Howard Kimeldorf, Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan, speaking in Seattle on the 90th anniversary of the Seattle General Strike. The audience cheers when Kimeldorf talks about the legacy of the IWW in the Pacific Northwest, and boos when he talks about the AFL leader, Samuel Gompers, who believed in “pure and simple unionism”. Gompers described capitalism as the best economic system that ever existed.
The Seattle AFL was clearly out-of-step, however, since the only votes cast against Gompers were from the Seattle chapter. When the IWW came under attack from local employers, the AFL came to its aid. This was “unthinkable” anywhere else in the US.
Kimeldorf gives three reasons as to why the General Strike happened in Seattle – (1) the post-war strike wave, (2) the unified and radical character of the Seattle labor movement, and (3) and the international influence of the Bolshevik revolution. The Seattle AFL sent a delegation to the Soviet Union to investigate the new conditions and to offer assistance. There was so much “dry tinder” in the Pacific Northwest, and all they neeed was a spark.