‘Recollections of Bill Haywood’ by Thomas J. O’Flaherty from Labor Defender. Vol. 3 No. 7. July, 1928.

IN 1912 the mill slaves of Lawrence Massachusetts, were in revolt. Workers representing every nationality in Europe had deserted the textile factories. The whole town was a strike zone. Under the leadership of William Wood, the millions of the wool and cotton barons were used to crush the attempt of the exploited workers to secure a better standard of living. City and state officials, priests and professors, were lined up with the money moguls against the men, women and children who operated the looms in that great textile centre.

As usual in American labor struggles the frame-up came into play early in the strike. Several sticks of dynamite were found near the home of a strikebreaker. They were planted by a school board director, who worked so clumsily that the city detectives were obliged to detect him. He “broke down and confessed” and-well, he was fined $500 which, rumor had it, was paid out of the petty cash account of William Wood.

The mill barons were bound to get victims. Joseph Ettor and Arturo Giovannitti, strike leaders, were arrested and charged with murder. The big fight to save the lives of two men was on. The workers throughout the nation were aroused. Massachusetts became the cockpit of one of the most bitterly contested battles between capital and labor ever staged in the United States. Into this tense struggle stalked the electrical figure of “Big” Bill Haywood.

Scores of thousands of workers were milling around on Boston Common. It was Sunday. There was expectancy in the air. A small army of policemen were stationed at strategic positions. “Bill” Haywood was coming to address the multitude. From what direction he would appear the police did not know. Neither did the crowds that were gathered to hear him. What manner of man was this whose appearance in the capital of reactionary New England produced scare headlines in the capitalist press and sent a shiver of dread down the spine of the codfish aristocracy?

Haywood in Lawrence.

Suddenly a section of the vast gathering appeared to be thrown into a convulsion. A powerfully built man was hoisted on to a wagon and a great silence settled on the throng. Bill Haywood had evaded the police cordon that was intended to prevent him from speaking. He was now surrounded by an unbroken working class wall. He would have his say.

Haywood lashed words out of himself like a sea exploding its wrath against a rock. His giant frame shook with proletarian anger against the capitalist conspirators who would execute the leaders of the down-trodden slaves of the mill owners. He held that great crowd for an hour hanging on the sound of his voice and on the sledgehammer gestures of his right hand. When he finished a volume of applause that seemed to shake the heavens went up from the thousands of workers who saw in him the symbol of the cause they came to support.

Then he was gone as suddenly as he came.

Fourteen years passed- history-making years, on which Bill Haywood left his mark and which left a mark on Bill Haywood. The world war that toppled emperors from their thrones, blasted the old, corrupted international socialist movement, destroyed millions of lives, saw the establishment of a Workers Republic and the rise to dominance in the imperialist world of the United States, found Bill Haywood active in the revolutionary struggle, the uncompromising foe of the robber system and of the labor lackeys, who made peace with it. “Big” Bill felt the weight of the heavy hand of American imperialism.

A group of delegates from foreign countries were in Bill’s room the night I left Moscow. Bill was lonely. Jim Cannon and Bill Dunne were frequent visitors in his room while attending the sessions of the Communist International. They had left for the United States a few days previously. Bill knew both very well since the early fighting days of the I.W.W. He missed them and seemed to feel that he would never see them again.

Bill followed the developments in the labor movement in the United States closely. He spoke admiringly of the rank: and file of the I.W.W. of the spirit of self-sacrifice they manifested, their healthy hatred of the employing classes and their devotion to the cause. But he uttered scorching words of contempt for the reactionary I.W.W. leaders such as John Gahan who vied with the capitalist spokesmen in slandering the Soviet Union.

I still can visualize “Big” Bill Haywood as he bid me goodbye, standing in his room in the Lux Hotel, asking me to give his regards to close friends in America and urging them to continue the fight to final victory.

The funeral of William D. Haywood in Moscow in May, 1928 attended by U.S. comrades William F. Dunne, J. Louis Engdahl, and George Hardy.

In Bill Haywood’s death, the America labor movement has lost a rare and dramatic personality. He symbolized a whole epoch of struggle that ended when the war succeeded in completing the debauchery of the reactionary leaders of the American trade union movement. Hated by the capitalists and their labor lieutenants with unsurpassed bitterness, Bill earned the undying love of the class conscious workers. Thru his life of service in their behalf he built for himself a niche in the memory of the working class and his name will be honored by proletarian generations yet unborn when trade union traitors who are now welcome guests at the capitalist banqueting boards will be shrouded in oblivion.

Labor Defender was published monthly from 1926 until 1937 by the International Labor Defense (ILD), a Workers Party of America, and later Communist Party-led, non-partisan defense organization founded by James Cannon and William Haywood while in Moscow, 1925 to support prisoners of the class war, victims of racism and imperialism, and the struggle against fascism. It included, poetry, letters from prisoners, and was heavily illustrated with photos, images, and cartoons. Labor Defender was the central organ of the Scottsboro and Sacco and Vanzetti defense campaigns. Editors included T. J. O’ Flaherty, Max Shactman, Karl Reeve, J. Louis Engdahl, William L. Patterson, Sasha Small, and Sender Garlin.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/labordefender/1928/v03n07-jul-1928-LD-ORIG.pdf

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