Cain, Frank: Wobblies and World War I

Cain, Frank

The Wobblies at War: a History of the IWW and the Great War in Australia, Spectrum Publications, Melbourne, 1993

A simple account of an important industrial and political struggle on the home front.

Frank Cain’s book traces the rise and repression of the IWW in this country. Following the depression of the 1890s and the defeats of union struggles at that time, much of the labour movement had taken the parliamentary turning, pinning their hopes on the ALP and arbitration. However, the “pragmatism and compromise” of the trade union officials, the failure of arbitration to maintain wages, and the disillusioning experience of Labor in government, which “had been tried and found wanting”, spurred some workers to revive the strategy of direct action by unions against the employer.

The Wobblies were the foremost proponents of heating up the class war by organising workers into One Big Union which would destroy capitalism by revolutionary industrial struggle. Their “idealism and militancy” challenged the milk-and-water reformists of their day. (review)

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