Forty-seven States and the Soviet of Washington
October 5, 2018 8:59 PM   Subscribe

'Still, there are ghosts dwelling here: old memories — dimly held, to be sure. Here is Yesler Way, once better known as Skid Road because of the logs rolled downhill along its course to Henry Yesler’s sawmill on the shore. Nowadays a nondescript thoroughfare dotted with cafes frequented by tourists, including a branch of the city’s ubiquitous Starbucks chain, it used to heave with disreputable saloons, brothels, and flophouses, making Skid Road synonymous with any district where the down-and-out may gather: places that are rough, sometimes radical. The Industrial Workers of the World put down roots in this quarter among loggers, itinerant farm workers, and miners bound for the Yukon, as well as the shipyard workers who led the Seattle General Strike of February 6–10, 1919, the only true general strike in US history and the one occasion when American workers have actually taken over the running of a city — the sort of endeavor which earned this state, now given over to the billionaires of the new economy, the appellation “the Soviet of Washington.”'

The title is a quote attributed to Postmaster General James Farley in 1936: “There are forty-seven states in the Union, and the Soviet of Washington"
posted by the man of twists and turns (15 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
My family is from Washington. I grew up globally. I moved here in 1990 specifically because it was the highwater mark of pre-WWII American socialism. I am dying here, on this hill.
posted by mwhybark at 9:13 PM on October 5, 2018 [7 favorites]

I live in eastern WA where none of this happened. I'm dying. On this hill.

(Not really, I love it here, and suddenly Lisa Brown is making real progress against Cathy Mac even around here so maybe... possibly.....)
posted by hippybear at 9:18 PM on October 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

It's been a while since I've read it, but I remember Revolution in Seattle: A Memoir being fascinating. IIRC the part that surprised me the most was the extent to which the strikers really did take up the management of the city for the duration of the strike.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 9:22 PM on October 5, 2018

I live near Seattle. I cannot afford a hill.
posted by The otter lady at 10:10 PM on October 5, 2018 [13 favorites]

I cannot afford a hill.

Which somehow makes me want to mention the Underground Tour, which explains exactly why Seattle, at one time, was forced to afford a hill.

And the server for the Underground Tour website is down, so I can't link it. *sigh*
posted by hippybear at 10:14 PM on October 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

The Underground Tour is wonderful and often quite funny, depending on how good your guide is.
posted by The otter lady at 10:19 PM on October 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

I live in Seattle and I can not only not afford a hill but also hills make me cry.
posted by k8t at 11:05 PM on October 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm also in Eastern Washington, but Doc Hastings transferred this district to Newhouse. I'm not even feeling like I'm any part of this hill, and I wish I was.
posted by Archelaus at 11:17 PM on October 5, 2018

Comrades, Washington's socialist history extends well outside of Seattle. My parents grew up in Yakima (they do not, fwiw, share my politics). Joe Hill died in Everett. The Centralia-Chehalis massacre of 1919 occured where you think it might have. Our twentieth-century heritage of socialism is intimately tied to the woods, to labor in those woods. But it is also an inheritance from early twentieth century progressive populism, that brought rural power and electrification, the Grange, and so forth. Dry-siders, your neighbors benefit from American socialism as much - possibly moreso - than us wet-side folks. We make up a whole. That whole is - or was, or could be, and will be again - an inspiration for the country.
posted by mwhybark at 12:32 AM on October 6, 2018 [10 favorites]

What I'm trying to say is that we're all on this hill, and what we make of it is both up to us and the stuff of legend. Also jokes. But this here? It is the place. We got this. How? Well, I'd say redistribution of wealth seems like the way to go. YMMV.
posted by mwhybark at 12:37 AM on October 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

In before the Pinkertons...
posted by Fupped Duck at 8:40 AM on October 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

make washington soviet again
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 2:58 PM on October 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

Sunday Video: Seattle General Strike of 1919

The Seattle General Strike of 1919
We are reprinting it for several reasons. First, it provides a concrete account of one of the few general strikes in this country’s history. Although conditions have changed considerably, it still gives a good idea of what happens during a general strike and what problems arise. Second, the Seattle general strike was the general strike in the USA that went farthest towards workers’ management, both in concept and in practice. It was seen, by both participants and opponents, as part of a process through which workers were preparing themselves to run industry and society, Final authority in running the strike rested with a General Strike Committee, three members from each striking local, elected by the rank-and-file. The 300 members of the committee were mostly rank-and-filers with little previous leadership experience. During the strike, this committee or its Executive Committee of 15 virtually ran Seattle. The strike was not a simple shutdown of the city. Instead, workers in different trades organized themselves to provide essential services, such as doing hospital laundry, getting milk to babies, collecting wet garbage, and many other things
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:35 AM on October 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

The Seattle General Strike Project This multimedia website explores the history and consequences of the Seattle General Strike of 1919. Below you will find original research reports, oral histories, digitized newspaper articles and other important documents, photographs, and extensive bibliographic materials.

The Industrial Workers of the World in the Seattle General Strike

Seattle: The 1919 General Strike, Review by Darrin Hoop
The United States has one of the richest histories of class struggle in the world. One of the best examples is the Seattle General Strike of 1919. Unfortunately for many, struggles like this are part of a forgotten history that the 1% has successfully buried. Fortunately for us, historian Harvey O’Connor has brought this incredible history to light in his memoir Revolution in Seattle. O’Connor worked in the logging camps outside of Seattle and was a member of the Lumber Workers Industrial Union 500 of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). He became a socialist and a journalist, working on several radical newspapers, including the IWW’s Industrial Worker, the Socialist Party’s Seattle Daily Call, and the Seattle Central Labor Council’s paper, the Seattle Union Daily Record. Many of the stories he tells come from these firsthand experiences.

First published by Monthly Review Press in 1964 in the ferment of a new generation of radicals, this gripping account of working-class solidarity and union power in the Pacific Northwest went out of print and was republished by Haymarket Books in 2009. Today, as yet another radicalization in the United States begins, this account of a true general strike—including the conditions that paved the way, the incredible coordination and creativity shown by Seattle’s rank-and-file union workers, and the obstacles they faced—is a crucial read for those who take seriously the challenges we face today.

posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:59 PM on October 7, 2018

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