WHAT IT IS
Almost every person has heard or read of the organization called the Industrial Workers of the World, commonly known as "The I. W. W." Most of these people have heard or read what the I. W. W. is not, and consequently have misconceptions regarding this organization, its policy, functions and aims. Being unacquainted with this labor union, they judge it by its reputation. Now, the character of the I. W. W. and its reputation are two entirely different things. Its character is what its membership makes it, while its reputation is what its enemies have represented it to be.
Lying Capitalist Propaganda
Its enemies are the capitalist class, and capitalist henchmen of every kind and stripe. They know that if the workers understood the I. W. W. they would flock to its standard and enroll themselves into its membership by hundreds of thousands. Therefore, every power which the capitalists control is directed to slandering the organization, misrepresenting its principles, lying about its methods, and vilifying it and its membership. Press, pulpit and platform thunder their vicious falsehoods against the I. W. W. Pseudo-patriotism has been invoked to the point of frenzy by campaigns where facts were utterly ignored, or were distorted for the sinister purpose of maligning an organization which has a clearer conception and is animated by higher purposes than any union that has ever presented itself to the working people.
With an assumed regard for human welfare, the capitalists, with their lickspittles and apologists have insidiously cultivated the belief that the I. W. W. is an organization driving recklessly forward to the violent destruction of human society. The capitalists calculatingly and cold-bloodedly took, and still take, advantage of the disposition among the working people to adopt ready-made opinions in preference to forming their own opinions. Press, pulpit, platform and screen have been used to present the I. W. W. in such light as would oppose its reception with all the bitterness that prejudice could array against it.
Those who have been led to object to the I. W. W., only object to what they believe it to be. But the I. W. W. is different, something entirely different.
The "Foreign" Misconception
There is a widespread belief that the I. W. W. is an organization of foreign origin. On the contrary, it is a labor organization of American origin. Born of American labor experience and conditions, it was organized in Chicago, Illinois, in 1905. Dealing primarily with and guided by the facts of American economic life, it serves the economic interests of the American working class on this continent.
At the same time, it is also designed to serve the wage working interests in all the countries of the world, in many of which it has branches, and in all of which its influence is felt.
The opinion is commonly, too commonly held, that the I. W. W. membership consists mainly of foreigners. This charge is as old as labor unionism. The "foreign contention" has been used to discredit every union since labor first began to organize. It is conveniently overlooked that the "Pilgrim Fathers" were "foreigners", and that the only real "Americans" are the Indians.
In the I. W. W. membership in the United States, the prevailing nationality is American. Of course, there are workers of all nationalities in the I. W. W., because there are workers of all nationalities employed in American industry. While the employers find employment for foreigners, the I. W. W. will find it as necessary to organize them as to organize natives. As we work with foreigners, we must combine with foreigners. All those who work for wages the I. W. W. will organize, whether they be white, black, or yellow; men, women or children.
To Unite All Workers
Race color, religion, nationality, age or sex do not provide grounds upon which the I. W. W. will divide those whom the employing class have united industrially. Industrial solidarity of labor is a prospect of which the employing class stands in dread is why the capitalists strive to blacken the reputation of the I. W. W. They will scheme, lie, frame-up and vilify it in order to prevent such industrial organization among the workers as the I.W. W. is endeavoring to bring about. When they say that the I. W. W. is a foreign organization, they appeal to a patriotism to which they themselves are strangers, which their records as financial industrialists proves conclusively. With the I. W. W. there are no foreigners. All are workers, and we have only one enemy—the employing class which exploits our labor.
I. W. W. Shuns Secrecy
It is also alleged that the I. W. W. is a secret organization. Those who utter that falsehood know in their hearts that the I. W. W. has successfully resisted every attempt to drive it underground. Its members have fearlessly asserted their beliefs and undauntedly faced mobs, insane with bloodlust, rather than retract their honest opinions. I. W. W. members have gone to jail by thousands, but the organization has never been forced into the retirement of secrecy. Their meetings have been held openly, in open halls, or upon the street corners, often with the jails to adjourn to.
There are no "grips" or "passworts’’—no "hokus-pokus" of any kind. The I. W. W. is a wide-open organization which covets the light and avoids methods and acts that need the shelter of darkness, or the covering of a disguise. Truth is its doctrine, and overalls its uniform; the fellowship of wage toil is its qualification for membership, and loyalty to the cause of labor is its creed and test. It maintains eight publications, in six languages, to make its ideals known to all.
The I. W. W. and Violence
It has been rumored, and the rumor found acceptance, that the I. W. W. is an organization which endeavors to achieve its aim by violent methods. Violence has played a great part in the development of the I. W. W., but the I. W. W. has been the victim, and not the author of that violence.
In cases where employers have tried to connect the I.W. W. with acts of violence they have failed ignominiously. There has never been established in any court action a connection of the I. W. W. with crime. In all such cases the I. W. W. has been exonerated. In the world war cases the sabotage and violence counts were thrown out by the United States Appellate Courts. Yet in spite of all this, there is an increasing propaganda maintained, whereby it is still sought to perpetuate the idea that the I. W. W. is a criminally disposed organization.
The Source of "Labor Violence"
In the history of American Unionism, the first established connection of organized labor with criminal violence is found when the capitalists planted an agent— James McPartland—among the Molly Maguires.
Since then the "agent provocateur" has became a fixed institution in American labor unionism. In fact, providing men who will mislead labor and provoke violence in order to destroy labor unionism, has itself become an industry.
Senator Pettigrew, of South Dakota, who speaks with fifty years’ experience in public life to guide him, has this to say of labor violence:
The great combinations (of employers) would hire private detectives and use force, if necessary, to beat strikers into submission. In order to justify the use of force, in the eyes of the public, they would send secret agents among the strikers, advocating some act of violence which these agents represented to be for the welfare of the workers. They would talk violently and excite the men and advise bomb throwing and even murder. They (these agents) even perpetrated such outrages. Generally the assaults were against property, and of course immediately the army or police, or both, were called in to restore law and order.
The Megaphones of Criminal Capitalism
Senator Pettigrew might have added that the capitalist press seizes upon these made-to-order riots and committed-to-order outrages to inflame public opinion against labor organizations. The pulpiteers of capitalism take up the hue and cry, and they are echoed in every circle that depends upon the favor of capitalism for existence.
No other organization has been so grossly misrepresented in this respect as has the I. W. W. The attempt to fasten an ill-favored reputation upon this organization has cost the capitalist class millions of dollars, and has cost the I. W. W. the lives of many and the liberty of hundreds of its members. Besides, because of manufactured opinion, those who oppose the organization most bitterly, know the least about it.
In order that such among the workers, who have been misled into the belief that the I. W. W. is other than it is, may have an opportunity to judge it upon its merits, this pamphlet has been written. We shall here state without equivocation the principles, aims and methods of the I. W. W. Common fair play should grant us a hearing. Of the outcome we have no fear.
Membership in the I. W. W.
The I. W. W. is a labor organization whose membership is confined to those who work in industry far wages or salary, which is another name for wages. Anyone who does not work for a wage is not eligible for membership in the I. W. W.
Now, it may be inquired, why is not anyone who is engaged in an industrially productive capacity entitled to be a member of any labor union, more particularly of a union which aims to include the entire working class in its membership and which assumes to act for and in behalf of the entire working class?
First, as an economic organization, the I. W. W. must represent a definite economic interest, otherwise, it could not function effectively. Unless a clear and distinct line of demarcation is drawn to distinguish a particular interest, no organization could express or advance it. Therefore the I. W. W. organizes the wage workers as an industrial element whose particular interest immediately lies in modifying the terms of its relationship to the owners of industry, while preparing to end that relationship altogether.
The terms of the relationship between employer and employee are expressed in the wage paid; in the hours worked, and the conditions obtaining on the jobs. For the wage worker on the job, everything else outside of these are irrelevant and immaterial. In these aspects of the wage relationship, the wage earners are vitally interested, and about these they are vitally concerned. Consequently, in order that no extraneous matter absorb the attention of the organization, or divert it from its function on behalf of the wage earners, the I. W. W. has confined its membership to those who have wages, hours and conditions of employment to settle with the employing class.
I. W. W. Serves Only the Wage Working Interest
Some persons are engaged in productive employment who are in a position to arrange their hours and conditions. In such self-employing capacity they are not irritated by restrictions that irk wage earners. They may have the same desire as wage earners for the overthrow of capitalism, but their interest is not identical with that of wage labor in the every day struggle against the wage relationship, because for them that relationship does not exist.
As a labor movement is necessarily and primarily concerned with the daily problems that confront the wage laborers in their working places, it is imperative that such a movement shall not admit into its ranks any element not completely in accord with the interest of those whose instrument it is intended to be. To introduce an alien and inharmonious element is invite discord and bring confusion. No organization can serve two interests simultaneously.
The Proletarian View Point
Then again, there are grades in the wage working class social division, whose admission into a working class economic organization is so dangerous an experiment that the I. W. W. has deemed it advisable and necessary, temporarily, to exclude them from membership. Managers, superintendents, foremen—those who hire and fire—are not admitted.
Those workers, from the very nature of their positions in industry, are prone to see all questions about the jobs, which they supervise and direct, from the employers’ viewpoint. They would, because of this, tend to undermine the effectiveness of the union. Moreover, their control over the jobs, and, therefore, over the life conditions of the workers placed under them might be to obstruct the union in its functions, and might even defeat its purposes and its efforts. So that while the I. W. W. acknowledges the industrial kinship of these directors with the manual wage workers, it excludes them from membership, pending the time when industrial proletarian elements will have achieved such organization and industrial standing that the members of this group can be safely assimilated.
This, in a general way, explains why the I. W. W. confines its membership to actual wage workers who have no connection whatever with the employer which might serve to dull their consciousness, or to reconcile them to the wage relationship at any time.
I. W. W. Not a Political Organization
Another popular misconception, that has been planted and is being carefully fostered by the capitalist class, is that the I. W. W. aspires to be a great revolutionary political organization, which aims to overthrow existing governments and set up a bureaucratic tyranny of its own. Positively this is one of the greatest untruths spread and believed about the I. W. W. The I. W. W. is not a political organization. It has no political aspirations or aims. What it knows about politics and politicians has taught it to avoid both, like pestilence. The I. W. W. does not direct its activities against the government at all. All of its attention is centered upon the jobs and the wage relationship. The I. W. W. is neither a political nor an antipolitical organization. It is an economic organization.
Changing the Job Relationship.
Every day and every hour of every day, week after week, and month after month, year in and year out, the I. W. W. concerns itself solely with and about the wage relationship, which involves a constant struggle between employers and employees. It seeks and strives constantly to arouse the sentiment for a shorter work day among the wage workers. It endeavors to organize them to demand and secure shorter hours. It tries to organize the workers in an effort to secure higher living standards. It would organize the workers to obtain better and more healthful conditions.
It does not seek working class betterments by way of politics, but by way of economic direct action.
Now perhaps no other term used, not even the term "radical," has been so grossly misrepresented by the capitalist agencies to mean the violent destruction of life and property as "direct action." Working people have been led to believe that the direct actionists of the I. W. W. are men and women who go about the country loaded down with guns, bombs and chemicals, seeking something to destroy. Working people are made to tremble at the thought of the I. W. W. Destruction is alleged to be its sole concern, and violence preferable to the methods of peace.
Working people have believed this lying propaganda, and, unfortunately, many of them still continue to believe it, notwithstanding the fact, as before stated, that there has been a complete failure to fasten responsibility for crime upon this organization. Why do people go on believing what has been so often and so completely refuted? Simply because they have failed to investigate the facts. They are too indifferent to verify, or to disprove the allegations hurled against this and other labor organizations.
Individualism vs. Collectivism
To the vast majority of workers, the I. W. W. is something separate and apart from them and their problem. The influence of the capitalist propaganda, launched from several sources in which the people place a traditional confidence, has served to deaden the instinct of the working masses and blinds them to their own interests. The workers have been taught to think in individual terms, and only seldom rise above personal considerations. Each thinks of the job he or she holds as a personal quantity; of life as an individual problem, and even of eternal salvation, where there is what passes for religion, in terms of individual concern and achievement.
Against this individual conception, the I. W. W. contends with the collective idea of a class interest and class action. It discards the old capitalist ideas as outworn and dangerous to society. It refuses to pray for relief, and discourages the idea that the workers need, or should depend upon elements outside of themselves for relief in the present, or for emancipation finally. It sees the workers always as workers, and never in any other character, nor would it employ them in any other capacity. To the I. W. W. the worker, as a producer, is a far more important social factor than the worker his political character of citizen, where he or she is endowed with the attributes of citizenship.
We hold that the manner in which a people make their living determines the form of their society. The changes in social institutions which mark the history of the human race have always been due to previously occurring changes in the mode of production. Man, by his observation of natural laws, made discoveries that were condensed into tools and tool improvements and, within the past century, more particularly, the observations of the laboratory have re-enforced those of the workshop until man has surrounded himself with an economic environment which is reaching upon the present social structure and compelling a social readjustment that will conform to the existing system of production. The old social order and the new economic system are at odds, and threaten the existence of the race. For now as in all previous times, organized human society is dependent upon the wealth-producing element within it. As this element is made to suffer, society tends to decay. The magnificent social structure of our modern day cannot rest securely upon a proletarian foundation which misery and degradation are tormenting into restlessness. And, unless constructive progress is made, catastrophe must inevitably ensue.
What History Teaches
Similarly, in the past when the masters of the earth’s resources so directed their control that human progress was hindered, they brought about the epochal changes that history records as revolutions. A careful study of conditions at these times will explain our contention that these revolutions were the result of a social adjustment to meet the new conditions. As Benjamin Franklin well expressed, "The history of the human race can be more correctly written in terms of tools, (means and methods of production) than in any other terms."
Violence and bloodshed upon a great scale marked the advent of every previous social change. Violence has been the midwife by which every revolution of the past has been successfully ushered in. So with the unthinking, who take things as a matter of course, and who accept terms as including, with out reservation, every detail pertaining to the events they describe, the fact that the I. W. W. is an avowed revolutionary organization is taken to mean that it proposes to use the weapons that have been used by all revolutionary organizations in the past. Therefore, when the term "direct action" was coined, the capitalist henchmen seized upon it to terrify the people with pictures borrowed from the bourgeois revolutions, which were marked by the greatest terrors and most inhuman atrocities.
The Economic Direct Action of the I. W. W.
Direct action, as used by the I. W. W., means that the workers shall act directly, as workers, where they are employed. It means, accordingly, direct economic action, where the workers decide upon, and apply the control of their labor power, which organization gives them, in the manner which they believe to be most effective. They may withdraw themselves entirely from the working places—declare a strike off the job. They may remain in their working places and diminish their efficiency by one means or other. In the selling of goods they may tell the purchasers the truth about the goods; in the manufacture of products they may make known the adulteration which the manufacturer employs. And there are other ways through which the workers can exert economic pressure.
But when the workers leave the working places they forfeit, for the time being, their productive character—cease to be workers. Far this reason, the I. W. W. prefers the strike on-the-job, to striking off the job.
Again, when the workers are misled into destroying property, they have abandoned their character of wealth producers and assumed a directly opposite character—that of wealth destroyers. To this, in principle and as a matter of sound policy, the I. W. W. is opposed.
Nor are the instruments of military warfare the weapons of industrial warfare, and the I. W. W. does everything in its power to discourage the idea that resort to physical force is an effective tactic for organized workers. We believe and teach—that all such means will be used only by the proletariat to its own disadvantage. The I. W. W. does not aim at the industry as a necessary social convenience, but at the employer as an unnecessary social encumbrance. The I. W. W. undertakes to deal with the employers conscious and directly, through the machinery of production which the workers use and by which the employers benefit. It proposes to act directly and not through leaders, political or otherwise. Conscious control of labor power is the reliance of the I. W. W.
The Price of Principle
If the I. W. W. were not avowedly committed to a revolutionary program, which it has steadily refused to compromise or forego, its enemies would [not] have found it very difficult to hamper its progress, by arraying the ignorant and fearful against it. But to have bought popularity at the cost of principle was too high a price for this genuine labor organization. To eliminate from its program its ultimate objective—the overthrow of capitalism—would have been to forfeit its claim to being a labor union, in the true sense of the term.
The evils in society that compel organization by the wage workers are inherent in the capitalist system. They are its logical fruit. Therefore the I. W. W. cannot do less than declare its revolutionary purpose, even though by doing so it provided opportunity for its enemies to misrepresent and defame it, which they did not fail to grasp and make the most of. They ransacked the graveyard of history and rattled the bones of the historic dead to drive terror into the workers whom the I. W. W. is seeking to reach to educate and to organize.
The Capitalist Revolution
The history of past revolutions is a record of physical struggle in which the contest for class mastery was determined by the power of the sword. Conspiracy, which sought secrecy as one of the conditions necessary to successful preparation, marked all previous revolutions. Men and women who were parties to such revolutionary conspiracies carried their lives in their hands. They were severely dealt with when apprehended and they, too, dealt severely with traitors. Death was the penalty for treason. When these contests entered the stage of open revolution, blood flowed freely, and, hitherto every epochal social development has had a sanguinary baptism.
In the history of social revolutions the sea of blood upon which the capitalist class rode to power was greater than that of all preceding revolutions put together. This was in great part due to the development of the death-dealing instruments of warfare, but there is also the marked tendency of the capitalist class to be more relentless and unmoral than any other class which aspired to and gained social damnation.
The history and rise of the capitalist class to a ruling position in society, as told by Karl Marx (Capital, Vol 1. Chapters XXVI. to XXXIII.) and other writers, goes to prove that no other ruling class in the long history of the human race has been so completely without a sense of human responsibility, so filled with bloodlust, or so devoid of the principles of honor. Chivalry is impossible in capitalist society, and compassion is regarded by the bourgeoisie as unpardonable weakness. It depends upon power and respects only power.
Rigging Up a Scarecrow
The term "direct action" the industrial and political rulers of the United States seized upon and associated with past historical events. Direct action was associated with the deeds of terror in the French revolutions, and even [. . . ] *) of the Communards (1871) by the Thiers (capitalist) government was put upon those who were its victims in the Pere Lachaise cemetery and in the streets of Paris.
Direct action was distorted in the hands of capitalist propagandists from the meaning intended by the I. W. W., to convey the impression that the I. W. W. proposed to use the knife, the gun and the bomb to carry forward its designs. Such are the manner and the methods of the capitalist class; such were its own weapons and its own idea of the term direct action. It would hang its own reputation upon the I. W. W., and upon others who are inimical to its interests. It lives by cheating and robbery, and it only runs true to form when it would rob the I. W. W. of its reputation; and cheats opinion when it misrepresents the facts in connection with the I. W. W. mission, actions and methods.
Control of Labor Power
Let us repeat that by direct action, the I. W. W. means action by the workers in the working places. The workers, as members of the I. W. W. always preserve their character as workers, and their direct action is always in their working capacity. The policy of direct action in this sense, which is the sense in which the I. W. W. uses the term, takes the form which the organized judgement of the workers deems most effective. They may use their organized control of their labor power (1) to suspend production by walking out of the working places; (2) by remaining an the job but consciously withdrawing their productive efficiency; or they may strike intermittently. But, in whatever way they exercise their organized central, they never entirely abandon their industrial character. This threatens seriously to embarrass the capitalists in the operation of their establishments and they will not stop at anything to prevent the growth of an organization endowed with such potentialities. Hence their hatred of the I. W. W. in which they find inspiration for the multitudinous falsehoods they have circulated about it.
The Lever Labor’s Weapon
We believe that the peculiar characteristic of the wage worker is that of wealth producer or potential wealth producer, that is, that of being the indispensable social element. Our aim is to cultivate this consciousness in the wage workers and to organize it far effective expression. It is our purpose to teach the workers that they can act only to imperil the cause of labor by attempting to abandon this character and adopt any other. The worker can only function in his own behalf by exercising his power over wealth-production and in no other character or capacity. The lever in the workshop we hold to be mare powerful and reliable than a paper in the ballot box. Politics is the weapon of the ruling class, and its use will serve only to protect their rulership, and to perpetuate the wage relationship. And, as long as the wage relationship is continued, the evils which naturally flow from it will still continue to afflict the wage earning class.
To abandon the industrial field and attempt to further the cause of labor by physical violence, either in connection with a strike situation, or a military revolution, would be, for the organized workers, to abandon their entrenched position, and to deprive themselves of the shelter which their industrial position gives them. Organized to control their power as a class, they occupy an impregnable position, and would be qualified to exert an irresistible force.
What the I. W. W. Teaches
The philosophy of the I. W. W. is not the philosophy of salvation through armed physical force, but the philosophy of freedom through organized industrial power. It does not teach the doctrine of blood-letting and wide-spread misery, but the doctrine of human conservation and the abolition of misery. It is not advancing mere theory, but dealing with a demonstrated fact—that the working class constitutes the all-sufficient element for social upkeep and security.
Economic Direct Action and Self-Reliance
When the workers use direct action they depend upon themselves instead of depending upon go-betweens as they have been accustomed to do. In this sense, direct action means self-reliance. Heretofore, the workers have depended upon representatives to meet and bicker with employers. Direct action eliminates these labor leaders, by refusing to employ them. Likewise, by refusing to embark upon a political career, the I. W. W. concentrates the activities of the organized workers upon the job. Instead of seeking redress for grievances in Washington, or one of the State Capitals, the organized workers will demand it from the employer directly, and be in a position to command it.
From the foregoing, it will be seen that the I. W. W. does not teach reliance upon, nor can it consistently advocate physical violence. It proposes more effective action, in which the workers depend upon their control over wealth production. Because the I. W. W. does this, the capitalist class and its hangers-on regard it as the most dangerous of all labor organizations, and work industriously and unscrupulously to give it a reputation which will render it obnoxious to those who are ignorant of its real purposes, methods, and objects. But "Truth crushed to earth will rise again" and the I.W. W. is winning recognition. Through the mists of a vicious propaganda, the workers are beginning to know the I. W. W. for a labor organization in which they can place reliance and dependence.
The Political Shadow
We know that political institutions do not make economic conditions, but are themselves developed out of, and by economic circumstances. The politician does not dictate to industry, but receives and records the dictation of industry. Senator Pettigrew will help corroborate our contention in this regard. In his book, "Imperial Washington," he says:
It is fifty years since I began to take an interest in public affairs. During those years I have been participating, more or less actively, in public life—first as a government surveyor, then as a member of the Legislature of North Dakota; as a member of the House of Representatives, and, finally as a member of the United States Senate. Since 1880 I have known the important men in both the Republican and Democratic corps; I have known personally the leading business men who backed the political parties and who made and unmade presidents. For half a century I have known public men and have been on the inside of business and politics. Through all of that time I have lived and worked with the rulers of America.
"When I entered the arena of public affairs in 1870, the United States, with a population of thirty-eight millions, was just recovering from the effects of the Civil War. The economic life of the old slave-holding South lay in ruins. Even in the North, the panic of 1873 swept over the business world, taking its toll in commercial failures and unemployment and an increase in the number of tenant farmers. The policy of sending carpetbagging rascals into the embittered South hindered reconciliation, and sectional differences prevented any effective cooperation between the two portions of the country. The result was a heavy loss in productive power and in political position. Through this period the United States was an inconsequential factor in international affairs.
"The transformation from that day to this is complete. With three times the population; with sectionalism practically eliminated; with the South recovered economically and the economic power of the North vastly increased; with more wealth than any other five nations of the world combined; with the credit of the world in her hands; with large undeveloped, or only slightly developed resources; with a unified population, and a new idea of world importance, the United States stands as probably the richest and most influential among the great nations.
I witnessed the momentous changes and participated in them. While they were occurring 1 saw something else that filled me with dread. 1 saw the government of the United States enter into a struggle with the trusts, the railroads, and the banks, and I watched while the business forces won the contest. I saw the forms of republican (political) government decay through disuse, and I saw them betrayed by the very men who were sworn to preserve and uphold them. I saw the empire of business, with its innumerable ramifications, grow up around and above the structure of government. I watched the power over public affairs shift from the weakened structure of republican machinery to the vigorous new business empire. Strong men who saw what was occurring no longer went into politics. Instead, they entered the field of industry, and with them the seat of government of the United States was shifted from Washington to Wall Street. With this shift, there disappeared from active public life those principles of republican government that I had learned to believe were the means of safeguarding liberty. After the authority over public affairs had been transferred to the men of business, I saw the machinery of business pass from the hands of individuals into the hands of corporations—artificial persons—created in the imagination of lawyers and given efficacy by sanction of the courts of law. I discovered that these things had been going on from the beginning of our government, that they had grown up with it, and were an essential part of its structure. From surprise and disgust I turned to analysis and reason and for the past twenty years, I have been watching the public life of the United States with an understanding mind. For a long time I have known what was going on in the United States. Today I think I know why it is going on.
Senator Looks Backward
When I look back over the half century that has passed since I first entered public life, I can hardly realize that the America, which I knew and believed in as a young man in the twenties would have changed so completely in so short time. Even when I know the reason for the change, it is hard to accept it as a reality.
Many of the public men who have lived and worked in the United States during the past century have written their impressions of public affairs. Benton, Blaine, Grant and Sherman discussed the public life of the middle of the last century. Since then, there have been many autobiographies and memoirs. I have read these books carefully, and it seems to me that not one of the writers is at the same time a student and, a realist.
First of all, they have written about politics, with very little or no attention to the economic forces that were shaping politics. In the second place, too many of them have written the agreeable things and left the disagreeable ones unsaid. In the third place, they have written what they believed should have happened, rather than what actually did happen. Fourth, and by far the most important, each of these men has written as a member of a ruling class, pleased with himself and satisfied that rule by his class was the best thing for the community. The pictures that these men give are like the decision of our courts—-built on precedents rather than realities." (Emphasis ours.)
The Compelling Force
As a changing mode of production operates to change all the institutions depending upon it, it is as well to recognize that production is the substantial foundation upon which any society rests. So that in any society that element only is necessary whose functions are essential to the prevailing productive system. In present day society, this element is comprised of every population which labors for a wage. Without the wage laborers our system of production could not endure.
A little consideration will satisfy even the most prejudiced that if the wage workers did not make and operate the tools of production, this system of production would go to pieces and our present civilization disappear.
The clothes we wear, the food we eat, the houses that afford shelter, the means of transportation on land, sea and air would all be out of reach, were not the hands of the wage laboring class busy in productive social service. Society does not depend upon the capitalist or the politician. It depends upon the workers. From the most primitive forms up to the present, human society has always depended upon the working class element. The workers have always constituted the social guarantee, and their efforts as producers is the price that humankind has paid for its existence, from the time when man lived precariously until the present day, when the question of sufficient to enable the race to survive has been answered by superabundant production.
The productive facilities and capacity must exist before an organized society is possible, which is to say that production is prior to and more important than politics. Politics is the handmaiden of industry. As the system of production changes, so do we observe corresponding social and political changes.
But by whom is the mode of production changed? Obviously by those who alone are competent to change it—the human productive factors, at the present time, the wage workers. For if this contention did not hold true, our philosophy would be at fault. If it could be proven that the capitalists, as such, have contributed to the change in the productive system, then they would have justified their existence in a social sense. But they have not done so. Every change effected, which has won social advantage industrially, has been due, to those actively engaged in productive work. The capitalist, as such, seized and fattened upon every invention, mechanical and administrative improvement. He has never contributed anything to human advancement. He is a parasite, and like all other parasites, he has no independent existence, but lives upon the constructive wealth-producing organism which the enthralled labor of the ages has built up.
I. W. W. Would Dispel Labor Ignorance
The power of the capitalist class is a delegated power, which labor ignorance has invested in it. It has no power in itself. Labor is power, and, when conscious of its own interest and its social responsibility, it is the only power. Therefore, the I. W. W. depends upon education, not upon terror. Facts are its weapons, not bombs. It is busy teaching instead of intimidating. Its arsenal is lined with bookshelves, and not with gunracks. Truth is its artillery, and justice its objective.
The I. W. W. is dangerous only to the greedy and the socially conscienceless. It brings hope to the dispossessed and downtrodden, and promises the earth and the fullness thereof to those who make use of the one to bring forth the other. Those only shall share who produce, those only shall eat who labor. One for all and all for one. Such is the I. W. W. This is what makes it dangerous to those whose colossal fortunes and position of mastery are founded on the misery and wretchedness of the hosts of toil.
When the producers, who work for wages, organize as they are arranged in the industries, they will have taken a long step in the direction of industrial freedom.
We find the workers are so arranged that the labors of the classifications necessary for the completion of the finished products from the raw material dovetail into one another. The function of each labor classification is related to and coordinated with that of every other classification. The modern working force represents a harmoniously balanced industrial organization. Once the workers learn to combine into unions, as they are situated in the industries, they will develop a power which can be used to advance their interest; a power so great that nothing could successfully resist it.
Oil Industry an Example
Take the oil industry, as an example. The working force includes every necessary worker from the time the ground is surveyed for the derrick until the product is loaded on the cars. Take the oil industry as a whole—it is senseless to do less—and when the surveying crews, drillers, tooldressers, roustabouts, truckers, cooks, waiters, pipeliners, refinery men, repairmen of all kinds, tank builders, etc., are all organized into an oil workers union, you have a power which would bring one of the greatest of all employers—Standard Oil—to its knees. The same applies to the coal industry, agriculture, to lumbering, to the foodstuffs and textile, in fact to all industry.
Working Class Interdependence
But, as the workers in each of these industries are dependent upon the functioning of the workers in all other industries, it is necessary that all of them be bound together for mutual assistance and support. The transportation industry is the connecting link which binds them all together. Without modern transportation, modern industry would be impossible.
But, without food and clothing and houses for the transportation workers, and fuel and oil for the engines, and rolling stock, modern transportation itself would not be possible. So that, while transportation appears to be of supreme importance, it is, in the true social sense, no more important than any of the other industries. There is this about transportation that, unlike other industries, it cannot be stored up. You can store oil, clothes and food, but you cannot store transportation.
Controlling Labor Through Craft System
If transportation is suspended the social effect is immediately noticeable, while in other industries the noticeable effect of a suspension is delayed. Transportation therefore is, from its strategic position in the industrial scheme, the key industry. For this reason, the capitalist class watch jealously over their control of transportation labor, which they retain possession of through what we know as the Big Four Railroad Brotherhoods.
It is worthy of notice that these four unions, up until quite recently, were not only kept rigidly apart from other unions, but from each other. Only when the rank and file of these unions gave evidence of their determination to force united action did the railroad-controlled Grand Lodges decide to make a united demand.
Time and again these Grand Lodges have refused to be bound by the expressed wishes of the rank and file, and have flagrantly disregarded the strike mandates of the membership. This emphasizes the difference between direct action and indirect action. The rank and file of these railroad unions are accustomed to do as their officers advise, instead of doing what their own judgement dictates, and their interest requires. Indirect action means control of organized laborers. Direct action means control by the organized workers.
So also the capitalist class control the labor forces outside of the railroad industry, by keeping the organized workers divided according the tools they use. Only when workers so organized have threatened to break away from the control of the capitalist-minded if not capitalist-employed labor leaders, have they been successful in securing any substantial portion of their demands.
The craft unions are based upon a condition long ago superseded and discarded, where a workman employing many tools worked from the first operation upon the raw material until the finished product had been realized. Now, the system of production in the modern industrial plant has eliminated the craftsmen, and hundreds of operatives function in many capacities with power-driven machines to make the product which the craftsman used to produce.
Product Determines Labor Classification
Always the craftsman was identified by his product and today the working force which has replaced him also is identified by its product. The tailor was never the man who used a needle, shears and goods, but one, who by using these produced clothes. Similarly, the shoemaker was not a man who used an awl, waxed thread and lasts, but a man who, by using these produced shoes. It was always the product that determined the craftsman.
While the craft survived there was room and a function for the craft union, but in our present stage of industrial development, there is neither place nor function for the craft union. It serves the capitalist interests by keeping the working forces divided. It is as much out of place in modern industry as a Ku Klux Klansman in a Knight of Columbus meeting.
The cry of being an anti-religious organization has also been raised against the I. W. W. when, as a matter of fact, the I. W. W. does not concern itself about religion in any way, shape or manner. It does not inquire about the religious views of the worker, it only takes cognizance of his industrial calling. Whether he (or she) be of the Catholic or Jewish religion, Greek Orthodox, or any of the varieties of Protestantism, makes no difference to the I. W. W. The belief of the Buddhist and the Mussulman are, equally with all other religions, or no religion, a matter of complete indifference to it as a labor organization. It is the champion of none of them as against the others.
The I. W. W. is free of religious strings, nor will it permit itself to be made the vehicle of anti-religious propaganda. It takes those whom it finds in industrial occupations, regardless of their religious affiliations, and strives to weld them into One Big Union of the Working Class.
Now, those whom the I. W. W. encounters in industry the employers have placed there. Divers religions are encountered, many languages are spoken, and it is the mission of the I. W. W. to unite these into one common organization for industrial purposes. As the employers have recruited Jew and Christian, Buddhist and Mussulman, in the polyglot working forces that man the industries, the I. W. W. as a militant labor union has no option but to organize these workers as workers, paying no attention whatever to their religious beliefs. It is concerned about them only as economic factors.
The Jew and Gentile expend their labor power in exactly the same manner; they labor together under the same conditions; and are exploited to the same degree. The I. W. W., being concerned only about the wage relationship, appeals to them upon the grounds of common activities upon the job, and pays no attention whatever to church, temple or synagogue. It is not to be held responsible for the fact that industry is not religious, and it takes industry and the personnel of industry, as it finds them. It seeks to fashion out of both a social order in keeping with the development of modern times. So much for the misconceptions that have been scattered broadcast about the I. W. W.
I. W. W. A Problem for Capitalists
When the I. W. W. came into existence, it set a new problem for American capitalism to deal with. Here was an organization based upon the bedrock of economic truth, whose message was vibrant with the appeal for class solidarity. It constitutes the greatest menace that ever threatened the capitalist regime. The capitalists are aware of its potentiality, and have tried to strangle it from its birth.
At the second convention a battle was staged which was to determine whether the new organization was to be controlled in the interest of capitalist property, or in the interest of wage labor. The workers’ representatives dominated the convention.
The aftermath of this convention is a tale of labor treachery and baseness, in a Western setting, that did much to stay the progress of the I. W. W. Such was its purposes, and the outcome was what the capitalists desired.
Behind the clash of personalities, leading up to, and following the events which established the general eight hour day in Goldfield, Nevada, was hidden a conflict of ideas and interests. The first skirmish by the Western capitalists and their agents in the Western Federation of Miners and A. F. of L., against the I. W. W, was successful locally and temporarily. Some of the principal figures in that contest have passed away, but the effect of their treason lived after them. The W. F. M. has been eliminated as a labor factor, and has degenerated into an organization more or less openly controlled by the mine operators.
Cutting Out Politics
The next contest in the I. W. W., and really the most significant in its history, was staged at the Fourth Annual Convention (1908) where the question of political action was at issue. The decision of the convention was that the organization could not be a labor union and a political party at the same time. The I. W. W. divested itself of the disease-breeding political illusion which had murdered every previous labor movement, and settled itself upon a proletarian basis and a single function—in the every day struggle to regulate the job relationship by economic means alone, and eventually to abolish that relationship altogether.
This decision antagonized the labor politicians, who then enlisted with the enemies of the I. W. W. and did yeoman service in misrepresenting it. For a time these politicians did the dirty work of the capitalist class, and as they gave their imagination full play, they did it more effectively than the less qualified stool pigeons which the capitalists keep on their payrolls. These politicians, and the parties they belonged to, have gone the way of all illusions, and the I. W. W. is still here, adding to its strength and influence. Of course, the old-time labor political parties have been succeeded by other political forms which, true to their capitalist conceptions, also believe that attacking the I. W. W. will recommend them to reaction and will provide a passport to the flesh-pots. However, the I. W. W. pursues the even tenor of its way, undisturbed by the yawping of political mongrels, who are neither avowedly capitalist, nor outspokenly labor.
The principles of the I. W. W. are concisely set forth in its Preamble, which is the most important document ever issued in the name of labor for the guidance of labor.
PREAMBLE of the INDUSTRIAL WORKERS of the WORLD
The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.
Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the earth and the machinery of production, and abolish the wage system.
We find that the centering of the management of industries into fewer and fewer hands makes the trade unions unable to cope with the ever growing power of the employing class. The trade unions foster a state of affairs which allows one set of workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same industry, thereby helping defeat one another in wage wars. Moreover, the trade unions aid the employing class to mislead the workers into the belief that the working class have interests in common with their employers.
These conditions can be changed and the interest of the working class upheld only by an organization formed in such a way that all its members in any one industry, or in all industries if necessary, cease work whenever a strike or lockout is on in any department thereof, thus making an injury to one an injury to all.
Instead of the conservative motto, "A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work," we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword,,"Abolition of the wage system."
It is historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. The army of production must be organized, not only for the every-day struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.
An International Proletarian Union
As will be seen the I. W. W. principle is not intended to apply to only one country, but is intended to cover wage labor in all countries. As the laborers in one industry are dependent upon and necessary to the laborers in all other industries, so are the workers of one country dependent upon and necessary to the workers in all other countries. Modern transportation has practically eliminated distance, and knits the countries of the world in an industrial whole. This interdependence of the workers in all the countries of the world, the I. W. W. is the first organization to give expression to. And it is fitting that the most highly developed capitalist country of the world should bring forth the labor organization most suitable to the needs of the world’s proletariat. In the I. W. W. we find the genesis of the first proletarian international.
Building the New Society
"By organizing industrially, we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old (order)", states the Preamble. Here, in this declaration, we have that which differentiates the I. W. W. from all previous and present allegedly revolutionary organizations. This idea proclaims the rise of a new school of labor thought and makes a new program for the labor movement.
In the conventions and meetings of the I. W. W., in its first four years, two ideas that had dominated and vitiated every previous labor movement met and fought out their contentions—the labor political advocates and the anti-political forces. Hitherto, these two had divided the realm of labor thought and both had commanded much strength, although neither had succeeded in attaining a commanding position among the organized labor forces in America, since the failure of the political movement of labor (1828-1832), in the Atlantic states. Among labor progressives it was conceded that if a movement was not political, it must necessarily be anti-political, and vice versa. Marxists and Lassalleans had fought out their differences, and the followers of Bakunin and Proudhon had disputed with the united remnants of both.
The I. W. W. Neither Political Nor Anti-Political
When the Industrial Manifesto was issued, both the labor politicians and the anti-politicians prepared to capture the new movement and bend it to their purposes. The outcome was a disappointment to both, and each school claims, despite the evidence to the contrary, that the I. W. W. fell victim to the will of the other.
As a matter of fact, the I. W. W. rejected domination at the hands of either, and as its judgement directed, took from each what would stand analysis. It has accepted the economics of Marx, while rejecting his speculative philosophy and it has conned from other philosophers principles in accord with working class experience. For its fundamental principles it has drawn more heavily upon Marx, Engels and Dietzgen than upon others, but its philosophy is not that of the traditional Marxists, for it rejects the theory of working class advancement or emancipation through political action.
Nor is it anarchistic, because it aims at, and is endeavoring to organize a highly central form of organization which views industry and its problems from the highly collective instead of the individual viewpoint.
This, and this only, it has in common with the anarchist school of thought—it rejects political action, as an effective medium of organized working class activity.
It is an economic organization, operating in the economic sphere, using economic means for economic purposes at all times, and aiming at an economic objective—an industrialized society.
The Economic School
The I. W. W. philosophy is a new school of thought developed out of the contending philosophies of the past. The I. W. W. is the economic school of thought in contradistinction to the political and other schools which sought some other means than the organized control of human labor power to bring about the overthrow of capitalism, and its replacement by an industrial society.
Social evolution sustains the I. W. W. theory of "building the new society within the shell of the old". That which was responsible for the epochal changes that mark human social history has not been the development of political forms, but the development of economic forms. Moreover, it was only when these forms had developed to a point where they could bear the weight of social responsibility that revolutionary changes occurred. There is no reason to suppose that capitalist society will offer an exception to this historic rule. Only when the proletariat has developed a form which will suffice to safeguard human interest will the industrial revolution become the fact of history.
Russia Sustains I. W. W. Contention
Russia affords a striking example of what occurs when "forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old" has been neglected. Not that the revolutionaries of Russia are to be held responsible for a condition not of their making. They did the best they could. But the industrial facts were against them and they failed to achieve the goal they were bent upon achieving. They accomplished a political revolution, but in the absence of a sound industrial underpinning, the communist state collapsed and Russia has slipped back into capitalism. This has not occurred because the Russian revolutionists desired it, or schemed to bring it about, but because the law of economic determinism is operative under a communist as well as any other regime. The Russian experience supports the I. W. W. theory. By organizing industrially—not politically or militarily—the workers "are building the structure of the new society within the shell of the old."
Industrial Organization by Industries
Let us take the coal industry and look at it organized industrially as an industry. When the coal production workers are organized industrially, such an organization deprives them of no rights which they enjoy and choose to exercise. They will be at liberty to vote if they feel so inclined, or not vote, as they please. They may go to church or stay at home. Their activities in every sphere, outside of industry, are determined by themselves individually. In industry, however, they will all belong to one union of coal mine workers, regardless of what they do in or around the mines, coke ovens, etc.—engineers, loaders, firemen, oilers, machinists, blacksmiths, electricians, weighmen, miners, pullers, topmen—everyone, the object of whose labor is coal production, will be members of one union.
But as the operation of the coal mine industry is dependent upon all other industries, this union of coal mine workers, in order to function successfully, must be linked with similar unions of the workers in all other industries. Before the coal mine workers can function industrially, in the social sense, there must be transportation provided. Unless the loaded cars are hauled away, no coal can be mined. For the object that inspires coal production is to supply a social need. Then it resolves itself into this, that the transportation workers are as necessary to coal production as are the coal mine workers. And again, the coal diggers must have machines or picks to dig with, mine cars, tracks to run them on, and motors or mules to haul them with. They must have houses to live in, and beds to sleep in; food, and means to prepare it. The clothing makers must have furnished them clothing, and the shoe workers footwear. Without all of these, they could not function. They help the coal workers, and the coal workers help them. Each depends upon all the others. They supplement and complement one another.
Each article for human consumption from coal to candy, represents the labor of the entire working class. This is why independent unions cannot fully serve the interest of the workers in any industry. Sooner or later these must break beneath the strain that the united capitalist class will subject them to. At best, they serve as points of resistence and are without the capacity to build for the inauguration of a new social order. But industrial unions, linked together, or one I. W. W. union. branched according to the arrangement obtaining in capitalist industry, generates the power to resist in the present, and to construct the new order as well.
The I. W. W. is not a federation or amalgamation of industrial unions, but one union, with several subordinate parts.
The workers are aware that certain undesirable and unwelcome things exist, but they do not know why these things are. Consequently, they do not understand how to secure the remedies that they covet, and for which they clamor. This knowledge the I. W. W. is striving to bring to the working class. Education is the main dependence of the I. W. W. It realizes that only the ignorant can be victimized with impunity. Ignorance is the enemy of working class progress. The ignorant are always fearful; they do not know how to go, and they only make headway timidly. In proportion as the workers understand their class position in society, they recognize the need of organization and the power that lies in it. The intelligent among the workers are nearly always found in labor organizations.
Unfortunately for the working class, the individual conception sometimes overpowers the social consciousness of organized workers, and they reach out for personal advantage to the point where they use the working class, instead of permitting themselves to be used by it and for the class interest. They are not always consciously unfaithful, but are swayed, without perceiving it, by the common predilection to put self before others. There is a deplorable low standard of economic morality obtaining among organized workers, for which leaders of labor thought, who encourage imperfect labor agencies, must be held accountable, because they have consistently and often intentionally cultivated and fostered economic ignorance among the union membership whose sources of information they controlled.
So long as this ignorance permeates the mentality of the workers, the labor movement must lag behind and labor miss opportunities to advance its interest. Moreover, as long as the element which has dominated labor affairs, and controlled working class destiny in the past, maintains its position of mastery, every attempt to educate the working class will encounter hostility from it.
Gompersism, which means capitalist control of organized labor power through the craft system, will fight every educational movement which it cannot control in the interest of capitalist property, as it has fought every movement in the past forty years that tended more clearly to define the lines of class division in capitalist society.
Mental Poverty of Labor
Ask the average worker what relation machine production has to unemployment, and you will find that he is unaware of the fact that machinery will explain unemployment. Yet this fact, which is potent enough to be self-evident, is a mystery to the average unionist, let alone to the average working man and woman. The unemployed, even after many experiences, on the average only understand that "the job was shut down" by the boss. It is accepted that the employer has an unquestioned right to shut down industry, regardless of the social consequences. Why the capitalist system compelled the suspension and left the employer no option is a sealed book to the working class generally. This should not be.
The workers, at least the organized workers, should be able to explain this phenomenon, and the experience of years should have taught them how to correct these periodic industrial visitations. But under the domination of ideas, as much out of keeping with the times as are their unions, every new occasion finds the workers as unprepared as did every previous panic. Labor has not learned from its sufferings, because its thinking, like its action, is largely indirect. It does not find explanations for its plight, it accepts advice and explanations from those who do not explain, and whose interest lies in working class inability to understand; and in its acceptance of conditions to which only its ignorance permits it to tolerate. And the explanation for unemployment is not difficult, if the workers seek it out.
Where the machine is put in, some of the workers move out. One worker with a machine, or a small working force with machinery, will produce more goods than a large working force with hand tools. So that machinery displaces laborers. This is the feature of machinery that secures its installation in industry. But machinery does more than merely throw workmen out of jobs, it renders the versatile skill of the craftsman unnecessary. So the machines have won their way into every industry, and wherever they went less labor was required until eventually the aggregate of these surplus laborers grew to such proportions that there came into existence what is known as the army of unemployed.
At first the unemployed were largely of the mechanical trades, but the invention of new mechanical devices, and the improvement of machinery, which has been going on, has reduced the unemployed to a working class contingent in which the unskilled workers predominate.
The change in the proportion of skilled and unskilled workers in the unemployed ranks corresponds to the change which was taking place in industry, where skilled craftsmen had ceased to be important factor. For in all industries today, due to machinery, the unskilled and little-skilled constitute the predominant element. The place of the craftsman has been taken by the technologist but relatively, the industrial proletariat is the most important factor in modern production. In field, mine work and railroad, and upon the sea, the unskilled workers dominate. Were they once organized, as the I. W. W. proposes, they would bind every other social element to their will and purpose.
There has been going on in society, side by side, two great conflicts, that between the working class and the employing class on the one hand, and that between the unskilled and the organized craftsmen. Within the working class, the organized workers of the craft days have striven to retain their supremacy over the unskilled workers. The organized labor movement in the craft system, so far as it is a labor movement, has and is still attempting, to secure for itself the places attending the machinery of production. Its fight has been to drive off the unskilled, for whom technical advancement was making place. These unions grew to deserve the term "job trust," which has been applied to them. Even their demand for shorter hours, better wages and conditions were never intended to improve the lot of their unskilled fellows, and many advantages won by these unionists were secured at the expense of the unskilled. Their initiation fees, generally prohibitive, their apprentice rules, their jurisdictional lines, were all established in an effort to retain their special advantages.
Even their attempt to organize the unskilled workers by their sides, where they did organize them, was intended only to make their own positions secure. Instead of asking for the organization of the unskilled, the working out of this policy made organization by and of the unskilled more difficult. But the machine continued at work, reducing the quality of skill and diminishing working forces to mere skeletons of what they were formerly. The problem of unemployment persisted in chronic form, insistently commanding the attention of the workers until there is a growing recognition that the solution of this problem rests with the workers themselves, and that they must organize as a class to solve it.
Unemployment Working Class Problem
While the unemployed army is a constant and growing social element, its personnel is in a state of constant change. There is continuously growing an interchange of places between the employed and unemployed portions of the working class. The problem is ever the same, and its solution becomes everyday more necessary to the working class. Within the capitalist system, the workers must decide how to fit a continuously increasing number of wage workers into a constantly diminishing number of jobs. One way is by shortening the workday.
If the average working day is now eight hours, by reducing the number of working hours to six per day, millions, now permanently unemployed, would be put to work. Of course the workings of the capitalist system would operate again to create another army of unemployed, but the workers, by organization could again shorten the workday to from 6 to 5 or 4 hours, or by reducing the number of working days per week.
Unemployment Necessary to Capitalism
While the present system of ownership survives, the army of unemployed is necessary for the capitalist class. The workers are indispensable, the capitalists are unnecessary. Common social sense points out that what is essential to social upkeep be preserved and that the unnecessary and unserviceable be dispensed with. So that when it becomes apparent that capitalist ownership of necessary social resources, and the means for their utilization, menace society they will be discarded. But, in the meantime, the workers must organize themselves to make room for their fellow workers around the machinery of production. Every worker added to the working force lightens the burden of the other workers. The employers, by virtue of their ownership, are riding upon backs already overburdened. The employers are not necessary to production, the workers are; and, as workers, they have the power to say whether, or how long, the capitalists will ride. The power over wealth production is the power over society. The workers must organize, as the I. W. W. is proposing, in order to wield that power.
Industrial Solidarity Greatest Power
The superiority of industrial power, as represented by the workers’ organized control of labor power, over every other expression of power, has been strikingly illustrated in recent years.
In the great world war, the economic forces were as important as the military forces. It was clearly proven that without economic support the military effort would have collapsed. So important was the economic end of the military campaign that the several governments actively prosecuting the war had to take cognizance of it and give expression to their recognition. Politician and militarist were reluctantly forced to admit that, in the last analysis, the success of the military effort depended upon the economic support with which the industrialists in the various countries assisted the armies; "Work or Fight" was the slogan and men were selected for work or war, as their value in the furtherance of the campaign seemed to warrant. The machine in the industry was as important and as necessary as the battery at the front; the worker in overalls was as indispensable to military victory as the soldiers in uniform. The worker was even more necessary, because the soldier, in his military character, cannot and does not equip himself with the instruments of warfare, or the means with which to fight.
A nation must first be a producer of surplus wealth before it needs to, or can fight. In war, as in peace, the working class is the determining factor. The I. W. W. would preserve the working class character—producer—and would eliminate war wherein the overall is dropped and the uniform assumed; where productive tool is replaced by the death-dealing weapon, and men go forth to destroy wantonly and recklessly what has been produced in labor travail and is sorely needed by the human race.
Labor the Great Reliance
The political contention for labor has also received a decided setback, when the annals of the world war are read understandingly. Political governments proceeded to industrialize themselves and to organize the industrial forces of the nations as a prerequisite of military and political success, which, taken together, meant national industrial advantage, for the capitalists who control.
In Russia, we found that the political communists were compelled to forego some of their industrial policies to win political tolerance from, and a place among, the political governments. In proportion as it changed its economic principles, Russia made headway politically, until at the present time, the fears of the international capitalist class have abated to a point where Russia is about to be admitted to the "family of nations." The economic retrograde movement, though the Russians entered upon it reluctantly, won friendly influence among the profit-hungry in the capitalist countries, but the friendship is that of the wolf for the sheepfold.
Economic Factor in War
Again, in the Turkish-Allies controversy, political democracy is the disguise preferred to an economic end—control of the oil deposits in the disputed territory.
In the French invasion of the Ruhr basin, if political ends only were to be served, Berlin was as readily seized as Essen and Bochum, but the French were after the substantial in German national life, and they occupied the industrial heart of Germany.
The politicians in Berlin in this emergency did not rely upon political platitudes; they made their appeal for the greatest resistance that Germany as a nation could offer—a general strike by the German workers. This is all the more significant, because it was the German political socialists who coined the phrase: "The general strike is general nonsense." Time and circumstances have driven the German socialists to give world acknowledgment that the conscious, organized control of labor power is the greatest force in society. In 1920, the German politicians also depended upon industrial action to defeat the Kapp counter-revolution.
The French, also, recognize that the one power in Germany which would reduce the army of invasion to impotence is the refusal of the workers to labor. The French use their military power to exert economic pressure—their army of occupation is but an extended armed picket line—but if the workers stand pat, and the French labor movement does its labor duty, the capitalists of France, and their comrades in labor exploitation will experience the setback and the lesson of their career.
An I. W. W. organization in Germany, or in France and Germany, would bend the politicians, render the army of occupation helpless, and bring the capitalist class, which both serve, to its knees. Industrial power is the irresistible force which the I. W. W. is endeavoring to bring into play. When the labor power necessary to each industry and all industries is controlled by an organization which includes the workers in every labor classification and division, it will not only be possible, but sure, that such control will be exercised in the direction of attaining higher living standards, as stepping stones to industrial freedom.
The I. W. W. and the Unemployed
As the unemployed, or workers in fear of unemployment and its denials, constantly threaten this working class ambition, one of the first undertakings of such an organization would necessarily be to relieve this disastrous competition. One of its early moves would be to strive for a shorter workday, thus reducing the number of unemployed and strengthening the employed force which would be more amenable to organization, and so situated as to exert its industrial influence toward the advancement of working class interest. A working class organization will naturally have a working class viewpoint, and its activities will be of a working class nature primarily, but all its industrial ventures will likewise be social in character because of the fundamentally social character of the working class.
For the unemployed workers, there is no hope for alleviation of their lot, or for emancipation from their condition of helplessness, except through such an organization as the I. W. W.; and propagation of its principles should be their constant care and business.
Migratory Labor and the Social Revolution
The self-satisfied among the labor intellectuals pronounce the I. W. W. anathema because it is composed principally of migratory workers. "Wise" in their conceited estimate of themselves, it does not dawn upon these "superior" persons that the migratory worker, the worst denied and one of the most essential of working class elements, is the proper custodian of correct labor principles, and of proletarian revolutionary organization and program. The migratory wage worker is the particular product of machine production, and in this element all the experiences of the working class under capitalism are incorporated.
Fundamentally and economically, there is no difference between those workers who move about from job to job and from one industry to another in one city or neighborhood, and those who travel the United States and Canada shifting from locality to locality, and following now one and again another industrial calling. The only thing that distinguishes or rather differentiates one from the other is the radius in which they move about.
To change residence from one part of the city to another, is not different to changing from one city, or state, to another. The necessity to move arises from a common cause. The problem of the one element is the problem of the other, and they must unite to solve it.
The migrant is an unemployed wage-worker in search of employment. He may find a job within reaching distance of his residence, or he may have to travel thousands of miles to find one. But find a job he must, or perish. Upon this is his life conditioned.
The homeguard may balk at the term "tramp," but the workman who is out of work must tramp to find another job. To sell his labor power is the sentence of capitalism upon the wage worker. To try to sell it is his pressing business when unemployed. How far he must travel before he succeeds in doing so depends upon circumstances and the man. Between the city’s unemployed, who tramp the streets from factory to factory, and those who go from place to place by way of the boxcar, there is no difference substantially. The difference is only psychological, not material.
The condition is identical, resulting from the same cause, springing from the same source, and demanding the same remedy. They must unite to solve that problem, and the I. W. W. offers the only means for doing so. The existing ownership, and the class relationship growing out of it, makes it imperative for the migratory workers to seek permanent access to the means of life—the earth’s resources and the instruments of production. This element is where it must move for its own preservation, and the only objective toward which its condition and experiences are driving it entails a revolutionary change. It must have access to its means of livelihood. The present system of ownership stands between it and the social destination toward which it must travel—it must remove and replace that system of ownership before it attains security for itself. Hence the tenacity, with which the migratory workers cling to the I. W. W.
Again, if the workers can only learn by experience, surely these migratory workers, all of them at some time resident or stationary workers, have a fund of experience excelling that of other working class elements. They have, besides, the stimulus of a condition that qualifies them to lead the vanguard of labor.
Labor and the "Intellectuals"
Had the I. W. W. entrusted its destiny to the unrestricted control of parlor intellectuals whose experiences were not those of the industrialists, the organization would long ago have disappeared from the labor arena. The I. W. W. is not unmindful or neglectful of the need for intelligent guidance and action. It stresses education for the workers, but it has drawn its intellectual material from, and been guided by the experiences of the actual workers in industry and they are slowly and painfully building this organization into power which will bring to the working class the recognition to which it is entitled, and give the control of society into the hands of those who alone are capable of administering its affairs in the interest of all and for the benefit of all—the workers.
The future belongs to the I. W. W.
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Transcribed by J. D. Crutchfield from an original copy kindly lent by FW Steve Kellerman, Boston GMB. Spelling and punctuation silently corrected. Layout slightly modified for easier reading on the web. Links to other web sites do not constitute endorsement. Please report errors and dead links to classify @ iww.org.
Last updated 2 March 2004.
Last updated 5 November 2004 by David Walters for the MIA’s I.W.W. Collection. We extend our heartfelt thanks to J. D. Crutchfied for granting us permission to use his collection of online pamphlets.