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NYC GMB Discusses New Memoir of Sam Dolgoff, Lifelong Anarchist and Wobbly

By Eric D - New York City IWW, November 9, 2016

On a recent evening, members and friends of the New York City General Membership Branch gathered to hear a book discussion by Anatole Dolgoff. The talk was held at MayDay, a left movement space in Brooklyn. Dolgoff, a professor at the nearby Pratt Institute, was discussing his new book about his father Sam, Left of the Left, My Memories of Sam Dolgoff , recently published by AK Press. The talk was introduced by radical scholars Yesenia Barragan and Mark Bray.

Sam was born in 1902 in Belarus and came to New York City at an early age. With little formal education, Sam went to work as a painter, and quickly found himself immersed in local radical politics. A brief membership with the Socialist Party led him to realize that he was an anarchist. He soon joined the IWW in the 1920’s and was a member until his death in 1990. Along the way, he developed friendships with many notable radicals, and had particularly close relationships with Carlo Tresca, the Italian anarchist, and Ben Fletcher, the legendary waterfront organizer.

Sam was a Wobbly activist and organizer for decades, involved in many campaigns and projects, speaking on street corners, meeting with workers who were organizing, confronting fascists in the 1930’s, and doing the dangerous and unglamorous work of keeping radical ideas alive during the tough times of the McCarthy era. Self-educated in the movement along the way, Dolgoff made significant contributions to the anarchist literature over the years, including a book on Bakunin.

According to Anatole, Sam knew everyone in Left circles for decades. One memorable anecdote about his father told the story of when they went to see the movie Reds together. Sam couldn’t keep quiet during the film, as he maintained a running commentary on nearly every major character, who he had known personally.

The book is a fantastic tour through the life and times of a lifelong Wobbly and working class intellectual, as well as a touching personal memoir of growing up in a radical family. It’s a great contribution to left history and we encourage all Wobblies to read it.