Bill Haywood

On this date in 1869, William Dudley Haywood, commonly known as “Big Bill Haywood,” was born in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory. In 1896, when working in an Idaho silver mine, Haywood joined the Western Federation of Miners and became active in the union. By 1900, he was already a member of the union’s General Executive Board. Haywood was an advocate for industrial unionism, uniting all workers in one union, and was a founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905. Haywood advocated direct action and strikes, and was involved in many strikes, where he used innovative tactics in order to attract the attention of the press. Haywood had been involved with the Socialist Part of America, but he and many members of the IWW, preferring to focus on direct action and radical revolution rather than electoral politics, left the Socialists in 1913. Haywood was also an advocate for racial unity in the labor movement, bringing black and white workers in segregated states like Louisiana into IWW-affiliated unions.

In 1917, Haywood and 100 other members of the IWW were charged and convicted of espionage under the Espionage Act of 1917. Haywood, sentenced to 20 years in prison, instead skipped bail and fled to the newly-formed USSR. Haywood served as a labor advisor to the Leninist government until 1923, when Stalin rose to power. He did not speak Russian, and died a few years later from a stroke. After his cremation, his ashes were split between the Kremlin Wall Necropolis in Moscow and Chicago, where they were buried near the Haymarket Martyr’s Monument. D. 1928.

“To me [Christianity] was all nonsense, based on that profane compilation of fables called the Bible.”

—Bill Haywood’s Book: The Autobiography of William Haywood (1929)

Compiled by Eleanor Wroblewski

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