In the fall of 1917, the Bureau of Intelligence, later renamed the FBI, raided halls run by the Industrial Workers of the World, hauling away a vast array of documents. Some of those documents, mostly correspondence, were later presented as evidence in the Chicago conspiracy trial of IWW leaders. The documents were excised from the trial transcript after appeals to reverse the convictions failed.
For ninety years, it appeared that all trace of this sizable collection of primary source material had disappeared. While researching a book on the IWW during the World War I era, the author came across the sole surviving complete copy of the trial transcript, including all of the documents presented by the prosecution. This anthology is based on those documents. They present a picture of the IWW from the inside. These have been supplemented with articles, poems and cartoons drawn from the IWW’s press.
The documents provide new insights into the IWW as it really was, rather than as it wished to be seen. Private letters show the IWW grappling with many of the same problems that still confront the Left today, such as the use of sabotage or violence and reconciling a vision of a new society with the immediate demands of a movement.
The actual story of the Industrial Workers of the World is far more interesting than the romanticized legend.