Wobblie political prisoner James Rowan: “When we understand the Redbeard philosophy, as you and I do…”


Ragnar Redbeard / Wednesday, February 2nd, 2022
The following 1918 letter was recorded as part of an indictment for THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICAN vs. GEO. O’CONNELL et al. That was one of the many cases brought against the Industrial Workers of the World, also known as the I.W.W. or “Wobblies”. It has been said numerous times that the egoist book Might is Right was a “Wobblie Bible” and here is a letter from a significant figure in their movement to another.
The official IWW website gives the following in a biographical sketch:

James Rowan began organizing in the Lumber Industry for the IWW as early as 1916, witnessed the Everett Massacre, and became involved in the great IWW LWIU organizing campaigns from 1917-23. During this time he became to be known as the “Jesus of the Lumberjacks”.

James Rowan “Leavenworth Prisoner #13113”
Care of: https://weneverforget.org/tag/james-rowan/

Cook. Co Jail
Chicago, Ill.
Jan. 10th 1918

John Grave,
Pellow worker
I see your name and address in the “Worker” so w1ll drop you a line, to let you know how things are at this winter health resort. There are quite a bunch or us here and the conditions are fairly rotten, but in spite or all the drawbacks, the bunch all seem to be enjoying their vacation pretty well. It ie sure interesting to meet the boys from all the different parts of the country, and hear how the movement is going ahead in the different sections. The boys from the west compare favorably with the rest, and it seems they have a better understanding of the movement. The spittoon philosopher element and the anarchists seem to be pretty numerous in the east.

Well John we sure gave the lumber trust a wallopin last summer. That was the first time they were ever whipped and they were eure whipped to a finish, the lumber jacks are lining up to boat hell. Last month over thirteen hundred joined. It looks like we will soon controll the lumber induetry. They are still fighting us in despearation but we have got a strangle hold on them and their case is hopeless. Of course we expect nothing else than to be jailed after taking part in a strike like that for we know that a rebellious slave is the worst criminal in the eyes ot the masters but what the hell of it. When we understand the Redbeard philosophy, as you and I do, we only laugh at an old sissified can like this. It is pretty feeble institution to try to break up a strong job organization with. It shows how feeble are the minds ot the rulers, and how little they grasp the significance of this movement. What do you think of the Bolaheviki? What they can do in Russia, we can
do in this “land of the Free.”

Well, John I hope to hear from you soon.

Will cut her ahort now as I am not sure whether you will get this or not. I know you fellows have trouble of your own down there. None of the Edmonton fellows have arrived here yet but we expect Jim Manning any time. The other Manning was turned loose today. Also expect Turner in near future.

With best wishes
Yours for the One Big Union
James Rowan.