Documents, Essays and Analysis for a History of the

Industrial Workers of the World

While the Industrial Workers of the World still is a going enterprise, the Marxists Internet Archive wanted to celebrate this organizations coming 100th Aniversary with a History Archive of documents related to it. We do not want to subsititute for the IWW’s own web site at iww.org. We want to compliment it with a mirror of it’s historical documents contained on it and our own additions from the current contents of the Marxists Internet Archive writers archive.


The Industrial Worker Originally titled The Industrial Union Bulletin when it was founded in 1907, The Industrial Worker remains one of the longest continually published radical union or left newspaper in North America. The collection here runs from 1907 through 1913.

A Time Line for the IWW

The Founding Convention of the IWW—Proceedings This is the original transcription of the proceedings. This is the Merit Publications reprint of the transcription of the convention. First online publication of the transcript.

The Founding Convention of the IWW—Proceedings This is a new transcription of the original proceedings completed by Robert Bills from the Socialist Labor Party of the United States presented in PDF format.

The 2nd Convention of the IWW—proceedings held in 1906. Transcribed for the first time by Robert Bills from the Socialist Labor Party of the United States presented in PDF format.

The 3nd Convention of the IWW—proceedings held in 1907. Transcribed for the first time by Robert Bills from the Socialist Labor Party of the United States presented in PDF format.

The IWW by James P. Cannon

Works by Eugene V. Debs on the IWW:

The Coming Union (1905)
Revolutionary Unionism (1905)
Class Unionism (1905)
Industrial Unionism (1905)
Speech to the IWW Founding Convention (1905)

One Big Union W. E. Trautmann. (1911)

Historic Pamphlets by the Wobblies of the past:

Industrial Unionism: THE ROAD TO FREEDOM by Joseph J. Ettor(1913)
The Onward Sweep of the Machine Process By Nils H. Hanson (1913)
Jersey Justice at Work 1913
The Revolutionary I.W.W. by Grover Perty—1913
Contract Work 1917
Cut Down The Hours Of Work! (1919)
The Most Important Question by Justus Ebert (1919)
One Big Union! (1919)
The American Labor Year Book, 1919-20 by Alexander Trachtenberg, ed (1920)
The I. W. W.: What It Is and What It Is Not (1920)
With Drops of Blood Big Bill Haywood (1920)
Shop Organization the Base of the I. W. W. By George Hardy (1920)
How the I. W. W. is Organized By James Kennedy (1921)
An Economic Interpretation of the Job (1922)
Historical Catechism of American Unionism (1923)
The History of the I. W. W. A Discussion of its Main Features By a Group of Workmen (1923)
Building Construction A Handbook of the Industry Issued By Building Construction Workers’ Industrial Union No. 330 Of The I. W. W. (1924)
One Big Union of the I.W.W. 1924
Education And System: The Basis Of Organization (1924)
Giant Industry and the I. W. W. Against the Concentrated Power Of Modern Big Business Put the Concentrated Power of Workers (1925)
“William D. Haywood—Soldier to the Last,” by James P. Cannon [May 22, 1928] A lengthy and heartfelt obituary of the IWW leader William “Big Bill” Haywood” by a friend and comrade, James P. Cannon, a Communist Party leader who was also a former member of the IWW.
25 Years of the Industrial Unionism by: Covington Hall, James P. Thompson, Roger N. Baldwin, Ralph Chaplin, C. E. Payne, Tom Connors, F. W. Thompson, Ed Delaney, Clifford B. Ellis, Joseph Wagner, John A. Gahan (1930)
Technocracy or Industrial Unionism (1933)
The I. W. W. In Theory And Practice (1938)
I. W. W. Manual Of Instruction For Job Delegates (Published by the General Recruiting Union, ca. 1943)
A Union For All Railroad Workers (1949)
Coal-Mine Workers and Their Industry (undated)
Delegates’ Work and Organization Bookkeeping (undated)
Why Building Workers Must Organize Into One Big Union! by Peo Monoldi (undated)

IWW and its relations with the Communist Party:

Open Letter from the Communist International to the IWW (1920)

 

Correspondence/Statements/Speeches:
[In chronological order]

“Spokane Fight for Free Speech Settled." [March 6, 1910] Documentation of a little known chapter in the political career of syndicalist-turned-communist William Z. Foster. In November 1909 an intense “free speech” struggle broke out in the Eastern Washington city of Spokane between partisans of the Industrial Workers of the World and city and county authorities. At root was the refusal of the city to allow public speaking on the street by union agitators, or the sale of the IWW’s new Spokane weekly, The Industrial Worker. Dozens of arrests followed, complete with court cases and counter-suits alleging police violence. This article details the final settlement of the Spokane Free Speech Fight by a negotiating committee of four, including Bill Foster. IWW demands were essentially met and prisoners freed under terms of the agreement, in exchange for a largely ceremonial surrender of an IWW National Organizer, who was fighting extradition from Idaho in the neighboring city of Coeur d’Alene.

“Red Flag Waves at Portland,” by J.B. Shea and Ed Gilbert [events of May 1, 1910] Short participant’s account of the 1910 May Day festivities at Portland, Oregon written for the western regional newspaper of the Industrial Workers of the World. Some 3,000 members and friends of the radical movement are said to have marched in a procession through the streets of Portland lasting almost an hour, with the march and rally which followed held under the joint auspices of the IWW, the Socialist Party of Oregon, the Finnish Socialist Federation, and the Portland Latvian Club. Approximately 5,000 had assembled in a downtown park for speeches and singing, which included the unfurling of a red flag. Following the assembly a free dance had been held at the Finnish Socialist Hall, complete with refreshments, capping a successful day of festivities. The writers declare such activities to be “not only affairs of passing notice, but are absolutely necessary to the life of the workers."

“Workers and Racial Hate,” by David Burgess [May 19, 1910] Pioneer Washington Socialist and IWW supporter David Burgess expounds upon racial prejudice in general, and Asian exclusion in particular, in this letter to the Editor of the western regional newspaper of the Industrial Workers of the World. Burgess notes the similarity between the “alluring but deceptive” claim of the inferiority of Chinese and Japanese workers and the calculated use of racial prejudice by Southern capitalists to subdue black workers “insulting” enough to demand “more of their product.” In extreme circumstances, so-called “race war” — actually “a war of extermination, directed against the more rebellious negroes” — is employed to crush this resistance, Burgess indicates, followed by the calculated use of the Christian message of social peace to subjugate again the disrupted black working class. Working alongside people of other nationalities and races builds “understanding of our mutual interests,” Burgess notes. “I assume that it is the duty of the working class to teach the solidarity of the interests of the working class, regardless of the race that some section of the class happens to belong to,” he declares.

“Our Bourbon Socialism,” by Bruce Rogers [July 30, 1910] Although sometimes dismissed in the popular imagination as anti-political trade unionists, in fact the Industrial Workers of the World was the organizational home of a significant number of revolutionary socialists, such as the author of this piece, Bruce Rogers. Rogers is harshly critical of Milwaukee Socialist Party leader Victor Berger and his associates, for undercutting the righteous radicalism of party Presidential candidate Gene Debs with promises of compensation for nationalized industry and their “placid” commitment to “reforms only." Reforms, in Rogers’ view, “invariably result from economic pressures on the bourgeoisie and so far as the proletariat is considered, their sole effect is to render tolerable if not beautiful the capitalist or wages system.” Instead, Rogers states, “revolution comes about because of the economic experience of the working class, and has for its accomplishment the abolition of the wages system and the entire overthrow of capitalism.” “The essential difference between a reformer and a revolutionist is that one of them means it,” Rogers declares.

“Special News from France,” by William Z. Foster [Dec. 8, 1910] Late in 1909 Left wing Washington Socialist William Z. Foster was dispatched to Spokane to report on an Industrial Workers of the World free speech fight there as a socialist newspaper correspondent. While there he was arrested on the street and served jail time, emerging as a committed member of the IWW. In the fall of 1910 Foster made his way for France to attempt to learn lessons from the ultra-radical, direct action-oriented labor movement there, sending back weekly reports from the scene for the Spokane IWW weekly, the Industrial Worker. This is a representative report by Foster from the pages of that paper. Foster notes that a recent conventional strike of the building trades had failed, but that returning workers had their employers in a tizzy over an organized sabotage campaign involving labor and materials. “The French workers are coming to realize (and to act accordingly) that the way to fight the boss is to put a crimp in his pocketbook, regardless of the means employed,” Foster declares, adding “They are learning the valuable lesson that capitalist property is not sacred, but that it is simply stolen goods.” Foster asserts that “the capitalist has no more right to retain his capital than the burglar now has to retain his swag, and also the capitalists right to life itself is just as sacred as that of the burglar caught in the act.” Once this lesson is absorbed by the working class, “the capitalist system will melt like wax," Foster says.

“The Socialist and Syndicalist Movements in France,” by William Z. Foster [Jan. 24, 1911] Former Socialist turned hardline Syndicalist William Z. Foster takes on a fundamental premise of American socialist ideology in this lengthy article from the IWW press — the notion that the workers’ movement advances through joint party-political and trade union-economic activity. Citing French experience, Foster challenges the idea that political action and direct action are complementary, arguing instead that the intellectual-dominated political movement collaborates with capitalism to expand its own influence at the expense of the working class economic movement. Political socialism and economic syndicalism are held by Foster to be competing and adversarial tendencies. Politicians of every stripe, including Socialist politicians, are said by Foster to manipulate organized workers under the pretext of helping them. Foster asserts that Syndicalists actually see their movement as self-sufficient, solving their problems successfully by “direct action tactics alone.” Rather than attempting to “penetrate” the government to pass ameliorative legislation, as the Socialists would have it, Syndicalist direct action coerces the state into the passage of laws, in Foster’s view. Foster calls upon the IWW as an organization to maintain a policy of “strict official neutrality towards all political parties” and for its members to “vigorously combat the political action theory, be it advocated by the SP or any other ’party.’"

US Officers Raid IWW Headquarters Over Nation. (Associated Press) [events of Sept. 5, 1917] Collection of snippets from around the country in the aftermath of the Sept. 5, 1917 coordinated raids against the offices and officials of the Industrial workers of the World. Short reports here from Butte and Great Falls, MT; San Francisco and Los Angeles, CA; Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, PA; Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Spokane, WA — the last mentioned the city in which these reports were published. Also included is a short interview with Attorney General Thomas W. Gregory, vacationing in Massachusetts, who declares “It is no secret that the Industrial Workers of the World have been under suspicion for some time. The Department of Justice conducted a quiet investigation until I was convinced that we were warranted in taking such action as this. I do not need to say the the raids will be followed quickly by indictments if we find anything to warrant them, and the men will be prosecuted to the extent of the law if they deserve it.”

The Government Stopping Sources of Disloyalty: Makes Many Arrests and Seizes Great Quantities of Printed and Other Documents.; (Reading Eagle) [events of Sept. 5, 1917] Uncredited wire service report, datelined Washington, DC, which details the massive coordinated raids against national and local offices of the Industrial Workers of the World and the National Office of the Socialist Party of America. The count of cities in which operations were conducted is given as “two dozen” and were said to be “part of a comprehensive plan worked out by the Department of Justice for a roundup of all forces which are preaching sedition, agitating peace in questionable ways, a promoting labor troubles and violence to hinder the production of war materials.” This unsigned article, clearly written by someone with close connections to the Department of Justice, indicates that “many officials are confident German money has backed up a number of the IWW agitators who have been active in the West” and advises “that some prosecutions will follow is accepted as certain.”

Secrecy Shrouds Federal IWW Raids: Administration is Silent on Reasons for Spectacular Invasion of Labor Offices. (NY Call) [events of Sept. 5, 1917] Ongoing coverage of the sensational simultaneous federal raids in more than two dozen cities against national and local headquarters of the Industrial Workers of the World and the National Office of the Socialist Party. The first report, from The Call’s Washington bureau, indicates that authorities were remaining mum about the reasons for the raids, with Assistant Attorney General Fitts asserting merely that “we wanted to find out whether there have been violations of federal law.” The writer strongly indicates that the mass raids indicate “the administration is going to go to the very limit of the autocratic powers given the President in the Espionage Act to crush the IWW in the mining and lumber industries of the West, and is going to do all that it can to disrupt Socialist organizations everywhere by suppression or intimidation of meetings.” This report is followed by a brief summary of the 8 raids conducted in Chicago and a short report from Detroit announcing that a bomb was purportedly found during the raid of IWW headquarters there. The incident was being used by at least one US Marshal as a rationale for “the internment of all IWW for the period of the war.”

The IWW and the Socialist Party.” (International Socialist Review) [events of Sept. 5, 1917] Summary of the Sept. 5 Raids from Charles H. Kerr’s glossing Chicago-based monthly magazine. The article indicates that raids were conducted against the national headquarters of the IWW and the Socialist Party in Chicago, as well as the sites of “some 20 branch offices of the IWW in different states.” Included are the full texts of substantial official statements by both Executive Secretary Adolph Germer of the Socialist Party and Big Bill Haywood, Secretary-Treasurer of the IWW. Both see the raids as temporarily disruptive but also cause for redoubled organizational efforts that would ultimately lead to membership growth. Text of a lengthy report from the Western organ of the IWW, Industrial Workerz, is also reproduced. The final section of the article provides details of an organized campaign of “persecution and misrepresentation” against the Socialist Party in the state of Minnesota, which included the breaking up of meetings and disruption of a fundraiser picnic by “a bunch of deputies, sheriffs, rowdies, etc., etc.”

Raid on IWW Seen As Blind for Big Attack: Crushing of All Organizations Which Tell Truth is Expected  in Washington Circles. (NY Call) [events of Sept. 28, 1917] Socialist Party commentary on the September 28 mass arrests of the leadership of the Industrial Workers of the World. The Department of Justice’s operation against the IWW is depicted as a first step, “evidently designed to lull the Socialists to sleep with the belief that the government does not intend to assail, and possibly destroy, their organization.” There follows analysis of the motive for the arrests of the 166 IWW leaders, volition for which is said not to have come from the DoJ, but rather from mill and mine operators of the West and Northwest, their profits impacted by ongoing strikes. This had moved Montana’s Democratic Senator Thomas J. Walsh to return to his home state to study the “battlefield,” where he obtained and studied IWW literature. “Walsh loaded himself up with IWW literature and digested it with the thoroughness with which a chattel-slave-owning judge a generation ago might have digested the anti-slavery literature of those days,” the writer notes, intimating that he, as representative for the mill and mine owners, took the lead in pushing for repression of the IWW as an organization having “no place in the American system...either in peace or in war.”

Haywood and 8 Others Held for Conspiracy.” (NY Call) [event of Sept. 28, 1917] On September 28, 1917 the other shoe dropped on the IWW when the federal grand jury in Chicago returned indictments for 166 leaders and key activists of the organization, charging them with “conspiring against the government.” This initial news report from the Socialist New York Call indicates that about 20 officers surrounded IWW headquarters in Chicago and arrested nearly 70 people for questioning, holding 9 who were named in the indictment. Topping the list was Secretary-Treasurer “Big Bill” Haywood, Solidarity editor Ralph Chaplin, and head of the publicity bureau George Andreytchine. Bails for the nine ranged from $10,000 to $25,000, according to the article.

Raid on IWW Seen As Blind for Big Attack: Crushing of All Organizations Which Tell Truth is Expected  in Washington Circles. (NY Call) [events of Sept. 28, 1917] Socialist Party commentary on the September 28 mass arrests of the leadership of the Industrial Workers of the World. The Department of Justice’s operation against the IWW is depicted as a first step, “evidently designed to lull the Socialists to sleep with the belief that the government does not intend to assail, and possibly destroy, their organization.” There follows analysis of the motive for the arrests of the 166 IWW leaders, volition for which is said not to have come from the DoJ, but rather from mill and mine operators of the West and Northwest, their profits impacted by ongoing strikes. This had moved Montana’s Democratic Senator Thomas J. Walsh to return to his home state to study the “battlefield,” where he obtained and studied IWW literature. “Walsh loaded himself up with IWW literature and digested it with the thoroughness with which a chattel-slave-owning judge a generation ago might have digested the anti-slavery literature of those days,” the writer notes, intimating that he, as representative for the mill and mine owners, took the lead in pushing for repression of the IWW as an organization having “no place in the American system...either in peace or in war.”

IWW Secretary Arrested: Hall is Raided by Officers at St. Maries. (Spokane Spokesman-Review) [event of Dec. 22, 1917] Short news account marking the raid of a local IWW hall in a small town in the timber-rich Idaho panhandle and the arrest of the local secretary on the same day that a touring IWW organizer was scheduled to speak. Secretary William F. Nelson was arrested by the Benewah County sheriff and charged with “criminal syndicalism and advocating sabotage.” The raid is said by the news account to have been largely the product of a right wing organization called the Benewah County Defense Council, a group said to be planning “a vigorous campaign to promote patriotism and stamp out disloyalty.” The report notes that “the council will keep a record of all persons who indulge in disloyal talk and who fail to back the government by assisting in war activities.”

Speech on Behalf of the IWW: Boston — February 3, 1918, by John J. Ballam This speech by prominent Boston radical John Ballam touting the merits of the Industrial Workers of the World was transcribed and thus preserved by Federal authorities interested in making a political case against him. Ballam calls the IWW “a battering ram that shall shake from the foundations of society the entire superficial structure, its political and juridical forms, and sweep them away like deadwood of the past as we abolished kings and their courts for potent purposes, and raise upon the foundations of society the structure of industrial democracy.” Ballam is met with applause when he declares “the IWW is comparatively small but it holds within its grasp the means of the destruction of the capitalist system, for it is the only organization that would lay the axe at the root and chop the whole damned fabric down.” Ballam pulls no punches: “I am not a pacifist. I do not deplore this war. I don’t care one snap of my finger for the millions of lives that have been lost; I am not a sentimentalist. The working class can give its life and blood if it chooses to, to protect the master class in its ownership of the things with which they crush out the labor and the life of the working class in factory, mill, and mine, but I have no sympathy for them, absolutely none.... I have no sympathy whatever for the slave working man who sheds his blood for the master class... The IWW has declared war upon the capitalist class! And they are bitter enemies. War to the knife, war to the hilt, war to the last owner of private property until he shall have gone into the factory, donned overalls with us, to earn his daily bread.”

Bomb Explosion Kills 4 in Federal Building in Chicago; Arrests Reported. (NY Call) [event of Sept. 4, 1918] Terse initial report of the Sept. 4, 1918 Chicago Federal Building bombing as published the next morning in The New York Call, Socialist daily newspaper. The event is (apparently wrongly) reported as resulting from a thrown bomb. A correct casualty count of 4 killed and “more than 75 injured” is provided, with the reporter adding the detail “a majority of them slightly.” “The bomb fell just outside the door of the north corridor. The material damage done was not great,” the unsigned report notes. This appears to be the only coverage of the attack which The Call published.

Chicago Federal Building Bombed: Four Persons Killed, 75 Injured: Haywood There at Time: Structure Containing Landis’ Courtroom Damaged. (Morning Oregonian) [event of Sept. 4, 1918] Apparently a national wire news report of the Sept. 4, 1918 bombing of the Chicago Federal Building. Four were killed and 75 wounded when a high explosive bomb concealed in a suitcase and hidden behind a radiator blew out the Adams Street entrance of the building. Many injuries resulted from flying glass generated by windows of the lowest three stories of two buildings across the street being blown in on their occupants. The IWW -- 95 members of which had recently been sentenced in the building -- was immediately blamed for the terrorism and raids and arrests proceeded at once. For his part, IWW Secretary-Treasurer Big Bill Haywood, who was present in the building at the time of the blast, quickly “deplored the outrage” and vehemently denied an IWW connection. “I know that the IWW will be blamed,” said Haywood, “but I am convinced in my own heart that no man of my organization was in any way connected with this matter. It would be insane for an IWW to commit such an act at this time.” An effort by an IWW attorney to win low bail for convicted members pending appeal was summarily denied in the aftermath of the blast.

Bomb Explosion Blamed on IWW: Many Fellow Workers Arrested and Held Following Explosion in Federal Building, Chicago, which Killed 4 and Injured Many. (Defense News Bulletin) [event of Sept. 4, 1918] In the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 4, 1918, a bomb ripped through the entrance of the Chicago Federal Building, in which recently convicted IWW Secretary-Treasurer William D. Haywood was appearing in the office of the US Federal Marshal. Four people were killed and about 30 injured in the powerful blast, which rocked the building and was heard and felt for a considerable distance. The IWW was immediately blamed for the blast, with Haywood’s “private secretary” J.W. Wilson targeted by authorities as responsible for the fatal bomb. This article from the IWW’s weekly Defense News Bulletin denounces the “fiendish crime” and details the series of arrests which followed the blast. Lack of motive is made clear: “Looking at the matter from the standpoint of organization and defense work, nothing worse for us could have happened at this time. It was our intention, after filing appeals in behalf of our fellow workers who have been sentenced to Leavenworth, to make an attempt to get a number of them out on bonds pending the appeal. The explosion made it simply impossible for us to do anything further along this line at the present."

Resolution of Micrometer Lodge 460, IAM, to Secretary of Labor William B. Wilson and His Reply. [Feb. 18, 1919] On February 14, 1919, a Brooklyn local of the International Association of Machinists passed a resolution protesting the Labor Department’s decision to deport more than 50 non-citizen members of the IWW from the United States "without due process of law." The group had been the subject of ongoing news coverage as part of a guarded train crossing the country from the Western states where the alien Wobblies had been arrested. Woodrow Wilson’s Secretary of Labor, William B. Wilson, defends the administration’s decision to deport the radical unionists. The New York Times quotes his reply in full: “When our own citizens desire to change the form of government they can do so peaceably in the manner provided by the Constitution. If we cannot make progress by the peaceable process by discussing and voting, we are not liable to make any progress by the riotous process of ’cussing and shouting.’ The man who cannot be depended upon to vote right cannot be depended upon to shoot right. Those you refer to as radicals are being sent out of this country because they have been found advocating the overthrow of our Government by force.”

The Comintern and IWW Bail Reimbursement, by Ralph Chaplin [events of Dec. 24, 1920-Jan. 2, 1921] Rare participant’s memoir of the secret 2nd Convention of the United Communist Party of America, held at a farmhouse near Kingston, New York from Dec. 24, 1920 to Jan. 2, 1921. IWW activist Ralph Chaplin was given the task of receiving financial reimbursement promised by Soviet Russia for those who lost money in the bail forfeiture associated with Big Bill Haywood’s defection. Although not himself a true believer in the Communist vision — in contrast to several of his IWW fellow workers such as Haywood, George Andreytchine, Charles Ashleigh, and Harrison George — Chaplin nevertheless joined the UCP in order to attend the secret convention with a view receiving diamonds smuggled from Soviet Russia. The jewels were lost when John Reed was arrested and jailed at the Finnish border and Chaplin’s mission was unsuccessful. Despite his failure, Chaplin did leave us with one of the only accounts of the Kingston convention — reproduced in full here. Includes copious footnotes by Tim Davenport clarifying and correcting Chaplin’s account, which was written more than a quarter century after the fact.