Partial archive of the regular publication of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) revolutionary union in the US, the One Big Union Monthly, which was produced from 1919.
March 1919 issue of The One Big Union Monthly, an early publication of the IWW.
-The Vanguard of Capitalism
-Our Immediate Demands
-The Red Tidal Wave
-A New Program
-Lest We Forget
-The Chinese and the IWW
-The Wave of Persecution
-Who is Guilty of Starting the War
-Why the Silent Defense
-The Sacred Illusion is Broken
-Deportation of IWW Members
-The Standard Oil Gold Brick
-Who Has Profited by the War?
-A Study in Reconstruction by H.P. Herzberg
-The Big Task Before Us
-How the IWW Men Brought About the 8-Hour Day in the Lumber Industry by A.H. Price
-In Memoriam Carl Liebknecht by Covington Ami
-Is Wage Slavery Abolished in Russia
-Triumphant Industrial Democracy by Covington Ami
-The Life of Democracy by Harold Lord Varney
-The Most Important Question by Justus Ebert
-What is the IWW and What Does it Want?
-Was Butte a Defeat? by Harold Lord Varney
-Poisoning the Springs of Knowledge: A Study in Thought Control
-Life in Modern Russia by N. Bucharin
-The Progress of the One Big Union Idea
-As Other People See Us
-A Direct Appeal to the American People: A Statement of the Sacramento Case by a Silent Defense Prisoner
-The Great Unrest
-Butte in the Hands of the IWW by Harold Lord Varney
-The General Strike in Seattle
-The Sacramento "Trial" by Amy Oliver
-Some Items from the Butte Strike
-The Story of the IWW by Harold Lord Varney
-An International Conference of Marine Transport Workers
-Railroad Workers Industrial Union No. 600
-Agricultural Workers Industrial Union No. 400
-Metal and Machinery Workers Bulletin
-IWW Headquarters Bulletin
An article by Justus Ebert summarizing the principles of industrial unionism.
THE question "What is industrial unionism?" may be said to be, in its essence, the most important of social questions. For industrial unionism is, in its final analysis, a method of social reconstruction. It is a means by which the basic activities of society may be continued when capitalism shall have been overthrown by its own failures and class conflicts. Industrial unionism seeks to inaugurate a system of industrial democracy in place of capitalist autocracy and control when capitalism shall have demonstrated its own impossibility. Industrial unionism is constructive unionism, taking the place of self-destructive capitalism.
Industrial unionism is the highest development in unionism. It seeks to organize the worker according to industry, instead of trades, not only for the everyday conflict for more wages and less hours with employers, but also for the day surely coming when capitalism shall have outgrown its usefulness and must be supplanted by a system of greater stability and value to society as a whole. Industrial unionism is far-sighted unionism. It is social unionism.
Industrial unionism not only seeks greater unity among the workers, but believes that the abolition of craft lines in industry compels such unity. It views industry, 1n0t as a collection of trades with separate interests but as a series of continuous activities that tend to a general standard and are more affected by general conditions that permit of general movements.
How Craft Lines Disappear.
In the metal and machine industry large subdivisions of labor, formerly called, trades, are now classified on a uniform hour pay basis, and have their wages determined in arbitration proceedings by the rise in the cost of living, instead of their craft skill as formerly. In the transportation industry, to cite still another instance, the four large brotherhoods combine together to wage the 8 hour fight and to secure wage classifications that are of a general character. It is this tendency to put hours and wages on a general basis that makes industrial unionism both possible and necessary, and that also makes of industrial unionism large scale unionism, instead of the petty scale unionism, required by the trades 50 years ago.
Industrial unionism is alive not only to the general tendency to wipe out trade lines in industry, but also to the very close relation that exists between all industries. Industrial unionism, for instance, recognizes the close relationship that exists between the textile industry, in which the raw material for articles of wear is made, and the clothing industry, in which this raw material is made into the finished products. Industrial unionism recognizes the fact that these two industries practically form one whole industry, and organizes them accordingly. Industrial unionism embraces, accordingly, not only all the so-called trades in an industry, but all the industries engaged in the production and distribution of commodities. It is one big union of all industrial workers.
Interrelationship of Industries.
Industrial unionism, further, recognizes not only the very close relationship that exists between industries, but so also the financial ties that bind them still more closely together. In the clothing industry, for instance, it recognizes that woolen trust capital is invested in large establishments, and governs it self accordingly. Industrial unionism is alive to the fact that such is the interrelationship of all industries that the capital invested in them must become interrelated, too. That capitalism is in fact, one big combination of capital and capitalists, because industry itself is one big combination of activities, created by man's necessity to feed, clothe and shelter himself, and not by the alleged superior ability of the capitalist class. And thus it comes that industrial union organizes all industries together in one big union just as capitalism binds them together in one big combination for capitalist profit. Industrial unionism is parallel unionism, growing out of capitalist combination and living side by side with it.
Industrial unionism arises out of and is modelled after modern capitalism. Unlike trade unionism, it is not born of the capitalism of 50 years ago. Industrial unionism recognizes that capitalism is not only interindustrial, so to speak, but also international. That just as it binds industries together by means of machine processes and financial investments, so also does capitalism tend to bind nations together. Industrial unionism follows the same trend. It too is not only interindustrial but also international. Industrial unionism seeks to organize the industrial workers of the world just as capitalism seeks to exploit them. Industrial unionism is spreading wherever international capitalism exists. Like international capitalism industrial unionism knows no boundaries, color, race, creed or sex. As international capitalism knows only profit, industrial unionism knows only the industrial exploitation by which profit is possible. Industrial unionism organizes to make industrial exploitation an impossibility. And capitalism is its most valued assistant.
Industry the Basis of Society.
Industrial unionism believes that industry, in its broadest economic sense, is the basis of society. We work in and are dependent for our very lives, art, culture, law and institutions of all kinds, on in- [here some text is missing from the original] dustry ceases, society closes. Every snow storm that ties up industry, every general strike, every shock of war, that paralizes and destroys industry, proves the depedence of all society on industry. President Wilson, when appealing to the A. F. of L. convention, declared that winning the war was impossible without the aid of labor. So that even international issues and the state depend on industry. Without industry, without the active cooperative labor of millions of men, women, and children, the state is unable to generate the force on which its very existence depends. Recognizing the dependence of society and the state on industry, industrial unionism urges the workers to organize industrially so that both society and the state may become so transformed as to lead to the greater freedom and progress of the race. Industrial unionism holds to the belief that he who controls industry, controls the means, not only by which peoples live, but also by which their interests and ideals are protected and advanced. To get control of industry for the benefit of mankind instead of capitalism is the object of industrial unionism.
The Wide Scope of Industrial Unionism.
Industrial unionism is not merely unionism in the old sense of getting more wages, less hours and better conditions, but also in the sense of getting more social power and a more perfect social status for the workers. It is a means of solving social problems for the workers, and of making the workers themselves representative of a new society working for the good of all and the profit of none. Industrial unionism, through its social vision, tends to make the workers more intelligent in the grasp of conditions. It tends, in its practical outworkings, to make them more self-reliant and competent to run affairs for themselves instead of for others. Industrial unionism, in scope and plan, fits the workers for the cooperative management of society. Industrial unionism is industrial democracy in the making.
Industrial Unionism is Industrial Democracy.
Industrial unionism is the great foe of capitalist materialism, with its degradation and destruction of manhood. Industrial unionism is the social idealism of the workers operating through industrial means to insure their own free development, and through that development, their own liberation—the liberation of society, for the workers are society, in fact and numbers. The capitalists are a class, a useless, dangerous, parasitic minority that can be dispensed with. Industrial unionism is unionism of the workers according to industry and for the advancement and emancipation of society, through their own intelligence and efforts. Industrial unionism is non-bureaucratic. It is non-autocratic. It is non-capitalistic. Industrial unionism is industrial democracy, by, for and of the workers, first, last and all the time.
Transcribed by J. D. Crutchfield. Taken from page no longer on iww.org but found on archive.org
The June 1919 issue of The One Big Union Monthly.
Taken from CDs of JPG scans created by San Francisco General Membership Branch of the IWW
CDs provided courtesy of Nate Hawthorne/Twin Cities IWW Archives
The September 1919 issue of The One Big Union Monthly
-Our prisoners and defense work
-Add your protest by C.W. Anderson
-A letter from our attorney on the Wichita case
-General strike in behalf od all class war prisoners
-AF of L coal miners rush to the aid of IWW prisoners
-The merits of legal defense by Forrest Edwards
-Courts and direct action by William Clark
-Canadian workers in death grapple of capitalism
-Supplemental report of bail matters
-An explanation to contributers
-Two secret letters
-The exodus from Egypt, Moses and the IWW by John Sandgreen
-Reconstruction: a working class presentation of some of its problems by Justus Ebert
-The construction of the world on the basis of industrial democracy by J.L. and F.B.
-The industrial age by Covington Ami
-An open letter to construction workers
-The coal mining industry by Delegates M-120 and M-659
-A vision of the future by Robert G. Ingersoll
-The realism of the Bolsheviki by John Gabriel Soltis
-Compromising with the left wing by PH. Kurinsky
-The story of the IWW by Harold Lord Varney
-Southern conditions by Covington Ami.
-An appeal to the membership by George Adlercrants
-Craft unionism must go! by Frederick A. Blossom
-The story of No. 400 by Mat K. Fox
-Agricultural Workers Industrial Union No. 400, IWW by D.N. Simpson and Mat K. Fox
-Financial statement, AWIU No. 400, IWW, for month of July 1919
-Metal and Machinery Workers IU No. 300, IWW by Harold Lord Varney
-Construction Workers Industrial Union No. 573, IWW
-Marine Transport Workers Industrial Union No. 8, IWW financial statement
-Hotel, Restuarant and Domestic Workers IU No. 1100, IWW financial statement
-Railroad Workers Industrial Union No. 600, IWW report and financial statement
-Shipbuilding Workers Industrial Union No. 325, IWW financial statement
-Industrial Workers of the World: general office bulletin
Taken from CDs of JPG scans created by San Francisco General Membership Branch of the IWW
CDs provided courtesy of Nate Hawthorne/Twin Cities IWW Archives
The October 1919 issue of The One Big Union Monthly, a publication of the Industrial Workers of the World.
-With drops of blood: the history of the Industrial Workers of the World has been written
-Civilization by Jack Gaveel
-A voice from the Idaho prisons by Charles Anderson
-A voice from the stockade by Fred Mann, Card No. 251734
-The case of Louise Olivereau by Anne Gallagher
-Communism in Hungary
-The necessity of raising dues in the IWW
-Paterson textile workers in new quarters
-The high cost of living
-The Socialist and Communist conventions by Charles Mundell
-The passing of the Socialist Party by Donald M. Crocker
-The meditation of a wage slave by Henry Van Dorn
-The "patriotic" terrorists caught with the goods by John Sandgren
-Educating the immigrant or the public balks at "patriotism" by XXX
-Why the doom of predatory civilization cannot be averted by Quasimodo Von Belvedore
-The orthdox Wobbly and the borer from within by Jacob Margolis
-Our program in the steel district by Harold Lord Varney
-Industrial evolution in Mexico
-A break for liberty by J.M. Kerr
-It cannot by Covington Ami
-Industrial democracy by Covington Ami
-Three-cornered definitions by Robin of Podunk
-The bourgeois by Ray Markhom
-I Hear by Covington Ami
-Thus always? by Convington Ami
-To all the imprisoned Industrial Workers of the World by Matilda Robbins
-Song of the profiteers by Seldom Good
-The story of the IWW by Harold Lord Varney
-The objects of the IWW by Justus Ebert
-Lumber workers taking control of their industry by D.S. Dietz of IWIU No. 500
-Job talks by D.S. Dietz
-Some observations by Delegate E 369
-Conditions in the restuarant industry by Charles Mundell
-The curse of piece work by Frederick A. Blossom
-Asia throttled by Surrendra Karr
-Our minimum demands by Frederick A. Blossom
-Ox and man
-I, the kept press by Covington Ami
-What's in the basket
-The General Executive Board Meets
-New IWW papers
-Industrial union reports
Taken from CDs of JPG scans created by San Francisco General Membership Branch of the IWW
CDs provided courtesy of Nate Hawthorne/Twin Cities IWW Archives
The November 1919 issue of The One Big Union Monthly, a publication of the Industrial Workers of the World.
-$1,000,000 for bond, $100,000 for defense
-Riots and race wars, lynching and massacres, military law, terrorism and giant strikes
-The collapse of capitalism
-Industrial franchise, industrial representation, industrial administration are the elements of industrial democracy and industrial communism
-Politics by B.E. Nilsson
-Time by Harry Lloyd
-Twelve thousand miles away by Covington Ami
-In 'no man's land' by Covington Ami.
-Freedom by Raymond Corder
-The truth about the steel strike by Harold Lord Varney
-The signifigance of Gary by Anne Gallagher
-The war against Gompersism in Mexico by Linn A.E. Gale
-The League of Nations and the Treaty of Peace by W.J. Lemon
-The metal miner----copper by Delegate M659
-The Railroad Workers Union by Card No. 301479, No. 600
-The life of a railroad trackman by A Trackman
-When Earth's last conflict is ended by Douglas Robson
-The cellmate by Raymond Corder
-The fundamental principles of the IWW by C.E. Payne
-The importation of ideas in the labor movement by John Sandgren
-The IWW needs an industrial encyclopedia by John Sandgren
-The story of the IWW by Harold Lord Varney
-The lumberjack by D.S. Diets
-The traffic flags by O.A. Kennedy
-A letter to the editor
-IWW in Mexico
-The German IWW paper
-Raising of the dues: the stand of Minneapolis
-Industrial union reports
CDs provided courtesy of Nate Hawthorne/Twin Cities IWW Archives
The December 1919 issue of The One Big Union Monthly.
CDs provided courtesy of Nate Hawthorne/Twin Cities IWW Archives
Articles from the February 1920 issue of The One Big Union Monthly.
An article by Giovanni Baldazzi on the day-to-day realities of industrial unionism.
Characteristics of Industrial Unionism
One of the most important unions in the Industrial Workers of the World is the Bakery Workers' Industrial Union No. 46, with headquarters in New York. From the viewpoint of industrial union education, not to say as information matter, it will be interesting for all readers of the One Big Union Monthly to know something about the workings of that union as an agency of industry, and how considerable improvement has been won on the issue of wages, working hours and conditions, and especially about the high degree of protection and control attained by the I. W. W. bakery workers in New York through a wise and consistent application of industrial union tactics and policies. One should not think that to induce a number of workingmen in a given industry to get together under the statutes of the I. W. W. and with red cards in their pockets would really mean that they had built up an industrial union. While it is a highly commendable and noble thing for every conscious and faithful member of our organization to look upon the red card and the preamble of the I. W. W. as inspiring symbols of our struggle in the labor movement, we should not altogether be so dogmatic as to expect by the mere influence of these symbols some sort of industrial miracles. The creation of an industrial union capable of affording its members an effective and efficient protection on the job, and to preserve such standards of wage and conditions as would compare favorably with all other sections of organized labor, is not such an easy task. Working class devotion and idealism should undoubtedly be welcomed on this field of endeavor; although they would bring little or no practical result unless coupled with a sound knowledge of industrial union process; that is to say, of that complexity of tactics, discipline and union policies which after the age-long experience of labor's history, is to be considered as the most trustworthy condition of success in the workers' struggle. Industrial unionism is to a certain extent a faith, yes; but more than that, it is a struggle to be carried on along scientific lines. These studies on the technical problems related to the existence and development of our industrial unions are paramount in the I. W. W. literature, inasmuch as they do not con template some abstract and cultural conceptions or side issues, but the very subject of our daily struggle, the thing for which our best fellow workers have fought, suffered and died: The conquest for the I. W. W. of an influential position in the industrial life of the country, as the first step or the condition of departure toward the establishment of a proletarian commonwealth.
History of Bakery Workers' Industrial Union No. 46
The history of the bakers' union of the I. W. W. stands as a convincing proof of the great efforts that a body of workers must face in order to secure for themselves a position of comparative prosperity and job control. The union membership is about one thousand (1,000), most of the members being residents of New York City and nearly all employes of the French bakery shops. There are several Italian branches besides one German and Polish branch. The bakers' union was organized about fifteen years ago, and joined the I. W. W. some six years ago.
The wages are the highest paid in the bread industry within the boundaries of New York state, viz., first class bakers, $42 a week; second class, $38; third class, $36. The bakers in the French bakery shops controlled by the I. W. W. union have brought about the end of the night work system, while the unhealthy condition obtains everywhere else in the bread industry throughout the United States. It is a fine piece of "industrial legislation" enacted in the union hall of the I. W. W. and in force since the month of July, 1919, without any attempt having been made at consulting the politica1 wisdom of the house of representatives in Albany. The Bakery Workers' Union No. 46 of the I. W. W. was the first union in the bread industry to declare for a forty-four hour week. So the members of that union are actually working seven hours and a half a day, and before long they will ask for a seven or a six hour work day, and they will get it. A great effort has been made by active members of Industrial Union No. 46 with the co-operation of several English speaking fellow workers of the I. W. W. Recruiting Union to spread the agitation among all bakery workers in New York City, encouraging them to fall in line far better sanitary conditions, higher wages, forty-four hour week and the day work system. German, Polish and Jewish branches are in process of organization.
Far from being the product of momentary enthusiasm, all these thousands of successes have been brought about through a long record of per severance and stubborn struggles. Out of a fifteen years' existence of Bakery Workers' Industrial Union No. 46 (although the union itself was known under other names before being incorporated in the I. W. W.), it springs into light the old commonplace truth that it is rather difficult and almost impossible for a union to win at one blow, by means of a victorious strike, or by the mere spirit of enthusiasm such a thing as an influential position in industry. Industrial conquests are comparatively slow, and they seem to be the conclusion of persistent, systematic efforts for the capture of power on the job, rather than the result of some kind of master stroke.
What Industrial Control Means
The act by which an employer takes into his service a wage worker or employe is known as a "con tract. " Since labor contracts are the commonest form of intercourse in our present industrial life, they most frequently occur under the seal of silent conventionalism. This sort of labor selling between employers and employes may take the shape of an individual or collective contract. 0f course, a true union man, whether he is an I. W. W., an American Federationist, or an independent unionist, is necessarily opposed to the proposition of individual labor con tract. Why is this so? Because from a long series of experiences the workers have learned that any direct agreement between individual workingmen and employers turns out to be detrimental to the former contracting party and it effects also an extremely demoralizing influence upon the collectivity of labor. Individual bargaining affords no protection' for the working man, surrendering the latter to the employer with hands and feet solidly tied.
The Industrial Workers of the World is by no means against the proposition of collective bargaining and union contracts, but they are decidedly hostile to timed contracts, a1 well as any specific contract, between the employer and the members of a trade or other particular section of' an industry, when it might endanger the general interests and solidarity of the workers of the whole industry. One of the main points of difference on the questions of tactics between the American Federation and the I.. W. W. is to be identified in this manner of conceiving and carrying out the policy of conceiving and carrying out the policy of collective bargainings and union contracts. The I. W. W. repudiate all timed agreements with the employers on the question of wages and other conditions affecting the workers in the industries, and they conceive the idea of collective bargaining on the basis of the general interest and solidarity of all workers employed in the industry while in a good many unions of the A. F. of L. organized along trade lines, the workers are engaging themselves in sectional forms of contracts to such an extent as to divide them and make them scabs against each other in time of strike.
Except for these differences the I. W. W. should be as much insistent as any other labor union on the question of enforcing the "closed shop" and collective bargaining in all transactions between the workers and the employer. These, at least, have always been the policies of the Bakery Workers' Industrial Union No. 46, and the members of that I. W. W. body are firmly clinging to them as a solid ground for practical and successful industrial unionism. Experience has taught also that every industrial union which does not recognize the principle that all men on the job should be made members is bound to fall quickly into disintegration. There is a spirit of class discipline in our conceptions and tactics of industrial unionism, and that spirit springs logically out of the economic fact that the interests of the individual worker are tightly bound with the interests of the whole body of his fellow workers employed in the industry, so that for the sake of the common good he ought to solidarize and fall in line with them. The industrial unions are the medium of this working class solidarity and discipline.
How the Shops Are Controlled
To understand the tremendous power exerted by Bakery Workers' Industrial Union No. 46 in its struggle against the bosses and the large share of protection afforded to its members on the job, one should visualize that union not merely as an institution stranger to the industry, but as an auxiliary of the highest import in the working of the industry itself. There is great meaning conveyed in the proposition that a true and well organized industrial union ought to function right on the job, rather than in the union hall. However, let us illustrate this idea by the aid of facts.
All bakery shops controlled by the I. W. W. in New York City are running with full crews of union men. None of the members of the crews are allowed to remain out of the union ranks. The drivers themselves are members of the union. The question arises: How did the union succeed in compelling the boss to engage members of the I. W. W. exclusive of all other classes of workers? One of the most effective instruments that helped the bakers' union in tightening its grip over the jobs is the employment bureau. Nobody, including the members of the union, is allowed to go and ask a boss for a job. All jobs are disposed of by the Union Employment Bureau. Even the right of a boss to supervise the crews on the jobs is ;restricted to a considerable extent. There is common understanding that the workers under the guidance of the union foremen are bound to turn over a production according to some conventional standards; there ceases the :right of interference on the part of the boss. In the case of a man refusing to pay his monthly dues or having made himself responsible for some offense against the union, the committee and the assembly are invested with full judicial powers to admonish or to punish him. Some times the union required that the guilty man be .dismissed from, the job, and the boss had to comply with it. There is' not a boss that dares to resist such requests, realizing that he couldn't possibly run the place without the consent of the union men. On the other hand, in order to prevent the bosses from complaining to the police against such union tactics they have been made to sign an agreement to the effect of securing their crews at the Union Employment Bureau to the exclusion of all other agencies.
The actual bakers' union of the I. W. W. in New York is built upon such strong foundations as to give assurance for tremendous successes in that line of organization work. It is to be noticed that all that has been done hitherto comes directly from the initiative of the membership of that body, without any outside help. Taking into account the lack of English speaking elements in the ranks of Union No. 46, it would be utterly absurd to expect great results under actual conditions. So it is high time the General Headquarters of the I. W. W. extends its powerful hand and help in bringing about the propaganda, agitational and organization work among the slaves in this industry.
To train the workers in the responsibilities connected with the running of the industries so that they shall be prepared to solve the revolutionary crisis which is so near, and that they will be able to build up a new commonwealth founded on the possession by the workers of all instruments of production, and of the wealth of the world, this is undoubtedly the most compelling task, both of an educational and of an industrial or technical character that the Industrial Workers of the World is confronted with. These qualities for industrial government, that is to say, these capacities on the part of the workers to take care of all processes of production and to discipline themselves on the job, so as to eliminate all reasons for capitalist patronage, find the best conditions of development in the practice of industrial control.
This is also the plan that we should carry on and make effective through all the educational and organization activity of the I. W. W., if we really expect to play an actual and dominant role in the future of American industrial life.
Transcribed by J. D. Crutchfield. Taken from iww.org no longer online. but found on archive.org
Articles from the June 1920 issue of The One Big Union Monthly.
An 1920 article by George Hardy, advocating some structural changes for the IWW.
This article appeared in the June issue of The One Big Union Monthly, during a time of growth and turmoil for the I.W.W. Thousands of Wobblies, including the most experienced organizers and best administrators, were in prison or under indictment for "criminal syndicalism" or alleged violations of the Sedition and Espionage Acts. Under the stress of relentless government persecution, internal conflicts of personality, ideology, and practical strategy would soon cause a split in the union from which it has not yet recovered. The union’s membership saw a clear need for structural change, as well as for a change in rhetoric and tactics. The following article is one example of the proposals for change that circulated at the time. For the existing structure of the I.W.W. in those days, see the 1919 Constitution. Many of Hardy’s recommendations were later adopted.
This article is presented here for its historical interest, and also as a basis for discussion towards the I.W.W.’s reconstruction—though much of it will certainly be unacceptable to a generation of workers who know the history of the Russian experiment with Communism, and consequently know the dangers of centralized bureaucratic administration.*
George Hardy joined the I.W.W. in Vancouver, B.C. in about 1909. He served as General Secretary-Treasurer in 1921. In 1925 he was in England as a representative of the Comintern, and in the 1930s he represented that organization in South Africa. His autobiography is Those Stormy Years. Memories of the Fight for Freedom on Five Continents (1956).
In the following transcript from The One Big Union Monthly I have corrected obvious misprints but left Hardy’s ideosyncratic punctuation and spelling unchanged.
Shop Organization the Base of the I. W. W.
Much discussion is going on in the ranks of labor, as to what is the best form of organization to give power to the workers in industry. This is an indication of discontent with the American Federation of Labor, and all other craft forms of unionism, which in reality is not unionism at all. The primary cause for discussion can be attributed to the advent of the Shopsteward Movement in Great Britain, which was brought about during the war, because the officials of the great trade unions pledged labor’s support to the Government, and who afterwards were prevented from participation in strikes, by the Defense of the Realms Act and the Munitions Act, thereby forcing into existence the unofficial movement, due to the abnormal conditions prevailing.
There has been a desperate attempt to make this shopstewards’ system fit American conditions by all and sundry. Especially is this true of some of the bourgeois and semi-bourgeois minded people, who claim to be revolutionary; while on the other hand, the members of the Shopstewards’ Movement in Great Britain state frankly, they would be in the I. W. W. if resident in U. S. However, the Shopsteward Movement does fit British conditions, because of tradition etc.
Reason for Continuity
The above position of the British militants is absolutely correct, because the "Industrial Workers of the World" is thoroughly in harmony with capitalist development and the labor conditions prevailing in America. There are less than ten per cent of the workers organized in this country, as against fifty per cent in the British Isles; with considerably weaker unions existing amongst the American workers, than those of the British workers. The I. W. W. has stood the battle for fifteen years—this alone proves its continuity inevitable and in conformity to Economic Evolution. The I. W. W. admits of changes necessary to prevent the organization from becoming obsolete, as the craft unions have. This is because its constitution is an elastic one—it has changed many times.
Necessary to Change
Today again we are confronted with the necessity of changing our form and tactics, due largely to the fact, that rapid changes are taking place in the economic world, and the apparent blood-thirsty tactics of the masters of industry. Therefore I submit the following program for consideration—not as "my" program—but as a program evolved out of the accumulated knowledge of the past; gathered by reading and discussion with my fellow workers, and an analysis of the position of the proletariat to the economic necessity of abolishing the system of private ownership, together with the avaricious, trustified masters—the capitalist class.
During the last two years many plans have been submitted. Some members are willing to stay by the "Old Ship"’ (the I. W. W.) without applying modern machinery to run it. Others want to change its name. To the thinking portion of the members both plans are equally disastrous—you cannot fool the ruling class! What is necessary now is new machinery to run it. We must abolish that part which has served its purpose, and install the most uptodate equipment the modern mind can conceive of, or we will be operating at a loss of prestige—a loss of membership—the crew will become too small to run the big ship, and we will land in some future storm on the rocks. This is financially evident today. We can, however, insure the future by installing new, modern, efficient and uptodate machinery of ad ministration, to discharge the rotting cargo—capita1ism. Let us do it today.
Efficiency calls first for an organization with its basis on the job, with rank and file control from the bottom up to the highest office; second, that administrative councils be created to admit of joint action from the job to the whole of the organization; third, that a regional council should exist to execute business that interests the whole working class community; fourth, that a defense council shall be maintained for the purpose of caring for members who have temporarily ceased to be industrial workers, because of their incarceration by the capitalist class; fifth, that at all times the prerogative shall be in the hands of the members on the job; sixth, instead of District Offices for each industrial union, supply stations should be opened jointly.
The above can only be gained by having a Union formed along the lines indicated in the chart. I do not, however, claim its application should be hard and rigid; but, I do claim the principle with slight variations can be applied to all industries which we seek to organize.
Job Branches and Committees
The job branches as set out are the base of all action, whether, legislative or administrative—the executive power lies always with the workers at that base. The workers first organize the job—a mine, mill, camp or factory—immediately they have seven members they constitute themselves a Job Branch; hold meetings; elect a job committee, one of whom may be elected delegate for that job. This would move the avenue of communication from the delegate to the job. When a delegate leaves a job, immediately one is elected in his place, and supplies given him which were left behind by the retiring delegate. It will be seen here, the supplies become the property of the job committee, instead of the delegate. It will also be noticed, there will always be a delegate on the job, and one who expresses the wishes of the group so organized, for they elected him. They have the power to remove him if not satisfactory. With this system in operation there can never be more than one delegate on one job, and all jobs organized will have a delegate.
The job committee is the administrative committee, and attends to all matters arising on the job between meetings; such as grievances that may arise; differences prevailing amongst the members etc., and have power to call special meetings by a majority vote of the members of the committee. The meetings then take up the matters on the agenda and decide what action shall be taken.
Organized in this way the territorial divisions, prevalent in the craft unions disappear, for all workers meet together who work together; thus, as the workers gain power, so they are gaining control, and will form the basis of the future administration of industry under the Co-operative Commonwealth—Industrial Communism.
There are many workers who work in separate factories and jobs, who will be found to be working for the same master in a given piece of territory or a large city. We also know, that modern industrial capitalists are all organized industrially and territorially, so we must look on them as a class—the exploiting class—with the above divisions for efficiency amongst themselves; so, we must, therefore, unite our forces on the jobs to be able to meet them in open combat.
Central Branch Council
The Central Branch Council is fitted for meeting the opposition, and taking the aggression against the locally organized industrial groups of capitalists. The central branch council is made up of delegates from the job branches, who will meet as often as the job branches represented on the council decide, consistent with urgency, distance and expense, etc. They could meet oftener in highly centralized communities than where distance is an obstacle. A council ought to be formed as soon as seven job branches have been organized. If the job branches were large in membership, one could be formed with a less number. Representation could be had on a pro-rata basis, say, one delegate for every one hundred or any part thereof. The Central Branch Council’s function is legislative. It is to enable the workers to come in contact with each other through their duly elected representatives, who would receive instructions from their job branches, and deliberate, with their fellow workers in relation to the issues under discussion. Here we find that one delegate would bring up a question never thought of by some of the other delegates, so without instruction they would use their best judgment and vote accordingly. The decisions would be ratified by the members of the job branch. We must also concede that large bodies of men become unwieldy and cannot make the best decisions. They can also be played upon by eloquent popular orators. The central branch council would deal with facts alone, and members would act [here a line is missing in the original] from the council by the rank and file.
Industrial District Council
Several central branch councils could exist in an industrial district like some of the large mining districts, lumber districts, coastal districts of marine transport workers and agricultural districts, etc. This would necessitate an Industrial District Council being organized, to co-ordinate all the activities of a district within a given industry. The industrial district council would be made up of delegates from the central branch council, with a delegate for every 500 members affiliated or less. Again we must bear in mind the job branches would ratify the election of any delegate to the district council which would meet as often as conditions demanded, say every six months, and consistent with finance, urgency, etc.
This is absolutely necessary for drawing up uniform demands in a district where natural industrial divisions exist, such as in the logging industry where different machinery is used to get out the logs. These districts should not exist with territorial divisions where these natural divisions exist—the uniform methods of industry in the district would demand common council with each other—besides unity of action compels the workers to adopt modern ways of accomplishing Solidarity. Instead of striking separately, the workers would carry their grievances—if not settled locally—to the industrial district council. This would produce efficiency and a stability which would give ECONOMIC POWER to the WORKERS’ ONE BIG UNION.
Today we know that our interests are identical, that is, if we are workers. We also believe, that an organization which still maintains that the workers have interests in common with their employers—the parasites—is serving the masters’ interests, as opposed to the workers’ interests. Yes, the above is generally true. The workers almost without exception nowadays, admit they are fleeced daily by the profiteer, which means, they are subconscious of the wolves in sheep’s clothing—the Industrial Kings of the World, who rob us daily at the point of production.
General Industrial District Council
In so far as the workers have interests in common, they must organize into a General Industrial District Council. This would be done as soon as two or more industrial district councils existed in a district. It would not be necessary for this body to meet very often; say, once a year, if nothing of a critical nature came up appertaining to the interest of the whole district. Representatives or delegates from the central branch councils would meet, and comprise the general industrial district council, on the same pro-rata basis as the central branch council—thus we create co-hesion within a district—District Solidarity.
There will not be any permanent offices attached to the above councils, as they are purely creative or legislative. They must be so because they come from the job, and only workers who work on the job either by hand or brain are entitled to legislate or create machinery to govern their affairs. They know best! This does not mean that if some specialized work needs to be done, they must place a worker from the job to do it. No, they will hire the most efficient man to do the work.
Executives of Councils
The above councils, central branch, district and general, will all have their executives, who will attend to all matters as they arise during the intervals between conferences or meetings, and call into session—with permission of the job branches—emergency conferences, if a critical condition arises which demands immediate and important action that only a conference can settle. The office force of the clearing house or supply station, will be under the jurisdiction of the executive of the general industrial district council, who will go over books from time to time and see that efficiency is maintained, and render a report to the job branches.
In districts which are a long way from the head quarters of the industrial unions, and where two or more industrial unions are operating, supply stations should be opened where delegates elected on the jobs can obtain supplies. All that would be necessary for the maintenance of this supply house would be a supply book and delegates’ credentials etc., with a Report Sheet for the daily supplies sent out and money received, which should be sent to the industrial union headquarters every day. Of course a duplicate of the work done would be kept on file for comparison, should a mistake arise. In this fashion, there would be no need for Index Cards, etc., together with the unnecessary work caused by duplicating the work at this office. The up-keep of this office would be maintained by those using it on a proportionate basis.
Form Union on Job
We are inevitably, always forced back to the ground work of organization, which always leads to the job. So we find, to form an industrial union is, not to open an office, but to go to the job and form a job branch—this is the foundation. It becomes unnecessary to open an office to do organization work for a particular industry, since there is in existence a general headquarters of all the industrial unions already organized. The job branch once formed could get its supplies from general headquarters temporarily, where a set of books could be kept under the jurisdiction of the G. E. B. When several small industrial unions exist, one bookkeeper and stenographer could be hired at headquarters to do the work, until they grow large enough to warrant the existence of separate offices with machinery. Then industrial charters should be issued. We come now to the Industrial Union.
After 5,000 members have been attained, Industrial Union Headquarters could be opened. Remember, by the time a union reached a membership of 5,000, there would be in existence many central branch and district councils, therefore, not only would the work warrant the opening of a headquarters, but would be necessary to bring the workers together for common action nationally. The Industrial Union would then do business direct with the general office, distributing supplies to supply stations and job branches, and receiving the finance and paying its debts. A solid front would be forming like an army division, but under no circumstances should that division go to battle before enough recruits have made its strength almost impregnable. Never let the enemy choose the battle ground, especially while we are still weak.
Bureau of Industry
The General Headquarters of the Industrial Workers, organized into their respective industrial unions, now becomes the center of the whole working class as far as their economic interests are concerned. It is a central active bureau of industry. Each year a conference is held and officials elected. The most important executive of all is brought into being thru a ballot of the membership—the General Executive Board.
Under the jurisdiction of the G. E. B. comes the General Office, with all its subsidiaries, such as the publishing house, etc. They also supervise all unorganized fields where no industrial union exists to take care of it. They assist weak industrial unions, which come under their care because of not having attained a membership large enough to get a charter. This does not mean the G. E. B. would be the dictators to a newly formed union, but would work in conjunction with the rank and file in districts where job branches exist. Under no circumstances would the G. E. B., or the Industrial Union executives, operate contrary to the wishes of the membership of a district, providing they were not violating the principles laid down in the general constitution. Always the job branches, through their central branch councils, would decide who would be the organizer. The general office would finance this organizer until the district had sufficient funds in general headquarters to pay their own way.
To organize industrially is not enough for a revolutionary industrial organization to accomplish. There are other interests, which are communal in character. It is the working class community that will benefit by class-consciousness; not only the industrial part, but the mothers of the rising generation—the producers of the producers—producers par excellence. Therefore, on regional or territorial lines, we must form a city central council.
The City Central Council is therefore made up of delegates from the job branches, augmented by allowing membership to the wives of the fellow workers, providing they agree with the principles of the organization. This ought to be done, as a mother and companion’s interests are bound up with the conditions of her husband’s, and vice versa.
This city central council would carry on propaganda meetings and finance itself thereby. This would relieve the industrial units from direct participation, which would only be connected by their delegate on the City Central Council. This would allow the industrial units to put in all their energies organizing the workers on the jobs. The council will also be the Social Center, where all the units in the industrial arena can find an outlet for their talents; a study could be maintained with a scientific labor library, economic classes and industrial history classes held, concerts and dances, giving an outlet for the musicians and singers; social dramas would be staged for those with artistic tendencies, and a multitude of things done in this direction.
The greatest inspiration of sincerity would be injected into the members of the City Central Council by the recognition that they are participating in a social council, which may be the council that will care for the community interests when capitalism is abolished. A beginning can be made into this work by organizing a system of food stations, also milk stations for the babies and the sick, to be brought into existence during real strikes. They would also during strikes set up a vigilance council to see that no acts of violence or vandalism were committed, and if any such acts were committed, to be in a position to place the responsibility. This may be the nucleus of a functioning body for the future—a Protective Council.
General Defense Council
Attached to the general office is the General Defense’ Council, which could be made up of the G. E. B. members, and those actively engaged in the responsible positions within accessible distance to the meeting place. A secretary-treasurer would be appointed through the committee. The office is a transitionary one, for, as soon as we gain power in industry the masters of bread who now are so urgent in their demands for blood and prison bars would then have to meet our representatives and would be forced to look at a condition unfavorable to themselves—the withdrawal of our Labor Power—which would solve the defense question.
There are several important items that come under the control of this transient office, and as long as we are forced into the capitalist courts—their battle ground—we must have funds to defend our members who choose to take legal defense. The raising of these funds, therefore, comes under control of the defense council. Under the direct charge of this council comes the hiring of all the legal talent necessary for adequate defense. It will be the duty of the council to observe closely all cases that are brought to their attention, and to decide whether the victim’s case is an organization matter. None but those arrested for doing organization work, or for being a member of the Union should receive defense. We should, however, always keep in mind the tactics pursued by the masters and not allow their camouflage to deter defense of a sincere fellow worker.
Defense Publicity and Relief
Publicity is a part of the general defense councils’ work. They should, through the secretary, get out publicity matter, nationally and internationally, and show the world how capitalism—the white terror—operates to our detriment. Also, the speakers for the defense are controlled by the council, who will devote their attention to the injustices of the capitalist class—imprisoning or killing our members.
Another important item is the caring for the wives and families of those in the dungeons. The assistance of those needing relief should be in proportion to their obligations and necessity for relief; sickness, number in a family and any reasonable obligation; but, in no case, should a self-sustaining person receive assistance. We must, however, avoid driving our dependents to the brink of injurious poverty. We should look upon the sons and daughters of our imprisoned comrades, at least, as an intelligent farmer looks upon his pure-bred stock—perpetuation of the class-conscious— which will assume some responsibility in the future.
The Industrial Departments have been omitted from this chart because of the desire to avoid confusion by extra complications. All that is necessary is to show that which is absolutely necessary today. The industrial departments may be a factor in the future, as there are many related industries which could not run on any anarchical scheme. For example, the tanneries and shoe factories, iron ore mining and the steel mills, and a number of other industries would be found closely related, if we had time and space to go into them. However, this is a matter for the future, as related to our immediate needs for organizing with efficient machinery under capitalism. As we develop our union, probably a need will arise for departments. This need is not here now; so let us deal with the immediate.
A Real International
With a program such as this being put into a tangible form of unionism in every country, we are reorganizing society to carry on production in a Free Society. The Workers’ International is in the embryo stage. At the present time messages are received daily from all parts of the globe of a shifting of the industrial scenery. The masters of gold have left the world the ruins of that of which they have always been the beneficiaries; they refuse in all cases to give assistance unless they may still continue to exploit. Their war did this—their greed for gold. The hope of the world’s workers lies in their ability to organize this prostrate world. Great hope and sincerity is shown now, for there are the great revolutionary syndicalist movements in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Italy, Spain, France, Portugal and other small countries; there are the revolutionary unions in Germany with civil war reigning; also, the workers of Austria and Hungary, making desperate plans to recuperate since the allied white terror has been introduced; the workers of the South American countries have endorsed the I. W. W. and become a part of the I. W. W. in Chile; the One Big Union movement to our north in Canada, and in Australia, due chiefly to the influence of the I. W. W. propaganda; and, the Shop Stewards’ and Workers’ Committees movement of Great Britain has voted in conference nationally to link up with the I. W. W. Our Russian fellows have sent out a call. Shall we answer and form an Industrial International? — International Solidarity of Labor—yes, a thousand times yes!!!
A Social Institution
This edifice of human affairs is a revolutionary one, because its very structure, outlined by the chart, leads through all the avenues of industry for taking care of the industrial and communal life, when capitalism shall have ceased to exist. It is rank and file; that will give them a lever to their own emancipation, and, by so doing, insure the future by the avoidance of chaos. Every member of the revolutionary union; every unit of the Army of Labor, so organized, will become a steadying factor in the transitory period; it embodies the forces necessary in the creation of food, clothing and shelter—the maintenance of life itself as well as giving an outlet to all esthetic qualities. There is the nucleus of protection, which, if extended nationally, can become the guardian of the workers occupied in peaceful production, which will be absolutely necessary, for, Lo and Behold the brutal outlook of today!
Constitutional or Capitalist Right?
An attempt has been made by trustified capital to outlaw any organization that challenges its power to own and control industry. This is all done in spite of the principles embodied in the Constitution of the United States, that all one hundred per centers should learn and adhere to. Article One of the first Amendment clearly states that no law should be made "Abridging the Freedom of Speech, or the Press, or of the right of the People Peaceably to Assemble." The fourth Amendment protects persons in their homes and renders inviolate the invasion of homes by any who may take it into their heads to invade—they must state specifically in a warrant the "persons or things to be seized"—this the so-called "law enforcers" hardly ever do. That great freedom-loving statesman, Abraham Lincoln, speaking of the people of America on March 4th, 1861, said, "Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government they can exercise their constitutional right of amendment, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it." This is a part of the Declaration of Independence.
Violence and Chaos?
We propose to make the changes according to the above well-defined principles—by peacefully organizing the workers and the jobs. We have a legal right to do this. Judge Landis said in the great Chicago trial we had a right to revolution, "providing we could put it over." Whether the change will be by violence is a matter entirely in the hands of the capitalist class. They are committing violence on every hand! We want no violence and no chaos! The Constitution provides for these changes, and facilities to bring it about, if the Constitution is inviolate. We do not bother about Congress, for it expresses the economic interests of those in control. It will make laws to prevent our representatives getting there; so we must organize to control economically and choose our own institution of political expression—this will be done.
The Russian Conquerors
The inspiring devotion of our Russian fellow workers to their revolution has given an example to the world’s workers. The greatest statesman of the day—Lloyd George, says, "You cannot crush Bolshevism by the sword." This is an admission of defeat by the physical force advocates amongst the international gang of thieves. The same is admitted by Italian statesmen, with an added rider by the British premier that, "the Bolshevist Army is the largest and best disciplined army in Europe." All this with practically no organization on the industrial field when the collapse came—when the workers found the ruins of capitalism’s great war at their feet. The Russian Proletariat was forced into the building of the new society with chaos reigning on every hand. Yet they have succeeded marvelously. We must learn a lesson from them. If they have succeeded against a world of vengeance in spite of the apathy of the labor movement of the world, how much quicker could they have succeeded with a scientific industrial structure and a trained industrial army? Let us learn our lessons from the past and never repeat a failure.
NOTE— In this article a statement is made that the writer does not want to claim he alone is responsible for this work. Therefore, he names Roy Brown, with whom be was cellmates while incarcerated in Leavenworth Penitentiary, as one whom he accredits with having a great deal of knowledge along the lines indicated in this article. [Roy Brown was Chairman of the General Executive Board in 1921.—Tr.]
Originally posted: 2004 at Marxists Internet Archive
August 1920 issue of The One Big Union Monthly, an early publication of the IWW.
-Political Stew for 1920, Cartoon by Dust
-Sunrise over the Harvest Fields, Cartoon by Dust
-The Agricultural Workers' Campaign
-The Leaning Tower of Capitalism is Swaying
-The IWW and Politics
-Poland and Italy
-City Central Councils
-Stools and Fools
-The Stool Pigeon and his Sphere
-Fear. Poem by Pacific Red
-Money Madness by WC Weber
-The General Defense by William D. Haywood
-The Harvest Stiff of Ancient Days: a chapter from the Agricultural Workers Handbook. With 8 illustrations by Ralph Chaplin
-The Skookum Boy. Poem by D.S. Dietz
-Renunciation. Poem by Joachim Raucher
-After the War. Poem
-The IWW in California by a Stanford University student
-Solidarity: A Rural Drama of Today by Mary Katherine Reely with two illustrations by Dust
-As A Doctor Sees It. Brief notes by Dr. B. Liber
-Future of the American Working Class by Henry van Dorn
-Instinct and Better Organization by Ralph Winstead
-Conditions on the Pacific Coast by a Wandering Wobbly
-Give Us a Photo Play of Life. Poem by Raymond Corder
-A Near Industrial Plan by Matilda Robbins
-Strike on the Job by Frederick A. Blossom
-The Germans and the IWW. Translation by Wm. Weyh
-The Labor Movement in Argentina
-One Big Union in Japan
-The IWW in Sweden. With photo.
-Mexican IWW Permanently Organized by Jose Refugio Rodriguez
-Philadelphia Strike Over
-One Dollar Per Month After First of August
-The Modern Agricultural Slave: Harvesting in Kansas by E.W. Latchem
-Who Does Not Work, Neither Shall He Eat by C. Devlin
-The Spendthrift Workers by Mary E. Marey
-Loaded for Bear
-IWW Literature List
-The IWW in Theory and Practice: Book Announcement
An short piece about IWW structure that expands on one aspect of an article that appeared in the June 1920 issue of The One Big Union Monthly.
In the past we have been so busy building the productive and distributive organs of the future-the industrial unions with their branches and councils--that we have had little time to devote to another equally important function of the job branches, namely as the basis of local and regional administration. But we need not only organs of production and distribution. We must also have local administration to begin with and regional administration in the second place. Such an organ is the City Central Council, pictured on the Hardy chart as a representative local body, drawing its members from the various job branches. This council will have nothing directly to do with production but will function as intermediary between the job branches for purposes of local administration. It will take over most of the functions of the present city councils, but will in addition have many functions growing out of the change from private ownership to communism. So far we have had little use for these City Central Councils except as a body to handle the question of joint local propaganda for all the branches, such as renting of a common hall and office, handling literature and arranging meetings and entertainments, etc. But these functions are apt to be immensely widened almost any moment without any particular effort on our side. That capitalism is about to collapse completely nobody denies. Production and distribution are breaking down daily. Capitalism is making a failure of almost every branch of human activity. Particularly dangerous is the railway and coal situation. The capitalist press is making no secret of the fact that even if a railroad settlement is now effected, which is by no means sure, the railroads will not even approximately be able to get in shape in time to handle the crops. Famine stares us in the face in the near future. If railroad transportation breaks down all industries will suffer. They will have to shut down, and more particularly for the reason that there is little or no coal available. People in an authoritative position are repeatedly warning us that there will be a coal shortage this winter, that factories will have to shut down and that people will freeze. It is these very things that constitute the collapse of capitalism. Add to this that conditions in Europe are much worse and tend to drag American capitalism along to destruction, and we may without drawing too much on imagination say, that the collapse here is impending.
No chain is stronger than its weakest links, and the rail and coal situation are two links that are ready to snap.
All modern governments depend for their existence on taxes. If capitalism collapses, taxes will soon cease to flow. There will be little or no revenue for the governments. No capitalist government, local, state or national, can exist without revenue. When capitalism collapses the various governments will soon follow. They will be unable to function. The administration of our cities will go to pieces. Streets, light, water, schools, courts, institutions---all of these items of local administration will be stranded.
In Chicago f. i. the local government has been in a state of collapse for some time past. City employees of all kinds, including police and firemen have repeatedly gone on strike. The city had in sufficient revenue to keep going.
People will become desperate from suffering and disorder. The bad elements, the same ones who lynch Negroes or start race riots or raid I. W. W. halls, will get out their guns and begin a reign of terror like in Centralia, with this difference that they will have no organized production and distribution to fall back on. Banditry itself on a large scale (such as Villa's) will be impossible. Then people will grasp at straws for their salvation. They will try the A. F. of L. labor councils in many cities as an organ of local administration. It will be better than nothing, but unless it speedily regroups the workers industrially so they can take over production and distribution through their unions, they will make a failure of their administration.
Only a council elected by the workers in the shop or the place of work, penetrates with its power to the bottom of society and draws its inspiration from the whole people, and is in touch with living life. The modern governments are not in touch with the masses. Only such a City Central Council will enjoy the confidence of the people as a whole sufficiently to restore order without bloodshed. Only such a council will have the means at hand of running a city administration without collecting taxes. It will base the administration on an exchange of services.
While we may have no immediate use for such councils in some places, the question of organizing them should be taken up, to be ready for an emergency. We must not allow capitalism to crush us in its fall. We may not have time to organize any considerable portion of the cities before the great crash. But the start we have will serve as a nucleus around which we can in an emergency manner group representatives from all occupations until such time as we have a chance to thoroughly organize them for productive and distributive. purposes. Thus the City Central Council will not differ very much from the Russian soviets at the time w'hen capitalism and capitalist governmenlt broke down in Russia.
These City Central Councils are bound to become the basic units of the local administration of the near future.
In England the workers have suddenly awakened to the necessity of immediate action in this regard. They are now organizing the same kind of bodies under the name of Social Committees in Scotland and Social Soviets in England.
In Sweden the syndicalist organization has from the start built for local administration rather than for productive and distributive purposes. The local samorganizations of the Swedes will serve like a charm as organs of local administration, while they still have a good deal to do before they get their productive and distributive organs in shape.
In Germany the Labor Exchanges correspond most nearly to our City Central Councils, the English Social Soviets, and the Swedish Local Samorganizations. In Latin Europe they also have their labor exchanges. (Bourse du travail, camera del lavoro, etc.) Everywhere the workers are getting ready for the great crash which they see coming. The penalty for neglecting it will be severe.
There is one danger attending this work.
Some people may become so captivated with the idea of making a body of local administration, no matter how it is made up, that the professional politician will get too much play and precipitate us into revolutionary adventures a la left wing. It is always a good rule to keep the politicians out. All they want is power and wealth without going the legitimate way in getting it.
The proper way to go about it, is to organize one shop after another, one place of work after another. As the number of job branches grows, the City Central Council grows by having new members added. Every shop branch that sends delegates adds to its power. Thus we secure a natural and organic growth of the future organ of administration, which leaves no room for the professional politician to get in, except he works as a useful producer.
Henceforth we have, consequently, to build in two directions. We have to hurry to build our industrial unions, in order to have new organs of production and distribution when capitalist production collapses, and we have to build City Central Councils so as to have organs of local administration when capitalist administration, built as it is on private property and taxes, comes down in a heap.
Transcribed by J. D. Crutchfield. Taken from an iww.org page no longer online, but available in archive.org
Articles from the October 1920 issue of The One Big Union Monthly.
An article by John Sandgren which outlines his views on IWW organization and is critical of the Communist Party (USA).
Transcriber's Note: This article, in which Sandgren outlines his views on proper industrial organization and its implications for the new society, got him fired as editor of The One Big Union Monthly for its criticism of armed revolution, the Bolsheviks, and the "dictatorship of the proletariat".
Sandgren was an early opponent of political action and the parliamentarist De Leon faction in the I.W.W. He (among others) debated De Leon in the New York Daily People in 1907. That debate was later published by De Leon as a pamphlet, "As to Politics".
Solving the Social Problem Through Economic Direct Action
A resolution, numbered 43, and adopted at the 12th annual convention of the I. W. W., in the year1920, reads as follows:
...Resolved, that we always preach and practice our only weapon--Economic Direct Action--in order to abolish the present system of exploitation.
In this connection let us quote the last two passages from our preamble, as follows:
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 every-day struggle with the 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.
The above is a picture in words of what the I. W. W. tries to accomplish. To make it more plain we are accompanying this article with a sketch of a chart designed to give a total view of the structure of the new society which we are building.
Industrial Communism Illustrated
The society that the I. W. W. is building is a society of Industrial Communism.
We propose that the people of the whole world should get together on industrial lines, in order to create the organs that are needed for the running of a communist society.
The organs we need are of two kinds, namely, first, organs of production and distribution, and secondly, organs of local and regional administration.
The I. W. W., having for its aim to establish industrial democracy and to anchor for all time all power within the useful layers of society and to make social parasitism impossible, establishes a new basic unit of the social structure.
The basic unit of our new society is The Shop or Job Branch. Every human being of working age, no matter what his occupation, is referred to some shop or job branch, even where the occupation is not properly speaking industrial in the commonly accepted sense of the term. Our chart includes them all.
These shop and job branches are on our chart illustrated by means of the ring of radial lines, which form so to speak the rim of the wheel-like structure.
From these basic units, or basic organs, all the other organs are derived.
The spokes in the wheel, so to speak, are the Industrial Unions, which are formed by uniting all the shop and job branches of every industry or occupation, whether it be shoemaking or the teaching of sciences at the universities.
The hub of the wheel is formed by the Industrial Union Administration, Departmental Administration and the Genera! Administration.
All these together, however, are only part of the structure of Industrial Communism. They form only the productive and distributive machine. The purpose of these organs is to produce what mankind needs and to distribute it.
The old I. W. W. chart did not go any further. It depicted only the organs of productions and distribution, for the simple reason that the need for other organs was not apparent while the organization was small and purely in an agitational stage.
As the organization developed it became apparent that we must add to it organs for local and regional administration if we wanted to cover the whole field of human activity.
We have had these organs in an embryonic shape for many years in our City Central Committees, and Councils of different kinds, but they never got beyond the experimental stage.
However, as the overthrow or the collapse of capitalism approaches and comes dangerously near, we realize the absolute necessity of new organs of local and regional administration as well.
These we have depicted on our chart as the iron tire, so to speak, which holds the wheel of production and distribution together. The two organs supplement each other and are equally necessary. And both of them are drawn from the shop, or the job branches. Through a system of industrial representation, that is, through representatives elected from the job branches, organs of administration will be formed which will replace the present organs of local and regional administration, when these no longer function, due to the fact that the whole system on which they rest has collapsed.
By drawing the productive and distributive organs as well as our administrative organs from the shop and job branches, by vesting ownership and control direct with the industrially organized masses we secure both industrial communism and industrial democracy.
This chart, which could very likely be improved upon in many different ways, depicts quite clearly how the I. W. W. proposes to solve the social problem through Economic Direct Action, as the 12th annual convention puts it.
No Room for a Political Party
As will be seen this plan leaves no room for a political party, city, state or national.
The City administration will consist of the City Central Council. As for state administration, as in U. S. or provincial administration such as in Canada or in Europe, the justification for them is disappearing.
The provinces in various countries may have a historical, or an ethnographic or political explanation in most cases, but the state lines on this continent are nearly all artificial boundaries.
The chief surveyor of a century ago seems to have taken a large U. S. map and a big ruler and laid out the country in squares with the exception of the places where mountains or big rivers made good physical boundary lines, without any consideration whatsoever for the natural economic boundary lines. In fact, how else could it have been done, being that the state lines were drawn up before the country was developed.
The states as political units are a nuisance like any artificial social arrangement. The nonsensical division into states is causing us to have over fifty different complete sets of regional administration without any natural basis for it, and is a tremendous expense to the American people and causes no end of confusion in our public life. It causes regions which should naturally be joined together to be split in several parts with separate administration, while it joins together pieces of regions which have little or nothing in common. Not to speak of the absurdity of having 50 sets of different laws, courts and lawyers. It almost looks as if the whole plan was devised by the lawyers. For the usefully employed men and women of these regions are only meagerly represented.
Instead of state lines a rational form of society would draw industrial boundary lines for purposes of administration according to the economic life of the country.
Thus the Pacific Coast country up to the mountains could very well be one region, while the intermountain states formed a second region, the gulf country a third region, the prairie states a fourth, the mine and forest states of the north a fifth. The tobacco and cotton states a sixth, the coal states a seventh, the factory states of the North East an eighth region, etc.
Thus the people who have most in common would be brought together under one regional administration for common welfare.
The regional Central Council would be composed of representatives selected by the shop and job branches, thus securing complete industrial democracy even on this stage.
In the same manner the shop and job branches would select the departmental and the general administration, the latter being composed of a general executive board and a general secretary-treasurer. We may not need the treasurer in the new society, but we need him at present.
The general administration would be the central exchange both for the productive and distributive machine and the machine of local and regional administration.
Where is there room for, or need for a political party in this plan? It covers the whole field. Every kind of human activity that is desirable and useful will find a place in this plan and every legitimate human interest will be safeguarded.
On the other hand this plan of society leaves no room, no opening for those who want to live the lives of parasites on humanity. All the "half-world", the caterers to vice, the criminals, and the professional politicians and the parasitical capitalist class will here be brought back to their proper place in the system of production and distribution, with no chance to get out of it. Nor would they have any chance to get on top as rulers except by formal election from the shop and job branches which would supply all the administrative forces.
Nearly all people with a socialist or near-socialist training as well as any practical minded worker will see and admit that Industrial Communism as thus proposed by the I. W. W. and many sister organizations in other countries is the proper way to solve the whole social question.
The Bolsheviki of Russia have partly built their new society according to our map. They have the industrial unions, except in agriculture, and they have the local and regional and national administration in embryo. But instead of having complete democracy, they have actually the dictatorship of a party which calls itself communist. The leaders of this party, however, declare that it is their intention to maintain the rule of this party only until such time as the industrial unions can themselves take the responsibility for production and distribution and until the soviets can be recruited from the industrial union branches exclusively.
The Central administration of the All Russian Trade Union movement, which most nearly corresponds to our general administration, is now subordinated to the rule of a political party, which has general direction not only of local and regional administration but also of production and distribution, even to the single factories and places of work.
There may have been many good reasons for this sort of an arrangement, this sort of tentative state communism, in Russia, where people were so unprepared for the task of taking over the country and all responsibilities, and where the mass of the people were unable to read print. It was an almost impossible task to transmit the plan of industrial communism on the spot to a couple of hundred million people who were either utterly illiterate or else entirely strange to industrial conceptions and ideas, such as can grow into the popular mind only in a country like America.
To the same extent that the people of the various countries have in advance propagated the idea of organizing the people into shop and job branches for the purpose of taking over all public activities, to the same extent that they have already organized such shop and job branches and industrial unions and industrial departments and central councils for local and regional administration, to the same extent will they be able to take over their respective countries without calling to their aid the political parties.
The politicians are looking upon such teachings with dismay. If the workers are going to take possession of the factories direct, without governmental proclamations, as they seem to be doing in Italy; if the workers continue to organize their camere del lavoro, as in Italy, or their labor exchanges as in other countries, or their local samorganizations as in Scandinavia, or their councils as in America and in England, what becomes of the political parties, the political machines and the politicians?
They will find themselves misfits and the politicians will face the necessity of earning their living by labor recognized as useful, instead of living by monopolizing the administrative jobs from top to bottom.
There is a tendency in all political parties to organize into something we would call "The Political Workers Industrial Union". This union of each party desires the chance to govern all the rest of the people. To govern is the business of a politician.
The republican and democratic parties, the Socialist parties, the Labor parties, the Communist parties, are all "Industrial Unions" of that kind.
As far as the communists of America are concerned some of them seem to wish to have their party, much as an industrial union, incorporated into the I. W. W. plan of Industrial Communism. They want a place for their "industrial union" on the I. W. W. chart. And the chief function of the members of this union would be to fill all the more important office chairs of the new society.
This is, of course, repugnant to all friends of real democracy or self-government.
The communist parties being composed to a large extent of people outside the working class proper, of artists, literateurs and boheme, of professional men without a footing in the bourgeois world and of parliamentarians as in Sweden, Norway and other countries, hate to see the world made over in such a manner that their conspiracy to govern the world comes to naught.
Feeling and knowing that they have no prospects of getting into the office chairs by the old methods of parliamentarian elections, they want the working masses to make a revolution and lift them into power as their rulers. That is what they call the dictatorship of the proletariat. They are not very anxious that the workers should give too much of their attention to building according to the I. W. W. blueprint, for these wily politicians and desperadoes realize, that if the workers build that way, they will not need the "communist" politicians.
Consequently we find that when the members of the communist parties join the I., W. W. or the syndicalist organizations of other countries, it is not so much for the purpose of building up those organizations, as for the purpose of changing their activities so they will fall in with the current of communist political activities. They do not join for the purpose of taking a bundle of our papers or magazines or books under their arm, as a rule, in order to sell them and to spread I. W. W. information. They do not join in order to fill our treasuries or build up our unions. No, they join us, apparently, mostly for the same purpose as the saloon-keeper or the doctor or grocer joins the Elks or the Eagles, that is for business.
And in the same manner as they join the I. W. W. they join the A. F. of L. and the co-operative movement or any other movement, that is for the purpose of propaganda, or in order to break them up if they do not yield to the propaganda.
And what is their propaganda?
They want us to change our program as outlined in the beginning of this article. They want us to abandon the attempt to build the new society within the shell of the old as being useless, and to gather our forces and join with other bodies that they are trying to convert, in an attempt to capture the capitalist state through "mass action". They openly state that they mean armed insurrection.
They are an impatient element thirsting for power. They want a political revolution by force in order to get on top and tell us what to do.
But as we have outlined above, in word and in illustration, we already have made up our mind what to do. We have made up our mind to do with out them. We propose to solve the whole social problem without political action, without the aid of politicians. We propose to solve it through Economic Direct Action, and we are winning the world over to our program slowly but surely. Fifteen years ago we were nothing, and now the workers of every country are taking up our program, where they have not temporarily been carried off their feet by the desperate, last-chance agitation of the left wingers from the socialist parties.
Somebody might say that our Central Councils are nothing but political institutions, as well as the general administration, in so far as it serves as center for these councils, and that we, consequently, have a political program as well as an economic, the latter being embodied in our Industrial Unions. This hairsplitting is frequently resorted to by the cornered politician, who is loth to admit that we could do without him and his politics. Such argument is insincere.
"Polis" is a Greek word which means town or city. We have it in Constantinopolis and Adrianopolis. From that "polis" is derived the word politics and political and politician. Politics means about the same as "city business," "city affairs," or in short, "public business." Political is that which has to do with public business, and a politician is one who devotes himself to public business or public affairs.
As a matter of fact the I. W. W. is trying to make public business of most human functions. It is going to make production and distribution public business, and it is going to make city and regional and national administration public business also, instead of the private business of a political party.
From that point of view a hairsplitter might say, with the benign judge up in Bellingham, Wash., that the I. W. W. is nothing but a political party.
The confusion comes from using "politics", "political" and "politician" in a double sense.
If we take these words in their original, respectable sense of "public business", then the I. W. W. is a political organization, through and through.
But the word politics, political and politician have long ago lost that sense and have gotten a new meaning that we use when we repudiate politics, political action and the meddling in our work by politicians.
The degeneration of our vocabulary has kept even pace with the degeneration of public affairs and public men during the reign of capitalism.
Politicians, instead of being public spirited men with the welfare of the people at heart, are commonly known in every country as conscienceless villains who steal and take bribes and sell out the people and their interests to the highest bidder. Politics, instead of being an honorable occupation for which honorable men compete, has become a cess-pool from which decent and self-respecting men shrink in impotent sorrow.
Politics is a cut-throat game in which only the basest participate and in which the biggest villain frequently is the victor. When the innocent working class goes into politics it quickly degenerates and falls into corrupt political machines.
The politician is after power. He wants to get that power, because it leads to everything else that he wants.
The Republican, Democrat, Farmer Labor, Socialist, and Communist politicians are all after the same thing. They all want to get possession of the government buildings in order to rule us from there. It is the same in all countries. But we do not want to be ruled. We want to "govern" ourselves.
All of them propose to "get there" by the use of the ballot except the communist politician. He proposes to get there by the use of the bullet. The Republicans and Democrats and all the other ballot politicians work their game with promises of reform within the confines of the capitalist state and a millennium in the future, perhaps, but the communist politician works his game by promising us all we ask for on the spot if we will help him into the government buildings so he can "smash the capitalist state." This change has come over the communist politicians during the last 24 months and they are still constantly changing "attitudes", "positions", "planks" and "principles." This rapid-fire evolution from parliamentarians to insurrectionists they arrogantly call "keeping abreast of the times". We call it trimming.
We refuse to see in it anything but the fury of a handful of intellectual or quasi-intellectual leaders outside the ranks of the regular wage workers who have lost their footing and are staking all on one card, the card of political revolution.
It is to further such ends and for no other reason that some of the "communist" leaders have taken up the I. W. W. as a platform plank. Some of them are issuing literature declaring open war against us. The I. W. W. has no use for their politics nor for the politics of any other party. We are enough to ourselves. We need no political help to solve the social problem. We will not reach our final goal one minute faster by deviating from our straight course of economic direct action.
The very presence of social organs like the ones we are building will in the final crisis be sufficient to make a desperate people turn to the solution we offer. If people keep their self control and adopt our program, no political revolution such as contemplated by the "communists," is needed. Any set of fools can make a bloody revolution, but it takes sensible men like the I. W. W. to attempt a complete economic revolution without bloodshed.
The Italian workers, in taking possession of the factories, have given wings to the expression "a bloodless revolution". The I. W. W. program makes such a revolution possible.
May every individual retain his political faith as well as his religious faith, if he wants to, but we hold that with increasing enlightenment all religious and political denominations shall disappear and every man and woman become a "politician" in the original and proper sense of the word, that is a public spirited person who seeks nothing but the common welfare.
But until that time we shall draw a sharp line of demarcation between political action and economic action. We will leave the name "politician" as a Cain's mark on the forehead of those who are now dragging men, women and children down in a sea of foul corruption and into bloody adventures. Our own activities we shall continue to characterize as Economic Direct Action, as per decision of our last convention, and we shall do our best to keep politicians out of it.
In the "appeal to the I. W. W." from the Third International we recognize the soft Jacob-voice of international solidarity, but in the out-stretched hand we recognize the hairy Esau-hand of wily politicians. We cannot and will not grasp that hand.
Besides, what benefit could we derive from joining a few hundred thousand politicians? We do not count certain economic bodies as their adhesion is largely sentimental and brought about in an unguarded moment by crafty politicians.
As pointed out in another article in this issue, the workers of every country are calling for an Industrial International. That will be a real, big international of tens of millions of workers with a practical, international working program, That is where the I. W. W. belongs, and not among politicians.
Transcribed by J. D. Crutchfield. Taken from a iww.org page no longer online, but available on archive.org
Articles from the December 1920 issue of The One Big Union Monthly.
An article about how the Metal & Machinery industrial union of the IWW was organized.
Shop Organization in the Metal & Machinery Industry: "440"s method of organizing its shop councils into one city branch
The main office of Metal and Machinery Workers Industrial Union No. 440 finds keen satisfaction in submitting to the membership the accompanying organization chart, confident that it embodies such a perfected plan of organization as has never before been attained by the metal and machinery industry and as will infallibly result in the phenomenal and rapid expansion of our industrial union, if we get the uniform co-operation of the membership in its application. It is nothing but the thoroughly worked out and comprehensive application of the now world-wide popular and effective "shop committee" or "shop council" plan of organization to our industry. The plan includes the two overwhelming advantages of resulting in the most effective form of organization both for dealing with the masters now and for operating the industries after the masters are overthrown, at the same time that we follow the line of least resistance in organizing.
The membership will recognize that this graphic chart and its plan of organization is in exact accord with the action of the last General Convention of the General Organization in endorsing the "shop committee" plan of organization. And we need hardly add, in addressing the members of Metal and Machinery Workers' Industrial Union, that it is directly consequent upon and in conformity with the decision of our own last general convention at Toledo, O., last spring, and confirmed by referendum vote of the membership.
Because of the supreme importance of the subject and in view of the fact that this month we are able to produce this graphic chart, we are going to quote from an article of last month's issue of the METAL WORKER, which with a little study will make the chart perfectly plain to the mind in every detail. The article, in so far as it applies directly to the understanding and elucidation of the chart, reads as follows:
The metal and machinery industry is composed of many factories and mills where workers are engaged in the production of metal products. Every factory or mill of any size is sub-divided into departments and every department has its foreman.
Let us forget our nationality when considering this plan and bring our attention to bear upon the metal and machinery industry. If we are to have a genuine industrial organization, then we must study the industry and how it is organized. By doing so we will get a better idea of the form our organization should take.
We will now proceed to organize. First we will take the department of the shop. We will have one delegate in each department. The duty of the delegates will be to take care of their respective departments just as your foreman does now, except that the delegates' only function at present will be to collect dues and carry on the educational and organization work in his department.
These department delegates will come together, making up the shop council and elect a shop delegate, whose duty will be to get supplies from the branch secretary and issue them to the department delegates.
He receives reports from the department delegate and forwards them to the branch secretary, in short he has the same duty as the superintendent, or general foreman of the shop in which you work, that of looking after the shop in general except that his only duty at present it to look after the department delegate, take care of the educational and organization work in the shop and act as chairman of the shop council.
The shop delegates come together making the One City Branch organization committee. They elect a chairman.
This committee's duty is to look after the interests of the organization within the city. To raise finances and supervise the work of the organization in general throughout the city. The branch financial secretary shall act as recording secretary for the city organization committee and shall take care of the branch funds. He receives supplies from and sends his reports to the main office of the industrial union direct.
Branch secretaries shall be put on a wage basis only when the volume of business demands it, or the revenue will allow the same to be done. Branches shall hold only such funds on hand as may be absolutely necessary to carry on the work of organization in the particular locality.
The entire membership of a city shall meet together in one business of establishing general industrial solidarity in a given district. Delegates will come together from the City Branches in a district, let us say about every three or six months, except in the larger cities, where conditions will not permit or where it is necessary for foreign language speaking fellow workers to meet by themselves.
In either case it may not be possible for the membership of an entire city to meet together. Where it is necessary to meet in several different bodies for the above reasons, each body will have its own recording secretary, who will keep the financial secretary and organization committee of the One City Branch informed of the activities of the particular body.
Of course, the above scheme of the One City Branch with shop units can only be worked out as we gain sufficient membership in the various shops, but if we go about the work in the right way we can work it out to a great extent with our present membership. Where it is necessary to meet in several different bodies, and where your shop units cannot be formed at the present, each body will elect a delegate who will receive reports from the delegates in his body and turn them over to the financial secretary. He will receive supplies from the financial secretary and issue the same to the other delegates in his body and turn them over to the financial secretary. He will receive supplies from the financial secretary and issue the same to the other delegates in his body. These delegates from the several different bodies will make up the City Organization Committee. Whenever it is possible it will be best to go ahead with the shop unit plan, then we will have our organization committee made up of delegates from the various shops in the city. This is a genuine industrial organization in line with the present makeup of the metal machinery industry. We bring our organization to the shop where it belongs, educating and organizing the workers right at the point of production for a realization of our aims, that of working class management.
Besides all this a closer alliance will be maintained between the various One City Branches in a locality through the formation of Industrial District Councils. Industrial District Councils are formed for the purpose of discussing general organization matters pertaining to the district and to work effectively in the district. This is the only function it can perform at the present and is in compliance with our constitution.
To give you a general idea of Industrial District Councils as they can be formed in the metal and machinery industry, we will give you the following districts with Chicago, Cleveland, Dayton, and New York as centers. Of course, we have not much at present except delegates in some of the cities mentioned, but it will be an illustration anyway. The Chicago District will include: Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Racine, Kenosha, Waukegan, South Chicago, Indiana Harbor, Gary, Hammond, So. Bend, Harvey and Rockford, etc. Cleveland District will include: Detroit, Toledo, Tiffin, Warren, Canton, Akron, Erie, Youngstown and Pittsburgh. Dayton District will include Cincinnati, Hamilton, Middletown and Columbus. New York will include: Newark, Elizabeth, New Brunswick, Schenectady, Stratford, Bridgeport and Philadelphia.
One or two good delegates from a branch will be enough, for these are but conferences and we must not incur any large expense. Industrial District Councils will have no paid officials and will hold no treasury. Branches will pay the expenses of the delegates.
General Industrial District Councils are formed for the purpose of establishing general industrial solidarity between the different industrial unions in a given district. Its function is the same as that of the Industrial District Council, except that its delegates come from branches of different industrial unions.
The Industrial District Council takes up the questions pertaining to one industry, while the General District Council takes up questions pertaining to all industries in the given district. The scope of the latter may be limited to the city.
We want you to read in connection with this subject an editorial from a recent number of SOLIDARITY, quoted elsewhere in this issue*, in which is related the experience of one of our members in organizing one of the big industrial plants of this country along lines practically the same as this plan. It will give the reader an idea of the ease with which our plan can be applied.
Now, fellow workers, it is up to you. The plan is yours. As stated above it contains great and immediate possibilities for our industry. Its growth and achievement will travel exactly in ratio to our zeal and enthusiasm.
Transcribed by J. D. Crutchfield. Taken from iww.org page no longer online, but available on archive.org
A 1920 article describing conflict within the One Big Union in Canada over industrial vs. regional organization.
Two hostile camps have developed in the Canadian One Big Union. The one is fighting for a militant industrial form of an organization, the other for a geographical (district) beans and soup association.
The former is advocated by the lumber (migratory) workers, and the later by the city "home" guard element.
The migratory workers have acquired their knowledge and class-consciousness in the bitter school of actual life, but the city slaves got their training in the A. F. of L. and in other yellow institutions that served to build up the capitalist system and now function to brace and patch it up.
From their numerous articles of polemique and their recent convention we gather the following points (they are contradicting one an other) which in their opinion would justify their form of an organization:
"That the workers would have more in common geographically than industrially.
"That the industrial form of organization endangered the success of the Russian revolution and that the Lumber Workers are having, or at least advocating a dangerous form of an organization, anarcho-syndicalist like the I. W. W.
"That industrial organizations such as the Lumber Workers etc., are A. F. L. unions.
"That decentralization of our organization and devolution shall take place". (group organization their slogan)
"That above five points are the basis wherefrom they intend to institute a "class organization" based on small geographical districts and crown it "one big union".
"And that industrial organizations creates unnecessary officialdom", (such as the Lumber Workers)
Winnipeg (Canada) is the gem of the district form of organization, since the inception. of the O. B. U. and their officialdom outnumbers that of the Lumber Workers 3 to 1. The Carpenters alone has 4 officials; the 17 Unions, each of them has its separate set of officials and three of them are separate Railwaymen's Units. Toronto, the home of the famous "class" organization shows on the books 2 Carpenters' Units, each with a set of officials.
There may be arguments as to why there are so many small crafts and trade divisions divided by geographical and other lines with sets of separate officials, but there are no arguments that would justify the agitation for further separation with a view towards the elimination of officialdom. You can get all the Philadelphia lawyers together and none of them will be in a position, to show you how that elimination is done in one big mulligan of district and decentralized group organization.
We agree to their sentimental expression in point [one] just so far as sentiment may go, "the workers have everything in common", not alone in a given locality, but the world over. But then we must remember that organizations are not advanced by sentiment, but by material conditions.
The method of production and distribution in a given industry are best known to the workers in that industry, and it is they who have the knowledge of the productive capacity of that industry, they are the ones to determine the form of government in that industry.
The industrial method of production determines the sphere of every individual in industry. We are bound to this law with unbreakable steel chains, chains that link us together with our fellow-workers in a given industry, in America, Europe, or Asia, whether we like it or not. No geographical organization can alter this fact. We must then, organize along the lines that the industrial method of production determines, according to industry, in the strata in which industry placed us going forward with the current of social evolution to the establishment of industrial democracy.
The talk of having more in common as workers of all or some industries in a given locality, serves only as a weapon to political adventurers and labor lieutenants, enabling them to form parliamentary and other machines, for the purpose of negotiation and compromise, thereby serving the master class. Therefore the militant working-class movement has just as much in common with that kind of individuals as they have with the master class, as a matter of fact those opportunists are more dangerous than the master-class.
Any school boy can tell you who the miners of Great Britain have more in common with, and in this connection there is the probability that the miners of all Europe join hands and by the strength of their industrial organizations, compel the masters to come to terms. On the other hand who cries out, "negotiate, compromise"? Who but the politico-geographical opportunists. (Same thing happened during the British railway strike). It was no mulligan of a fancy "class" organization, but the industrial workers of the metal industries who expropriated those factories in Italy just recently. Therefore the workers have more in common in a given industry the world over, than they would en masse in a geographical economic organization in the industrial field, such as the O. B. U. of Canada now proposes. Mass and class organizations have entirely different functions to perform. We have none in Canada that are worthy considering from a revolutionary political standpoint. If there is need of one, then it must be started outside of the O. B. U.
Transcribed by J. D. Crutchfield.
Originally appeared in The One Big Union Monthly (December 1920)
Articles from the January 1937 issue of The One Big Union Monthly, with articles on fascism, sit-down strikes and the death of Francisco Ascaso. Contributors include Gefion, Tor Cedervall, William Macphee, Melvin W. Jackson, Charles Velsek, John Lind and Jim Seymour.
-The Bridge by Gefion
-The News Guild: will it make papers report honestly on labor news?
-Capitalist democracy: why it must fail by Tor Cedervall
-The Canadian labor situation by William Macphee
-"Aw, sit down!: notes on a new era of direct action by Melvin W. Jackson
-Francisco Ascaso: the life, troubles and death of a Spanish worker (from CNT 'Boletin de informacion)
-Labor is on the move: an analysis of the labor struggles of 1936 by Charles Velsek
-Johnny comes home by John Lind
-Shall America go hungry?
-The roots of Spanish labor
-The dishwasher by Jim Seymour
|The One Big Union Monthly (January 1937).pdf||4.12 MB|
An article by Tor Cedervall that see capitalism and fascism as related, and one cannot fight the latter without fighting the former.
In the world today we hear a great amount of talk and also some degree of organization about and around the issue dubbed "Democracy versus Fascism." Many liberal and humane-minded persons, as well as self-styled radicals, the world over are huddling under the banner of "Democracy" in horrified opposition to Fascism.
In the United States these people supported Roosevelt in the recent elections, side with the "Republic" of Spain, feel a dependent fondness for Great Britain as the fairy godmother of Democracy while she steps designedly into every "situation" with her celebrated "diplomacy," give varying degrees of approval of Soviet Russia, and reserve the hate their simple souls can generate for the black fascist regimes of Italy and Germany.
The philosophy of the out and out liberal of this conglomerate group is that while Fascism is a surly, horrible thing. Capitalism as such is very desirable and should be preserved, albeit improved from time to time.
The "radicals" of this democratic movement are in their hearts not content with Capitalism, but are so frightened by the prospects of Fascism that they are hysterically choosing the fatal Germanic policy of the "lesser evil." Throwing all pretense of radicalism to the winds, these people have crawled out of the dread and darkness of their social cyclone cellars to become the blatant champions of Capitalist Democracy.
The slogan of each group resolves itself into—keep Capitalism, but keep out Fascism!
This slogan, however, is historically incorrect; we cannot keep in Capitalism and at the same time keep out Fascism. Fascism is but the logical development, the irresistible outcome of the class antagonism of Capitalism.
Recent history is bearing this out inexorably. Several nations are already frankly fascist, many more are tending toward that direction. It is a steady albeit uneven, petrifaction of international capitalist society into the hardened forms of fascist death.
Why does fascism everywhere appear as the fated affinity of Capitalism? Why is it that capitalist "Democracy" cannot withstand the attacks of this monster?
It is because Democracy cannot be the theoretically ideal form of government under Capitalism and was not so conceived. The class nature of capitalist society makes this impossible. "Democracy" was the slogan and weapon for the overthrow of feudalism. It cannot be the slogan or the weapon for the frustration of fascism.
At the time of the classic overthrow of feudalism there was no thought of the "Capitalism" of today. All classes subject to the authority and parasitism of the aristocracy and its church—the budding bourgeois, the equally budding "worker," and the peasant were united in a "people’s front" against feudalism.
Because of the authoritative and caste character of feudalism and the intellectual repressiveness of its church, the intellectual and cultural chanticleers of the new day declared the invigorating doctrines of democracy. The "freedom of man" became the inspired rallying cry of the new social order. This, combined with the confused and muddled class interests of the various groups in the "people’s front," none of which had formulated a clearly-defined political and economic policy for itself (and which would have been too weak alone to have imposed it if it had) made democracy the logical pattern of the new political forms.
However, that democracy is not the innate mate of Capitalism is clearly seen by the methods employed by Capitalism everywhere in its development. Where was democracy in the colonial policies and piracies of the democratic nations? Where was democracy in the United States which countenanced chattel slavery naked and unashamed until 1863? Where is democracy up until this day in the industries of Capitalism? Symptomatically defined, Fascism is force and violence. Has not Capitalism always practiced an incipient fascism at the point where its profits are produced?
As for the general domestic democratic forms of government, however, how has Capitalism managed? Ideally unsuited for it, Capitalism has nonetheless in some respects turned democracy into a very powerful aid for itself. Democracy has been of incalculable benefit to Capitalism in its development by serving as a smoke screen for its autocratic exploitation. It has with surprising efficiency served as a social control to combat the rebellion against the concentration process whereby the overwhelming majority of the populace has been reduced to "wage-slavery." Political freedom has obscured industrial serfdom.
In view of this very positive gain from democracy, the capitalist class has with more or less grace subjected itself to the expenses and inconveniences of democracy. Any dangers that might arise through it have been neatly evaded heretofore by outlay to politicians and political parties who have proved themselves very willing to safeguard the interests of the capitalist class and do its bidding with fawning servility.
However, as the relationships of Capitalism are becoming more thoroughly understood, as a pauperized proletariat (actually or relatively) is beginning to stand up in open defiance of its exploiting masters, as strikes and union organizations become larger, as tile ballot box becomes fore-doomed to partial control and eventual capture by the numerically largest group in society—the working class, Democracy must go in order for Capitalism to continue to exist. The bed-rock principle of Capitalism, is the exploitation of the working class, and no group conscious of its subjection and determined to end it can be restrained except by large scale force. Fascism supplies that force—"Democracy" cannot, particularly when its political forms threaten to pass into the hands of the exploited through a "people’s front." When the latter happens, or threatens to occur, or when faced by widespread labor unionism, Fascism will make its supreme bid for power, is in Germany and Spain, as it is preparing to do in France.
The phenomenon of Fascism is not always simple and uniform in its development. There is a great unevenness throughout the world that may serve to mislead tile unwary into the belief that Capitalist Democracy can be preserved and a fascist coup d’etat prevented. President Roosevelt, for example, is regarded in America as bulwark against Fascism. But, Fascism is still out of the saddle in Washington because Democracy is still under the control of the capitalism class. The "radical" reputation of the President has aroused the hopes of the yet confused American proletariat and its members thus remain at least temporarily quiescent under the rule of their capitalist masters. It may be, too, that the "people’s front" in France, timid and largely unwilling to introduce drastic changes, yet holding the confidence of a trusting proletariat, may still continue to serve largely the class interests of the employers without the necessity of a fascist coup for some time.
Is this the kind of democracy we want? A democracy that is suffered because it presides over an exploited and deluded people unaware of their real interests? Fascism will remain submerged only as long as "democracy" remains workable for the capitalist class; that is, as long as the workers remain content as a submerged and exploited class. `Tis small glory in such democracy or the victories achieved in its name.
The Roman Holiday of Fascism can be thwarted not by hurling the pitiful shafts of a sham capitalist democracy against its iron legions. Only the grimly alert, courageous advance of an organization resolutely determined to root out Capitalism can be expected to "mop up" Fascism. Alternatives are few in dangerous situations. The working class has positively no "stake" in Capitalism; but, even if you fancy that you have, the world cannot eat its cake yet have it too. Preserve Capitalism, invite Fascism; build a cooperative commonwealth and smash Fascism. Out of this a new democracy shall arise—the industrial democracy of cooperative labor.
Originally appeared in The One Big Union Monthly (January 1937)
An article by Melvin W. Jackson about the wave of sitdown strikes across Europe and North America during the 1930s. Originally appeared in The One Big Union Monthly (January 1937)
“A fantastic situation!” exclaims one weekly voice of American employers about sit-down strikes.
“We are tired of having to get passes to enter our own factories,” many French capitalists protest.
Employers become powerless in the face of stay-in or sit-down strikes. The iron hand that holds the economic life of thousands becomes putty when confronted by these aroused workers.
The sacred property rights of the industrial tyrant are being questioned, and the absentee owner trembles lest sit-down strikes become more popular.
A new era of working-class solidarity is dawning. The slumbering giant is stirring and testing his chains.
Orthodox unionism is finding itself swept on in the rising tide of solidarity. Workers are spontaneously realizing they have a weapon more powerful than any ever dreamed.
Totally unorganized workers are arising in protest against deplorable conditions and are awakening to the advantages of industrial unionism. The stay-in strikes in June in France were spontaneous and took the trade unions by surprise. French trade unions are said to be enjoying an unprecedented growth due to the overwhelming success of these strikes. One observer writes, “It can be said roughly that the number of trade unionists has gone up from 600,000 to 4,400,000 since June. Some instances: The number of office employees passed from 25,000 to 825,000, the food workers’ union from 20,000 to 50,000, the Galleries La Fayette, which had not one single organized worker, now numbers 2,000 of them. Even the employees of the Banque de France begin to draw up their demands.”
Two thousand British and Welsh coal miners recently preferred to remain underground in the mines until their demands were met.
Miners at Pecs, Hungary, likewise declared a “stay-down” strike to wring concessions from the owners.
Poland, Czechoslovakia, Silesia, India, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico — all of these countries have witnessed within the past year the solidarity of workers united in economic direct action. Sit-down strikes, stay-in strikes, hunger strikes — all these echo a grim determination of militant workers. Workers who refuse to leave underground mines or who remain at their factory benches or in their stores and restaurants and offices while striking — this is the new type of class struggle confronting capitalism.
Even in Fascist Germany, police and Nazi Storm Troops become powerless in the face of sit-down strikes, which have occurred in protest against further wage cuts. The D. K. W. Motor Works at Spandau, and the Motor Works of Bauer and Schauberte in the Rhineland both witnessed successful stay-in strikes recently.
American rubber and tire companies, Bendix Aviation, General Electric, R.C.A., WPA workers in New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and elsewhere, Reading Maid Hosiery, Aluminum Co. of America, New York Shipbuilding Co., and many other corporations can testify to the efficiency of sit-down strikes by their lessened profits — and the workers of many of these places can hold up fatter pay envelopes as mute testimony of their success.
Violence, rioting, and bloodshed: for years and years these have been the pet bogeys of union haters. “Terrorism, destruction, and gore” meant the same thing as “strike” to labor baiters. They dragged these skeletons out to dangle before the horrified eyes of scissorbills whenever anyone even whispered “strike” or “solidarity”. “See what will happen,” employers have exclaimed as they reached for the telephone to call their tin soldiers or “private detectives” to come and do some rioting and terrorising for them.
Now, alas and alack, these myths which were so conveniently used by the bosses are being dispelled.
“Business Week” complains, “Sit-downs were so frequent that the union set up a system that placed the striking workers in charge of the plant during disturbances. Men were told off beforehand to guard doors, round up supervisors ‘for safekeeping in case of trouble’ and generally take over the plant.”
Order, self-discipline, and responsibility have universally characterized all sit-down strikes. The employers alone have been directly responsible for any bloodshed or destruction of property — because the workers realized that it is not by these tactics that their strikes are won.
In the recent French sit-down strikes which involved so many industries it is said the machines were preciously taken care of. The furnaces which must never go out were kept going; in the tan-yards the skins remained bathed, and every morning the masons wet the stones of the houses they were building. In short all work that could not be stopped without actual damage to valuable materials or machines was kept going by the strikers.
The workers here demonstrated they can take over and run industries without the parasitic control by a master-class, and that they can run them in an orderly and intelligent fashion. This is one thing capitalism has found itself unable to do: run industry in an orderly and intelligent fashion.
Where workers have not given politicians control of their strike, the sit-down strike has been uniformly and universally successful since the first one — the IWW strike of 3,000 General Electric employees in 1906.
The fact that the ownership of an industry belongs to the workers in that industry, just as the toothbrush he uses should belong to him; the fact that a worker has just as definite a right to the job upon which his economic life depends as he has upon his hair; the fact that the rights of the parasitic class should not include the ownership of tools they never use but upon which others’ lives depends — these facts are all understood by a sit-down striker, though he may not recognize them as such.
The worker at his machine which he refuses either to leave or to operate until his demands are granted, and the factory which continues to be operated by strikers, declare the worker’s right to his machine, and his ability to run it when the shackles of capitalist ownership are shaken off, though at the time it be only temporary.
Where economic direct action and working class solidarity are used in struggles against the master class, the workers will never lose.
“Freedom cannot be gained through intermediaries.”
Originally appeared in The One Big Union Monthly (January 1937)
The February 1937 issue of The One Big Union Monthly, with articles on mechanization, a Southern lynching and the Works Progress Administration. Contributors include Justus Ebert, Sugar Pine Whitey, A. Yourniek, Bert Russell, Gefion and Tor Cedervall.
-Is machinery destroying organization? by Justus Ebert
-Red Samson goes to work by Sugar Pine Whitey
-Murmansk by A. Yourniek
-A mad world's nightmare
-The brass check buys the air by Bert Russell
-"Nigger lynched" by Gefion
-Woman of Spain by Sophie Fagin
-"Ain't we free Americans?": a story of snoopery on the WPA by I. Stephens
-The gandy dancers by One Of Them
-The mask of fascism by Tor Cedervall
-Notes on books about labor
-The cry of the people by John G. Neihardt
|The One Big Union Monthly (February 1937).pdf||3.77 MB|
The March 1937 issue of The One Big Union Monthly, with articles on the French labor movement, women in the labor movement and homelessness. Contributors include Raymond Corder, Joseph Wagner, Toivo Halonen, A. Yourniek, Evert Anderson, Peo Monoldi and Tor Cedervall.
-Angry waters: the yellow peril by Raymond Corder
-Hot stuff by Ixion
-French labor by Joseph Wagner
-On labor's back by Toivo Halonen
-Women in the labor movement by S.H.A.
-Murmansk by A. Yourniek
-The hobo by L.P. Emerson
-Who is it that gets relief? by Evert Anderson
-Can capitalism house its workers? by Peo Monoldi
-Has a substitute for the IWW been found? by Tor Cedervall
|The One Big Union Monthly (March 1937).pdf||3.78 MB|
Articles from the April 1937 issue of The One Big Union Monthly, with articles on the Spanish Civil War and fascism. Contributors include Justus Ebert, S.I. Stephens, Evert Anderson, Raymond Corder and Pierre Besnard.
-The IWW in theory and practice by Justus Ebert
-So you need a maid! by S.I. Stephens
-Is your job 100% IWW?
-Mr. Scissorbill objects by Evert Anderson
-John Farmer is all washed up by Raymond Corder
-The economics of fascism
-Pioneers in solidarity
-A new age in Spain by Pierre Besnard (Translated by Onofre Dallas)
-Murmansky by A. Yourniek
-What's the difference?: AFL, CIO and IWW
|The One Big Union Monthly (April 1937).pdf||3.74 MB|
Preceding the French Syndicalist delegation composed of member of the C.G.T.S.R., and the C.G.T., I wen t to Puigcerda on Dcecmber 10, together with some comrades from the Local Federation of Barcelona and the Regional Confederation of Catalonia. The welcome organized by our friends in Puigcerda was most cordial.
From One Big Union Monthly. April, 1937. Vol. I, №4. P. 25-27.
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An uncredited article on the economics of fascism from the April 1937 issue of The One Big Union Monthly.
In the days before fascism was heard of, the question whether socialism was inevitable was sometimes approached from this viewpoint: May not the contradictions of capitalism which make its indefinite continuation impossible, be dissolved by the more complete organization of the employing class, or even by the trend toward the concentration of wealth into the hands of some oligarchy small enough to apply an intelligent paternalism to modern productive forces?
The contradictions were there and were real enough. The swing of the business cycle regularly proclaimed that the growing order and planning inside the factory was not balanced by any such planning in the economy as a whole, and thus the best regulated of plants must periodically close its gates for the lack of market. The market was not there because the growing productivity of labor, which had increased several thousand per cent in the great advance of mechanization since the end of the 18th century, was not balanced by any such increase in the capacity of the proletarized mass of the population to get ad use this wealth, for their living standard at the best times reflected only about twice the purchasing power they had before the industrial revolution.
This disparity was kept within workable limits only by the increasing internal wastefulness of capitalists economy, which often enough spends more to market a product than it does to make it, and by the re-investment of the surplus in new industries at home, or imperialistically, abroad. But every rational growth in capitalism, its trusts and cartels, lessened this easing wastefulness, and the accumulation of capital either enhanced the productivity of labor at home or exploited cheaper labor at the far ends of the earth. The one substantial release on this growing and unused productivity was the military aspect of imperialism which often spent more to gain some object by war that [sic] it would have cost to buy it outright.
The function of industry was social, doing in a large collective way what previously had been done in a small way in men’s homes, but there was little or no social control. Mild-mannered professors were fully aware of this, and likewise aware that much more of the unpleasant disturbance of life, all the way from the increasing nervous disorders to crime waves, was the result of the contradiction between the social function of the productive equipment and its private control. They reasoned optimistically that regulation by commission of democrative [sic] governments would be found increasingly necessary, and would step by step establish the needed balance, thus subordinating socially functioning industry to the public interest and re-establishing the supremacy of human intelligence over the Industrial Frankenstein it had created.
To such liberals, the efforts of labor alike in its strikes or in its building of a philosophy of class struggle, were viewed as just so much more unpleasant disturbance—something that eventually would be regulated or ironed out by a commission appointed in the public interest. The efforts of labor to remedy the great disparity between production and earnings was discussed by such professors under the head of “The Labor Problem.” That there were such workers as the I.W.W. deliberately “fanning the flames of discontent and preaching the doctrine of an irreconcilable struggle between capital and labor”, appeared to such thinkers as a most lamentable thing, as an unintelligent disregard for their text books and their liberal teaching to be excused only by comparison with such other monstrous things as the plug-ugly labor policy of U.S. Steel. To them this class struggle appeared only as another factor holding back their utopia of social regulation by commission in the public interest.
Today this dream of the liberals is fulfilled so far as it can be, in fascism. Now that the omelette is cooked, it is not to their taste, and still mild-mannerdly (sic) as befits them, they ask that the eggs be put back in the shell. The public interest that is being served isn’t their public, and their whole scheme of democracy is squashed. The standard of living under fascism goes down instead of up. Its regulated economy instead of furthering world peace as they had thought a regulated and rationalized economy would surely do, promotes world armament on an unprecedented scale. And man’s intelligence, instead of becoming supreme, is almost completely removed as a disturbing factor in fascist society by being outlawed and sent to a concentration camp.
So there must have been an error somewhere in the reasoning. Were the stresses and strains, the impacts ad blows, the ups and downs of unregulated capitalism due merely to the contradiction between the social function of the productive equipment and its private control? Or did they result fro a quite separate contradiction between productivity and earning? Could the social regulation of the business cycle, even with the most complete restrictions on boom speculation and the best planned postponement of public works to slack times, and the most complete of codes to restrict the insane modern editions of competition, erase the fact that labor does not own what it produces, and that a surplus is produced regardless of whether it be produced evenly or unevenly? And didn’t this contradiction between expanding production and limited earnings only express some still more basic contradiction—that those whose tremendous productive power could undertake the most gigantic tasks of linking oceans, or digging tunnels, or girdling the globe with copper cables, were still powerless to say whether their children should eat or not? Was the labor movements with its persistent demand for “more and more and more” and its philosophy of class struggle, just another unpleasant disturbance of capitalism, a problem to be solved by some commission, or was this labor movement, considered as an element in the historic process, by its continuous struggle for power over production, power over the means of life, the one agent that could dissolve the contradictions of capitalism?
That the answer is yes, is confirmed by an examination of the question: Why doesn’t fascism work?
An examination of the economy of fascism should disclose many things. One very useful bit of information it should yield is what and where this fascism is that we are fighting.
First it should be understood that fascism is not just political dictatorship, not just militant reaction, not just the abridgement of civil liberties, not just the old brought and ready way of trampling on labor, and not just a process of Jew-baiting either. We have had all these things with us before. None of them needed the corporative state; none of them tried to take the whole life in town and regulate it to a plan; none of them sought to invent a new type of society. Neither should fascism be understood as the social realization of a philosophy. Back in 1921 Mussolini said: “During the two months which remain before us, I should like to see us create the philosophy of Italian Fascism.” It was created voluminously within those two months as trimmings for a far more substantial reality.
Fascism is this militant reaction detested by liberals set to the task of realizing the liberal’s regulation of economy in a public interest—the public in fascism as in any other phase of capitalism, being those who pay the regulators.
An examination of who pays to keep fascism going and to get it started will readily disclose that it is not a phenomena confined within the boundaries of Italy, German, or any other nation. Back in 1934 in the “Fortune” article that led to so many disclosures of the internationalism of the armament makers, Adolf Hitler was disclosed as a champion promoted of arms sales on behalf of all the armament makers. Fritz Thyssen, “King of the Ruhr” provided a large part of the fund to get him started. The directors of the large Skoda works controlled by Schneider of France, but in which Vickers-Armstrong of England is also interested, also contributed. And in 1933 before his coup, Adolf paid a most peculiar fine for contempt of court: he had brought suit against a German journalist for stating that he had been financed directly by Schneider-Creusot, French armament makers; in court he was asked the question direct; he refused to answer, and paid 1000 marks fine for contempt of court rather than answer. The French press, controlled by the armament makers, welcomed Hitler with a shriek for further defense, and the investment in Hitler paid well, as France became the leader among nations of the world both for armament and for the export of arms.
Hitler is not only an excellent arms salesman, but quite willing to reciprocate in mustering up adequate means for other nations to participate properly in our mutual extermination. As Wilson Woodside observes in the February Harpers alongside of idle textile mills, margarine factories and packing plants, idle for the lack of a market, the metal industries of Germany are working overtime, and are far behind in deliveries. They are not only arming Germany, but busy making equipment for England as well; and of 668,000 tons of construction underway in German shipyards, 104,00 tons are for Britain. This fascism is an international undertaking and not confined to the internationalism of the armament makers. Fascist economy, for various reasons to be explained later, runs on a deficit; it is not up to non-fascist capitalism in efficiency; it is kept going by the support of world capitalism. There have been direct loans, unpaid. In 1927 Mussolini was saved from a crisis by a $100,000,000 loan floated in the United States. Last year he had Italian interests sell their control of Mosul Oil Fields Ltd., to the British Iraq Petroleum Co. Last September he floated another $236,000,000 loan purchasable only in foreign currency, not officially floated here because under the recent Johnson Act those governments defaulting on war debts cannot borrow here. Such deals, and the complaisant way in which the government of the “democratic nations” have financed exports to Germany and Italy, and the credits directly extended by such exporters, should all set at rest any notion that non-fascist capitalism desires to check the advance of fascism, and may ally itself with labor in order to do so.
The internationalism of fascism has shown itself in many ways apart from these financial transactions. Class conscious capitalists (and despite their professional patriotism they are all by the nature of their investments good internationalists) saw that their press from 1922 on welcomed Mussolini; and the feature writers who howled over the Bolshevik atrocities presented Benito as a rather jovial administrator of castor oil. The international solidarity of capitalist nations and their labor politicians in aiding France in the fascist invasion of Spain, should puzzle only those who forget that in 1934 it was Italian aid in arms and money that upset the liberal government in Austria and drove Vienna’s socialism underground. Hitler states quite openly his willingness to perform a like service for international investors in Czechoslovakia. That this can be done agreeably to all capitalist concerned, is shown by the fascist seizure of the Rio Tinto copper mines in Spain, with the result that shipments previously delivered to Britain are now delivered to Germany; yet there has been no complain lodged by the British owners. Fascism enters the world at a time when capitalism is well developed as a world economy, years after a world war in which allied soldiers were killed with equipment obligingly furnished by their own nations, and long after the typical business unit had become the corporation selling its stocks and bonds and debentures on all the exchange of the world to any buyer who wished to buy. It is most decidedly an international venture, maintained by international support rendered alike morally, politically, and financially.
Why does international capital support these ventures in “deficit economies?” The answer is largely why capital supports government in the first place. To the investor in stock in the proper German enterprises, fascism is not a deficit economy at all. Since 1929 the profits of German employers have raised six-fold, from 500,000,000 to 3,000,000,000 marks. This has come from a cut in wages by over one half. The employers did not get the full advantage of this extra exploitation of labor; a very substantial part of it as of everything has gone to the official racketeers; but even so a six-fold increase in profits is tempting. Wages are down to an average of 25 marks (about $10) per week; but to pay for this service of smashing up unions, stopping all strikes, and restricting civil liberties as must be done to achieve such wage levels, the taxes run to 9,000,000,000 marks or three times the profits. Even this pays only one half the current budget … And beside the taxes there is a tremendous amount of outright graft and forced donations to the Nazis. Incidentally the resources for future exploitation are being ruined. The shortsightedness of Fascist planning is shown by the depletion of the forests that since they days of Bismarck have been nursed with the utmost of care. Says Herr Goering: “The [sic] say I am using up too much of Germany’s forests…but if I have struck too deep into them so far, I shall strike two or three times as deep, for I had better destroy the forests than the nation.” The physique of the working class deteriorates in a manner that will undermine eventually their productivity and their military usefulness. In relation to world economy, a most necessary element for successful exploitation is the inventiveness to keep technique on a competitive par with the rest of the world; the deterioration of German science and learning in general undermines this perhaps most important resource of all; the inventions made in concentration camps do not usually come under the head of the productive arts. But fascism by its very nature does not look far to the future.
Why is fascism economically a failure? Why can’t the complete regulation of capitalist enterprise result in a more efficient use of resources and equipment than the unplanned an chaotic capitalism of the rest of the world? The answer to this question also answers another: Why, if fascism is international endowed, is it so intensely nationalistic?
A planned economy must be relatively self-contained economy. Thus Mussolini’s famous, though unsuccessful, “Battle for Wheat”, his draining of marsh-land, and his latest supreme effort to colonize Italy and Ethiopia alike in the style of the emperors from Constantine on, his adscription of agricultural labor as serfs to the soil. He calls this serfdom “deproletarianization”, but frankly says that Italy must have “genuine peasants attached to the soil, who do not ask the impossible, who know how to content themselves.” It is a form of sharecropping but with payment in kind that takes Italian agriculture back many centuries and results in some 6,000,000 rural workers, according to an official survey made in 1934, living either in caves or hovels, or in houses, as the report put it “almost absolutely uninhabitable.” The same fact is back of Hitler’s battle for “Rohstoffreiheit” —to need no foreign imports of raw materials. You can’t plan capitalism, and keep it a part of a chaotic world capitalism. At the same time to step out of world economy is most uneconomical. With the free interchange of the products of various parts of the earth in an unbridled competition, goods are normally produced where they can be produced cheapest. German pays for “freedom in raw materials” by using ore or 35 per cent iron content which costs four times as much to smelt as Swedish 65 per cent ore—and now she is mining 5 and 7 per cent deposits in the Hartz Mountains! On the first steps along the old “Berlin to Bagdad” route lie bauxite for making aluminum and oil, and these may explain much of the internal politics of this region, as Germany lacks both.
But if the failure of fascist economy is the result of an attempt to replace the use of the world’s resources with the uneconomic spoliation of the fascist nation’s own, then would not fascism succeed should it blossom out, as it threatens to, in a world fascist economy, or even in some region, as these United States, where nature has endowed the land with most of the resources needed? As to the latter, even the United States could not maintain its present population long without imports; there is scarcely any industrial process in which we engage that does not absolutely require some import. But perhaps world fascism is possible. To capitalists it is not a desirable state of affairs; it means that all but a handful of capitalists would be reduced to the universal serfdom; and the regulation of a world would be most costly. Though the bourgeois historians write of the latter days of the Roman empire as a time when the hand of the state was everywhere regulating all things, the modern business man reading such history understands that the hand of the state was everywhere grabbing things too.
World economy could readily enough be coordinated on the basis of a community of interests to effect the highest possible standard of living for all—if run by producers for producers; but to co-ordinate world economy under an iron hell, on the basis of discordant interests, where every petty official of the supreme oligarchy was looking for his graft for doing this dirty work, where everyone was discontent, where the military command was incessantly needed to maintain order and thus made mindful of its own opportunity to become the supreme oligarchy, is to enter a period of even greater chaos and waste than we suffer from now.
Fascism is not a forward looking plan; it is not even to be explained in terms of a far-sighted rationalism on the part of those who support it; it is the blind retreat from the threshold of new order that offers abundance to all, and thus privilege, prestige, and sundry other perverted desiderata of a class society to none. It rallies its support with an irrational appeal, and is not to be fought by any other means than power. The road to fascism is paved with liberal good intentions. Its means of operation is the regulation of the disturbances of capitalism in an alleged public interest. All planned control of economy not vested in labor, and not run by workers for workers, is grist for its mill. Every regulation over workers, whether by union officials or by public bodies on which such union officials sit, is another brick for its world-wide jailhouse. And the materials are being accumulated rapidly the world over.
Against this drift to Mussolini’s serfdom there are tremendous forces that can be rallied—the great dynamic power that has brought the world forward to this alternative of going back to serfdom and family or forward to a greater freedom and plenty. Capital establishes fascism, albeit reluctantly, for the same reason that it establishes and supports any form of government, hollering the while for “more business in government and less government in business. It is done to “police the poor.” It is done on an every increasing and more costly scale because capitalism is ever the breeder of a profounder discontent. Capitalism requires and produces a working class schooled and trained and brought into the contacts requisite for building revolutionary class organization; the most able class that ever his history submitted to exploitation by a class of idlers. It creates abilities that it cannot use; and unused ability is the great disturbing factor that fascism cannot put down.
The contradictions of capitalism—the great basic ones that are involved in the working class struggle for power over the means of life—cannot be ironed out even by an iron heel. They persist as a driving force toward a new society, but as a force that can build this new society only if organized as a class force, on the basis of class struggle, by working vigilantly avoiding every restriction to their own activity, whether from inside their organization or outside it. Therein lies the greater historic role of the I.W.W., more readily visualized today than ever before—by the planned economy of plenty that can be effected by the One Big Union of labor, to complete man’s conquest of nature through the establishment of the supremacy of human intelligence over the Industrial Frankenstein it has created.
Originally appeared in The One Big Union Monthly (April 1937)
Typed up by Erik
The May 1937 issue of The One Big Union Monthly, with articles on the Spanish Civil War and the Barcelona May Day. Contributors include x102287, Melvin W. Jackson, Walter Pfeffer, Eugene M. Fisher and Justus Ebert.
-May Day by x102287
-The emigrant by Gefion
-Wanted: One Big Union
-Let's you and him join the army by Melvin W. Jackson
-The life of the gandy dander
-What's what in Spain
-It can happen here by Walter Pfeffer
-America must have its news by Eugene M. Fisher
-"Conspiracy to raise wages" by Melvin W. Jackson
-Murmansk by A. Yourniek
-Behold in Spain the symbol of May Day! by Justus Ebert
|The One Big Union Monthly (May 1937).pdf||3.85 MB|
The June 1937 issue of The One Big Union Monthly, with articles on Mexico's labor movement and a traveling delegate in the Pacific Northwest. Contributors include x372561, Paul Kolinski, x22063, Fred Thompson and Walter Pfeffer.
-The labor movement in Mexico by x372561
-Escape! by A Convict
-A traveler makes camp
-"No one shall go hungry" by Paul Kolinski
-Current lessons from the experience of labor by x22063
-What excuse for capitalism? by Fred Thompson
-Make your own intelligence test
-How we got this way
-A page of rebel verse
-"What better times come business will bring them" by Walter Pfeffer
-What of the coming generation
|The One Big Union Monthly (June 1937).pdf||3.78 MB|
The July 1937 issue of The One Big Union Monthly, with articles on the IWW and the Spanish Civil War. Contributors include Peo Monoldi, Raymond Corder, Walter Pfeffer, and Con Dogan.
-The construction worker by Peo Monoldi
-Papa Schaefer is a man again: a short story by S.I. Stephens
-Industrial unionism in the IWW: the job branch by Raymond Corder
-The future of Spain: industrial democracy or ? by Con Dogan
-Sarah plants a garden by A Ventura Working Woman
-The strait and narrow: a short story by Walter Pfieffer
-In the name of the working class! by Bert Russell
-Songs of the struggle by Con Dogan
-Workers war to stop fascism: reports on the events in Spain by the Secretariat of the International Workingmens Association (Translated by Joseph Wagner)
CDs provided courtesy of Nate Hawthorne/Twin Cities IWW Archives
The August 1937 issue of IWW journal The One Big Union Monthly with articles on anti-union violence, the Spanish Civil War and capitalist planning. Contributors include Arthur Hopkins, Covington Hall, Frank Little, Paul Kolinsky, Paul Mattick and Walter Pfeffer.
-Employers use violence
-Class collaboration: old and new by Joesph Wagner
-A tip to a friend by Covami
-The laundry workers - they can be organized by K.T.S.
-Book review by Fred Thompson
-Factful fables by Covington Hall
-The nonsense of planning by Paul Mattick
-:I just got into town" by Paul Kolinsky
-If this be un-American make the most of it! by Arthur Hopkins
-"The age of innocence": a short story by Walter Pfeffer
-Scissorbill strategy by The Wandering Wob
-A letter from apeland by x141738
-Twenty years ago (Frank Little murdered)
|One Big Union Monthly (August 1937).pdf||3.92 MB|
"Class collaboration - old and new", a timely reminder of working class political experience by Joseph Wagner, and A. Shapiro’s Open letter to the CNT which criticised its actions during the Spanish Civil War.
Published in the IWW's One Big Union Monthly, August, 1937
Alone, or in coalition with more or less "liberal" bourgeois political parties, the socialists today are in control of the government machinery in a number of countries while yet in other countries they stand in line awaiting in their turn the call of the economic masters to take over the government and to carry on and administer the collective affairs of the capitalists in the respective countries.
The conclusion of the long and destructive World War brought capitalism to bankruptcy, the bourgeois regime stood everywhere discredited physically and morally and in a state of collapse ; everywhere the working class was in open revolt. The only organized force that yet retained some moral prestige was the socialist movement and its trade unions, who, in one country after another gallantly rushed to the rescue of the moribund regime, until recently their professed enemy.
Naturally, the capitalists very graciously allowed the socialists to resurrect and reconstruct the capitalist regime. They were allowed and even invited to form "socialist governments." Times without number these "socialist governments" proved to the master class that they are in the best of positions to save capitalism and to safeguard all their interests not only by the use of brutal military and police forces, but also by their moral prestige over the working class acquired by nearly a century of socialist party and trade union connection within the working class.
To be sure the master class never was conspicuous by its gratitude, as soon as it imagined itself strong enough to rule without the aid of socialists these were discarded, and their governments turned over to the underworld characters, to gangsters parading in differently colored shirts. A few years of experience with the gangsterdom has, however, taught world capitalism the lesson that the socialists make the more efficient and loyal servants of capitalism after all, and at the present time the pendulum is rapidly swinging away from fascism to "socialist" or "Popular Front" governments.
Socialists the world over are proud of the role their parties are playing nowadays, and they look upon their present, internationally approved policy as the acme of "Marxism." Yet, this was not always so.
Before the end of the last century, socialists of all shades were violently and unalterably opposed to the very idea of party members participating in bourgeois (capitalist) governments, thereby making the socialist movement at least indirectly responsible for the acts of their respective capitalist governments. Even the acceptance by a party member of a minor, non-elective government job, was frowned upon as not kosher from a social-democratic standpoint.
When, in 1900, Alexander Millerand, who with Jean Jaures, was heading one of the four or five socialist parties existing then in France, entered into the Waldeck-Rousseau cabinet, a storm of protests was raised in the socialist world. National and World Congresses debated and argued the propriety of the action and in all instances the act was condemned as treason to the international socialist movement. "Millerandism" and "Ministerialism" was synonymous with treason. The arguments lasted for fourteen years, until the outbreak of the World War, when the entire socialist world suddenly became "ministerialists" and governmentalists. And so it has remained to this day.
The foregoing is all old history, but it does no harm to recall it once in a while, the more so as in our days we are suddenly confronted with a new "ministerialism" from an unexpected source. This time the anarchist world is stirred with that same old question in the anti-fascist war now going on in Spain.
It would appear that with the post-war experiences, with the experiences of Bolshevism, Fascism, Nazism, we have learned enough to avoid the old and settled disputes. But we must have been mistaken, for it seems that we have to overcome the same difficulties and misunderstandings at every instance of serious fight that we, the working class, are confronted with.
The old forgotten "Millerandism" or "Ministerialism" is and has been a burning issue in Spain ever since the present war was precipitated by the uniformed bandits of Spain. The only real revolutionary force in the present Spanish war was the CNT and its ideological reflex, the F.A.I. It would have appeared an absurdity for anyone a year ago to state that the old issue of "ministerialism" could bob up—of all things—in this anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist movement, in the time of the acutest crisis that ever confronted not only these two Spanish movements (that are really one), but the anarchist fraternity the world over.
Perseus, of mythological fame, wore a magic cap so that the monsters he hunted down might not see him. I would like to have pulled such a magic cap over my own ears so that I may not see the internal fight in the revolutionary forces of the present Spanish fight. Unfortunately, I can read many languages and am in touch with revolutionary literature of many lands, and no magic cap can prevent me from seeing things I would not like to see. I am giving below a translation of an open letter of A. Shapiro to the CNT I read similar open letters months ago, whose authors have fallen since, either fighting on the bloody battlefields, or through cowardly assassination by the Spanish Branch of the Russian Cheka. Shapiro is not dead yet, he is one of the outstanding figures of the anarchist movement of the world. He was for a number of years one of the Secretariat of the International Workingmens Association. Therefore, whatever the readers of the "One Big Union" may think of his statements, I assure them that Shapiro is sincere and means what he says.
Open letter to the CNT
We read with more surprise than interest the minimal program of the CNT "for the realization of a real war policy." The reading of the program raised an entire series of questions and problems, some of which should be called to your attention.
Certainly none of us was simple enough to believe that a war can be carried on with resolutions and by anti-militarist theories. Many of us believed, long before July 19 (1936) that the anti-militarist propaganda, so dear to our Dutch comrades of the International Anti-militarist Bureau and which found, in the past, a sympathetic enough echo in the columns of your press in Spain, was in contradiction with the organization of the revolution.
Many of us knew that the putsches, that were so dear to our Spanish comrades, such as those of December 8 and January 8, 1934, were far from helping this organization of the revolution, it helped rather to disorganize it.
July 19 opened your eyes. It made you realize the mistake you had committed in the past, when, in a revolutionary period, you neglected Seriously organizing the necessary frame-work for the struggle that you knew would be inevitable on the day of the settlement of accounts. Yet, today you are shutting your eyes on another important fact. You seem to think that a civil war brought about by the circumstance of a fascist putsch does not necessarily obligate you to examine the possibilities of modifying and altering the character of that civil war.
A "minimal" program is not something to startle us ; but a particular minimal program (such as yours) cannot have any value unless it creates the opportunity for the preparation of a maximal program.
But, your "real war policy," after all, is nothing but a program for entering the Council of Ministry (government) ; with it you act merely as a political party desirous of participation in an existing government ; setting forth your conditions of participation, and these conditions are so bureaucratic in character that they are far from weakening in the least the bourgeois capitalist regime, on the contrary they are tending to strengthen capitalism and stabilize it.
The surprising part of your program is that you do not consider it as a means for the attainment of some well defined goal, but consider your "real war policy" program as an aim in itself. That is the main danger in your program. It presupposes a permanent participation in the government—not merely circumstantial—which is to extend over a number of years, even if the war itself, with its brutal, daily manifestations would cease in the meanwhile. A monopoly of the Foreign Commerce (have the communists whispered this to you ?), customs policy, new legislations, a new penal code—all of this takes a long time. In order to realize these tasks, your program proposes a very close collaboration on all fields with the bourgeoisie (republican block) and with the communists (marxist block), while almost at the same time you state in your appeal of June 14 that you are sure of triumphing not only against Franco, but also against a stupidly backward bourgeoisie ("the republican block") and against the tricky and dishonest politicians ("marxist block").
You see, therefore, that even your minimal program is beset with flagrant contradictions ; its realization is dependent on the aid of the very sectors against which that program is aimed. Even the freedom with which you state these two mutually excluding programs : collaboration with the bourgeoisie and "marxism" on the one hand and fight to finish against this same bourgeoisie and "marxism" on the other, situates your minimal program as the aim, and your declaration of June 14 becomes a mere verbiage. We would have, naturally, liked to see things the other way.
The problem of Spain’s economic reconstruction does not form a part of your program. And yet, you cannot help but know that a civil war, like the one you are going through, cannot bring the people to its aid unless the victories on the fronts will assure at the same time their own victories in the rear.
It is true—and many of us outside of Spain have known it long before July 19—the Social Revolution cannot be attained in 24 hours, and that a libertarian regime cannot be erected by the turn of the hand. Nevertheless, neither the CNT nor the F.A.I. cared anything about pre-revolutionary organization and about preparing in advance the framework for the social and economic reconstruction. We claim that there is a bridge leading from the downfall of the old regime to the erection of the new regime erected on the ashes and the ruins of the old regime. This bridge is all the more full of dangerous traps and pitfalls as the new regime differs from the old. And it was precisely this period of transition that you have misunderstood in the past and that you continue to misunderstand today. For if you had recognized that the social and economic reconstruction on a libertarian basis is the indispensable condition to victory over fascism, you would have elaborated (having in view the aim to be attained) a minimal revolutionary program that would have given the city and country proletariat of Spain the necessary will and enthusiasm to continue the war to its logical conclusion.
But such a program you failed to proclaim. The few timid allusions contained in your "war program" are far from having a revolutionary character : the elaboration of a plan for the economic reconstruction that would be accepted by the three blocks could only be a naive illusion, if it would not be so dangerous ; the municipalization of land is an anti-revolutionary project since it legalizes something that a coming revolution will have to abolish, since the municipalities are, after all, but cogs in the wheel of the State as long as the State will exist.
Naturally, the elaboration of an economic program for the transition period presupposes a final aim. Does the CNT consider that libertarian communism is an unattainable "Utopia" that should be relegated to the museum ?
If you still think (as you did before July 19) that libertarian communism forms part of the program of the CNT it is your duty—it was really your duty since July 1936—to elaborate your economic program of transition, without regard to the bourgeois and marxist blocks, who can but sabotage any program of libertarian tendency and inspiration.
To be sure, such a program will place you in conflict with these blocks, but on the other hand, it will unite with you the large majority of the workers, who want but one thing, the victory of the Revolution. It is necessary, therefore to choose between these two eventualities.
Such a program will, naturally, nullify your "war program" which is nothing but the expression of a "true" desire for a permanent cabinet collaboration. But this proposition, this "war program" of yours is diametrically contrary to the traditionally revolutionary attitude of the CNT, which this organization has not denied yet. It is therefore necessary to choose.
The CNT should not allow—as it has unfortunately done since July 19—the acceptance of the tactics of the "line of least resistance," which cannot but lead to a slow but sure liquidation of the libertarian revolution.
The ministerial collaboration policy has certainly pushed back to the rear the program of revolutionary economy. You are on the wrong track and you can see that yourselves.
Do you not think that you should stop following this road, that leads you to certain downfall ?
Text taken from http://raforum.info
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The September 1937 issue of IWW journal The One Big Union Monthly, with articles by John Sershon, Covington Hall, x302661, Fred Thompson, Joseph Wagner, Pierre Besnard, Eli Hill, and Onofre Dallas.
-The right to work
-Noise: an intolerable working condition by John Sershon
-I decide to become a Wobbly by A. Seaman
-Ain't it so! by Covami
-Production for use by Covington Hall
-Another letter from Apeland by Card No. 141738
-Migrating workers by B.R.
-They are fine people: the odyssey of a farm hand by Card No. x302661
-Schools peddle dope by A.B. Cobbs
-What is a scab? by Eli Hill
-School days at Work Peoples College by Fred Thompson
-A soldier returns
-The Spanish Civil War by Joseph Wagner
-Catastrophic revolution by Brandt,Editor Cultura Proletaria (Translated by Joseph Wagner)
-Answer to "Catastrophic revolution" by Pierre Besnard, General Secretary of the IWMA (Translated by Joseph Wagner)
-The CNT and reformism: a reply to "Class collaborationism: old and new" by Onofre Dallas
-Factful fables by Covington Hall
-'Tis only they by Covami
CDs provided courtesy of Nate Hawthorne/Twin Cities IWW Archives
A letter from an American trade unionist and member of the revolutionary union the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) about his experiences as a fighter in the Spanish Civil War and Revolution of 1936-9 in the International section of the anarchist Durruti Column.
The following letter was published in the paper of the American IWW's paper, One Big Union Monthly in 1937.
The One Big Union Monthly and the Industrial Workers of the World are heart and soul for the success of the anti-fascist fight going on in Spain but we see no reason why we should stick our heads in the sand and pretend not to be aware of the capitalist class element within the Spanish United Front government that is trying to rob the Spanish revolutionary unionists of victory.
No matter what our opinion may be as to the wisdom of the syndicalists' policy of co-operation with political government, the information and arguments contained in this letter from a rank and file fighter in the cause of working class freedom, and in other articles appearing in this magazine, cannot but be valuable reminders that there are still working class enemies among those who favour "democracy" as opposed to fascism - Editor.
A soldier returns
Received your letter the other day in Barcelona. I typed three pages in reply but could not smuggle it out of the country, so I tore it up.
I am out of Spain. The reasons are numerous. I was not wanted by the government as I was in the Durruti International Shock Battalion. The government sabotaged us since we were formed in May and made it impossible for us to stay at the front. No tobacco unless you had money. All of the time I was in the militia I received no money. I had to beg money for postage stamps, etc. I was sent back from the front slightly shell-shocked and put in a hospital in Barcelona. when we registered at the hospital I told them I was from the Durruti International Battalion and they wouldn't register me. In fact they told me to go and ask my friends for money for a place to sleep. I explained to them that I was from Canada and had no friends in Barcelona, then they tried to make me a prisoner in the hospital. I called them all the lousy -- I could think of. Anyway, I ran away from the hospital one day to the English section of the CNT-FAI and the people there insisted that I see the British consul for a permit to leave Spain, which I did, though I hated to leave.
Spain is a wonderful country. At present it reminds me of the stories I have read of the O.G.P.U. [secret police] in Russia. The jails of loyalist Spain are full of volunteers who have more than a single-track mind. I know one of them from Toronto, a member of the L.R.W.P. I wonder if they will bump him off. The Stalinists do not hesitate to kill any of those who do not blindly accept Stalin as a second Christ. One of the refugees who came over with me from Spain was a member of the O.G.P.U. in Spain, which, by the way, is controlled by Russia. Every volunteer in the Communist International Brigade is considered a potential enemy of Stalin. He is checked and double-checked, every damn one. If he utters a word other than commy phrases he is taken "for a ride." This chap (ex- O.G.P.U.) is like all the other commies coming out of Spain, absolutely anti-Stalin and anti-communist. He skipped the country by flashing his O.G.P.U. badge on the trains etc.
I believe that the I.W.W. has lost some members here, as I doubt if they would keep quiet at the front in view of what is taking place.
It was only through sabotage that the government succeeded in disbanding the International Battalion of Anarchists. Four of our bunch died of starvation in one day. Our arms were rotten, even though the Valencia government has plenty of arms and planes. They know enough not to give arms to the thousands of anarchists on the Aragon front. We could have driven the fascists out of Huesca and Saragossa had we had the aid of the aviation. But the Anarchists form collectives where ever they advance, and these comrades would rather let Franco have those cities that the CNT-FAI.
Fenner Brockway, prominent labour leader in England, exposed the way the communists were treating those boys (volunteers) in the International Brigade. They will not let any of them come back unless they are racketeers of the Sam Scarlett type who will say anything they are told as long as the pork chops are coming in.
The CNT-FAI seems to have lost all the power they had in the army. There is a good fort on the top of a hill overlooking Barcelona which the anarchists captured from the fascists. When I left for the front it was still in the hands of the FAI but when I came back the communists had it. The workers of Spain are against the communists, but the latter don't care. They are making a play for the support of the bourgeoisie and other racketeers. As far as the industries are concerned the CNT has a lot of power, far more than any other organization.
Well, Fellow Worker, one day has elapsed since I wrote the above. Last night I had a head ache and I had to postpone finishing the letter. I am eating good since coming to France.
I believe the British consul is going to send me to England or to Canada. If I wasn't such a wreck I would ship on a British ship for Spain. Wages are double on the Spanish run, and ships are tied up because of a shortage of men. I have been on English ships and none of the crew would speak English.
I met two more men from the International Brigade this morning. They say many Canadians are in prison in Spain.
With best wished for the I.W.W.,
I remain Bill Wood
from One Big Union Monthly, September 1937.
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The October 1937 issue of The One Big Union Monthly, with articles on the General Defense Committee, Spanish Civil War and AFl vs CIO turf wars. Contributors include W.E. Trautmann, James Oppenheim, Covington Hall, John Sershon, Robert Louzon and Walter Pfeffer.
-The source of strength
-Power of folded arms by W.E. Trautmann
-The slave by James Oppenheim
-Factful fables by Covington Hall
-A challenge to organized labor by John Sershon
-If only: a story by Gefion
-Our educational system by A.B. Cobb
-The General Defense Committee: 20 years of activity
-Counter-revolution in Spain by R. Louzon (Introduction and translation by Joseph Wagner)
-West coast chaos: the CIO-AFL inter-union war by Card No. x13068
-A little economics for the home by Walter Pfeffer
-The IWW in theory and practice: a book review
-The march of progress by A Tannery Worker
CDs provided courtesy of Nate Hawthorne/Twin Cities IWW Archives
The November 1937 issue of The One Big Union Monthly, with articles on the Haymarket martyrs, working at Ford and the Kronstadt rebellion. Contributors include Lucy Parsons, Walter Pfeffer, Covington Hall, Johan Korpi, W.E. Trautmann, Joseph Wagner, Art Hopkins and Paul Mattick.
-Working class unity
-November 11 fifty years ago by Lucy Parsons
-"The life abundant": a short story by Walter Pfeffer
-Industrial unionism: its power and promise by Covington Hall
-Fordism's sacrifices by Johan Korpi
-The end of a epoch by A.B.C.
-Truth vs humbug by A.B. Cobb
-The power of folded arms by W.E. Trautmann
-The right kind of education by "A Pal"
-On with the fight! by Cov Ami
-Hijacking the revolution (Translation and introduction by Joseph Wagner)
-Fifty years after Haymarket by Art Hopkins
-Book reviews: the 'hero' of Kronstadt writes history by Paul Mattick
CDs provided courtesy of Nate Hawthorne/Twin Cities IWW Archives
An article by Lucy Parsons about the Haymarket martyrs.
Once again on November 11 a memorial meeting will be held to commemorate the death of the Chicago Haymarket martyrs-1937 is the fiftieth anniversary and this meeting bids fair to be more widely observed than any of the forty-nine previous ones.
It has taken fifty years to dig the facts of this case out from under the mountains of lies that was heaped upon our martyrs by the exploiters in their attempt to cover up their crime of sending five labor leaders to the gallows. You will hear people say today, as one said to me recently, "What! Calling those Haymarket bomb throwers martyrs? Do you think I believe that? You will have to show me."
Now I am writing this article to "show" all such doubting Thomases.
The Haymarket meeting was held as a protest against the brutality of the police who, during the great strike for the eight-hour work day of 188.6, tried with all the vicious power at their command to defeat the hopes of the workers. At noon on May 3, 1886, the striking workers of the McCormick reaper works were discussing their problems in a, mass meeting near the plant when two patrol wagons loaded with policemen appeared. With drawn clubs the police rushed down upon the workers, clubbing them. Two workers were shot.
The next evening the famous Haymarket meet-ing was held to protest against this and other outrages of the police. This meeting was attended by about 3;000 people, men and women. I myself was there with our two children.
The meeting was perfectly peaceful but when it was about to adjourn a company of police charged upon it and ordered the crowd to disperse. At the onrush of these police, violators of the law they were sworn to uphold, someone—to this day he. is unknown—hurled a . bomb into the ranks of the police. Then hell broke loose!
The papers came out next morning with great flare headlines, "The anarchist dynamiters,, bomb-throwers had started a riot and had intended to blow up the city; and but for the courage of the police they would have thrown many more bombs," and so on. They demanded that the leaders be arrested and made examples of.
Six weeks later eight men (our Chicago martyrs) were arraigned in a prejudiced court before a prejudiced judge and a packed jury. They were charged with murder.
Mayor Harrison of Chicago testified for the defense. Here are a few lines from his testimony:
"I went to the meeting for the purpose of dis-persing it should it require my attention, when the meeting was about to adjourn I went to the station (about half a block away) and told Captain Bonfield to send his reserves home, that the meeting was about to adjourn, that the speeches were tame."
But State's Attorney Grinell, pointing to the defendents, said:
"These defendents are, not more guilty than the thousands who follow them; they were selected by the grand jury because they were leaders. Convict them and save our society."
Bailiff Rylance was heard to remark:
"I am managing this case. Those fellows will hang as sure as death. I am selecting men that will compel the defense to waste their challenges, then they will have to take such men as the prosecution wants."
The trial, so-called, lasted sixty-three days. The jury brought in a verdict of guilty in three hours.
The judge in dismissing the jury-men thanked them for the verdict and told them that carriages were outside to take them home. The capitalists were overjoyed. A sum of $100,000 was paid the jury. The Chicago Tribune on August 20 opened its columns thus:
"The twelve good men and true have rendered a just verdict, let them be generously remembered. Raise a sum of '$100,000 to be paid with the thanks of a grateful public."
When the march to the gallows was begun all the men showed remarkable courage without the slightest tinge of bravado. Parsons was wonderfully composed. The moment his feet touched the gal-lows he seemed to lose his identity . . . "No tragedian ever made a more marvelous presentation of a self-chosen part," a capitalist paper reported.
On that gloomy morning of November 11, 1887, I took our two little children to the jail to bid my beloved husband farewell. I found the jail roped off with heavy cables. Policemen with pistols walked in the inclosure.
I asked them to allow us to go to our loved one before they murdered him. They said nothing.
Then I said, "Let these children bid their father goodby, let them receive his blessing. They can do no harm."
In a few minutes a patrol wagon drove up and we were locked up in a police station while the hellish deed was done.
Oh, Misery, I have drunk thy cup of sorrow to its dregs but I am still a rebel.
Originally appeared in The One Big Union Monthly (November 1937)
The December 1937 issue of The One Big Union Monthly, with articles on the Spanish Civil War and the CIO. Contributors include John S. Morgan, Bert Russell, Ralph Verlaine, Carl Madsen, x226183, John Sershon, Justus Ebert and A.B. Cobb.
-Christmas in prison
-Sacrifice of the Asturian miners
-"Resistance against fascism depends on us" from Bulletin de Information (FAI)
-The IWW on high seas and waterfront: a history and tradition of action that presages great things for the future by John S. Morgan
-Royalty is out of a job by Bert Russell
-To those who preach passivity
-Soybeans: the story of a worker's education in economics by Ralph Verlaine, x229442, IU 620
-To a hard working lumberjack by Carl Madsen, Card No. x193962
-What will labor's men in jail think this Christmas?
-Who will make an end of war?: labor can stop capitalist's wars and lanor's interests demand that it do so by Card No. x226183
-The growth of wage slavery: development of the process of wage slave exploitation from the beginning of the capitalist system by John Sershon
-The CIO in Lawrence by A Lawrence Worker
-Book reviews: Poor Henry Ford! The bad capitalist did him dirt by Justus Ebert
-The modern stegosaurus: defender of private property by A.B. Cobb
-Education and "humanistic" approach by Chas. J. Miller
CDs provided courtesy of Nate Hawthorne/Twin Cities IWW Archives
The January 1938 issue of The One Big Union Monthly, with articles on the Australian Labour Party and the UGT in Spain. Contributors include Bert Russell, Violet Clarke Wilkins, Nicholas Lazarevitch, C.M. Rupel, Chas J. Miller, Covington Hall, T-Bone Slim and A.B. Cobbs.
-The general strike by Bert Russell
-Yes, we have a labor government by Violet Clarke Wilkins
-When there isn't any money by Covami
-Progress in the men's clothing industry by A Clothing Worker
-Unauthorized by C.M. Rupel
-Failure of the workers alliance by L. Nicholas a.k.a. Nicholas Lazarevitch (Translated by Joseph Wagner)
-Playing with words by Chas J. Miller
-In the course of events by Gefion
-Factful fables by Covington Hall
-For a virtuous working class by T-Bone Slim
-Loyalty of slaves vs solidarity of workers by A.B. Cobbs
|The One Big Union Monthly (January 1938).pdf||4.12 MB|
The February 1938 issue of The One Big Union Monthly, with articles on the Spanish Civil War, Sacco and Vanzetti and 'boring from within' unionism. Contributors include Covington Hall, Gussie Perlman, Bob Trochet, x22063, Bert Russell, Sophia Fagin andJustus Ebert.
-The four-hour day
-Unionism at the crossroads by A Former Coal Miner
-The sun goes down by Covington Hall
-Maritime merry-go-round by C. Weed
-A radical is made by Beetee
-Modern murder (Dedicated to Sacco and Vanzetti) by Gussie Perlman
-For his master's sake: dedicated to Fellow Worker Harry Owens and other members of the IWW who fought and fell in the Spanish Civil War by Bob Trochet
-Factful fables: all about sitting in the game by Covington Hall
-Everybody's candidate by Card No. x22063
-On boring from within: in which it is clearly shown that we cannout build a new union by working inside an old one by Bert Russell
-The "uncontrollables" in Spain by Sophia Fagin
-Wet bulb - dry bulb by Jay Effie
-The Industrial Workers of the World
-Book reviews: Assignment in Utopia - Wobblies one meets there by Justus Ebert
CDs provided courtesy of Nate Hawthorne/Twin Cities IWW Archives
An article by Bert Russell looking at 'boring from within' strategy by radicals in the AFL and CIO and their fruitless nature. Originally appeared in The One Big Union Monthly (February 1938).
The advent of the C.I.O. on the American labor scene has been the grounds for the rebirth of scholastic arguments long thought crucified on the cross of experience and fittingly buried with the rest of the superstitions and myths of the primitive strivings of the wage workers. Aside from the possible immaculate conception of the Saviour, John L. Lewis—of his being born again after being bathed in the blood of refractory miners—the ghost which the Faithful are most ardently trying to blow life into, is the historically discredited doctrine of "Boring From Within."
Though at the danger of being burned at the stake as a materialistic heretic and non-believer in the revelations of St. Marx and his disciples, Lenin and Stalin, Hayes and Berger, Foster and Browder, a review of labor history in relation to this doctrine is in order. Experimental science of the twentieth century has more to offer us than has the jesuitical logic and dialectics of the dark ages.
As soon as the A. F. L. became the foremost labor organization of America, numerically if in no other way, the socialists set out to capture control of it to further party aims.
In 1893, they were successful in putting over in the A. F. L. convention a program including "the collective ownership by the people of all the means of production." But the following year, 1894, Gompers, opposed to the socialists, maneuvered successfully in having this rescinded. Apparently as compensation for this setback, the socialists were able to elect their candidate for president of the Federation. Gompers, however, resumed this position the following year.
This frustration, on the eve of success as it seemed, spurred the Socialist Labor Party to officially forsake the salvation of the A. F. L. and to promote the dual paper organization, the Socialist Trades and Labor Alliance. A faction, however, tantalized by their near-success retained faith in changing the A. F. L. and the difference between the factions culminated in the formation of the Socialist Party, 1900, which adopted officially the policy of boring from within the A. F. L.
Despite their exorcism of dual unionism and wailing allegiance to the Federation, Gompers scorned the socialists and never missed a chance to give them a raking over the coals. But he was canny enough to use their support to counter-balance the growing sentiment favoring the progressive groups which formed the I. W. W. in 1905.
The socialists' influence in the A. F. L. grew. In 1911, their candidate for president of the Federation, Hayes, received 5073 votes, against Gomper's 11,974. In 1912, the socialists lead the industrial union advocates in polling 5929 votes against the 10,934 craft union votes in the convention. Their party membership grew to 110,000 and votes polled in the presidential election, 1912, were 1,000,000.
The socialist leaders became impatient. The realization of a party similar to the German Social Democrat with its party funds, its officials and well paid jobs, its power to demand some of the political patronage-dispensing authority of the regular parties, was just around the proverbial corner. There seemed to be just one fly in the ointment to their quick ascendancy with A. F. L. support. Though the political parties were asked out of the I. W. W. in 1908, many members of the I. W. W. still placed some confidence in independent workers' political action and the means such a party offered in putting across working class propaganda. These members and their sympathizers maintained membership in the S. P. or supported it in other ways. Bill Haywood was a member of the S. P. executive board. This was a touchy problem in the party's relationship with the A. F. L. and as absolute proof of their loyalty to the principles of the A. F. L. the party convention, 1912, virtually ruled out the I. W. W. members. The I. W. W. members and their sympathizers left.
With this positive evidence of their good intentions, the socialist leaders turned hat in hand to the A. F. L. officials for praise and reward. They got none. The craft union officials figured it out this way: "If the socialists don't believe in interfering with our racket by running around with those I. W. W., and they promise to be faithful to us, what is the use of giving them anything? Any gifts we have to spare we had better give to those we are not so sure of." From this time on the Socialist Party lost influence not only in the A. F. L. but as a political party.
The communists who after the war took up the boring from within methods had an even more dis-mal experience. Without the understanding bred from experience of the old socialists, steeped in the rule or ruin policy of the Moscow Messiahs, controlled entirely by intellectuals out of touch with the working class, the communists did little but confuse and disrupt. Where they did gain success in taking over the officialdom of a union they milked the treasury for party funds; or the ones elected as officials promptly forgot their former radical views, if they ever had any, and used the powers in their hands for their individual good.
Aside from the political parties, boring from within had other advocates who had less influence. Foster's Syndicalist League seems to have exhausted itself by publishing the pamphlet "SYNDICALISM." Moreover, there is little evidence that even Foster himself was affected deeply with revolutionary syndicalism in his organizing activities in the lumber, steel and packing industries. He gained a seat in the officialdom and retained it at the price of endorsing and playing ball as official ball is played.
The anarchists followed the policy of each to his own individual conception, helping, obstructing, nullifying, and duplicating the work of others. As officials of unions their actions vary greatly from their ideals. We see anarchists on the executive board of the International Ladies Garment Workers fraternizing with politicians and working hand in hand with the state drawing up codes for the government to enforce. It was not the labels of socialist, communist, anarchist, or syndicalist, with all their hysterically imagined implications, that accounted for the disappointing showing of the borers. Even those innocent of radical beliefs, those popularly referred to as liberals or progressives, failed equally as brilliantly to reform the conservative unions even the slightest. Those quaint persons, ex-wobs, ex-socialists, the ordinary run of scissorbills1, who tell us that they are working for the same things as the I. W. W. but are doing it in a "different and better way" have nothing to show for all their efforts of pushing "good men" into the office of union leadership. After seeing their heroes one by one go the way of all flesh afflicted with piecarditis and exercise of authority, it must be plain to them that they are kidding no one but themselves and might just as well wave the red flag over their march to defeat.
Why have all these groups and individuals failed to achieve the metamorphosis of the conservative unions into revolutionary industrial unions?
Primarily because a collective bargaining agency is an institution of capitalism and can function only in this way if it is to exist. Woven of and into the fabric of the "the catch as catch can, no holds barred" competitive system it functions as do all other capitalist institutions. Likened to a capitalist bank it may be more clearly shown. The function of a bank is to arrange debts in such a way that the investors are assured a profit on their investment. Now it is possible that a philanthropist could be appointed as the official of the bank, but to carry into his every day banking operations his philanthropic ideas by loaning money without interest, or charitably cancelling debts, would inevitably lead to the destruction of the banking institution and not, as the borers from within assume, to a reform of the bank to a philanthropic institution. Aside from all doubt as to the bankers' sincerity and philanthropic integrity, the outcome is seen to be inevitable if the bank is to continue to operate.
So with the A. F. L., C. I. O., and other conservative unions. Allow for the sake of argument, radicals could be officials of the conservative unions. They could not put their radical policies into practice without destroying these capitalist collective bargaining agencies. Those who have attempted to do so with these outfits, at the expense of their functioning as collective bargaining agencies, have just sowed disruption and dissension and only by their removal or the changing of their ideas, have the organizations managed to survive. Look at the C. I. O.—A. F. L. rumpus and the weakness it has caused in the ranks of labor's collective bargaining agencies. The whole cause is, not as some would have us imagine, a fight between craft and industrial unionism, the attempt of political aspirant to make a collective bargaining agency function as something foreign to its nature, as a political vote catching machine. Political parties are not interested in building revolutionary industrial unionism but are motivated in their boring from within relations to the conservative union by one thing; namely, the necessity of obtaining a secure mooring among the working population upon which to anchor their party.
Political parties must needs have their roots in an economic group, whether that party be republican, democrat, progressive or socialist. The two old line parties are rooted in the economic groups of the vested interests. Where so-called labor political parties have attained any degree of stableness, as the Independent Labor Party in England and the Social Democrat parties in many countries of Europe, it has been only by sinking suckers into the necks of labor unions. The labor unions supply the blood and substance of these parties and only at the expense of their own health.
The labor union's role, in political party plans, is a source of campaign funds and as substantial evidence of their control of votes by which the labor politicos can bribe the old line parties for favors and some share in the political patronage of job dispensing for party lights. To gain this evidence of strength does not require building rank and file revolutionary industrial unionism. It merely requires the control of the officialdom of the labor unions. This is adequate for their political purposes. The training and education of the union members to the benefits of rank and file control and the development of their abilities to control industry for their own use, as revolutionary industrial unionists propose, is not only superfluous to the needs of a political party but is an actual menace to its aims.
The exercise of rank and file control would nullify all the benefits of gaining control of the official machine. Even where the political partisans have appeared progressive by supporting the industrial form as a substitute for the craft form of unionism it has been merely as a political slogan or to facilitate better control of the members for the party when it should arise to official ascendancy. Their cries for the industrial form of unionism can be likened to the cuckoo advocating to other birds the building of good nests so that later on the cuckoo can lay its eggs in them.
For the run down at the heels intellectuals and aspiring ex-workers, the control of the finances and votes of the labor unions would make for the realization of their dream of a third party with well-paid jobs and authority to dispense patronage to the hangers on. Revolutionary industrial unionism would only blast the hopes of this political borer from within. If there was chance of this kind of success with this tactic they would not want it.
Foster depended for success on the methods that the syndicalists adopted in France, of gaining control of the official positions and passing resolutions and making speeches about revolutionary syndicalism. But syndicalists prove no different from the socialists and communists after being in office for any length of time; and in the land of Foster's inspiration, France, the C. G. T. officials were equal to Gompers and the Social Democrats of Germany in following the masters' wishes in regards the World War. A resolutionary-speech-making leadership does not make a revolutionary-feat-making rank and file, nor leadership either.
The pitfall to even temporary success of the borers from within appears to be the contaminating effects of the spoils of office, the exercise of authority and high salaries. Even their venerated prophet, St. Karl, did not reveal a revolutionary nostrum for the poisonous effect of officialdom, and it remains the dragon on guard against the Knights of the Bore. Man will protect a woman from everyone but himself, it is said. The opportunist will protect the interests of the rank and file likewise.
Any influence that the political borers have attained in their activities has been while they were tacitly supporting dual unionism. The height of the socialist influence was in the '90s when the ghost of the Knights of Labor was not entirely laid to rest and up to 1912 while they were still friendly to the I. W. W. The communists have time and again tried to bolster their prestige by forming dual unions and then running them back into the A. F. L. both before and with the T. U. U. L. splurge. And even their present prestige, such as it is, is only because of the dualism of the C. I. O. Immediately the S. P. cut itself off from the I. W. W. officially its influence waned. And without doubt, on the consummation of the C. I. O.-A. F. L. peace the communists will go as flat as a pricked balloon. And they know it and will stand in the way of such a peace.
But without organization not even situations favorable to getting to first base with their political ball can be taken advantage of as has been shown conclusively in the development of the C. I. O. Even though the progressive elements and those who know what the score is, far outnumbered them; the politicians control by dint of their organization.
Whoever would influence the conservative union member must, as history shows, have organization, avoid all contact with the germs of officialdom and promote dual unionism. But even then, it still remains that a capitalist institution, whether bank or labor union, cannot become a revolutionary institution or even part of the new society. Such an attempt would destroy the institution, as the politicians are doing with the A. F. L.-C. I. ). without building anything to take over whatever functions are necessary to the working people.
Neither the banks nor collective bargaining agencies need be the objects of destructive intentions. As capitalism is destroying itself, so it is destroying the institutions that make it up. The job on hand is to build the structure of the institutions that will carry on when capitalism sinks to its doom. Therefore, it could not be a dual organization, as the C. I. O. is dual to the A. F. L., but would be of entirely different structure and aims, not attempting to duplicate the capitalist functions of conservative unions. In short, it would be the Industrial Workers of the World. The material for this purpose is at hand, the resources, the working men and women.
To destroy any of the institutions of capitalism, whether they be the A. F. L.-C. I. O. financial institutions or industrial administrative agencies, without having first built an organization structure to carry on whatever necessary functions these institutions were caring for, as well as to carry on the new responsibilities of the new conditions, is to court disaster as surely as it would be to tear down an old house before a new structure has been built in which to move. To bore from within the old structure in an attempt to build a new one is fruitless. But while in the old structure, we can build the new one by its side and the necessary arrangements can be quickly completed when the old capitalist system and its institutions, the banks, the industrial administrative agencies and collective bargaining agencies collapse in decay. "By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old."
Originally appeared in The One Big Union Monthly (February 1938)
OCR scanned and edited by Juan Conatz
The March 1938 issue of The One Big Union Monthly, with articles on the Spanish Civil War, syndicalism in Western Europe, and Work Peoples College. Contributors include Raymond Galstad, Mortimer Downing, Joseph Wagner, T-Bone Slim, Ethel McDonald, Covington Hall, Fred Thompson and Gussie Perlman.
Fighting for Spanish freedom by Fellow Worker Raymond Galstad
Murk by The Gadfly
The historic mission of the IWW by Mortimer Downing
All honor to the communards!
Syndicalism will triumph in France by Joseph Wagner
Get a better boat, boys by T-Bone Slim
Revolutionary syndicalism in Britain by Ethel McDonald
Factful fables by Covington Hall
Meat for supper by Gefion
We... by Gefion
World war to create markets by IWW delegate 46-s-8
"Streamlined justice"... by John Lind
Birth of a song hit: a bit of history dug up at Work Peoples College
Rank-and-file rule: what it is, and what it isn't by Fred Thompson
Fan the flames of discontent by Gussie Perlman
Book reviews: Capital and labor in Italy by V.I.K.
Mr. Stockholder will be looking for a job when the world's workers organize right!
Taken from CDs of JPGs made by San Francisco Bay Area General Membership Branch of the IWW
CDs provided by Nate Hawthorne
An article by Fred Thompson about what he sees as the rank-and-file control of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Originally appeared in The One Big Union Monthly (March 1938)
We working people want to raise our wages, cut our hours, make our jobs safer and less injurious to our health and less unpleasant places in which to earn our living. If we realize what an injury the capitalist system does to us, we want also to get rid of it. We can not do these things by our-selves. We can do them together. That's why we form unions. Our unions are labor unions only when they do what we want them to do. A body of workers is not a union unless it is controlled by its members. That is reason No. 1 why the I.W.W. insists upon "rank-and-file" organization.
This phrase "rank-and-file" has come to be used in such strange ways of late that it has picked up some strange meanings. For that reason it is time that the I.W.W., as the foremost exponent and practioner of rank-and-file unionism, explained just what rank-and-file means, and what it doesn't mean.
The strange uses of the expression "rank-and-file" to which we refer are made most often by the communists and other addicts of the "leader-ship principle." Now the "leadership principle"—the idea that we should pick and follow leaders, and seek a cure for our troubles by changing lead-ers—is the direct opposite of the rank-and-file idea. It is indeed curious that those who advocate this "der Fuehrer" plan of organization should ever demand "rank-and-file control." How does it happen?
The object of these various political cults of "follow-the-leader" is to obtain more followers for their various leaders. (And since every time there is a new leader there are new cults, this results in a rather bewildering situation. Since their purpose is not to organize a working class to do something for itself, but to make sure that the leaders of one cult are followed rather than the leaders of another, they seek their following chiefly in already organized groups of workers. Sometimes they try to secure such a following by currying favor with the officials of these unions. That was and is the pet policy of the Socialists. The Communist sects vary this policy with that of "boring from within" to grab the official positions.
When a group of self-appointed saviours try to grab the official positions in a union, they must resort to the favorite tricks of the unsuccessful politician—the one who is out of office. They must charge the elected officials with "betraying their mandates," "not living up to their prom-ises," "ignoring the wishes of the rank and file." They must promise that if they are elected, the "rank-and-file" will rule through them. As a result we have the strange spectacle of "rank-and-file" committees waiting instructions from some leader before they can decide upon their next step!
To get into the saddle, these would-be leaders must convince their potential victims that they are now being ridden, but that with them in the saddle, hey will no longer be ridden. It will not serve their purpose to urge that those who are being ridden should get rid of rider, saddle and all. They must urge that only the riders be changed. Their consequent political manipula-tions in the unions leave the impression that "rank-and-file" means disruption, misrepresenta-tion, henpecking of the officialdom—anything and everything except the use of a union by its own members to give effect to their own wishes.
In the I.W.W. control by the rank-and-file is implicit in our constitution, our structure, our financial arrangements, and our traditional procedure. Yet we have no rank-and-file committees, and rarely do we see any member in our ranks appealing to, or even mentioning, the rank-and-file. Just as the best evidence of a good liver is the lack of any occasion to take note of it, so is the best evidence of rank-and-file control the absence of any mention of it. We find use for the term chiefly in describing the inadequacies of other unions.
How is such complete rank-and-file control ac-complished?
In the first place, there is no division of our ranks into officialdom and rank-and-file. There is no officialdom. We have officers, some voluntary, and some on the payroll, some devoting full time to the work of the I.W.W., some devoting only their spare time after regular working hours. None of them are officers for many years. The various terms of office vary from three months to a year, and in no case can a member• serve more than three successive terms. Thus our members are elected into and out of office. If they stayed in office for life, as they do in many unions, they would no doubt be "sobered by the responsibilities of office, and subordinate their revolutionary urge to the necessity of balancing the budget." But they don't stay, and during this term of office, they look at the problems of organization in much the same way that the rest of the members do. Conversely, so many of our members who are not holding an official position at any one time, have held such positions, that the viewpoint of these members is based largely upon a realization of the problems that confront the officers of a union. Thus there is a natural harmony and uniformity of views throughout the I.W.W.
The powers of these I.W.W. officers are very limited. They can not call strikes, nor can they stop them. Consequently they can not "sell out." If they are on pay, they have no votes in any membership meeting; and no official, whether on pay or not, has a vote in the Industrial Union or General Conventions. This is in marked contrast to the practice of most other unions. Their work is set out for them by the various conventions or other deliberative bodies of the membership; and should any unforeseen circumstance develop requiring any abrupt change of plan or policy, a referendum must be taken on it. At any time they can be recalled by referendum.
The structure of the I.W.W. provides for the utmost cohesiveness with the utmost freedom or autonomy of its component parts to attend to local or specific problems as the definite circumstances may require. It is not a federation of industrial unions, but a One Big Union of the working class. All its members are directly members of the I.W.W. They meet as members of industrial unions, according to the sort of work they do; and there is a free automatic transfer from one industrial union to another. A good portion of the work of the I.W.W. is accomplished by general membership meetings, District Conferences of all members in a district, Industrial District Councils, and other structures that bring members of various industrial unions together. All this results in cohesiveness and solidarity without the imposition of a powerful central authority.
Consequently there is no sacrifice of cohesiveness in preserving a usual degree of autonomy for the component parts of the I.W.W. Job branches decide their own policies for organizing the job or for keeping it organized, or for improving it. Industrial Union branches decide their local organization policies, elect their own officers, decide upon their own ways and means. Industrial Unions do likewise. These bodies are limited only by this: all must act in conformity with the General Constitution and the by-laws of their industrial Unions, and the decisions of their conventions.
The financial arrangements of the I.W.W. are a further guarantee of rank-and-file control. Control over a union's treasury often means control over the union. Industrial Union branches have their treasuries; Industrial Unions have theirs; the General Organization has its own. Of the dues collected from the members a portion set by by-laws of each industrial union stays in the local Industrial Union branch, another portion goes to the Main Office of the Industrial Union. From this a certain portion set by the constitution goes to..the General Office, and the rest remains as an organizing fund to be expended by the General Organization Committee of that Industrial Union. If strikes or organizing campaigns break a union treasury, the General Office may be called upon for assistance, or the other Industrial Unions may be asked—but they can not be compelled to contribute their funds. In such emergencies the I.W.W. finds that its treasury is still "in the workers' pockets." And the closer this treasury is to the workers' pockets, the more considerate must union officials will be of the wishes of these custodians of the treasury.
But the most effective guarantee of rank-and-file rule in the I.W.W. is not in its constitution, structure, or financial arrangements, but in the viewpoints that have become traditional in our ranks. The I.W.W. members look upon rank-and-file not merely as a means for making sure that the union is run according to their wishes, but even more as a means for getting things done. The diffusion of responsibility in a rank-and-file organization begets initiative and releases energy. Even more important in getting results, it has things done by those who know what they want done, what obstacles are in the road of doing them, and consequently how they must be done. It may be possible to steer a boat on the open sea by remote control, but it won't work for riding a log down stream. It is rank-and-file control that has enabled the I.W.W. with relatively so few members to accomplish such great results as it has in American industry.
It is rank-and-file control that has kept it from being steered up blind alleys by the various fads and foibles that have beset the alleged intelligentsia of the labor movement. It is rank-and file control that has so developed organizational capacity throughout the ranks of our organization, that not only have most of our members proven competent organizers, but that some-how our ex-members have furnished a good part of the organizing force for other unions. It is this same development of individual capacity that has made the I.W.W. indestructible in the face of the most ruthless efforts to extirpate it; and it is to this development of individual capacity, and to the organized self-reliance that is back of it, that the I.W.W. looks as assurance that it can fend for itself no matter what suppression of civil liberties, no matter what despotism, and state intervention in unionism may grow out of "der Feurher principle."
It is little wonder that the I.W.W. places great emphasis on this idea of rank-and-file, looks for it in the unions that lack it, completely rejects the leader idea that would leave no room for it, and wishes the genuine article "rank-and-file rule" not to be confused with the ludicrous imitations that have been offered by the much-to-be-watched, self-appointed saviours of the American workingclass.
Originally appeared in The One Big Union Monthly (March 1938)
The August 1938 issue of The One Big Union Monthly.], with articles on the Spanish Civil War, Work Peoples College, and the beginning of World War II. Contributors include Covington Hall, Eli Hill, Erland Hyttinen, Graham Robinson, Harry Monkkonen, Mary Marcy, Montana Slim, Raymond Galstad and Vera Smith.
-Reminiscences of Spain by Raymond Galstad
-Attack and counter attack by Eli Hill
-Class war strategy
-Work Peoples College by Vera Smith
-War is here by Erland Hyttinen
-Revolt of the brotherhood by Covington Hall
-Butte by Montana Slim
-The story of the sandhog by Harry Monkkonen
-Prayer to Lucifer by Covami
-Revolution with music by Bill Niemi
-Mary Marcy on the CIO
-The gandy dancers by Graham Robinson
|One Big Union Monthly (April 1938).pdf||3.78 MB|
The May 1938 issue of The One Big Union Monthly, with articles on Work Peoples College and fascism in Russia. Contributors include John Hunter, Covington Hall, Ida Richards, Joseph Wagner, Mortimer Downing, A.B. Cobbs and Chas J. Miller.
-Straws in the wind by Gefion
-Banker's island: a dramatization of the IWW leaflet "An instructive fable", prepared by Work Peoples College Drama Department
-Capitalism must go: an indictment of the present order prepared jointly by one of the classes at Work Peoples College
-Goetterdaemmerung by John Hunter
-Two poems by Covington Hall
-What is Americanism by Ida Richards
-The lost international by Joseph Wagner
-Workers are staked out cattle by Mortimer Downing
-A world of shams by A.B. Cobbs
-The feeble strength of one by The Gadfly
-The growth of fascism in Russia by Chas J. Miller
-The IWW shows the way
Taken from CDs of JPGs made by San Francisco Bay Area General Membership Branch of the IWW
CDs provided by Nate Hawthorne
June 1938 issue of The One Big Union Monthly, with articles on the Spanish Civil War and Work Peoples College. Contributors include A.B. Cobbs, Covington Hall, x372561, Art Hopkins, Jane Street, Chas. J. Miller, George Speed, Mortimer Downing and Gussie Perlman.
-On the right track
-Victory for Spain: a message to the proletarian and anti-fascist world from the union men and woman of Spain (CNT-FAI Bulletin)
-Judas was a piker by A.B. Cobbs
-Unskilled workers doomed by Covington Hall
-Farm workers and farm jobs by Card No. x372561
-The government of tomorrow by Art Hopkins
-Fellow Workers, hear me! by Covington Hall
-Jobites by Jane Street
-The growth of fascism in America by Chas. J. Miller
-Industrial Organization: an editorial from the Industrial Worker of June 26, 1926 by the late George Speed by George Speed
-Nut house news: a skit prepared by Work Peoples College Drama Department
-The end of leadership by ACMA
-Merry England by A. Martin
-Advice to the boys by Uncle Covamy
-Wage workers united by Mortimer Downing
-Letter: Butte again
-IWW: non-political labor union by A WPA Worker
-An ode to youth by Gussie Perlman
CDs provided courtesy of Nate Hawthorne/Twin Cities IWW Archives