Friday, 30 March 2012


Wobblies are back in Adelaide. Bosses and politicians tremble!

We are having our first open branch meeting this Wednesday, April 4. 6pm at the Exeter (246 Rundle St).

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Work Sucks? Fight Back!

The Industrial Workers Of The World (a.ka. the Wobblies) is a union for all workers, students and unemployed, open to using a variety of tactics to win wage and working condition improvements, even in the absence of an IWW union majority in a workplace. Pickets, occupations, and leafletting are ways of making bosses decide it's easier to give in to our demands than to keep being arseholes. These tactics can also be used against landlords, and for community struggles.

Here's a video describing the similiar actions of Seattle Solidarity Network:

Unlike a mainstream trade union, our focus is on direct democracy, building solidarity and coordination between the whole working class, and 'political' education.

Don't agonise, organise! Email us at wobbliesSA[at] or call 0432 130 082 (the phone will be turned off, but you can leave a message, and we'll call you back even if you don't).


Direct Action is our snazzy looking national paper. The online version of the Autumn 2012 issue is available here.

Contact us for print copies. If you live far from Adelaide, we'd be happy to send you a stack of copies to distribute.

Why "Wobblies"?

The following article is taken from Wobblies! A Graphic History Of The Industrial Workers Of The World edited by Paul Buhle and Nicole Schulman. We have copies of this book for sale.


One of the most interesting and never-to-be-resolved questions about the IWW is how they acquired their moniker. We know that it took hold popularly in 1914, with the first line of a song, "I knew he was a wobbly by the button that he wore." IWW members ever after repeated what little they had heard, or they invented new bits of folklore that might explain how a word that had meant to quiver or tremble became a term for a romantic rebel, male or female.

During the Wheatland, California strike of 6000 impoverished hop pickers in 1913, a strike leader (Herman "Hook Nose" Suhr, soon to be arrested and indicted) sent out a telegram saying "Send all speakers and wobblies possible". In the subsequent trial of Suhr and fellow organiser Richard "Blackie" Ford, a defense attorney asked an IWW publicist what it meant and was told that "Wobbly" was used "generally in the working class to designate IWW." Subsequent publicity prompted the song "Overalls and Snuff", by an anonymous lyricist, identifying the Wobbly as an old-time hop picker with "his blankets on his back." The 1914 edition of the Little Red Song Book carried the lyrics. During the next harvest season, in 1915, IWW poet-songster Richard Brazier used the word "Wob" to describe the old-timer,and in 1915, poet Ralph Chaplin announced in "Harvest Song": "The earth is on the button that we wobblies wear/We'll turn the sab cat loose or get our share," effectively combining various symbols.

But where did the word actually come from? Was it that "Eye-Double-You-Double-You," once coined, had a nice ring to it; or could it have derived from the wobbling walk of Wobbly hobos with too much to drink (or just workers on the job with too much to carry on their backs)? Or, more indirectly, from erotic references especially rich in African-American musical slang ("Wobble it a Little, Daddy." by Lillian Glinn, or another phrase, "You wiggle and you wobble, you move it around"), a possibility furthered by the conservatives' description of radical socialists as acting like uncivilized Africans? Or could it possibly have derived from international sources, travelling Australian workers (the IWW was especially popular in Australia) who were called "wallabies," thus translated to "wobbly"? Or is the answer perhaps in the all-time favourite anecdote, the tale of the Chinese cook in a railroad building camp in Oregon around 1912 who had trouble pronouncing "double you" and whose usage was taken up in friendly fashion rather than racist derision?

Whatever it's origin, it was forever destined to be a comical word reflecting the IWW outlook on life. Wobblies weren't ashamed of being "wobbly", whether it was used as complaint against them being vulgar (or somehow connected with African-American culture) or unmacho, or anything else. Wobblies most loved, after the Communist Manifesto, the booklet by Marx's son-in-law Paul Lafargue: The Right To Be Lazy. It notably insisted that the true happiness of pre-civilization had been in leisure, a leisure destined to return when capitalism and class society had vanished once again. There would be plenty of time to wobble then.

Preamble to the IWW Constitution

The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.

Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.

We find that the centering of the management of industries into fewer and fewer hands makes the trade unions unable to cope with the ever growing power of the employing class. The trade unions foster a state of affairs which allows one set of workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same industry, thereby helping defeat one another in wage wars. Moreover, the trade unions aid the employing class to mislead the workers into the belief that the working class have interests in common with their employers.

These conditions can be changed and the interest of the working class upheld only by an organization formed in such a way that all its members in any one industry, or in all industries if necessary, cease work whenever a strike or lockout is on in any department thereof, thus making an injury to one an injury to all.

Instead of the conservative motto, "A fair day's wage for a fair day's work," we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, "Abolition of the wage system."

It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. The army of production must be organized, not only for everyday struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.