Those Damned Irregulars

O U Rube, the Workers' Republic, June 23rd 1923

Sure that's in Poland, Thigin Thu.

Tho' you may not believe it, Paddy Boy, there are a few unions in this globe in which every member is a revolutionist, in which a mere card carrier is regarded as a scab. Pone of these is the IWW, the guerrilla fighters of the class war, the 'damned irregulars' of the industrial movement for liberty. But they don't preach Revolution. At a district conference one time it was said: "We don't need no Labour Colleges to makes Revolutionists. We leave that job to the Boss Class. They make 'em red."

You'd hardly think such a crowd would be strong for Lawnorder, would you? Yet a short time ago a strike was declared in the lumber camps of Washington and Oregon and the Boss Class, that enforced prohibition to make the slaves more efficient, promptly introduced bootleg liquor to stifle the intellect of the Rebels. The 'organisation' asked the boys to stay clear of the 'joints' on the grounds that "you can't fight the boss and the booze at the same time." This Failing, they called on the police to enforce the law. The law, not being made in the interests of the workers, was note enforced. The wobblies made their move and in one night in eleven different towns closed all drinking shops. The cops went wild. They arrested every IWW leader in a given area only to be faced by the old 'Fill the Jails' cry. Five hundred of the boys marched behind the patrol wagon to the 'lock-up' and demanded to be arrested.

"To smile that we may not weep." It's awful hard to beat fighters that retain their sense of humour.

Sacramento Valley, California, is where most of your fruit comes from. They call it the Gates of Hell, it's so hot., and it's a hot time any rebel gets if he's caught in that area. The wobblies organised a strike there and the police ordered the arrest of the organisers. Knowing he as to be pinched he asked the boys to handcuff him to a lamp-post and throw away the keys. Mounted on a soap box he addressed a strike meeting for two solid hours while the 'cops' were filing through the handcuffs. He will 'go down' for fourteen years; the best years of his young life, in the dirtiest pen in the country, but the memory of his fight will be with him to sustain him in his agony. And he'll come out a bigger sinner then he went in. It's queer that these Rebel ideas can't be knocked out of one's head with a baton. After all it's easy dying for a cause, but it's the living for a cause that counts.

To force better conditions and to demand the release of political prisoners, the boys tied up the port of Los Angeles. Over seven hundred of them were arrested. Upton Sinclair, the man who astounded the world with his revelations in The Jungle, read out the Constitution of the United States on Liberty Hill. Along with about three hundred other free speech fighters he is lodged in the can. He read out the part referring to free speech and he is charged with 'inciting discontent and disturbing the peace by discussing and debating theories that are contemptuous. Another man read the Bible and is charged with the same offence. So, dear friend, both the Bible and the American Constitution are contemptuous even though Tom Johnson of Liverpool is going to achieve your earthly salvation within the constitution.

The One Big Union in Mexico, incensed at the White Terror in the States, has called a strike in every industry in Mexico, controlled by American capital, and again has organised a boycott of all American goods, to retain in force until all political prisoners are released. The French miners scabbed on the British miners. The British miners are doing the same to the German miners. All scabbed on the American crowd who returned the compliment. The Transport Union (in Gramophone Foran's time) scabbed on most other unions who replied in kind. These are civilised countries. Mexico is uncivilised.

In the courts Larkin is charging O'Brien and Clique, with breaking the rules of the Union. Every evening to an audience of six or seven thousand Dublin workers, he is charging them with breaking the spirit of the Union. Rules and Regulations are in them selves worthless, it is only the philosophy behind them that gives them their power. Larkin may (or may not) lose in the courts. He has won his case in the only court that counts, the militant heart of the Irish working class. And like the boys in Western lumber Camps, he is campaigning against booze. Like rebels all the world over he is stressing the necessity of living for a cause. And his words carry weight.

Reaction is showing its hand. Marty and Badina in France have been re-elected for 49 arrondiseements (electoral) areas. They are still in jail. The Italian workers got the Fascisti because they were getting wise to their own problems. The revolution in Hungary was suppressed by the 'unconstitutional' White Guards of Horthy. The German workers of Munich (Bavaria) were class-conscious, hence the green police. The fighting heart of the wobblies must bleed because it still beats after all the American Legion and Klu Klux terrorism. In Ireland, especially in Waterford, we have our own constitution and our Gaelicism. And still we tell Old Beaver there is laughter in hell. For well we known that the enemy is thrown on his last resources. Having failed by his control of the schools, of the Press, and by his laws to befool the working class he is depending on his last weapon, brute force. And God fights with the big battalions. Even a rat will fight when it is cornered.

Apropos of nothing: Prior to '16 [1916] we used to ask God to save Ireland. Then we contracted the habit of the 'Soldier's Song'. One of the most plaintive songs is that of the Rebel Heart:-

"A Rebel Heart from tainted thraldom free,

God grant it still, through good or ill.

That Rebel Heart in me."

I think, a chara, we can depend on the enemy to keep a rebel heart in us. At least we need it.


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