The History of the I. W. W.
(1905 - )
The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), members of which are commonly termed "Wobblies", is an international labor union that was founded in 1905 in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States. The union combines general unionism with industrial unionism, as it is a general union, subdivided between the various industries which employ its members. The philosophy and tactics of the IWW are described as "revolutionary industrial unionism", with ties to both socialist, syndicalist and anarchist labor movements. (From : Wikipedia.org.)
The History of the I. W. W.
Published by the
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 to 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 interests 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 clay’s work," we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, "Abolition of the wage system."
It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. The army of production must be organized, not only for the everyday 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.
This is the second of a series of booklets, written in a semi-fictional form, and dealing with the Preamble, History, Structure and Methods of the Industrial Workers of the World, popularly known as the I. W. W.
The first is called ‘The Preamble of the I. W. W." It should be read in conjunction with this pamphlet. This pamphlet, however, may be read alone, as it is practically an independent work.
This series aims to educate the workers in all that the I. W. W. stands for.
The I. W. W., is not a secret, underground society. Nor does it believe in assassination and crime; all misrepresentation and persecution to the contrary, notwithstanding.
The I. W. W. is a labor union, that organizes according to industry, instead of trades; with branches and affiliations all over the world, hence its name.
Its headquarters are in Chicago, Ill., where it was first organized in 1905.
Read this booklet and learn more about it. If you agree with its aims and objects, then join it.
Truth is stranger than fiction; and history more absorbing than the novel.
Bob Hammond, a mill-hand and migratory worker.
Sam Scissorbill, steel worker and home guard.
Jack Walsh, a rough and ready longshoreman.
Ed. Morrison, another "dock walloper," lover of history.
Along the Inland State Canal. Wharf of the G. E. Co., whose plant is partly closed down, thanks to the industrial depression. The idle workers gather there from force of habit, to await developments and "chew the rag" on conditions in general and their own prospects in particular. Depressions are periods of great mental development. They make some of the workers think.
Walsh (a newspaper before him): So the Ku-Klux Klan at Shreveport, La., has kidnapped the I.W.W. lawyer and run him out of town, after beating him up. The war ruined Europe, but, evidently not the I. W. W. It comes back stronger than ever before.
Morrison (admiringly): It’s great! In all history—
Scissorbill (interrupting): There you go again! Who cares for history? We don’t live according to history!
Morrison (unabashed): That’s just the trouble! Past persecutions teach us nothing. Martyrdom is the seed of the church now as be—
Hammond (impatiently): Ah, can that stuff! It is organization in spite of persecution that is the secret of I. W. W. vitality. Martyrdom, me eye!
Scissorbill (sarcastically): "Organization," where is it? It hasn’t got any ‘round here. And it never did amount to much anywhere. What good is it, anyway? I wouldn’t join any organization; much less such a gang of anarchists, pro-Germans and Bolsheviks like the I. W. W.!
Walsh (laughing with the others): Scissorbill, you always were synonymous with stupidity, when it comes to realizing the necessity of uniting with your fellow-workers in safeguarding and advancing common interests. Christ, man! Wake up! You don’t. think the I. W. W. is lambasted because it is without organization, do you? It must amount to something to cause the other side to go after it so fiercely!
Hammond (chiming in): Now you’re spouting, Jack! But let’s cut out personalities. This is not a matter of persons, but of organization and all that is back of it. (Turning to Scissor): That’s old stuff, that "anarchist," "pro-German," "Bolsheviks" stuff is. The abolitionists were called names like that, too. But they lived to see the negro slave free. Maybe if we stick around as long as they did, we’ll see something like that happen in connection with the I. W. W. Maybe sooner. Things move faster nowadays! Who knows?
Morrison (delighted): If Scissorbill only knew history as you do, Bob. He’d—
Scissorbill (angrily): Can that highbrow stuff! I want to know, what good is the I. W. W.? What has it clone, besides burn crops and forests, destroy machinery, and raise hell generally, all to no good purpose?
Morrison (amused): Why , Sam, that’s an appeal to the records in the case—to history! If—
Walsh (laughing again): Don’t you admit that, Sam. Tell him that Napoleon said, history is a fable, and that the history of the I. W. W., accordingly, does not exist, even if the newspapers, labor journals, court records, and libraries are full of it. Sic ‘em, Scissor!
Hammond (after the laughter had subsided): Let’s be a little more serious, fellers. Judging from the way the employing class persecutes the I. W. W., they don’t see any thing funny about it. Neither should we. Besides, guying Sam does not answer his argument. (After a pause) In the Chicago war-trial, it was shown that the I. W. W., instead of destroying forests, fought fires in gangs in the employ of the State Foresters. No German gold, it was also shown, was found, either directly or indirectly. The farm machinery was destroyed by defective insulation and lack of care. In the Chicago and other war trials, the I. W. W.’s were convicted as a result of war propaganda and hysteria.
Morrison (interrupting): That’s an old story. It won’t help Sam any! Your true Scissorbill wants his prejudices confirmed; not overthrown. It is prejudice, not reason; trust interests, not the commonwealth, that is back of modern persecution. War is the opportunity, patriotism the cloak behind which the ends of the monopolists controlling modern American life have been furthered. Current history is full of this persecution. In agriculture, it was the Non-Partizan Leaguers that were victims; in religion, the Russellites; in education, the public school teachers; in politics, Debs and the communists. But the I. W. W. got the worst of it. And it lives, despite it all. The history of American labor in modern times shows nothing like it.
Scissorbill (with impatience): Ah, what has history got to do with it, anyway?
Morrison (continuing undisturbed): As I have said so often before, if truth is stranger than fiction then history is more absorbing than the novel. Here is the history of the I. W. W. A history of current tendencies, in keeping with modern industrial development; prosaic, sordid, repulsive, in its materialistic details; yet one that has given us song writers, poets and artists, and self-sacrifice and heroism that is not occasional, but continuous and unending. Talk about moral grandeur.
Walsh (impulsively): By Christ, Morrison; that ought to stir even Scissorbill.
Scissorbill (breaking out): "Moral grandeur," hell! They go to jail because they’ve got to.
Morrison (unabashed): In the pursuit of an ideal, yes! Think of it! Eighteen years of hostility, suffering, prison and death; such is the I. W. W.! And for what? For the immediate improvement of the workers! For the era coming in which the workers shall not only have better conditions, but emancipation from capitalist exploitation and oppression.
Scissorbill (viciously): Get out! They don’t want freedom. They want the capitalists’ wealth. They want to divide up; that’s what they want! They—
Walsh (laughingly): Well, Scissor; you ought to be with them, if they want to divide up. You’ll have something then, for the first time in your life.
Hammond (joining in the laughter): Talk about dividing up, look at the way the capitalists divide up the wealth the workers create. They take the lion’s share for themselves, and give the workers only enough, in the form of wages, to live on and reproduce themselves. If you want to stop dividing up, Scissor, join the I. W. W. Its slogan is, "Labor creates all wealth. All wealth belongs to labor!"
Walsh (laughing): Ah, that’s throwing water on a duck’s back. It rolls off. All Scissorbills are good for is to kiss the hand that smites them. They crawl on their bellies to their masters.
Hammond (interposing): Come, fellers; let’s can that sort of chatter. We were all Scissorbills at one time! I was one myself, before I become a wobbly, that is, an I. W. W. If there were no Scissorbills, there would be no capitalism. Without Scissorbills and capitalism, where would the wobblies come from?
Morrison (soothingly): You are right, Bob. The wobblies are an outgrowth, like everything else. The six men who founded the I. W. W., in 1905 were dissatisfied with the A. F. of L. form of organization and consequently, saw the need of the new industrial union form.
These six men were Isaac Cowen, American representative of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers of Great Britain; Clarence Smith, General Secretary-Treasurer, American Labor Union; Thomas J. Hagerty, Editor "Voice of Labor," organ of the A. L. A.; George Estes, President United Brotherhood of Railway Employes; W. L. Hall, General Secretary-Treasurer, U. B. R. E.; and William E. Trautmann, Editor "Brauer Zeitung," United Brewery Workers’ organ.
They called a conference that came together in Chicago, Ill., on January second, 1905. This conference drew up an industrial union manifesto, calling for a convention to be held in Chicago, Ill., on June 27, 1905.
This industrial union manifesto stated, substantially, that mechanical and industrial conditions so grouped men as to wipe out trade divisions among the workers and competition among the capitalists. With the centering of industry into fewer hands, the trade unions are unable to meet the new conditions; for instead of consolidating, in accordance with industrial changes, they keep the workers divided in the old trade way, thus making them easy to defeat.
As a remedy for the condition they proposed industrial unionism. That is, a unionism in accord with industrial development and strong enough, consequently, to combat successfully capitalist concentration. They also proposed to make industrial unionism the means whereby the workers could secure control of production and establish industrial democracy. This they call "forming the structure of the new society in the shell of the old."
This conference was attended by forty men, all active in the radical, socialist, and labor union movement of the time. The convention that followed, was attended by one hundred and fifty-six delegates representing thirty-six state, district, national and local organizations, with a membership of ninety thousand. Among them was the then powerful Western Federation of Miners, which had taken an active part in calling the convention and promoting the new industrial union movement. Its General Secretary-Treasurer, William D. Haywood, was the convention’s permanent chairman.
Walsh (interrupting): Christ, much water has gone ’round the I. W. W. turbine since 1905; driving it on to achieve much good for the workers, in spite of shortcomings and defeats.
Hammond (chiming in): Its had enough of both. Its a miracle how it persists. But—
Morrison (laughingly): Its amazing that so meager a body should cause so much horror to trade unionism and capitalism. The I. W. W. is feared not so much for what it is, as for what it might be. It is a development inherent in capitalism and impossible to eradicate, on that account. Its possibilities are always immense.
Take that first convention. Seven organizations, with a combined membership of fifty-one thousand, were installed as a part of the I. W. W. Subsequently, the Western Federation of Miners withdrew, while the memberships of the others were found to be either non-existent or greatly inflated. On this rickety foundation was erected the I. W. W., "the menace to society," to quote the press. It looks like a joke. But the power of an idea, such as Industrial Democracy, when advanced at the right time, even by a minority, is more frightful to capitalist autocracy than are vast numbers without a definite inspiration, indiscriminately pushed. An ideal with an organization behind it, no matter how small, is more to be feared than an organization without an ideal before it, no matter how large. As Sam Scarlett used to say: "The I. W. W. is an organization whose time has arrived and all hell can’t stop it."
Well, the first years of the I. W. W., were years of difficult assimilation and formation. Many of the elements taken in were unsuited to the purpose. Charles O. Sherman, president of the United Metal Workers, was the first and last president of the I. W. W. After serving one year he was removed and the presidential functions were performed by a General Executive Board and General Secretary-Treasurer, subject to referendum and recall by the membership.
Since 1905, eight hundred thousand members have been enrolled in the I. W. W.
The successful movement to save the lives of Moyer, Haywood and Pettibone, W. F. of M. leaders, accused of the death of Ex-Governor Steunenberg of Idaho, was initiated by the I. W. W., and formed most of its first activities.
In 1906, it established the eight-hour clay for hotel and restaurant workers in Goldfield, Nevada. Owing to A. F. of L. scabbing, a strike of sheet and metal workers at Youngstown, O., in the same year, was lost.
In 1907 three thousand textile workers in Skowhegan, Me., won improved conditions, after a four week struggle and in spite of A. F. of L. scabbing. In Portland, Ore., 3,000 sawmill workers struck for the nine-hour day and a wage increase from $1.57 a day to $2.50 a day. The strike and its aftermath won a wage increase and improved conditions. It also gave impetus to I. W. W. organization in the lumber industry of the north-west, which became and is now one of the best I. W. W. strongholds. A strike of one thousand metal workers at Bridgeport, Conn., was lost through A. F. of L. scabbing.
The panic of 1907, caused shut-downs that killed the strike of eight hundred silk workers at Lancaster, Pa. In the spring of 1907 a prolonged strike at Goldfield, Nevada, was compromised by the treachery of the general officers of the W. F. of M. In the fall, however, the I. W. W. gained ground and, under its sway, the $5.00 and 8 hour day became universal. During the I. W. W. regime at Goldfield, all the local laws were made in the union hall and posted on the bulletin boards of the union. They were generally observed.
Walsh (interjecting): No wonder the I. W. W. is hated.
Think of a labor union usurping the bossism of a chamber of commerce or the corporations that run a city. It’s terrible to contemplate—from a capitalist standpoint!
Morrison (continuing): The panic of 1907, with its depression and unemployment, hit labor unions hard, especially the I. W. W., which had been barely formed. However, the I. W. W. managed to hang on, by participating in the many unemployment movements and agitations of the time. It did the same in the "hard times" of 1913-14.
It was the great strike at Mc Kees Rocks, Pa., that gave the I. W. W. its first big impetus on a wider scale. This occurred in the plant of the Pressed Steel Car Co., in July 1909. This was originally a spontaneous revolt, affecting 16 different nationalities, in all branches of labor in the industry. Though Frank Morrison, secretary of the American Federation of Labor, passed up the revolters, saying, "They are only Hunkies," the I. W. W. organized them so successfully that, despite the most ruthless opposition, advanced wages and improved conditions were subsequently conceded.
Following the McKees Rock strike, came the successive free speech fights at Spokane, Wash., Fresno, Cal., and other cities. The authorities attempted to squelch the growing I. W. W. by preventing outdoor speaking in defiance of constitutional rights. The I. W. W.s went to jail by the hundreds in order to preserve those rights to keep alive their organization The expense and notoriety of these fights caused the tax payers to compel the authorities to yield, and thus to put a big feather in the cap of the I. W. W.
About 1910 came a big strike at the Schwab steel mill at Bethlehem, Pa. In this strike, which was proceeding successfully, the I. W. W. yielded to the jurisdictional claims of the A. F. of L. and, rather than cause dissension, withdrew. Some of the more skilled crafts got beneficial agreements, but the strikers, on the whole, were defeated. The outcome again raised I. W. W. prestige.
Next followed a series of strikes with varying successes, such as the shoe workers of Brooklyn, N. Y.; textile and shoe workers, Haverhill, Mass.; clothing workers, Seattle, Wash.; railroad workers, Prince Ruppert and Lytton, B. C.; lumber workers in the Northwest and at Grabow, La.
Then came the Lowell textile strike, followed by the great Lawrence strike of 1912.
It might be well to state, by way of reminder, that the history of the I. W. W. is the history of growth in unionism. As industrial development combines all the trades in one industrial whole, so does the I. W. W. seek to combine the trades into one big industrial union. And as industrial development tends to expand beyond national boundaries, and become international in scope, so does the I. W. W. become international, too. The Lawrence strike of 1912 was an epoch-making strike. It proved the value of industrial unionism on a larger scale than any previous I. W. W. strike. It bound all the trades, conflicting unions and nationalities, organized and unorganized, into one solid whole. It gave rise to a new word. "That word," writes George Briton Beale, journalist, in a "Review of the Lawrence Strike," "was ‘Solidarity.’ Its meaning, as given in the dictionary, is ‘Community of interests and responsibilities.’ "
The Lawrence strike caused a raise in wages thruout the textile industry of the country, variously estimated by capitalists authorities at from five to fifteen millions of dollars annually. Subsequently, its memories halted threats of wage reductions at Providence, R. I., and New Bedford, Mass. It, further, gave a new impetus to labor organization, not only in New England but thruout the United States.
The Lawrence strike alone should answer Scissorbill’s questions "What good is the I. W. W.? And what has it ever organized?"
Scissorbill (ruffled): Bah, that strike occurred long ago! Show us—
Hammond (breaking in): Let me say something about the agitation and success of I. W. W. among the migratory workers, especially in the lumber industry and harvest fields, since the Lawrence strike in—
Morrison (interrupting): Just a minute, Bob. I was going to say, the Lawrence strike of 1912 was followed by strikes in many other parts of Massachusetts and in Little Falls, N. Y.; in the silk centers of Paterson, N. J., and New York, N. Y.; the rubber works of Akron, O.; the hop fields of Wheatland, Cal.; and the steel trust iron ore mines on the Mesaba range of Minnesota. They all happened between 1912 and 1916 and resulted, either directly or indirectly, in many benefits to the workers involved.
Hammond (emphatically): You bet they did! That Wheatland affair was a spontaneous revolt, that was afterwards led and supported by the I. W. W. Though crushed out, it gave rise to conditions that caused wages to be raised and camp conditions to be improved thruout California. For years the I. W. W. had led in the organization of the agricultural workers, with increasing success. In 1916, it organized a 1000 mile picket line, extending from the Southwest into Canada, that boosted wages and improved conditions thruout the western farming country. The I. W. W. has, to a great extent, eliminated the high-jacks, bootleggers and stick-ups from among the migratory farm laborers; and turned a lot of aimless, so-called bums into self-respecting workingmen, with a sprinkling of idealists. The I. W. W. protects the migratory worker from petty police and other graft and the attempts of the commercial clubs and farmers’ organizations to reduce wages and conditions to the previous low and abominable standards. It defends its members. It substitutes mutual aid for exploitation.
In 1912, the I. W. W. consolidated the migratory workers in the lumber camps of the Northwest into a real industrial unit. Its first clash was in the very heart of the Iumber trust domain, in the city of Aberdeen, Grays Harbor County, Wash. The strikers won their demands and improved conditions, after a strenuous tussle.
In 1916 came the Puget Sound struggle with the lumber trust. This struggle is typical of the I. W. W. conception of working class solidarity. In it, the I. W. W. joined the A. F. of L. shingle weavers and ‘longshoremen on strike, in a fight for free speech. The lumber trust decided the time had come to hit back. This resulted in a summer replete with lawlessness and disorder on the part of the trust’s henchmen. It ended in a final desperate attempt on the part of the lumber trust, aided by the commercial club to drive the I. W. W. out of Everett, Wash. Seven I. W. W. members were massacred. Seventy-four of their fellow workers were, subsequently, found not guilty by a jury, and the odium of the whole tragic episode thrown where it belonged, on the commercial club and its master, the lumber trust. Infuriated, the lumber trust took steps that later ended in the passage of the notorious Washington State "Criminal Syndicalism" Law, which has been used against the A. F. of L., I. W. W., Socialist Party, and even common working stiffs not connected with any organization, revolutionary or otherwise.
But, O boy! 1917 was the eventful year. In the early summer of 1917 the lumber trust strike started. It spread like wildfire thruout the Northwest, tying up the lumber trusts’s operations in five states tighter than a drum. The industry was paralyzed. It was a long and bloody fight, with the workers apparently defeated. But the lumber "beasts" went back to work, only to continue the fight there. They worked 8 hours and then quit for the day. In this way they gained their main demand, their principal demand—the eight hour day. Most of their other demands were granted as well, including mattresses, clean linen and shower baths, where filth and foulness had been before! This struggle was a great test of militant unionism vs. industrial autocracy, with the victory going, for the time being, to the former. The war—
Morrison (breaking in): Now you are coming to it, Bob. The war! That was the great, the crucial period for the I. W. W., which has come out of it covered with glory. The war caused the I. W. W. to be subjugated to every outrage conceivable, at the hands of both authorities and mobs. Its members were illegally arrested, lynched, deported, driven insane, and denied every vestige of fair play and decency. The treatment accorded to them was inhuman and uncivilized. Still, the I. W. W. lives, triumphant, through it all.
Walsh (with emotion): Sure, there is no killing them!
Like truth itself they are hard to down! They—
Morrison (continuing): This persecution was originally supposed to be due to the initiative of the lumber and mining interests, against which the I. W. W. had waged extensive strikes, in 1917, in the states of Washington, Oregon, Montana, Arizona and elsewhere. It was charged that these lumber and copper-mine strikes hampered the pursuit of the war industries. But subsequent federal investigations disclosed the fact that the airplane and ship building programs were held up by defective material sold by lumber interests at exorbitant prices; while the copper industry was not at all affected. Further, the A. F. of L. conducted over 7,000 war-time strikes, without suffering any such savage attacks as the I. W. W., encountered. It was also charged that the I. W. W. was paid "German gold" to plot against the country. But, as Bob has already shown, no evidence was ever produced to sustain this charge, either directly or indirectly.
The fact of the matter is that the war provided a good opportunity to crush an organization with such democratic ideals of industry as the I. W. W. The results show that the war was a plutocratic war.
The I. W. W. was and is strictly industrial in its aims and methods. This, in a state with an industrial foundation and frame work, is intolerable to the capitalist powers that be. It menaces their might. In that consist the real offense of the I. W. W., whether in peace or war.
President Woodrow Wilson, in his St. Louis, Sept. 6, 1919, speech said: "The seed of war is industrial and commercial rivalry." "This war [referring to the world war] is an industrial and commercial war."
Since then a rear-admiral of the United States Navy, A. P. Niblack, has written a book entitled "Why Wars Come." In it, on page 146, he says: "No one can, however, make a thorough an impartial inquiry into the causes of war without realizing their roots run deep into the soil of trade rivalry and economic aspirations."
The I. W. W. was aware of all this in advance of the entrance of the U. S. into the war. While it opposed the war it could not stop this country from going into it. It was far too small for the enormous job; and, accordingly, did not undertake it. It also had its hands too full of agriculture, mining and lumber strikes to take any collective stand thereon. It, consequently, left the matter to the discretion of its individual members, some of whom turned conscientious objectors; while many more were conscripted and went into active service, seeing actual warfare in the trenches in France; or risking their lives, as seamen, aboard transports, in the submarine zone.
As was said before, the war provided an excellent opportunity to crush the I. W. W. This opportunity was seized upon with avidity. Frank Little, a member of the general executive board of the I. W. W., was lynched in Butte, Montana, during this period, by copper trust thugs. One thousand, two hundred copper mine strikers at Bisbee, Arizona, were illegally deported from that state into New Mexico by similar forces. Scores of others were forced to leave the country or were illegally detained by department of justice and department of immigration authorities. Hundreds of I. W. W.s were seized in Chicago, Wichita and Sacramento in the fall of 1917 and afterwards sent to prison for long terms, Not on evidence proving individual overt acts, but showing the possession of collective ideals not in conformity with the prevailing plutocratic war spirit; though thoroughly in accordance with the constitution, whose guarantees of free speech, free press, free assemblage, had been overthrown. In the war for democracy, among the truest defenders of its ideals were the I. W. W. They fought that war at home, against plutocratic conspiracies.
The truth is, that the I. W. W. was the victim of war hysteria. This, in turn, was the result of a well planned propaganda in favor of war; and in determined, ruthless opposition to every movement opposed to war, either lawfully or otherwise.
This, all of the above and subsequent facts too plainly show. But the I. W. W. is alive today, strong and flourishing, because the war has not only failed to kill it, but also because the war has not abolished the conditions out of which the I. W. W. grew. On the contrary, the war has accentuated every one of them instead.
Hammond (seconding Morrison): Even after the war, in the armistice period, when interference with the war could no longer be alleged, patriotism continued to be the cloak behind which the I. W. W. was persecuted. In Centralia, Wash., on armistice day in 1919, a conspiracy of commercial and lumber trust interests used the American Legion as a cats-paw to mob the headquarters of the I. W. W. there. The members of the latter defended their lives and property, killing four of the lawless element. In this, perfectly lawful defense of themselves, the I. W. W.s suffered losses also. One of the members killed was Wesley Everest, an overseas veteran, who was treated most inhumanly and then hung from a bridge.
Another I. W. W. went insane, due to the same causes. A jury at Montesano, subsequently, despite great pressure in favor of capital punishment, sent seven I. W. W.’s to the penitentiary at Wallah Wallah. Since then, five members of the jury have signed affidavits declaring the innocence of the convicted men and that the jury was intimidated. The whole gruesome tale is told in "Was It Murder?" a book by Walker C. Smith, to which the reader is referred for all of the details, including the jurors’ affidavits. Another work, by Ralph C. Chaplin, "The Centralia Conspiracy," should also be read.
Nor was that all. Scores of states passed criminal syndicalism laws that have been enforced only against the I. W. W. and were evidently intended to be used solely against it. These laws are flagrant abuses of constitutional law and common decency. Under their customary interpretations in Washington, California and other states, no crime needs to be proven; membership in the I. W. W. alone is enough to convict. The I. W. W. is accordingly sent to prison not for its acts but its ideas.
Hammond (angrily): Yes, the I. W. W. gets some awfully raw deals under these laws. Take the case of Howard D. Welton, ex-soldier and I. W. W. member, sentenced to 14 years in San Quentin prison on a charge of criminal syndicalism, who refused an offer of pardon on the ground that acceptance would be an admission of guilt in the commission of a crime.
Says Welton, of himself and five companions sentenced together with him, in a letter to the judge who sentenced them and who made him the offer so heroically rejected:
Our "crime" was advocating a change in the present insane social system by peaceful, orderly, efficient methods, and it is in the efficiency of industrial unionism to provide such a change that our offense lies, in the eyes of the dominating class today.
Therein will be found the real "crime" of the I. W. W. and the real attitude of the criminal syndicalist laws passed against it. The I. W. W. wants to change society in an orderly, efficient manner by means of industrial unionism. For this is it oppressed, and for this do the Weltons and thousands of other workers in its ranks suffer martyrdom!
But despite it all, the I. W. W., like Banquo’s ghost, refuses to down. Though put on the defensive for some time, its intrepid course soon put the criminal syndicalism laws into the discard in the state of Washington and tempered its rigorous enforcement in other states, not even excluding the most vicious of them all, California, the beautiful and damned. The I. W. W. lives and grows despite them. All hell can’t stop it.
Walsh (playfully): Quit slandering hell! It’s hell—the capitalist hell here on earth—that makes the I. W. W. grow!
Scissorbill (perplexed): Sure, something makes it grow; nothing seems to kill it. And it can’t grow of itself.
Morrison (laughing): Even Scissorbill can see that. Between you and me, Scissor, I think the authorities and the capitalists are bribed by the I. W. W. to attack it and keep it alive by doing so. But, say! It sure does "come back" in great style. Look at that 1921 drive in the harvest fields, eh, Bob?! 13,000 new members added to the list, because the agricultural industrial union prevented the commercial clubs and farmers’ organizations from knocking the bottom out of wages and increasing hours to any old length, with the aid of industrial depression. That drive gave an impetus to the task of organizing the oil workers industrial union in the Southwest. It also inspired the construction workers and lumber workers industrial unions to renewed efforts. And how about the seamen along the two coasts and the great lakes; eh, Jack, old scout? They are joining the I. W. W. Marine Transport Workers’ Industrial Union, together with the longshoremen and dock wallopers at New York and other ports. And the metal mines are opening up again in Butte, and other copper centers, with a resumption of I. W. W. activity there too. Did the war kill the I. W. W.?!
Walsh (in the same mood): Sure it did; just as Henry Ford killed off the Jews and Lloyd George set old Ireland free.
Morrison (growing eloquent): Talk about "coming back." Did you see the I. W. W.way the came out in sympathy with the United Association of Masters, Mates and Pilots in the New York harbor strike, in January, 1922; and how it also took part in the packing house strike in Chicago, Kansas City and Omaha in the winter of 1921-22? Did you notice the way I. W. W. press, backed up the striking miners of West Virginia and Kansas, during the same period? When it comes to solidarity, that word is written all over I. W. W. history. In 1911, the I. W. W. took the leading part, at Lawrence, Mass., in forming a textile alliance of independent organizations. In New York City, in the winter of 1920, the I. W. W. took the initiative in calling the One Big Union conference, for the purpose of forming the independent unions of the metropolis into one central body. Early, in 1921, the I. W. W. in the same city, took part in the formation of the unemployed conference. The I. W. W. has helped along the Mooney, Sacco and Vanzetti, Political Prisoners, and other workmen’s defenses. And it has stood behind Howat and Dorchy in their struggles with the Kansas Industrial court and the reactionary Lewis machine. The persecuted miners of New Laferty, Ohio, and Somerset and Fayette counties, Penn., and of Logan county, West Virginia, (1922) have received its support, as have also the movements for civil liberties, peace, and against Fascismo, both at home and abroad. The I. W. W. is nothing if not working class in spirit and history. It is an organization that every worker ought to join.
1922 also saw a series of big construction workers’ strikes under the I. W. W. Ieadership. They took place in Washington, Oregon and California. The largest were in the latter state, on the Hetch-Hetchy and Southern California Edison reservoir and power plant projects. Approximately 20,000 workers were involved in all these strikes. They resulted in the granting of the eight-hour day, increased hourly wages and improved other conditions. Another noteworthy strike was the Portland, Oregon, waterfront strike against discrimination. An arrogant Mayor was compelled to back down in this strike. Lesser strikes took place among oil, marine transport and lumber workers, with gains in proportion.
It was during 1922 that the great A. F. of L. coal and railroad strikes also took place. Almost a million coal miners and railroad shop craftsmen were out against wage reductions and the open shop. In both strikes the militia and the injunction played a part; the latter figured most largely in the shop crafts strike.
The I. W. W. was a factor in both strikes, giving its whole-hearted support to them in accordance with its principle of working class solidarity in times of conflict with the capitalist class. During August, 1922, Attorney General Daugherty stated "that a relation existed between the railroad strike and the I. W. W." "There are indications," he said, "that the I. W. W.’s are willing to take over some responsibility of railway transportation and even the government itself in the West."
To this statement Martin Carlson, then general secretary of the Railroad Workers’ Industrial Union, I. W. W., made the following answer: "It is true that there are I. W. W. members among the railroad strikers in various centers, who have demonstrated their objection to military despotism by quitting their job. There are I. W. W. members also among the men at work in other railroad departments, and they, too, would be out on strike if the majority of the workers in those departments had not been under the domination of their Grand Lodge officers.
It is true, too, [Carlson admitted,] That the I. W. W.’s are willing to take over some of the responsibility of railroad transportation. They are willing and eager, [he declared,] to take over, not merely "some responsibility," but all responsibility for railroad transportation and for the conduct of all other productive industries.
But the charge that the I. W. W. wishes to take over the reins of political government is no more true than it ever was. We have no interest in directing any of the affairs which are directed at the White House. The industries of the country, and not the political parties, are the nation’s life-blood.
If the great army of productive workers in the basic industries were solidly organized instead of being split apart as they are in the railroad crafts and throughout the American Federation of Labor, they would become the supreme power. They could be certain then of adequate nutrition, adequate clothing, and sufficient leisure in which to replenish their bodies and minds instead of being worn down on the industrial treadmill as they are today.
Among other important 1922 events in I. W. W. history was the 14th Convention, held in Chicago, Ill., beginning November 13. Thirty-five delegates were present from the. agricultural, lumber, marine transportation, railroad, oil, mining, metal-machinery, textile, printing, and other industries. The development of an Educational Bureau, international relations, extension of organization press, and many other problems were discussed and legislated upon.
This brings us down to 1923, which was made noteworthy because of the general industrial strikes in behalf of the class-war prisoners and immediate economic demands. These strikers were most effective in the lumber industry of the Northwest and marine transport industry, particularly of the Atlantic Coast, with New York as headquarters. Reinforcements of oil workers and construction workers were also a part of the general strikes. Their storm center was San Pedro, Caliph. About 100,000 workers are estimated to have taken part in them. They were marked by order and solidarity.
A noteworthy incident of the general strikes was the "clean-up" of booze joints in Seattle, Portland and Tacoma by "direct action" squads. The slogan was: "Workers, you can’t fight both booze and the boss." So the illegal saloons were closed—and closed tight, as long as the general strikes lasted.
The results of the general strike were beneficial. They served to call attention to the continued incarceration of wartime prisoners and the vicious California criminal syndicalism law. A large amount of publicity for general amnesty appeared in the press, and the California syndicalism law was rendered almost void, subsequently to the general strike.
In the lumber industry, greatly improved camp conditions and a growth of organization resulted. While the marine transport workers got a 15 to 20 per cent wage increase above Shipping Board rates, and the three-watch system, which was lost during the 1921 A. F. of L. strike.
The general strikes had another great effect, namely, to give renewed impetus to I. W. W. activity in all directions.
In June, 1922, the I. W. W. press, acting in conjunction with the Defense News Service, secured the first representation of the mine workers’ side of the so-called massacre at Herrin, Ill. It sent Geo. Williams there, and his write-up, showing that the mine workers had acted in defense of their rights and lives against the attacks of lawless gunmen, made a great impression in the miners’ favor, and, no doubt, created a sentiment that helped to defeat the subsequent legal attempts to fasten the crime of murder upon them.
On March 16, 1923, in its March 24th issue, Industrial Solidarity, I. W. W. weekly published at Chicago, IIl., printed the first report of the Martin Tabert turpentine camp tragedy. This tragedy was subsequently investigated by the New York World and acted on by the Florida legislature, which caused the county officials responsible for Tabert’s death to be indicted.
It will not be amiss to add that, both in 1922 and 1923, the I. W. W. was a factor in the steel industry. In the former year, it lead a successful strike at Chicago Heights, Ill. This was followed by a general increase in steel workers’ wages. In the latter year, it took charge of a revolt in the Bethlehem Steel Company’s works at Bethlehem, Pa. Again was a general increase of 11 per cent an aftereffect. The prevention of more extensive I. W. W. organization was the motive behind both raises. It should serve to show the workers the value of continued organization. By means of the latter, they will finally be able to obtain all the wealth that their labor produces, thereby excluding the profits of capitalism.
In 1923, the I. W. W. was also a great factor, quite logically, in behalf of the eight-hour clay for steel workers.
It was during 1922-23 that the I. W. W. had its internal struggle with the communists, who undertook to do what all the other forces in American society had failed to do, namely, liquidate, i. e., destroy the I. W. W. The communists wished to drive the I. W. W. back into the A. F. of L. They wished to force on the I. W. W. the theory of revolutionizing the A. F. of L. from within. They have since learned the error of their ways, as the A. F. of L. has made "boring from within" impossible by throwing out the borers, in real old-fashioned style—body, boots and breeches. However, the I. W. W. declined to change and, in the short and decisive struggle that followed, the communists found themselves on the losing side, in the I. W. W., just as they are in the A. F. of L.
The I. W. W. has a record of which every worker should be proud and which should cause every worker to join it.
Walsh and Hammond (together): You bet! Every worker ought to join the I. W. W.
Scissorbill (catching the fever): Gee, I think I’ll join it myself, only
Walsh, Morrison, Hammond (in unison,): "Only," you’ll change your mind and won’t.
Scissorbill (anxiously): Honest fellers. Only, I am not clear on some points.
Morrison (eagerly): What are they? Out with them quick!
Scissorbill (complying): I am not clear as to why the I. W. W. is called the Industrial Workers of the World. It seems to me that it is only a small body of American workmen, and those, mainly, migratory workers—"pesky runabouts," I think they have been called.
Walsh (derisively): Ah, what are you giving us, Scissor? Sure your tribe hates internationalism more than it loves nationalism. You’re individualists. Its yourselves only that you’re stuck on—
Hammond (deprecatingly): Say, Jack, lay off the personalities. Let’s give Scissor the benefit of the doubt. Let’s tell him what he wants to know. The I. W. W. is called the Industrial Workers of the ‘World because it tries to organize the world’s workers on the industrial union basis. In pursuit of this object, it has administrations in Great Britain, Mexico, Sweden and Chili. The I. W. W. is also international in the make up of its membership, who come from all countries; and of its press, which consists of thirteen publications in ten languages. The I. W. W. press has a history of its own. It is read and exerts a great influence in foreign lands. The Spanish I. W. W. paper, for instance, is a great factor in Mexico, and Central and South America. The I. W. W. preamble has been printed in Greek, Chinese, Japanese and other languages. The internationalism of the I. W. W. is evident in the character and circulation of its publications. In addition to its own administrations in various foreign lands, the I. W. W. maintains affiliations with labor organizations all over the world. In 1919, the I. W. W. issued a call for an international conference of labor organizations. It took part in such a conference at Berlin in December, 1920. At this conference, it was agreed to participate in the Red Trade Union International congress at Moscow, in July, 1921. Though represented on this occasion, the I. W. W. subsequently, repudiated the decisions of the Moscow congress, as they provided for communist political domination instead of cooperation, as at first agreed on. These decisions, further, were destructive of industrial unionism and favorable to reaction in labor organization. At the close of the Moscow, 1921, conference, however, the I. W. W. joined with labor organizations in Italy, Germany, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, France, Argentina and Uruguay, in favor of a real international labor organization, free from political domination and advocating the industrial method in social change.
In 1922 it decided on friendly relations with all labor internationals.
The I. W. W. is neither anti- nor pro-political. Members may vote as, or belong to any political party, they please.
The I. W. W. has had to struggle with political socialists at various times in its history. Once, in 1907, when it practically expelled the followers of the Socialist Labor Party, who sought to fit the I. W. W. into their own secretarian straight-jacket. And again, in 1912, when the Socialist Party enacted its suicidal section six. These struggles were the cause of much friction and disruption. The struggle with the communists, in 1922, however, was short and decisive. This was partly due to the settled convictions of the I. W. W., regarding the superiority of the industrial over the political method of social transformation. The change of Russian economic policy, in favor of capitalism, by the communist political leaders, also helped the I. W. W., as it deprived the politicians of moral prestige and standing. When this change of policy ran up against I. W. W. convictions, born of experience, the communist chances of securing control of the I. W. W., were completely wrecked. As a result, the communists lost out quickly and decisively.
The I. W. W., in its internationalism, has always stood ready to help the cause of revolution in other lands. When the Mexicans overthrew Diaz, the I. W. W.s rushed over the Southern border and took part in the work of liberation there. When the November, 1917, revolution in Russia gave all power to the peasants’, workers’ and soldiers’ councils, the I. W. W. naturally rejoiced. Though sorely pressed by domestic war reactionists, though its members were jailed. and persecuted by the thousands, though its press was often destroyed and put out of business, the I. W. W. advocated the cause of the Russian Revolution, regardless of consequences. This is especially true of the Industrial Worker, weekly English I. W. W. paper. The Worker printed interviews with the mate of the Shilka, a Russian ship that arrived at Seattle, Wash., shortly after the November, 1917, upheaval. These interviews were among the very first printed in this country, to give real information about the situation in Russia. They caused the Industrial Worker to be more bitterly assailed than ever before. They even led to its suppression for a short period.
Also, as in the case of Mexico, scores of I. W. W.s left for Russia, to engage in the struggle there, and to aid in the economic reconstruction of the country. Their more modern American industrial training and experience made them invaluable aides. That the I. W. W. did not engage in armed insurrection and mass action here, as a back fire in favor of the Russian revolution, was due to its opposition to these theories. The I. W. W. had too much faith in industrial union action to start any revolution here in favor of Russia. The American Communists themselves neither insurrected nor mass-acted; for "strategic" reasons best known to themselves.
However, the Russian revolution, by forcing the labor unions of Russia to operate private industries and state enterprises, thereby saving the country from utter chaos and disaster, proved I. W. W. methods right. The Russian revolution showed once more, as did the subsequent peasant sabotage of the Bolsheviki, that no state can rise above the economic development of its times. This is I. W. W. teaching—vindicated by a great episode in the world war.
Regarding Russia, it may be said, that scores and scores of workers in Russia since the beginning of the revolution, from England and America, former members of the I. W. W., join in saying that their experiences there have proven the I. W. W. position correct. The new society can not be state-made. It must grow out of industry, through industrial organization.
Morrison (approvingly): That was a good long explanation, on why the Industrial Workers of the World are the Industrial Workers of the World, Bob. But it leaves Scissorbill’s question regarding the migratory make-up of the I. W. W. untouched. How about that?
Walsh (interrupting): Ah, Scissorbill simply asks questions to get excuses for not joining. Before he gets the floor, I want to say something about I. W. W. internationalism. Now, take the members of the marine transport workers’ industrial union. They have taken part in strikes in Tampico, Mexico, and in other ports. They now exchange cards with German, French, Scandinavian and other seamen’s unions, giving their members the same rights in I. W. W. unions as the I. W. W.s enjoy. They have branches in Sweden, France and England. Also port delegates in England, Mexico, Chili, Germany, Panama, Uruguay and Argentina. Leave it to the I. W. W. to live up to its name.
Hammond (breaking in): The I. W. W. also helped the strikes of miners in Mexico, near the border. It has aided the Mexican workers in the border states. In Canada, it co-operates, in the lumber industry, with the Canadian One Big Union lumbermen’s locals. Solidarity!—industrial and international—is the I. W. W. slogan.
Morrison (laughing): Say, will you wobblies ever get over the habit of expounding doctrines when Scissorbills ask for facts? Is the I. W. W. a migratory workers’ organization, or is it not?
Walsh (disgusted): Christ Scissorbill, you won’t even join when you do find out. A Scissorbill is an excuse for a human being who is always looking for an excuse for not being human.
Hammond (rushing in): That was some metaphysics for an Irishman, Jack. But it doesn’t answer Scissorbill’s question. I may say that Scissorbill’s question has been answered, indirectly, by what we have been telling him. The I. W. W. has had all kinds of strikes, with all kinds of strikers; lumber jacks, harvest workers, hotel and restaurant workers, miners, steel workers, metal workers, machinists, silk weavers, seamen, longshoremen, textilers, clothing makers, shoe makers, and Lord knows what not. The I. W. W. is not a caste, but a working class, organization. It is a home guard organization, as well as an organization of itinerant workers. Hoboes, migratory workers, and Scissorbills are alike welcome to membership, provided that they are actually wage earners. Will you join now, Scissor?
Scissorbill (squirming): I’ll—, I’ll have to talk it over with my wife first.
Hammond (quickly, to head off Walsh): Get her to join, too, Scissor. All workers, regardless of sex, color, religion or age, previous or present condition of servitude, and trade classifications, are welcome.
Scissorbill (still looking for excuses): What is the outlook for the I. W. W.? I don’t want to join any organization that hasn’t any chance of growing.
Hammond (delighted): The outlook was never better. The I. W. W. has weathered the industrial depression as well as the war. That speaks volumes for its strength. Industry in general, is entering a new era of consolidation, both at home and abroad. The open shop drive has exposed the weaknesses of trade unionism. It has caused the workers to seek better unionism. It has caused the workers to turn to the I. W. W. These conditions will give the I. W. W. an opportunity to grow at home and abroad. It is already beginning to grow! Come on join us, Scissorbill. Don’t delay! Do it now. Become a part of the great history and possibilities of the I. W. W.
Scissorbill (with emotion): By God! I will. And so will my wife and the whole family.
Walsh, Hammond, Morrison (enthusiastically): Bully for you, Scissorbill. Hurrah for Scissorbill. He has joined the I. W. W. Its history now begins in earnest for him.
Transcribed by J. D. Crutchfield from a photocopy generously supplied by FW Robert Rush. Front cover color imaginary. Obvious misprints and errors silently corrected.
From : Marxists.org
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