One Big Union: Ireland and the Wobbly World




Ireland and the Wobbly World

A conference organised by the

Irish Centre for the Histories of Labour & Class

NUI Galway

11-12 November 2016

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), also known as the ‘Wobblies’, was founded in Chicago in 1905 as a union dedicated to organising all workers, regardless of skill, craft, ethnicity or gender, into ‘One Big Union’, to improve immediate conditions and struggle for the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. It became known for its success in organising unskilled workers in industries such as mining, agriculture, textiles and the docks, and was notorious for its rank-and-file militancy and subsequent repression by the state. Moving from its origins in the United States, it also organised in Canada, South Africa and Australia, and has been immortalised for its agitational artwork and folk songs such as ‘Joe Hill’. From the beginning, it attracted workers and radicals amongst the Irish diaspora such as James Connolly, James Larkin, Mother Jones (Mary Harris) and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. Two Irish members of the IWW, Peter Larkin and Tom Glynn, were amongst the infamous ‘Sydney Twelve’ arrested and charged with treason in Australia in 1916. Its ideas and organisational model also impacted upon the labour movement in Ireland, particularly in the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union.

This conference has been organised to explore some of these connections, and to look at the legacy of the IWW in Ireland and amongst the Irish diaspora.

We welcome papers on any topic within the broad remit of the subject. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Biographical studies of the Irish in the IWW – in the US, Canada, Australia, South Africa, etc.
  • Regional or industry-specific studies of the Irish in the IWW
  • The discourse of the IWW regarding Ireland
  • The discourse of the IWW regarding Irish immigration
  • The musical legacy of the IWW in Ireland
  • The influence of the IWW on the Irish labour movement
  • Songs, art, and literature created by or with reference to the Irish in the IWW
  • The afterlives of Irish activists in the IWW – communists, anarchists, republicans, etc.
  • The collective memory of the IWW in Ireland
  • The collective memory in the US, Canada, etc. of Irish activists in the IWW

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words plus a short biographical note to

by 22 April 2016 at the latest.

A pdf of this call for papers is available here.

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