Review: ‘Big Bill’ Haywood, by Melvyn Dubofsky

Melvyn Dubofsky wrote one of the great books about the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and followed it up with this short biography of the IWW’s most famous leader, ‘Big Bill’ Haywood. It’s a good, concise introduction to the life of Haywood, though one walks away from it wondering what exactly made Haywood into a legend. He moved in and out of the IWW and the Socialist Party, sometimes excelling at leading strikes, sometimes leading them into dead ends. He fled the US at a time when the government was busy jailing or deporting radicals (or worse) and wound up in exile in the Soviet Union. He seemed to be a brilliant administrator, which is interesting, as one imagines him more as a fiery orator than as an efficient office manager. Haywood presided over the militant union at a time of spectacular growth. Had the state not intervened to crush it, one wonders what might have happened. Recommended.