Friday, April 24, 2020

Blast From the Past: Industrial Workers of the World Unite


Radical revolution sweeps American labor -- and the I.W.W. is the proud tempest in our national teapot. 

INDUSTRIAL WORKERS OF THE WORLD, or I. W. W., a labor organization of revolutionary character, with tenets similar to those of the Syndicalists. The strike of the Western Federation of Miners at Colorado in 1903 brought to a head the grievances of labor and its need for new centralization. A conference of labor leaders was held at Chicago in 1904, which resulted in a general convention of labor delegates a few months later at which the leading principles of such an organization were outlined. Another convention took place in 1906. The many factions which constituted the labor revolutionists fought for supremacy, and several schisms widened and separated the groups. 
The "revolutionaries" opposed the "reactionaries"; the "political" and "industrial" socialists could not agree; and the local trade-unionists were pitted against the believers in one all-embracing union of workers. A fourth convention produced the final preamble which may be briefly outlined by some of its leading principles: "The working-class and the employing class have nothing in common. 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." "It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism." "An injury to one is an injury to all." 
The organization differs from syndicalism in that it proposes to build up, after the pattern of capitalistic organization, but on revolutionary lines, a tremendous and all powerful organization of all workers. It does not desire to remodel existing trade unions, but to establish a new and broader organization. It has no use for mediation, conciliation or arbitration, and considers no contract binding on employees. To strike whenever they can inconvenience employers most is the fixed policy of the members. They endorse sabotage .... the general strike and all forms of direct action.
The I. W. W. is composed of 535 recruiting stations; industrial unions having a total membership of 85,000; and five national administrations at Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and South Africa respectively. The constitution and by-laws provide for membership of local industrial unions directly federated with headquarters, local recruiting unions, industrial councils and individual members. The membership of these last mentioned fluctuates considerably, depending on disturbed conditions and strikes for increase. 
Recently the I. W. W. has made tremendous efforts to reach the agricultural laborers. All alliances with political parties are refused. The organization has trained strike leaders and propagandists throughout the country and who have been conspicuous in notorious campaigns, notably the Lawrence, Mass., strike in 1912, the strikes in the mines at Bisbee, Ariz., Mesaba Range at Minnesota and Everett, Wash., 1916. The organs of the movement are Solidarity, the official English paper; the Industrial Worker published at Seattle, Washington and papers in foreign languages including the Hungarian, Polish, Lithuanian, Spanish, Yiddish, Swedish, Slavonian. Defense of imprisoned leaders has become one of the points for concerted effort among this group of revolutionists.
At the convention held on 20 Nov. 1916, a pertinent war declaration was adopted. "We condemn all wars and for the prevention of such we proclaim anti-militarist propaganda in time of peace, thus promoting solidarity among the workers of the entire world; and in times of war, the general strike in all industries." The unpatriotic efforts of the I. W. W. in this latter direction after the United States entered the war in 1917 were suppressed by the government with severe measures of imprisonment and fines. 
Encyclopedia Americana, 1920