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4 William Z. Foster and the Turn Towards the Labour Movement

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Chapter Summary

William Z. Foster joined the Socialist Party (SP) in 1901, after becoming interested in politics by a Socialist Labor Party (SLP) soapboxer the year before. In 1909, in Seattle, Foster split from the SP with a local leftist, he joined the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and played an important role in the Wobblies' fight for free speech in Spokane. Foster struggled within the IWW to 'give up the attempt to create a new labor movement' and instead 'turn itself into a propaganda league, get into the organized-labor movement, and by building up better fighting machines within the old unions than those possessed by reactionary enemies, and revolutionize these unions'. The recruitment of Foster was an important part of this. His recruitment highlights the relationship between the 'American' and the 'foreign' in the rooting of Communism in the reality of the labour movement in the US.

Keywords: Industrial Workers of the World (IWW); labor movement; Socialist Labor Party (SLP); Socialist Party (SP); William Z. Foster

10.1163/9789004268890_006
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