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Des Moines based Red Wing Workers Organization document from late 70s

November 20, 2013 Leave a comment

Here’s a PDF of a document written as an update to the activities of Des Moines-based Red Wing Workers Organization. They were a libertarian socialist group that was strongly influenced by feminism.

Here’s what’s happening in Des Moines

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Postal Workers Fight for a Good Contract

August 3, 2011 Leave a comment

The article below is from the August 1st, 1975 issue of the underground newspaper Free Flowing.  Thanks to R S for transcribing these.

By the Revolutionary Student Brigade

Postal workers across the U.S. are gathering fury which may lead to a strike over the new contract announced last week by union leaders and the U.S. Postal Service.

The new contract contains no changes in the layoff clause; no changes in the cost of living allowance or health benefits; and no changes in the productivity requirement, or age of retirement.

“The contract is no good and we’re going to start a campaign to strike,” announced a representative of the National Committee for a Good Postal Contract. Read more…

Pearl McGill

June 15, 2011 4 comments

Pearl McGill was an organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World in the 1910s. She was born in Grandview, Iowa, and as a teenager she moved to Muscatine, IA to work in the pearl button factory there.  She wanted to save enough money to go to school to become a teacher.  After a lockout in response to unionization, she ended up being a leader in a strike in 1911, at the age of sixteen.  After the strike, she was swept up by the Women’s Trade Union League, who brought her to Chicago, trained her in public speaking, and introduced her to political theory.  She spoke at a lot of fundraisers, then ended up in the middle of the Lawrence textile workers’ strike in 1912.  She worked closely with the IWW there, and split with the WTUL and the AFL.  She was involved in a number of IWW campaigns, then left the union for the Socialist Party of America, and moved home.

She met Helen Keller in Cedar Falls, IA (herself an SPA and IWW member).  Keller encouraged Pearl McGill followed her original dream of becoming a teacher.  Pearl moved to Buffalo, IA, taught elementary school, and married for 6 years, then divorced.  In 1924, her mentally ill ex-husband killed her, and then himself.

Pearl McGill’s life has a lot of lessons for radicals.  I’m especially interested in her political development.  She moved from young worker, to strike leader, to public activist, to revolutionary organizer, to burnout, for reasons that are still relevant today.  Her time as a wife, teacher, and ex-wife has its own lessons.  I’m looking forward to learning more.

Rousmaniere, Kate. “The Short, Radical Life of Pearl McGill.” Labor: Studies in Working Class History of the Americas Volume 6 Issue 3 (2009) 9-19.

Kate Rousmaniere also deserves part of the credit for getting Pearl McGill’s letters to the Iowa Women’s Archives.  The letters, and the rest of the archives, are available to anyone, non-students, non-Iowa residents, whatever.  I’ll be digging into those starting tomorrow.

Notes on the Midwest Libertarian Conference, May 28-31, 1976, Des Moines, Iowa Part 5 of 5

February 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Part 1, 2, 3, 4

Evaluation of Midwest Organizing and Communications Conference

We were charged, at the Columbia Conference a year ago, to structure a conference on organization and communication. On evaluation we agreed that our structure for meetings and tasks facilitated this goal. We decided however, that it was a real mistake not to have spent more time Saturday morning, at the first general meeting, going through the agenda for that day. If we had been more thorough we could have explained our ideas on decision-making for the large group meetings. People would have had a better understanding of the tasks to accomplish and could have proposed differences if they had them. We were critical of the people who thought the conference was too bureaucratically structured and did not make any effort to give feedback by mail, beforehand. We also agreed that we should have announced the use of the office equipment to everyone at the first general meeting.

We talked about the way the first workshops on Saturday tended to have Des Moines people for facilitators. Given the level of our preparation and the time we spent working together as a group, it was understandable for this to happen. However, we think that we should have been stronger about refusing to be facilitators and pushed for others to play this role. Read more…

Redwing Workers Organization History

February 24, 2011 Leave a comment

This is a history document of short blurbs that can be found in the University of Iowa Women’s Archives. Thanks to SM for this!

November 1972: Marxist-Leninist Educational 2 days, 13 people; high level of solidarity; decided to meet to discuss forming an ongoing group

December 1972: Follow-up meeting to the educational; decided to form an ongoing group

Summer 1973: Women’s  and Men’s caucuses form; initiated by FSG; included all FSG members and people not in FSG, met bi-weekly. Read more…

Notes on the Midwest Libertarian Conference, May 28-31, 1976, Des Moines, Iowa Part 4 of 5

February 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Here is a story Liz from Madison submitted to Free For All newspaper. It was rejected for publication because it was supposedly not relevant to enough of the readers. Liz says that a lot of the tone in the story reflects her involvement in an internal struggle within Free For All.  A struggle between anarchist and Marxist factions.

I arrived in Des Moines late Friday with an open mind and a relatively uncritical eye. I was looking forward to being with new and different people who share the belief that there is no government like no government, that any and all authority is inherently limiting to an individuals freedom, and that any attempt to control leads inevitably to authoritarianism. Unfortunately, my naive state did not last for long. Read more…

Notes on the Midwest Libertarian Conference, May 28-31, 1976, Des Moines, Iowa Part 3 of 5

February 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Two of the points of discussion unresolved at the conference were: 1) the criticism I offered but was unable to clarify about the classist nature of our inability to prioritize for action focus major forms of oppression such as class, race and sex and 2) the necessity for ideological unity (by this I mean a basic agreement on the ideas, principles and analysis – or theory – which informs action). I would briefly like to explain my further thinking on these issues since the conference.

The bourgeois ideology of the society in which we live is, in part, a mixture of an extreme individualism – my need over yours – and submerging of the individuality into a consumption orientated mass. It is the remnants of the bourgeois individualism – please don’t confuse with individuality – which I perceived to be operating in our disagreements at the conference. To heighten personal experience and need as the only criteria for determining one’s focus for revolutionary action stems from very individual experience. In general this experience is not that of the working class or poor class, nor is the stance which was issusing from it consistent with the needs of those classes. Read more…