The LA IWW GMB holds its regular monthly meetings on the last Sunday of the month at 12:30 PM. For the meeting location, please contact either or (323) 374-3499.
San Diego IWW
meets every 3rd Sunday of the month at 12:30 pm at the San Diego Education Association at 10393 San Diego Mission Road.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Report: The Ballad of Ricardo Flores Magón

L to R: Ross Altman, Rubén Martínez, Marco Amador The Los Angeles Branch of the I.W.W. and community members filled Beyond Baroque in Venice on Aug. 9 for an evening of music and drama honoring the branch’s namesake, Ricardo Flores Magón.

Opening the show, song-fighter Ross Altman performed “The Rebel Girl,” “There is a Power in the Union” and “The Preacher and the Slave”—all written by Joe Hill, the legendary Wobbly singer and songwriter. It was in Ross Altman’s home town of San Pedro where Hill, a 30-year-old migrant laborer, joined the I.W.W. in 1910. These songs were particularly relevant to the theme of the event, since they highlighted the solidarity that existed between the I.W.W. and Mexican revolutionaries in Los Angeles in the second decade of the twentieth century.

Ross Altman
Ross then performed international songs of struggle—“A Las Barricadas,” a revolutionary song from the Spanish Civil War, “Guantanamera” and his own original song about the Mexican Revolution.

Next, Rubén Martínez took the stage with Chicano Son artist Marco Amador. They performed music and readings from his show (which aired on PBS last year), “The Ballad of Ricardo Flores Magón,” a tribute to the revolutionary anarchist who lived and struggled in Los Angeles from 1904 until he was arrested for the last time in 1918. Martínez wrote this work in order to unearth the radical roots of the Occupy movement, taking us back to a time when Los Angeles was one of the “reddest” cities in America.

As Martínez wrote in the Los Angeles Times, just days after the LAPD had brutally removed the Occupy LA encampment from Solidarity Park:(*)

“The scene Magón joined in Los Angeles was an early 20th century version of the Occupy movement. There were raucous rallies at the plaza, festive fundraisers at the Italian Hall and plenty of run-ins with the LAPD.”

L to R Rubén Martínez and Marco Amador
The Los Angeles Times itself has played a significant historical role in defense of the ruling class, attacking organized labor, socialists, anarchists and Wobblies in its pages. As Martínez wrote,

“Trials of the radicals were heavily covered by The Times, whose general manager, Harrison Gray Otis, seethed against anarchists in general, whom he blamed for the 1910 bombing of The Times Building, and against Flores Magón in particular. Otis owned upward of a million acres of land across the border in Baja California, and an armed contingent of "Magonistas" associated with Flores Magón's Partido Liberal Mexicano briefly took control of Tijuana and other parts of Baja in 1911.”

It was in Los Angeles where Magón, fighting alongside American anarchists, embraced anarchism himself. The aim of the insurrection that he and his brother Enrique lead in Baja was to found a socialist republic. In a show of international solidarity, several Wobblies fought alongside the PLM, among them Joe Hill.

After a rendition of “A Las Barricadas,” Martínez and Amador performed “El Golpe,” a musically complex piece that Amador says was inspired by the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. He explained the relevance of the song to Flores Magón, who dedicated his whole life to revolution: “He was more than just an intellectual—he was bringing revolutionary concepts to a revolutionary time.”

Following El Golpe, Martínez spoke about Magón’s life as a political prisoner. Repeatedly imprisoned in Mexico, he was forced to go into exile in the United States, where he was also persecuted, doing a total of nine years in prison. His last arrest, part of the Palmer Raids, was in 1918, for violating the 1917 Espionage Act. He died in Leavenworth Penitentiary four years later at age 49. Martínez performed “I’m Writing You From Inside,” based on letters Magón wrote from Leavenworth which talk about his resolve to continue to resist the oppression of state power, even as he suffers from failing health, exacerbated by neglect by prison staff.

After performing Woodie Guthrie’s “All You Fascists are Bound to Lose,” Martínez and Amador took questions from the audience. Finally Ross Altman joined them on stage and lead the singing of “Solidarity Forever,” the I.W.W.’s anthem.

Beyond Baroque is an independent literary and arts center and public space that has hosted many cutting-edge poets and musical talents through the years.


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