the handbook for revolutionaries part 1


Joe Hill was a legendary agitator, songwriter and singer in the american revolutionary labour-movement in the beginning of the century. He was born 1879 in Gävle, Sweden (real name Joel Emanuel Hägglund) and emigrated to the U.S. in 1902. Once there, he joined the IWW (International Workers of the World), a revolutionary trade union movement. In 1909 the IWW printed his and others songs in a small, red song and textbook called "Songs To Fan The Flames Of Discontent". 
During a strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts 1912 the workers spoke 44 different languages and the bosses did all they could to divide them by baiting them against eachother. The emigrant workers were from so many different ethnic groups that the language barriers made it almost impossible to unite them, but everybody understood the songs of Joe Hill and they came to function as unifying warcries. In 1914 two masked men broke into a grocery store in Salt Lake City. The grocer and one of his sons were shot to death during the break-in and the burglars left empty-handed. Joe Hill was arrested as a suspect shortly after. He had a bullet wound and refused to tell them how he got it. He claimed to be innocent but refused to argue in favour of his defense. Attempts have later been made to place the guilt but most of the essential docementation is now missing. Several years later it was made clear that he had spent the night of the murder in the company of a married woman whose reputation he wanted to protect. The jury found him guilty of murder with robbery. Trade unions from all over the U.S.A. appealed the courts decision to no use. Hill was executed in 1915. They tied him to a chair and a white paper heart was placed on his chest for the firing squad to aim it. Joe Hill sang songs to fan the flames of discontent and it got him killed. His spirit lives on.

     David Sandström

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