Both the black cat & wooden shoe have been symbols of anarchy & radical resistance for a long time, especially the wooden shoe or sabot. The black cat, as far as we can tell, seems to have its origins in the radical labor movement here in North America. It was utilized by the IWW as a symbol of sabotage, an extremely effective form of direct action that was once favored by Wobblies worldwide for dealing with oppressive bosses.
One story we have heard relates how, early in the history of the IWW, a group of logger Wobblies had initiated a strike at the camp where they worked. The strike was not working out & strike-breaking thugs had already put a number of Wobs in the hospital. At this time, a straggly-ass & starving black cat wandered into the camp & was fed by the despondent workers. As the days went by & the cat regained its health, the strike took a turn for the better. Eventually the Wobs won some of their battles & decided to adopt the cat as their official mascot. There's no documentation for this at all (as far as we could find) but it's a good story.
The wooden shoe is also a symbol of sabotage. In fact, this kind of wooden shoe or clog was originally called a sabot, from which we
get the term "sabotage" itself. Its symbolic meaning arose from the fact that workers in the earliest factories in Northern Europe would take off
their sabots & shove them into the gears of the machines, wreaking havoc & causing the machines to malfunction & shut down. Yahoo!
For more information on anarchist & radical folklore, click here.
If you have any information, rumors, hearsay or second-hand stories about the use of black cats &/or wooden shoes , or if we got something wrong, or even if you've got interesting info about other areas of anarchist/radical folklore, please email us at email@example.com. Thanks!
For more info on sabotage, direct actions & radical labor in general you should check out some of the books listed below. The first handful we distribute & can provide you with if you're interested. Check out our ordering information. If you're interested in finding out more about the Wobblies you can try checking out the IWW website.
Dynamite! A Century of Class Violence in America 1830-1930
The fascinating & largely forgotten history of class struggle in America. It is the story of the brutal exploitation, the massacres & judicial murders directed against workers. It is also the story of how they responded: at first with peaceful strikes but later with dynamite, sabotage & riots. Everyone's here: the anarchists, commies, Wobblies & others. An extremely inspirational & informative read. (1931-84)
D16 -- Rebel Press -- 224p. 12.00
Roediger, Dave & Franklin Rosemont, eds.
A wonderful & huge centennial anthology concerning one of the more significant events in American radical labor history. Features Sidney Lens, Paul Avrich, Philip Foner, Richard Drinnon, Samuel Gompers, Emma Goldman, Mother Jones, Louis Lingg, Joseph Labadie, Lucy Parsons & many more. Profusely illustrated along with a healthy dose of radical poetry. (1986/Illus/O)
“A marvelous, massive, very important book.” --Studs Terkel
“A wonderful, big, fat compendium.” --Pete Seeger
“A magnificent work of research, memory & love.” --Meridel LeSueur
“A major contribution to labor history.” --Joyce Kornbluh
H20 -- Kerr -- 256p. 18.95
IWW Songbook: To Fan the Flames of Discontent
The most popular book in American labor history & a must item on picket lines & gatherings for generations. This 1923 edition reprint has many of the raucous, free-spirited songs missing from other editions & they're still a kick to sing today.
I18 -- Kerr -- 64p. 5.00
Juice Is Stranger Than Fiction: Selected Writings of T-Bone Slim
Rosemont, Franklin, ed.
A working stiff, a hobo & an irreconcilable revolutionist -- T-Bone Slim was one of the very few American authors of the 1920s & ’30s who realized that the abolition of wage-slavery requires the abolition of mental slavery, that is, the unfettering of the imagination is the revolutionary writer's first & essential task. Without a doubt, one of the greatest & most eloquent writers the Wobblies ever had.
“T-Bone Slim served fellow rebels as an IWW press, columnist & word alchemist. Better than most radical writers, he blended proletarian humor, gypsy job skills & belief in the commonwealth of toil. Along with John Henry, Paul Bunyan, Joe Hill & Mother Jones, he lives in legendary company... Rosemont ties biography to Wobbly culture as he helps today's readers recapture T-Bone's appeal.” --Archie Green
J10 -- Kerr -- 159p. 9.00
Memories of Freedom
Western Wildlife Unit of the ALF
This is an exciting & inspiring read for anyone interested in Animal Liberation or in successfully pulling off some seriously hardcore direct actions. Well-written in a suitably inflammatory style, this anonymously produced pamphlet recounts the campaign against fur farms in the Western U.S. from 1987 to 1993. The narrative is remarkably detailed, describing each step in these series of daring ALF actions. Includes chapters about related radical action, Rod Coronado, addresses for recommended groups to support & a list of operating fur farms. Supplies may be limited. (Yah, it’s for information purposes only.)
M03 -- WWU-ALF -- 104p. 3.00
Memoirs of a Wobbly: On the Road for the Revolution
McGuckin, Henry E.
The Wobblies' inside story: how they lived, worked & hoboed; how they organized, ran their legendary strikes & free-speech fights; how they “fanned the flames of discontent.” Packed full with invaluable & inspiring firsthand accounts, this splendid chronicle is a true labor classic.
M29 -- Kerr -- 94p. 7.00
Progress Without People
One of the best radical historians writing today about technology & its social effects gives a dense & detailed analysis of the effects of automation in its mechanized & computerized forms & reclaims Luddism from the dustbins of academia as a valid & potentially revolutionary discourse.
P116 -- Kerr -- 145p. 15.00
Right to Be Lazy
A reprinting of the radical bestseller of the 1910s that turned into an underground classic. This is a militant defense of the proletariat's right to laziness directed not only against the so-called “right to work,” but as well against the entire slaveholder's ideology known as the “work ethic.” Introduction by labor activist Joseph Jablonski. Also includes an essay by Fred Thompson, old-time IWW organizer & historian.
R36 -- Kerr -- 128p. 8.00
Rise & Repression of Radical Labor in the U.S.
Fusfeld, Dan R.
A popular survey of American labor insurgency -- & government repression -- from the 1877 strike wave to the heyday of the IWW & WWI. An excellent concise introduction to U.S. labor history.
R32 -- Kerr -- 71p. 5.00
Sabotage in the American Workplace: Anecdotes of Dissatisfaction, Mischief & Revenge
Sprouse, Martin, ed.
An incredible, massive collection of hundreds of personal tales of true workplace revenge. The best collection of creative & humorous responses to day-to-day frustations of wage slavery we've ever seen. It was banned from a North Carolina prison for being “contrary to treatment.” One would hope so.
S142 -- Pressure Drop -- 175p. 12.00
Solidarity Forever: An Oral History of the IWW
Bird, Stewart, Dan Georgakas & Deborah Shaffer
A wonderful book that gives a new sense of the IWW's extraordinary & largely unacknowledged impact on American life. The IWW emerges as a fount for a profoundly democratic native American radicalism that sings, dreams & draws as ably as it fights.
“The story of the Wobblies has a lot to teach us & inspire us as well. I find the book inspiring.” --Pete Seeger
“A vital part of our history that has never appeared in the traditional chronicles.” --Studs Terkel
S75 -- Lakeview Press -- 247p. 9.95
Here are some we don't distribute, either because they're out of print or are published by someone we don't distribute. For those titles still in print that we don't distribute, your local friendly independent bookseller should be able to special order them for you. For the ones that are unfortunately out of print, we've included as much of the publishing info, etc., that we could come up with. Check your local library (remember to check out Interlibrary Loans) or ask at a used bookstore.
Beyond the Martyrs: A Social History of Chicago's Anarchists, 1870-1900
An impressive work of social & labor history focussing on the lesser-known actors & aspects of the huge radical labor movement in late 19th century Chicago.
(Rutgers University Press)
History of the Labor Movement in the United States
Foner, Philip S., ed.
An absolutely monumental reference work & resource on just about anything to do with North American labor history. Five huge volumes long. This one will most likely be found in the reference section a good library, if anywhere.
(NY: International, 1947-68)
The Labor Wars: From the Molly Maguires to the Sitdowns
(NY: Anchor, 1974)
Kornbluh, Joyce, ed.
We can't think of high enough praise for this book. The revolutionary theories & practices of the Wobblies -- of direct action, solidarity & class-war humor, of laughter as a weapon, have inspired generations of radicals & political activists. This is, without a doubt & bar none, the best sourcebook of IWW history, fiction, songs, art & lore. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the Wobblies & the history of radical labor in North America.
(Chicago: Charles Kerr Publishers, 1986 -- Expanded edition.)
(San Francisco: Straight Arrow, 1972)
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