Industrial Unionism

Presented by

Andor Wiener

[Translated by Ildiko Sipos]

Published by the Bérmunkás Editorial Board




Industrial Unionism

The spread of the term “Technocracy” throughout the country has even surpassed its success in America. It has perpetually dominated the headlines of the bourgeois press, which treats it like a puzzle to be solved when presenting it to its readers.

Those who stand to lose from it quickly saw that this theory does not strengthen the framework of the current social system—quite the opposite. With its long numerical figures, it proves that social changes must come, so that those millions who have been made unnecessary through production can have access to work again.

The workers, who for the fourth year walk the pavement from factory gate to factory gate, look for an alternative in Technocracy, a theory that is about them, but do not know how to make such changes possible because for this the Technocrats offer no roadmap.

This roadmap, only the Industrial Workers of the World can teach and show to the workers, this, Wiener Andor, our fellow worker, illustrated so faithfully in his presentation, held on the West Side of Cleveland, that we would be committing a gross omission if we did not get this in the hands of every Hungarian worker in America.

Read this little booklet, think about it, and if you feel as we do about what is in it then join I. W. W.’s organization, so that in the moment of the collapse of capitalism you can be there to continue production and its organized distribution in the Industrial Workers’ big camp.

The Bérmunkás Editorial Board

Cleveland, Ohio

There is not a more sensational affair in our days that has generated greater interest than that of Technocracy. In America, far and wide, in every layer of society, in fact in every nation of the world, whether it is for or against, they are speaking about Technocracy. This “new” theory, well, everyone has an opinion. It is only natural, that we I. W. W.’s must also have one, we must. After all, the dissection of the social question is work that we have been engaged in for more than a quarter of a century.

This is no small assignment that we volunteered for, trying to familiarize our audience on this subject in such a short time frame. Technocracy’s works up till now have been filled sky high with numerical data, which makes it almost impossible for us to give a review of it on such grounds. But for us working people to familiarize ourselves with Technocracy is not what is most important anyway.

We in the industry, who throughout our lives, have always been placed into production, are not surprised by the comparative results of the numbers. We are the ones who created those self perfecting machines, we built them, we are the ones who put them in place of the old ones and we were the ones who tried them out first. We were the ones who felt their impact, because as a result of their perfection, we were the ones who ended up on the streets.

These hands that have become calloused from our heavy work are not suitable for accounting, nor for the extraction of data, so for perfecting the understanding of the colossal changes in production numerically, we workers have no need.

What is Technocracy?

Technocracy is an academic theory. Chosen scientists and engineers, judged to be the best in their fields, gathered together for the purpose of revealing to society, by pouring into numbers, the course of evolution of the flow of production. According to their original plans they undertook the task of developing some 300 charts, on which they would show, by numerically breaking down and totaling every branch of the production of goods, and then using various equations to explain the dizzying progress of how the partnership of man and machine would result in the increase of production from the tens to the thousands.

To the best of our knowledge, Technocracy gathers around the character and the name of Howard Scott, a leading Technocrat. This dry, bony, lanky American engineer’s visionary figure appears everywhere where Technocracy is discussed, whether siding in favor of, or in opposition to it.

The most contradictory opinions are circulated about Howard Scott, and without analyzing whether they are true or not, we will relate what we know about him.

We got to know him after the armistice. After that famed I. W. W. convention in which even those officers and members of the I. W. W. who were imprisoned during the war were able to participate in great numbers—the best of the I. W. W., its most qualified fighters, whose freedom at this time was only conditionally secured. Their case appeared before the Supreme Court of the U.S.A. (its highest court) for reconsideration. But as is known, the court decided that they must return to prison. It was not until two years later, after the war hysterics had abated, that these boys were pardoned by President Harding.

At this famed I. W. W. convention, a unanimous opinion developed for the setting up of a Bureau of Industrial Research. As a developing organization, the I. W. W. has attempted to keep in step with industrial development at all costs. So that it could thoroughly understand the latest formation of new discoveries in the modes of production.

The General Executive Board formed this bureau out of a group of technicians. Howard Scott was one of the technicians in this group.

The works of this technical committee appeared in the I. W. W.’s monthly magazine, the Industrial Pioneer. A number of articles also originated from their pens in our Hungarian translated paper, Liberation. But the great persecution and the re-imprisonment of our members, combined with a lack of means to continue with, forced the I. W. W.’s general administration to give up this highly useful undertaking along with the monthly magazine.

The Technocrats are Formed

Since then we have neither heard from, or known anything about, Howard Scott. As it turned out, he did not abandon his beloved work. He headed for New York where he got to know America’s best engineers and professional scientists. This is where he met Charles Steinmetz, one of the greatest electrical engineers of our time. We publicized immediately after his death that Steinmetz, like many other scientists, was an eager observer of the I. W. W. movement. He always read our publications and even assisted the movement financially. (At the time of his death he still had a prepaid subscription for six more months of the Industrial Pioneer.)

It is without doubt that Steinmetz, as one of the founding members of the Technocrats, completely understood the theory of Industrial Socialism. There still lives in our memory his sensational statement, in which he saw with his visionary eyes and predicted the high rate of development that would take place in the United States within the next fifty years, making this declaration in such a way that you could say it practically tickled the everyday man’s imagination: “There will be no more ashes and dirt, No more big towns with workers’ ghettos. No more poverty and having to do without, and the entire country will resemble one big beehive in which, with only a few hours of work, we will live in the greatest contentment and happiness.”

The Technocrats, only a handful at the time, were made up of recruits like him. We know that later on, their numbers surpassed three hundred. A classroom at the Columbia University served as their workplace, where they worked in quiet seclusion, throughout an entire ten years without any regard to the struggling, bustling world around them.

The Technocrats Come Before the Public

Vast amounts of work waited for them, which could not tolerate disturbance or interference. For it was out of the past hundred to hundred and fifty years that they had to find and construct their numerical columns. The past 25 years were sparse but the statistics of the years before that were even sparser.

The result of this slow work was embodied in the completion of over sixty charts. These charts were then sent to various panels for evaluation. Because of the lack of material data, they wanted to reassure themselves of the correctness of all these numerical columns. They say the designs ended up in incompetent hands. They were published without their approval.

The army of news writers, hungry for sensation, descended on the diligent group of engineer-scientists working in the Columbia University’s classroom, and overwhelmed them with questions. It could not be avoided. They had to talk. To reveal their plans, the basis of their work and its goals. Whether they liked it or not, they ended up before the public.

The biggest, leading capitalist daily papers, recounted to their sensation-hungry readers, in millions of examples and expansive articles, the “new” theory. The news even reached the weekly papers of the smallest of villages. The news sailed across oceans, and everywhere discussion about Technocracy began. Weekly and monthly science publications, in continuing columns, called on their best contributors for the affair. Interviews appeared by the hundreds. Moreover, they could not even seclude themselves away from presentations.

The American Intellectual Revolution

In the blasé American life, munching on novels, baseball and boxing, an intellectual revolution broke out. Intellectual exchange and debates began. So much so, that the Technocrats themselves found it necessary to assemble a convention where they could establish a concrete position.

The barren American intellectual life suddenly turned colorful. For it is a known matter that the American workers’ movement has always been intellectually the poorest. While in Europe, yea in Hungary, we saw in the workers’ movement by the dozen the Dr. Vargas and the Jens Lászlós, while we also saw Ervin Szabó, breaking the wasteland and surrounding himself with strong fervent social revolutionaries, yet that immense country, America, could not boast of men like this—only failed lawyers and poor little existentialist clubs, who, through political parties, like soldiers of fortune, deceived the workers, who deserved a much better fate.

The barrenness of American intellectual life in this sense is understandable. Engineers and professionals, thanks to the capitalists, ended up in such an elevated position that they were not willing to admit any commonality at all with the workers, who, even if their position was not in danger, could not have dictated to them.

And the so-called capitalist national economists, who draw their huge salaries just so they can lie to the people, squeeze today’s order into a theoretical straight jacket and prove its permanency.

Their sick system, however, in light of the depression, can no longer hide the stains of the dead. Even the white-collar slaves have been over-produced. Whole rows of these “colleagues” ended up out in the streets, and a number of such broken existentialists have found refuge in suicide.

In the barren desert of American intellectual life, like an oasis, appeared Technocracy. It gave hope to the white collars and brought their attention to the crookedness of the existing order. The sustaining pillars of trust in the condemned existing order have been shaken. The intellectual revolution has occurred.

Solidarity of the Technocrats Falls Apart

Events have proved that despite of the Technocrats’ scientific composition, not even their camp could stay unified. At the earlier-mentioned Atlantic City convention their pure revolutionary vision could not be brought to the fore. Those who ended up in the majority were those who still see today’s system as patchable. Who believe that forms of political government should be corrected with industrial administration, and that abdication of the current regime itself is not necessary.

This kind of attitude taken by the majority made the split unavoidable. Merely a few weeks after the convention, this split was followed by the removal of the Scott group from Columbia University. Their “sin” is understandable: they (the Scott group) took a position against the capitalist system. They proved that its days are numbered. They advised the immediate initiation of the four hour workday and four day workweek. We could say, the capitalists dealt with them moderately. Because it so happens that we are the ones who, for the same kind of demands, would, according to our class, have received execution and prison.

Currently, the Technocrats are split into three different groups. But aside from their columns of figures and determinations, they do not have a program for accomplishing things, and they completely exclude the class struggle, so there is nothing left to discuss there. So for now, we can finish with Technocracy and move on to familiarizing you with the second part of our discussion, Industrial Unionism and its embodiment, the I. W. W.

The I. W. W., Scientific Industrial Unionism

The I. W. W. was formed twenty seven years ago, brought to life by the system of manufacture developed by the engine of technology. All arguments and controversy aside, we must establish that many worked together for the founding of the I. W. W., and any explanation would be erroneous that would attempt to credit a certain man or party for it. At its birth there were present a number of representatives from various workers’ parties and organizations whom the developing circumstances equipped with sharper vision. But at the birth, all of them played only a midwife’s part, because they were not the ones who created the I. W. W.: the process of modern machine production gave it its birth.

With a vital energy, desire for action, and a revolutionary readiness, it rightfully brought upon itself the anger of the ruling class. Because in America’s history, those episodes which were written by the I. W. W.’s struggle are without comparison.

The transformation of the handicraft system into huge factories and trusts is closely tied to the beginnings of the I. W. W. Today, their strikes and class wars, which batter the walls of capitalism, are without equal. Immediately after and during the war, the transition of production began to take on an effective form.

Lawrence, McKees-Rocks, Schenectady, Akron, the Western ore mines’ huge strike, the Mesabi Iron Range, Butte, Seattle, all, all serve as historical examples, that the I. W. W. is the newborn of the industrial age, and it appeared on the stage of life at the best possible time. It is no wonder that American capitalism tried every means there is to destroy the I. W. W. And that for the most part they did not succeed can be attributed to the fact that the I. W. W., as an opponent of a system of robbery, as the scientific basis of a new society, is indestructible. It was born into a system that carries within itself a conflict that will mature and then destroy it. This scientific foundation is embodied in the I. W. W.’s earliest literature, and it is exactly for this reason that the Technocrats’ discoveries are so sensational, it is only new to those who heard it from them first.

Capitalism as the Squanderer of Goods

The I. W. W. has written so much about the anarchy of production that its compilation would require thick volumes. Our speakers, who by the way have all come out of the wageworkers’ camp, understood, and still understand from experience the capitalists’ squanderings, and they lined up the facts of their squanderings for decisive arguments at thousands of gatherings. The production of murderous tools used in wars, the cannons, the ammunition, and other weapons, we classify as useless and have always regarded and still regard as harmful. Not just once have we pointed out that those thousands and millions who are hired to produce such tools are not doing any useful or lasting work for society.

If instead of the youth spending their most beautiful years serving in the army and destroying things, they would have the opportunity to do useful work by participating in producing things and relieving the women and children who are unsuited to that kind of work, and old men who are no longer able to work, it would change the picture of our society a great deal.

We pointed out how, purely for the sake of profit, necessary products are made from shoddy materials. How the interests of the capitalists is to make sure that these products wear out quickly, so that they will then need to be replaced, as this will insure the most profit for them. How they carry the coal from coal producing lands five hundred miles away, and the iron to the iron furnace, just because one or two competitors get a cheaper price that way. And we pointed out how much unnecessary work and wasted energy this means.

It is an old, established fact in I. W. W. literature, that in certain branches of industry, production has increased so much that the capitalists don’t dare apply new discoveries, because their practical use would have a destructive effect on the current system. The fact that more workers don’t understand this can be attributed to the last 25 years (until 1929), which was, with only small interruptions, a golden age of American development. In the midst of this dizzying development and progress, as long as the propertied classes could guarantee work and opportunity to the workers, they, who have had individualism bred into them, wanted to increase their wealth based on this tenet.

“The scale is full”. The capitalist system has run its course, and it is only a matter of time (a very short time), before we sweep it from the path of production. This is also what the Technocrats are saying. Scientifically, with the support of numbers, it is these facts that they bring to light.

The Price System Has Outlived Its Usefulness

The I. W. W. differs from every other political party and big organization in that it has set up the abolition of the wage system as its standard. While the trade unions declare their brotherhood with the property owners, and political parties set the seizure of state power as their “revolutionary goal”, the I. W. W. is working on changing the basic foundation of the current social system.

The state is just a servant of commerce. The current system came down to us from the days of the ox-cart. It was then skillfully forced upon us by a form of administration that is inadequate for conducting a modern social system. The only people who have the power to use the laws to their benefit are those who control the means of production and profit from them. A mere change of personnel in this field does not satisfy us. Recent events prove that the I. W. W. was founded on this premise. There have been changes of personnel in the state machinery in Russia, Germany, England and in many other countries, but the wage system has stayed. The exploitation continues. And it will continue, “until the workers take control of the land, the mines, the factories and the means of production, and abolish the wage system.”

The Technocrats express such scientific findings with different words. They, instead of the term wage system, use “price system”. To explain the difference between the two would simply be an exercise in academic argument. Therefore we will stay with our expression, wage system. We are wageworkers, wage slaves, and we bear the signs of this system on our backs like a cross. The abolition of the wage system is our organization’s expressed goal, to which we must cling with fanatical conviction.

While the Technocrats have only expressed the damage caused by the “price system” in academic findings, the I. W. W. has worked out a program, which, with class struggle and strikes, with one last big conflict, with one big general strike, will strive to make a reality.

So not even these findings are “new”. Perhaps it is only new for those who heard it from the Technocrats first.

The Shorter Workday As a Revolutionary Goal

The heart of capitalism is in its pockets. It is not the speeches against it, nor the curses against it, that anger it. Its instinct and arousal, can only be affected by money and gold. It is cruel, like the system which it rules unmercifully. Its convulsive grip and its terrible use are expressed in profit, poverty and want.

The depression is in its fourth year, causing immeasurable poverty and suffering for the working class. The cause of the I. W. W., its revolutionary demand, from the beginning, has been shorter hours of work. The workers’ organizations (even the trade unions) were formed with the goal of fighting an effective war against the propertied classes. So that they would get a bigger piece of the production of goods. and so that the development of the machine would be a blessing, not a curse for them.

The workers’ struggle throughout the centuries, has been expressly for the creation of shorter working hours. The I. W. W., as the most educated and developed embodiment of organization, took over this struggle, as proven best by its militant past and present.

In the recent past it has demanded six hour, five day workweeks. But then the well-predicted collapse happened. Workers by the millions ended up on the streets and are now vegetating on welfare. The I. W. W.’s honest and well-meant warnings, its urgings for the workers struggle, went unheeded and resulted in the unorganized workers’ unemployed helplessness.

And while the workers’ party was occupied with reforms, the I. W. W. modified its six hour, five workday demands at the 1932 November convention to a demand for four hour, and four day workweeks.

The revolutionary character of these demands is the absolute and complete division of labor. And the fact that in the current society this would result in the workers’ labor being divided more proportionately. Instead of welfare and vegetating on food stamps, the workers would win back their backbone, get a say in the direction of the industry, and as a result of a more proportionate division of labor, they could monitor the practice of production.

Like the I. W. W., the Technocrats also see the solution in a four hour workday. And if this can not be done without the overthrow of the current system, then it is that much more urgent to press for the start of the revolution that would bring such changes about. But about this, the Technocrats are silent. They also do not talk of fighting and organization. It also must be brought to attention that the I. W. W. convention, with its declaration calling for the four hour workday, ended three entire weeks before the Technocrats ever said it.

Carrying Forth Marxist Theory

The workers’ movement, no matter how many factions of academic socialism it has broken up into, is still based on Marxist theory. It fell to the I. W. W., to break with every party philosophy, and based on Marxist theory develop a working program. We accepted his analysis regarding surplus value as well as historical materialism. But our knowledge, courage, and strength have compelled us to break completely with the useless political parties of past centuries.

Thus the great anger from socialist parties and so-called communists. We insisted that the class struggle, the revolution itself, must adapt itself to the local conditions of every country. We insisted that the tactics in America, the most industrially advanced country, will have to be different from those in less developed European countries. We did not allow the squeezing of the American class struggle into Soviet boots.

Even at the 1908 convention we broke with party theories, finding them infeasible, rating them as such even today. During this time, we fully, completely developed our scientific theory regarding the state. We hold that the administration of the new society can only work based on a scientific industrial foundation.

We only created one chart on which we depict such a society’s scientific structure. In that society every industry is scientifically organized. Everyone is assured of being a useful member of society—with the exception of two elements which will not find a place there, the political and legal professions.

Those who belong to either of these professions will have to choose between to things. Either they give themselves to useful work or they move to the moon. But there is no place secured for them in the society depicted on that diagram. Those who understand this can also understand why the politicians are so angry at us. Although Technocracy, in this respect, agrees with us.

They (the Technocrats) also say that we cannot apply, not under any name, a state mechanism to the scientific leadership of an industrially developed country. They are pressing for the establishment of an industrial administration. They have scientifically judged the current situation and its unsustainability. They predict a complete regression to the middle ages, the collapse of society, if the politicians are not removed in time and an administration to lead industry and steer society is not established.

The Industrial Union As the Only Fighting Tool

Although, while the Technocrats are doing nothing but simply making deductions, the I. W. W., within a scientific framework, is building an Industrial Union and declaring that the capitalist system must be over thrown. While they are speaking exclusively of America, I. W. W. organization is reaching out to all the workers of the world and handing them a design for their unity and the creation of a new society. In every regard we have furthered the theory, which through sensationalism has become associated with Technocracy—with one exception, which we will mention before the conclusion of this seminar.

From what has been covered so far we can establish that we are no longer orphans [general mirth and smiles from the audience]. Because until now every workers’ organization has relied on great men. In everyone’s hands there was Marx’s book like a bible, and they read from and used it to justify their own religion. Marx, Lenin, De Leon. But we are simple workers; we explain our truth our own way, according to our experiences. The one thing Technocracy did bring us is that now we too can bravely plead great men, scientists of our times; we can say it’s not just us callous-handed workers who say this, but the Technocrats say it too. Aside from this, as for our part, they (the Technocrats) have not brought us anything new, not even their deductions, which are without a program anyway. We can quote from their figures and for the time being that takes care of that.

To what extent they advanced social science will lie in the establishment of new methods. Although they deny it, they closely follow Marx in this regard. Perhaps they only differ in that they measure worth not by man-power but by energy power. Yet man-power today, and most likely for a long time in the area of production, cannot be turned off; muscle and effort can not be removed. The innovation can truly come to fruition only if we create a system in which physical strength is reduced to a minimum.

Judging from the point of view of the class struggle: The appearance of Technocracy will mean a lot. At a time, and in such proportion as the union is expanded and strengthened. Because even the engineers and foremen aren’t privileged anymore. Developments have affected them too. Many of them will become unnecessary. Not to mention that currently, every year, more then a million highly educated men and women end up out on the market, of whom in the past years only seven percent have been placed.

There is hope that they will get closer to the camp of the industrial workers. That as industry’s slaves, they will hate the system more, even if not in complete numbers; that they will fill out the organized fighting workers’ camps in greater proportion; and that they will give value and substance to the fight which until now only very few of them saw and even fewer acknowledged.

The new society, of which the Technocrats speak, can not be realized without a fight. Historical facts prove that every ruling class clings to its power convulsively. It will only give it up by force. Therefore we must prepare for a battle, its success and result will be the Technocrats dream world becoming reality. This battle is prepared and organized by the Industrial Workers of the World (I. W. W.). Their organization promises nothing, but if we become its members and fill out its ranks, the reward for our struggle will be a new, free, and happy system.

A system in which there are no more classes, no more wage workers and no more lounging parasites. A scientific system, which will not be led by the privileged but carefully guarded by society’s useful producers, led by capable, able men.

A system in which everyone will have to do their useful social work if they want to live.

Let us organize, read, and learn, because we have no time to loose. The future belongs to the fighters; those who are subservient must cowardly perish.

The Preamble of the I. W. W.

Transcribed and edited by J. D. Crutchfield from FW Ildiko Sipos’s excellent translation of a pamphlet generously donated by FW Robert Rush.

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.