Iraq during W-War One: When the British sent in their Muslim Indian soldiers to fight the Arabs
It is deja vu as one reads about India, Pakistan and Bangladesh being
pressured to contribute troops to help maintain the occupation of Iraq.
During World War One Britain sent in its Indian Army to invade Iraq and
fight the Turks, and later the resisting Iraqis.
But as you will read in the attached article, many Muslim soldiers from what
is now Pakistan, defected to the other side and settled down later in the
The article by Peter Linebaugh for CounterSpin makes for fascinating reading
as it weaves together tales from Karachi, Basra, and Kut in 1916 and
revolves them around Betrude Bell, Rosa Luxembourg, Lawrence, Lenin,
Kipling, Gandhi, and of course Townshend.
Read and reflect.
May 1, 2003
Against Defeat, Laughter
May Day at Kut and Kienthal
By PETER LINEBAUGH
Inasmuch as the historian's craft depends on written records, then the
answer to the question posed in the title of V. Gordon Childe's classic book
about the Tigris and Euphrates, What Happened in History? is well answered
in the title of another classic book on the same subject by Samuel Kramer,
History Begins at Sumer, because that's where writing began.
With the American 'liberation' of Iraq and the subsequent destruction of the
library of Baghdad and its museum of antiquities, we could say, therefore,
that history while not quite coming to an end has become impossible to
write. However, there are other sources of knowledge of the past, such as
song and story, flora and fauna, with which we'll have to make do, not to
mention what we remember. Baghdad scholarship survived the sacking by
Genghis Khan and there is no reason to think that it will not persist after
the burning of the books by the U.S.A.
Still...Following the planetary mobilizations of February 15 and March 22,
on the one hand, and this barbaric devastation of Iraq on the other, we
don't feel exactly like dancing around the Maypole. We need that history
which seizes hold of "a memory as it flashes up in a moment of danger."
While the storm from paradise blows us into the future, the angel of history
turns its face to the past, commemorating, remembering: May Day and the
Haymarket hangings: May Day and the 8-hour day struggle: the May Days of
soixante-huite: May Day and the struggles against apartheid: May Day and the
central American solidarity movement.
We do not smile. While the Americans are wrapping the cradle of civilization
in its winding sheet, the angel of history stops at May Day 1916 and the
terrible siege, surrender, and slaughter at Kut on the Tigris river.
Every May Day story has its point, and Rosa Luxemburg expresses mine: "The
brilliant basic idea of May Day is the autonomous, immediate stepping
forward of the proletarian masses, the political mass action of the millions
of workers," she wrote on the eve of the Great War, and wasn't it so just
last month, March 22, and the month before, 15 February, when we millions
around the planet autonomously stepped forward? And why did we autonomously
step forward? Peace in Iraq. Yet, Red Rosa said that "The direct,
international mass manifestation: the strike [was] a demonstration and means
of struggle for the eight-hour day, world peace, and socialism." Peace, yes;
but we left aside the 8-hour day and socialism. Is that why we failed to
stop the war?
In the spring of 1916 at Verdun two million men were engaged in massive
mutual holocaust; there were 676,000 losses. In Mesopotamia, tens and scores
of thousands of sepoys of the Indian Expeditionary Force 'D,' on behalf of
the British Empire, disembarked at Basra at the beginning of the war, with
the strategic objectives: 1) securing the oil supply from Persia, 2)
protecting the main corridor to India, and 3) preventing a jihad combining
Arab, Afghan, with a rising in India. We could sum it up, as Connolly did,
"the capitalist class of Great Britain, the meanest, most unscrupulous
governing class in all history, is out for plunder." A fourth objective
emerged on the sly. British government in India wished to annex Mesopotamia,
but British empire in London preferred to operate from its lair in Cairo
The lure of Baghdad proved irresistible to General Townshend, the commander.
Foolishly (for the Persian refineries were already secured) he led the
re-named Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force up the Tigris River extending his
lines of communication far beyond the powers of his base to supply it with
food. Repulsed before reaching Baghdad, he was forced to retreat a hundred
miles to Kut. There followed a four months siege, a humiliating defeat, and
surrender on the eve of May first 1916. Parallel with this narrative of
disaster ran two sub-plots, a) the soldiers' resistance, and b) the
orientalizing derring-do of Lawrence of Arabia and the charming wiles of
Townshend found keeping up morale "the most difficult of all military
operations" and one in which the British soldier is "very prone to get out
of hand." They arrived and dug in at Kut after two days of forced marches,
and then suffered heat, exhaustion, floods, disease, famine. The Indian
battalions had practically become "armed bands." The bulk of the troops were
Muslim. Seditious pamphlets in Urdu and in Hindustani tempting the troops to
rise and murder their officers, join their bothers the Turks, who would pay
them better and provide grants of land.
One sepoy did attempt to shoot his officer, several deserted, and twelve to
fourteen soldiers cut off their trigger fingers. Many were from Punjab.
Dysentery claimed fifteen dead a day, and twenty from starvation. Townshend
complained about the "trans-border Pathans." He wanted them returned to
India. They refused to eat horseflesh, and though he mixed Hindu and
Mohammedan on picket duty and outpost work, he could not break their
solidarity. Altogether, seventy-two deserted.
Moberly, whose three volumes on the Mesopotamian campaign provides the
official history, explained: since the Pathans were without private
property, the British promise to assure rightful succession to their
property in the event of their being killed was without effect! Behind this
logic were imperial fears of mutiny and commonism. Against these, terror was
the traditional remedy. The Arab inhabitants of Kut would not sell their
food. Townshend asked headquarters for gold, and explained, "I could not
flog 6,000 people into taking paper money. All I could do was to keep them
in good behavior by shooting one now and then pour encourager les autres
when spies, etc., were caught."
Gertrude Bell was the first woman to win a First in Modern History at
Oxford. Her grandfather was a rich British industrialist, supplying one
third of British iron. She danced, she rode horse, she spoke Arabic, quoted
Milton, archaeologically discovered cities, charmed imperious egos. She
became the silken agent of English guile. Gertrude Bell wrote from Military
Intelligence's Arab Bureau, next to the Cairo Savoy, "It's great fun." In
Cairo Lawrence intrigued to encourage the Arab revolt against the Ottoman
Empire. Gertrude Bell was dispatched to India. The disaster at Kut put a
decided damper on its ambitions. "I hate war; oh, and I'm so weary of it--of
war, of life," as she sighed from Basra, in March 1916 during the frightful
heat. That was the month that the British government began to pay Sharif
Hussein £125,000 gold sovereigns a month, a deal she helped set up.
Gertrude dallied with Lawrence, "We have had great talks and made vast
schemes for the government of the universe. He goes up river tomorrow, where
the battle is raging these days." A month after the surrender, indeed, the
Arab revolt began. Lawrence was able to write a scathing report on the
Indian army's operations in Mesopotamia. The English political officer, "Cox
is entirely ignorant of Arab societies," plotted Lawrence. An obstacle to
the Arab revolt--Indian ambitions for the cradle of civilization--had been
discredited. "The most important thing of all will be cash," quoth his
instructions. In April Lawrence was authorized to offer the Turks £1,000,000
to quit the siege of Kut, though he doubled it, Khalil Pasha rejected it
In March Lawrence read Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, several
parallels may be made--the thirst ("Water, water, everywhere/Nor any drop to
drink"), the sun, the heat, the loneliness, the guilt of the mariner for his
responsibility in the wanton murder of the crew. What sights had Lawrence
seen in Kut? Who were ulsed before reaching Baghdad, he the starving and
wasting men? The English were from Dorsetshire and Norfolk, depressed
agricultural counties, hardy specimens of the English proletariat whose
experience was depression. There were Punjabis, Pathans. The Inland Water
Transport Service employed in its Mesopotamian contingents men from the
British West Indies Regiment, the Nigerian Marine Regiment, the West African
Regiment, the Coloured Section, the Egyptian Labour Corps. Lawrence saw
starve the motley international of an imperialist army.
The many men, so beautiful!
And they all dead did lie:
And a thousand thousand slimy things
Lived on; and so did I.
Lawrence, clearly, would have his limitations as an imperial servant: though
it was oil they craved, in his master's view empire was not slime!
February 1916 finds Gandhi speaking in Karachi. Having returned to India the
year before he vowed to be silent for a year, and only recently had he begun
to speak out. Truth and fearlessness were his themes, as only they could
remove the demoralizing atmosphere of sycophancy and falsity. However, these
salutary results required not--spitting. Self-restraint was the necessary
condition to national liberation, he taught, "when we conquer our so-called
conquerors." Earlier that month, however, despite not--spitting, he created
a furious row with a speech at Benares Hindu University. "It is necessary
that our hearts have got to be touched and that our hands and feet have got
to be moved"--the doctrine of satyagraha was activist or nothing. "In her
impatience India has produced an army of anarchists," he continued. "I
myself am an anarchist but of another type."
He contrasted himself to the anarchist terrorists responsible for the
bombing campaign which before the war had annulled the British partition of
Bengal. "I honor the anarchist for his love of country. I honor him for his
bravery in being willing to die for his country; but I ask him: Is killing
honorable?" Just as the argument in front of the students was promising to
get interesting, Miss Annie Besant, the English liberal, interrupted,
"Please stop it." Later she explained she had noticed the CID taking notes,
"I meant to do him a kindness and prevent the more violent interruption
which would probably have taken place, had I remained silent." More slime.
Gandhi may have overlapped with Gertrude Bell in Karachi, but where Gandhi
derived nourishment from the people, she pitied them: "Swollen with wind and
the rank mists we draw" is the phrase she remembers in April from Milton's
Lycidias. It is from a passage about corruption between leaders and led
which begins with what? the slime of Wolf Blitzer from the desert? a
Pentagon briefing? Ari Fleisher?
What recks it them? What need they? They are sped;
And when they list, their lean and flashy songs
Grate on their scrannel pipes of wretched straw;
The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed,
But swoln with wind, and the rank mist they draw,
Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread;
Besides what the grim wolf with privy paw
Daily devours apace, and nothing said.
Not a glimmer of proletarian creativity could allay the view of people as
sheep. Milton at any rate went in dialogue with the Levellers and Diggers of
his day, while Gertrude Bell used Milton as an another code of ruling class
She did not draw the parallel to the experience which the surgeon at Kut
remembered, namely, that the cats became bolder as food became scarcer and
they began "with privy paw" to lurk about the windows and doorways of the
surgery. Major Barber, the English saw-bones, was not pleased by his first
impression of Kut, "Approaching from the east, almost the first thing that
caught the eye was a gibbet." He spent days with stretcher-bearers,
bhisties, and women water drawers. The soldiers called the place "Messypot,"
he tells us. Night-time shelling they called "the hate." He cursed war and
the economic necessities that bring ulsed before reaching Baghdad, he it
about. Famine advanced. Then came the slaughter of the beasts--a thousand
horses, mules, camels, all except the officers' chargers, and Townshend's
dog whose daily walk counted among Barber's duties. He composed a menu,
reflecting the class of the rank and file.
Potage aux Os de Cheval
Starlings en Canapé
Filet de mule
Entrecote de Chameau
For Major Barber May Day 1916 was the arrival of the hospital ship with jam,
swag, and bubbly.
In 29 April after a siege of four and a half months General Townshend
lowered the Union Jack and burned it. 23,000 soldiers had been killed in
four futile attempts to relieve the siege; then on the eve of May Day 13,000
were taken prisoner. "It was one of the great mistakes in British military
history," writes Barker, The Neglected War: Mesopotamia, 1914-1918. The
prisoners? Captain Shakeshaft observed them ragged, barefooted, dying of
dysentery. "One saw British soldiers dying with a green ooze issuing from
their lips, their mouths fixed open, in and out of which flies walked." Many
were contracted to railway construction for a German company working in
Turkey. Altogether the British empire lost 40,000 casualties, concludes
If in America the capacity to inflict terror in Iraq while simultaneously
denying it is called Liberation, in England it goes by The Stiff Upper Lip.
Gertrude Bell and General Townshend didn't let the side down. Despite having
had her black silk gown rifled by pilfering hands at the Delhi P.O., she
cheerfully wrote referring to the mulberries and blossoming pomegranates,
"Even Basra has a burst of glory in April." As for General Townshend, he
concluded the Terms of Surrender with this: "Finally, I asked Khalil Pacha
to send my faithful fox-terrier "Spot" down to the British force to my
friend Sir Wilfred Peek, so that he might reach home. He was with me in the
Battles of Kurna, he was at Ctespiphon and in the retreat, and he killed
many cats during the defense of Kut. He reached England safely, and I met
him on my return to my home in Norfolk."
Gertrude Bell would become known as "the uncrowned queen of Iraq," after the
British took Baghdad in February 1917. She wrote in words that could come
Ms. Robin Raphel, slated to run the Iraq trade ministry, or Ms. Barbara
Bodine, awaiting her assignment in Wolfie of Arabia's Iraq, "we shall, I
trust, make it a great centre of Arab civilization, a prosperity; that will
be my job partly, I hope, and I never lose sight of it." James Connolly
explained on St Patrick's Day 1916 "The essential meanness of the British
Empire is that it robs under the pretence of being generous, and it enslaves
under pretence of liberating." Hence, the flash song of liberation grates on
the scrannel pipes of wretched straw which we know are there not to sing
songs but to suck up you-know-what.
In "Mesopotamia--1917" Rudyard Kipling wet his whistle, cleared his throat
of anything that might grate, and definitely raised his voice to express
grief and a very healthy specific --class hatred:
They shall not return to us, the resolute, the young,
The eager and whole-hearted whom we gave:
But the men who left them thriftily to die in their own dung,
Shall they come with years and honour to the grave?
Shall we only threaten and be angry for an hour?
When the storm is ended shall we find
How softly but how swiftly they have sidled back to power
By their favor and contrivance of their kind?
Mercifully, Kipling leaves God out of it. Plus, he demands justice, not oil,
to compensate for the sacrifice of the young. Kipling told one half of the
story. The other half remains to be told. Is it too late for the Subaltern
Studies historians to recover the oral tradition of the POWs who fled,
deserted, and escaped from Kut? Some people were ready to answer Kipling's
They met in Switzerland, a center of internationalism (financiaulsed before
reaching Baghdad, he l, artistic, and revolutionary) but unconnected by
Internet or al-Jazeera or Robert Fisk, with the disasters between the Tigris
and Euphrates. Their remedy for war and famine which only anti-capitalist
revolutionaries can provide was offered up from the Alpine village of
Kienthal. Two such different ecologies, different elevations, different
temperatures, different flora and fauna, at Kut and Kienthal would be hard
to imagine, and yet as human communities both in 1916 retained links with a
non-industrial commons--the booleying of the high pastures in the latter,
the marsh Arabs on their reeds and islands in the former. The previous
September anti-imperialist socialists had secretly and bravely met at
Zimmerwald. The work of such intrepid souls as Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg
resulted in the Kienthal Manifesto of May Day 1916. The manifesto was
preceded by debate and discussion.
Rosa Luxemburg published her "Junius" pamphlet in the spring of 1916, as if
with Bechtel Corportion and Baghdad in mind. "Business is flourishing upon
the ruins. Cities are turned to rubble, whole countries into deserts,
villages into cemeteries, whole populations into beggars .. thus stands
bourgeois society as a roaring beast, as an orgy of anarchy, as a
pestilential breath, devastating culture and humanity." As for the
proletariat, "no pre-established schemas, no ritual that holds good at all
times shows it the path that it must travel. Historical experience is its
only teacher; its Via Dolorosa to self-liberation is covered not only with
immeasurable suffering, but with countless mistakes."
None were bitterer than she over the betrayal of July 1914 when the
so-called representatives of the European international proletariat voted
with their national belligerents, sending millions of fellow workers to
slaughter one another. She noted that socialism is "the first popular
movement in world history that has set as its goal, and is ordained by
history, to establish a conscious sense in the social life of man, a
definite plan, and thus, free will." But it does not fall like manna from
heaven. She posed a choice: "either the triumph of imperialism and the
destruction of all culture and, as in ancient Rome, depopulation,
desolation, degeneration, a vast cemetery. Or, the victory of socialism,
that is, the conscious struggle of the international proletariat against
imperialism and its method: war." Amid the slaughter of Verdun and the
starvation of Kut, she returned to an axiom of history: human beings make
it, the conscious historical action by conscious historical will. They did
not pretend that peace was patriotic, nor that they could win without
Lenin gave a speech in Switzerland in February 1916. He quoted The Appeal to
Reason of 11 September 1915. Eugene Debs said, "I am not a capitalist
soldier; I am a proletarian revolutionist. I do not belong to the regular
army of the plutocracy, but to the irregular army of the people. I refuse to
obey any command to fight from the ruling class I am opposed to every war
but one; I am for that war with heart and soul, and this is the world-wide
war of the social revolution. In that war I am prepared to fight in any way
the ruling class may make necessary." Gloden Dallas & Douglas Gill, The
Unknown Army: Mutinies in the British Army in World War I (Verso 1985) write
that a year later, also on 11 September, the English recruits in France
mutinously demonstrated. In Mesopotamia the soldiers organized themselves to
return home, when ordered up country against the local population. One of
the veterans remembered, "We refused saying that we had not enlisted for
this purpose & as there was always trouble there, we should have had
difficulty in getting back. We stood our ground & gained the day"
Lenin welcomed "The Junius Pamphlet," although he argued the necessity of
wars of national liberation. In Zürich during the spring of 1916 Lenin wrote
Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism which would be used in the
anti-colonial struggles of the 20th centurulsed before reaching Baghdad, he
y--China, India, Kenya, Algeria, Vietnam. He studied the growth of
monopolies and cartels; he studied finance capital: "It spreads its net over
all countries of the world." He observed its dynamics: 1) "the more
capitalism is developed the more desperate the struggle for raw materials,"
or 2) "imperialism is, in general, a striving towards violence and
reaction." He explained how the proletariat drew rank mist and became
swollen with wind. Super-profits from plundering colonies enabled the
metropolitan working classes to become opportunist and susceptible to
nationalist appeals, permitting the betrayal of the trade unions and
socialist parties. "It has grown ripe, overripe, and rotten," Lenin wrote.
He noted its two fundamental weaknesses, a) it bribed its lower class into
acquiescence, and b) its armies were recruited from subject peoples.
Lenin lived around the corner from the Caberet Voltaire where the artists
and musicians in the spring of 1916 thought up the name Dada for an art to
cure the madness of the age. Ed Sanders in volume one of his beautiful
America: A History in Verse (Black Sparrow, 2000), described an evening
--a holy, mind-freeing rinse of nonsense
to laugh away
the stench of the trench
a Rinse heard as far away as
If theirs was the rinse, Lenin gave the scrubbing. Lenin quoted Cecil
Rhodes, "if you want to avoid civil war, you must become imperialists." This
precisely was the pivot point: how to turn imperialist war into civil war.
Here was the transition from defense to offense. Rosa Luxemburg too argued
against the siege mentality in favor of armed, free people on'amove. You
study Lenin and Luxemburg in that year and you do not find sectarian
bitterness or the irreconcilable differences of gender antagonism. Among the
many things Luxemburg and Lenin agreed on that year was denunciation of the
Social Democrats for refusing to intercede on behalf of a comrade in the
Cameroons who faced a death sentence for organizing an uprising against the
war. These are comrades denouncing war, condemning betrayal of the official
opposition, analyzing imperialism, praising the creativity of the
working-class, and they search the world to find it.
From these discussions came the Kienthal May Day Manifesto of 1916. If Kut
describes a progenitor of our problem, then Kinethal describes a solution.
It's words apply to us. Addressed to workers of town and country, "You have
only the right to starve and to keep silent. You face the chains of the
state of siege, the fetters of censorship, and the stale air of the dungeon.
They try to incite you to betray your class duty and tear out of your heart
your greatest strength, your hope of socialism."
"The governments, the imperialist cliques, and their press tell you that it
is necessary to hold out in order to free the oppressed nations. Of all the
methods of deception that have been used in this war, this is the crudest.
For some, the real aim of this universal slaughter is to maintain what they
have seized over the centuries and conquered in many wars. Others want to
divide up the world over again, in order to increase their possessions. They
want to annex new territories, tear whole peoples apart and degrade them to
the status of common serfs and slaves."
"Courage! Remember that you are the majority and that if you so desire the
power can be yours." By May 1916 Dubois and James Connolly had found the
desire and the courage. It consisted of a) defense against terrorism and b)
offense against imperialism.
DuBois had recently written that "Africa is the prime cause of this terrible
overturning of civilization," World War. He wrote "the white working man has
been asked to share the spoil of exploiting 'chinks and niggers.'" Having
invaded Haiti, Santo Domingo, Mexico, and Nicaragua, the U.S.A. grew rank
with terror and racism. Marcus Garvey of Jamaica arrived in New York in the
spring of 1916, asking DuBois to chair his meeting. Dubois called foulsed
before reaching Baghdad, he r a revolution, "democracy in determining income
is the next inevitable step to democracy in political power." When the
Easter rebels were called fools, DuBois appealed to the heavens, "would to
God some of us had sense enough to be fools!" May Day at DuBois' The Crisis
was entirely occupied in the struggle against lynching. It inveighed against
the terrorism in the U.S.A. The April issue was against the lynching of six
men in Georgia, while the next issue, on "The Waco Horror," reproduced the
most searing photographs of the century, the charred stumps of mutilated,
burned, and hanged Texas proletarians.
James Connolly reiterated, A Rich Man's War and a Poor Man's Fight! He
discovered the war profiteers. He analyzed the economic incentives for
joining up (unemployment + cash for women who sent their husbands to war).
He berated the union bureaucrats and praised the Dublin dockers and London
seamen. He recalled British robbery of Irish common lands, and in that
stroke of genius which operates by observing the obvious he noted that "the
spirit of adventure" must be counted a revolutionary force. He doubted that
the political leprosy of militarism could be excised without the red tide of
war. Opportunities are for those who seize them, and so, on to Easter.
The rule of insurrection is audacity, audacity, audacity! So, despite the
capture on Sunday of Roger Casement and the loss of the arms he was shipping
from Germany, the Easter Rising commenced anyway on Monday, 24 April 1916,
asserting the right of the men and women of Ireland to its ownership, in the
oft-reprinted proclamation. Though crushed in less than a week, its
reverberations thrilled the oppressed from Jamaica to Bengal. In Dublin
Connie Markievicz was second-in-command at Stephen's Green. The Easter
rising seized buildings about the town which communicated with one another
by means of bicyclists. To her disappointment she was spared execution owing
to her gender, and instead awakened on May Day in her cell at Kilmainham
Gaol to the sound of rifle reports as her comrades were executed by firing
squad. They removed her to prison in England where she amused the
bread-and-water gang by extensively reciting from The Inferno, as well as
her own words:
Dead hearts, dead dreams, dead days of ecstasy,
Can you not live again?
Nay, for we never died
Joe Hill, the song writer, was shot on 19 November 1915. James Larkin came
over from Dublin for the funeral where they sang his popular, "The Rebel
There are women of many descriptions
In this queer world, as every one knows,
Some are living in beautiful mansions,
And are wearing the finest of clothes.
These are blue-blooded queens and princesses
Who have charms made of diamonds and pearls:
But the only and Thoroughbred Lady
Is the Rebel Girl.
The proletarian revolution is not the restoration of matriarchy, though it
definitely entails the defeat of patriarchy and Hausfrauiszierung (to use
the phrase of Maria Miess). And we can easily understand, given the
leadership of the women of the planet on the great days of February 15 and
March 22, that the term 'proletarian,' etymologically speaking, meant the
women or breeders of empire, but now taking steps to realize our planetary
power as a class.
We have looked back with the angel of history--at the low siege, surrender,
and slaughter at Kut, and at the high Alpine manifesto of proletarian
internationalism of Kienthal, and still the wind blows us into the future,
which the ruins of the libraries of Baghdad and the bleeding of funds for
the municipal libraries in the USA, have not yet destroyed, for we take the
treasures with us. The coincidences of May Day (Kut and Kienthal) like the
coincidences of September 11 (mutiny and terror) are not magic, though they
need to be discovered; they arise merely from probabilities. May Day is one
day in 365. 11 September is another rotation of the planet. As the earth
rotates prior to our revoulsed before reaching Baghdad, he lution, these are
the constants: imperialism and the struggle against it, capitalism and the
struggle against it, capital punishment and the struggle against it.
Meanwhile, against the slime, Gandhi said clean up your act.
Against the flash song, Lenin offered economic analysis. Against terror,
DuBois offered unflinching truth. Against the swollen wind and rank mist of
patriotism, Red Rosa offered the International. Against all the odds, James
Connolly offered audacity. Against defeat, Joe Hill offered laughter.
We learn from Franklin Rosemont's magnificent Joe Hill: The IWW & the Making
of a Revolutionary Workingclass Counterculture (Charles Kerr, 2003) that the
cremated ashes of Joe Hill were put in envelopes and sent to every IWW local
in every country of the world --Latin America, Asia, Africa, Europe --and
were released to the breezes on May Day 1916. For the followers of the
sky-gods, Jahweh and Allah, we laugh with Joe Hill,
You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die.
As for the dirt-gods, Mammon and Moloch, not having mopped them up, we have
not yet earned our laugh.
Peter Linebaugh teaches history at Bard College. He is the author of the
London Hanged and The Many-headed Hydra. He can be reached at: