The I.W.W. : In Theory and Practice

By The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)

Entry 6592


From: holdoffhunger [id: 1]


Revolt Library Anarchism The I.W.W.

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(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:

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The I.W.W.


This is the fifth revised and abridged edition of the booklet formerly known as, "The I. W. W. in Theory and Practice." First published in 1920, to date over 50,000 copies of it have been sold. It has been translated into eight languages. Chapters have appeared in weekly labor papers in many parts of the world. [The first edition was written by Justus Ebert, whose comments in this edition are marked "J. E."—Transcriber]

In as simple language as possible, it aims to tell, in contrast to the C. I. O., just what the Industrial Workers of the World, better known as the I. W. W., is.

Briefly stated the I. W. W. believes that the workers should organize according to industry, instead of trade or craft. In this way, they will be better able to secure more wages, less hours and improved conditions wherever employed. Having first organized to these ends in 1905, the I. W. W. anticipated the Committee on Industrial Organization by just thirty years.

Unlike the C. I. O., however, the I. W. W. also urges industrial unionism so that, as the workers run the industries they may also own and operate them, as well. Especially so that they may, through industrial union organization, be prepared to take over and operate the industries for the good of all when capitalism shall either have broken down or been overthrown. This capitalism gives every indication of doing, either under the stress of depression or war, in all of the advanced industrial nations.

In brief, while the C. I. O. would tolerate and perpetuate capitalism for the profit of capitalists, the I. W. W. aims to organize the means by which it can be transformed into a social system for the benefit of all; and that with the least possible violence and disaster to all.

Recent history has proven the soundness of I. W. W. industrial unionism as the economic basis for successful social change. In Russia, the revolution would not have lasted two weeks, in the words of Lenin, were it not for the social reconstruction made possible by the Russian trade unions. They, despite numerical weakness and the backwardness of Russian development, performed many municipal and state functions, while carrying on industry to the best of their ability and the success of the revolution.

More recently, in the rebellion in Spain, in Catalonia particularly, the organized workers, via their unions, took over and operated for the common good, factories, mines, transportation systems, department stores, banks and other basic functions necessary to the smooth performance of community life; all of which had been abandoned by the corporation owners and would have, consequently, been detrimental to loyalist success and the social welfare, had not the unions stepped in and made the resumption of daily activity possible.

Can we in the U. S. A., with our more highly technological industrial development survive a capitalist breakdown, without an industrially organized working class ready to take over all economic functions and exercise them for the benefit of society as a whole? Viewed in the light of recent events, including our own depression, the answer is obviously, no; we can’t. Why wait then? Why not organize industrially, now?

Others in America than the I. W. W. have glimpsed the truth of the I. W. W. theory. For instance, the Plumb plan, with its part management of the railroads by the railroad unions. Then there is Thorstein Veblen’s plan of industry controlled by a council of technicians, co-operating with organized labor; a plan born of this great American thinker’s I. W. W. contact during the world-war period.

Even the enemies of labor recognize the soundness of industrial unionism. Accordingly, they rob it of its social intent and pervert it to anti-social, capitalist ends. We’ve all heard of "the corporative state," a political machine organized allegedly on industrial divisions. In Italy, "the corporative state" is defined as "industrial unionism without its revolutionary implications," that is, without its changes for the good of all. The "corporative state" aims to perpetuate—to "freeze"—the status quo. The N.R.A. was said to be an embryonic "corporative state," with liberal labor features.

This country also has other perversions of I. W. W. theory. They exist in company unions, employee representation and employee participation in stock ownership plans, works councils and labor fronts, not in labor union control. The corporations of America know how to turn a good labor idea to their own advantage. American labor should, therefore, be eternally vigilant lest it be the victim of fake industrial unionism, detrimental to the social good.

Workers, don’t destroy this book. It is your book, the book of the Industrial Workers of the World. It will help all workers to understand, not only the I. W. W., but themselves as well. They occupy the key places, the strategic places, in the present-day set up. They are the Visit Jim Crutchfield’s I.W.W. Page

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