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Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Don't fall down

Posted By on Wed, Jun 1, 2005 at 12:00 AM

Now a much smaller but still-existent union, the Industrial Workers of the World (the IWW or "Wobblies") was originally a grassroots response to the horrors of capitalism and the racism and elitism of the labor movement. Through black-and-white illustrations, paneled cartoons and expressive portraits of IWW influentials (Big Bill Haywood, Lucy Parsons, Ricardo Flores-Magon), Wobblies! presents 100 years of strikes, murder, imprisonment and moments of improbable victory. From the very first IWW meeting in 1905 to World Trade Organization protests and the plight of wildcat shipyard workers, the book is a fascinating portrait of the 20th century from a group of historians and illustrators such as Harvey Pekar, Ryan Inzana and Terry Tap, who assume that a continuing revolution was and is happening in this country.

Of course, the radical subversion at the center of cartoons is that people will want to read them. Editors Paul Buhle and Nicole Schulman — one a former member of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the other an editor of the highly praised comics zine World War 3 Illustrated — examine an American version of labor and struggle via a critical and an artistic pathos. The gap comes when one realizes that the rest of the world is just catching up with America’s past, a connection about which the book, limited in its historical scope, keeps quiet.

Carleton S. Gholz writes about music for the Metro Times. E-Mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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