‘A Letter from Honolulu’ by Albert. V. Roe from Industrial Worker (Spokane). Vol. 4 No. 35. November 21, 1912.

Japanese sugar plantation laborers at Kau, Hawaii.

A letter from wobbly Albert V. Roe on his arrival in Hawaii as an I.W.W. organizer. Comrade Roe would die in a Honolulu jail from ‘heart trouble’ less than two years after this was written, on April 14, 1914.

‘A Letter from Honolulu’ by Albert. V. Rose from Industrial Worker (Spokane). Vol. 4 No. 35. November 21, 1912.

Honolulu, T. H., Nov. 1. Just a few lines to let you know that we are still doing business and that the last few days things have been moving along pretty swiftly in this burg for the ONE BIG UNION.

I landed here lost Wednesday from San Francisco and was met by a bunch of real lite rebels who, although doing all in their power to put these Islands on the map of the ONE BIG UNION, had been handicapped by the lack of a speaker and agitator who could spend all of his time working for the organisation without the fear of losing “his” job.

Election is near and the politicians are working hard trying to get the slaves to vote for them. They hold a public street meeting every day at noon on one of the busiest corners in the city. Last Thursday, after the politicians had talked all they could, the chairman, who Is an ex-socialist speaker, asked if there was any one else who wanted to take the soap box. The soap box in this instance was a large barrel with a banner on it proclaiming it to be the “barrel of prosperity,” but it, like the full dinner pail, was empty, I asked him if I would be allowed to take the box for a few minutes. He asked me what I wanted to talk about and I told him “socialism,” “Oh, all right,” he said, “if you are a socialist, go ahead.”

I got up and told the crowd that although I claimed to be a socialist, I was not Interested In who won out in the coming election, but that I was there to tell them of the ONE BIG UNION. I held a large and enthusiastic crowd for over an hour. As soon as the politicians got wise to what I was telling the slaves, they started to squirm. I could see that they wanted to pull me off the box, but they were afraid to for fear of queering themselves in the coming election. I saw the advantage I had on them, and made the best of it I never saw a crowd of working men so eager to listen to a speaker in my life, and when I spoke of concluding my talk. It nearly caused a riot The slaves were anxious to hear of the union that takes in all wage workers and that bars no workingman because his skin is not just the proper shade. The only way I succeeded in getting off the box, was by promising to address them the next day. When I got off the box I was bombarded with questions from what seemed to me to be about 57 varieties of workers.

The following day the politicians tried to keep me off the box, but there was “nothing doing.” The workers wanted to hear that “socialist” again and wouldn’t be satisfied until they got what they wanted. I have talked off the politicians” soap box every day since to ever increasing crowds of workers and to the consternation of the office seekers. They are afraid that will queer them in their political schemes but a few votes. There Is no danger of us getting they are afraid to do anything for fear of losing into trouble with the “powers that be” until after election, and we are making the best of our opportunities.

The Hawaii islands are in complete control of a small group of non-resident capitalists and as soon as they get wise to the fact that the slaves are waking up and organising, they will do all they can to suppress the agitation as they tried in Lawrence, Mass., and in other parts of the world, and with the same results.

I was on the streets last night with a bundle of “Workers” and was agreeably surprised to have Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiians and workers of several other races, come from all directions to buy the paper to read about the union that accepts all wage workers into membership without regard to race, creed or color. Conditions here are ripe for the industrial union and there is no reason why we shouldn’t have a strong organization in the near future. The I.L.A. are trying to get the slaves to join that union, but they are making little or no headway.

Although the I.L.A. is supposed to be a craft union of the Longshoremen, they are trying to get all kinds of slaves to join. An organiser of that “anti union” went over to the island of Hawaii last year, and tried to organise a bunch of Russian laborers. He was getting along pretty well when one of the Russians asked him if the I.L.A. took Japs and Chinese into the union. Upon being informed that a Jap or Chinaman couldn’t join, the Russian exclaimed “That’s a hell of a union. Me no join a union like that, me join the I.W.W. he take in all workingmen.” The poor labor fakir had to come back to Honolulu, and that Is why the I.L.A. disorganlsers cuss whenever they see at I.W.W. button.

Japanese contract sugar workers arriving in Hawaii.

There are a few “scientific” socialists here who are trying to educate the natives to the mysteries of Marxian philosophy, but they are having poor success. Before the I.W.W. got here they did stand a little show, but when the natives heard of the benefits to be derived by the general strike, intermittent strike, etc. They lost all Interest, if they ever had any, in scientific stuffing of the ballot box, we are going to educate the slaves here along strictly industrial lines. There has been some agitation here, advising the workers to use their political as well as their Industrial arm and that has led to more or less confusion in the minds of the workers. We have developed several good Chinese, Japanese and other native organisers, who are doing good work among the laborers of the various Islands, and we’re making special efforts to educate more native agitators who can do organisation work than an English speaking organiser cannot do.

Our hall and reading room are at 22  Pauahi  street, rear, upstairs. All fellow workers coming this way are asked to drop In.


P.S.—Increase our bundle order to 600 copies each week.

The Industrial Union Bulletin, and the Industrial Worker were newspapers published by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) from 1907 until 1913. First printed in Joliet, Illinois, IUB incorporated The Voice of Labor, the newspaper of the American Labor Union which had joined the IWW, and another IWW affiliate, International Metal Worker.The Trautmann-DeLeon faction issued its weekly from March 1907. Soon after, De Leon would be expelled and Trautmann would continue IUB until March 1909. It was edited by A. S. Edwards. 1909, production moved to Spokane, Washington and became The Industrial Worker, “the voice of revolutionary industrial unionism.”

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/industrialworker/iw/v4n35-w191-nov-21-1912-IW.pdf

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