Labor History in 2:00

March 16 Big Bill Haywood Talks General Strike

March 16, 2017

On this day in labor history, the year was 1911.

That was the day Big Bill Haywood of the Industrial Workers of the World gave his speech on “The General Strike.”

He presented it in New York City, at a fundraiser for the Buccafori Defense Fund.

Vincent Buccafori was the shop representative for his union.

He faced repeated harassment and discharge by his foreman for executing his union duties. 

Finally, as witnesses described, the foreman fired Buccafori and punched him, drawing blood.

Then, he came at Buccafori with a heavy object. 

Buccafori shot and killed him in self-defense. 

He was charged with manslaughter, convicted and sentenced to ten years at Sing Sing prison. 

The IWW raised money for his defense and fought for his acquittal and release.

Haywood arrived at the fundraiser to deliver a key speech titled, “The General Strike.” 

In it, he reviewed the rich history of workers actions since the days of the Paris Commune in 1871. 

He also raged against electoral reform.

He stated: “…the broadest interpretation of political power comes through the industrial organization; it gives the vote to women, it reenfranchises the black man and places the ballot in the hands of every boy and girl employed in a shop, makes them eligible to take part in the general strike, makes them eligible to legislate for themselves where they are most interested in changing conditions, namely, in the place where they work…” 

He continued, “You have all the industries in your own hands at the present time. There is this justification for political action, and that is, to control the forces of the capitalists that they use against us. That is the reason that you should fully understand the power of the ballot.”


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