only touching on some important subjects before quickly moving onto something else. However, it does give a very good interpretation of the ever-changing and fluid phenomenon that is football.

To sum up, ‘Soccer vs. the State’ is an informative and thought provoking read that could be easily read by those with or without in-depth knowledge of football. It is essential reading for the football fan with an interest in politics, or the radical political thinker with an interest in football.

Highly recommended.

Soccer Vs The State
ISBN: 978-1-60486-053-5
Publisher: PM Press
Gabriel Kuhn

Currently available from Freedom Books. Soon to be available on the Heckler shop.

New radical bookshop opens in Bristol

Hydra Books, a new radical bookshop, coffee shop and meeting space was opened in Bristol, on Saturday.

Events were held over the weekend to kick off the opening, including a talk by veteran anarchist, Ian Boneon Saturday.

“As well as selling some of the best coffee and cake in the city, we stock ‘radical‘ literature on a wide range of issues; politics, history, feminism, animal rights, environmentalism that it may be difficult to track down in the usual high-street bookshops (if you can find one!) The bookshop provides an outlet for independent non commercial publishers and authors to make their books and ideas accessible to the wider community. Run by local people as a workers co-operative, the shop grew out of Bristol Radical History Group and similar networks across the city. It is a space for exchanging ideas and finding those books.”

You can find the bookshop at:

Hydra Books
34 Old Market,

A list of events can be found on their website here.

Hereford International Brigade Volunteer

This year marks 75 years since the Spanish Civil War began. Up to 35,000 people from around the world volunteered to fight against Franco and his fascist forces, with many joining the ‘International Brigades.’ Alongside Spanish anarchists, communists, socialists, trade unionists and freedom-loving people, the International Brigades played an important role in the war.Amongst them were 2,000 British people, 500 of whom gave their lives.

Lewis Clive was a volunteer associated with Hereford. Born on 8thSeptember 1910, he was the son of Herefordian, Percy Clive, a Conservative MP and Lieutenant-Colonel killed in the First World War. Lewis was a keen rower, winning a gold medal at the LA Summer Olympics in 1932. He was also a socialist, a member of the Labour Party and the Fabian Society.

He volunteered for the International Brigades early on in the war, and became a Company Commander in the British Battalion. He was killed in action on August 2nd 1938 at Hill 481, Gandesa, during the Battle of Ebro,the longest and bloodiest battle of the war. Speaking of Lewis after his death, his comrades said this; “This big, cheerful, and sincere man had performed his duties as Company Commander with distinction. Well liked and respected in the battalion, this was a great loss to us all.”

There is a plaque commemorating Lewis Clive at Wormbridge Church, Herefordshire. It reads “In memory of Lewis Clive. Born September 8th 1910. Killed at Battle of Ebro, August 4th 1938, Fighting with The Spanish Republican Forces.”


Originally posted with full article :