The IWW in Canada- G. Jewell

Leaflet on the birth and history of the Canadian section of Industrial Workers of the World. The author later became involved with fascist groups, which we oppose, but we reproduce this text for its useful information.

Submitted by Reddebrek on June 20, 2013

Established in 1886, the American Federation of Labor had by the
turn of the century secured its domination over North American
organized labour. True, the federation was still a shaky affair;
the AFL - interested primarily in "respectable" craft unions --
refused to organize the great bulk of industrial workers. But
with the Knights of Labor (the first genuine, albeit mystical
attempt to bring all workers together under one all-embracing
organization) everything but buried, and industrial unions like
the American Railway Union destroyed and the Western Federation of
Miners under increasing attack by the mine owners, the AFL managed
to establish hegemony and either batter down or absorb all

This craft union hegemony existed in Canada as well as the United
States. The original Canadian unions -- insular and indecisive --
failed. The same fate met the first mass- industrial union from
the U.S., the Knights. In 1902, the Trades and Labour Congress,
already the leading force in Canadian labour and controlled by the
AFL union branches in Canada, expelled from its ranks all Canadian
national unions, British internationals, and the Knights of Labor.
The opposition formed a Canadian Federation of Labour (CFL) but it
never amounted to much. Prospects seemed clear for the TLC and,
behind it, Samuel Gompers, U.S. president of the AFL.

Yet only three years were to pass before the IWW emerged as a
revolutionary challenge.


The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was founded in 1905 in
Chicago. The driving force behind the new union was the Western
Federation of Miners, which had been fighting a bloody but losing
battle throughout the western US and Canada. Joining were the
WFM's parent, the American Labor Union (which included several
hundred members in B.C) the United Brotherhood of Railway
Employees, and Daniel DeLeon's Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance.
Observers were sent from the United Metal Workers (US and Canada),
the North American branch of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers
of Great Britain, the International Musicians Union, the Bakers
Union, and others.

Keynote speeches were delivered by Big Bill Haywood of the WFM,
Eugene Debs of the Socialist Party, Mother Jones of the United
Mine Workers, DeLeon, Lucy Parsons, anarchist and widow of a
Haymarket martyr, Father Hagerty, who drew up the One Big Union
industrial structure, and William Trautmann from German Brewery
Workers of Milwaukee (who was expelled from that union for his
participation in the IWW convention). Trautmann's and Hagerty's
views were influenced by European anarcho-syndicalism, as were
Haywood's by the revolutionary syndicalism of the French CGT. A
claimed membership of 50,827 was pledged to the IWW. The
professed aim was nothing less than the overthrow of the
capitalist system by and for the working class.

Two months later, after the United Metal Workers brought in 700 of
their claimed 3,000 members, the actual total of union members was
a mere 4,247. There was a magnificent $817.59 in the treasury.
The new union had begun to march on the wrong foot and the AFL
crowed with delight. Within a few years all the founding
organizations had either quit the IWW or had been expelled. By
1910, a low year with only 9,100 dues-paid members, the IWW was
the unruly bastard of the labor movement, ridiculously challenging
the AFL and the Capitalist Class to a battle to the death.

However, the IWW then suddenly burst out with an amazing explosive
force, becoming a mass movement in the US, Canada, Australia, and
Chile, and leaving a fiery mark on labour in South Africa,
Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Great Britain and the world maritime

The reasons for this sudden expansion lay at the very root of the
economic crisis underlying capitalist society in the years
immediately prior to the First World War. To begin with,
organized labour, divided as it was into squabbling craft unions,
was in a pitiful state, unable to effect even the most innocuous
reforms. The larger mass of unorganized and chronically
under-employed workers lived in appalling misery as it reeled from
a capitalist "boom and bust" cycle of high speculation followed by
crushing depression every five or ten years.

Yet despite this seemingly tremendous weakness of the working
class, many unionists had already recognized the great power
inherent in the vast industrial monopolies which the
ever-shrinking number of super-industrialists themselves scarcely
knew how to handle. That a working class already trained in the
operating of these industries might continue to do so in the
enforced absence of the capitalist owners was a matter of
new-found faith and high expectations. At this particular moment,
it was precisely the IWW which gave not only voice to these hopes
and desires, but also offered the first INDUSTRIAL strategy to
effect that transference of power.

The IWW, cutting across all craft lines, organized workers into
industrial unions -- so that no matter the task, all workers in
one industry belonged to one industrial union. These industrial
unions formed the component parts of six industrial departments:
1-Agriculture, Land, Fisheries and Water Products, 2-Mining,
3-Construction, 4-Manufacturing and General Production,
5-Transportation and Communication, and 6-Public Service. The
industrial departments made up the IWW as a whole; yet although
functioning independently, they were bridged by the rank and file
power of the total general membership to vote on all union general
policy and the election of all officers of the General
Administration coordinating the industrial departments.

The IWW was characterized by a syndicalist reliance on the job
branch at the shop floor level; a strong distrust of labour
bureaucrats and leftist politicians; an emphasis on direct action
and the propaganda of the deed. Above all, Wobblies believed in
the invincibility of the General Strike, which to them meant
nothing less than the ultimate lock-out of the capitalist class.
They wrapped their theory and practise with a loose blanket of
Marxist economic analysis and called for the abolition of the wage

The IWW pioneered the on the job strike, mass sit-downs, and the
organization of unemployed, migrant, and immigrant working people.
It captured the public imagination with free speech fights,
gigantic labour pageants, and the most suicidal bluster
imaginable. Its permanent features were an army of roving
agitator-organizers on land and sea, little red song books, boxcar
delegates, singing recruiters.

In Australia IWW members were involved in a plan to forge
banknotes and bankrupt the state. During the Mexican revolution
of 1911, Wobblies joined with Mexican anarchists in a military
effort that set up a six-month red flag commune in Baja
California. In the Don Basin they faced Cossacks; at Kronstadt
they died under Trotsky's treacherous guns; in the German ports
they were silenced only by the Gestapo; in the CNT anarchist
militias and the International Brigades they battled Franco.

CANADA 1906 - 1918

The IWW immediately began organizing in Canada, and experienced
erratic growth from 1906 to 1914, especially in B.C. and Alberta.
The first Canadian IWW union charter was issued May 5, 1906 to the
Vancouver Industrial Mixed Union No.322.

Five locals were formed in BC in 1906, including a Lumber Handlers
Job Branch on the Vancouver docks composed mainly of North
Vancouver Indians, known as the "Bows and Arrows."

By 1911, the IWW claimed 10,000 members in Canada, notably in
mining, logging, Alberta agriculture, longshoring and the textile
industry. That year a local of IWW street labourers in Prince
Rupert struck, initially bringing out 250 but swelling to 1,000
assorted strikers. 56 arrests resulted from several riots, and a
special stockade was built to house them (reportedly by TLC union
carpenters). A number of strikers were injured and wounded; the
HMS Rainbow was called in to suppress the strike.

In 1912 the IWW fought a fierce free speech fight in Vancouver,
forcing the city to rescind a ban on public street meetings.

Organizing began in 1911 among construction workers building the
Canadian Northern Railway in BC. In September a quick strike of
900 workers halted 100 miles of construction. IWW organizer
Biscay was kidnapped by the authorities and charged as a
"dangerous character and a menace to public safety." A threatened
walkout by the entire Canadian Northern workforce prompted a
not-guilty verdict in a speedy trial. In December, a 50-cents a
day pay raise was won by on-the-job action.


By February 1912, IWW membership on the CN stood at 8,000. A
demand for adequate sanitation and an end to piece-rate or "gypo"
wages was ignored by the government. On March 27, unable to
further tolerate the unbearable living conditions in the work
camps, the 8,000 "dynos and dirthands" walked out. The strike
extended over 400 miles of territory, but the IWW established a
"1,000-mile picket line" as Wobs picketed employment offices in
Vancouver, Seattle, Tacoma, San Francisco, and Minneapolis to halt
recruitment of scabs.

Meanwhile the strike camps were so well run and disciplined that
the press began calling the Yale camp in particular a "miniature
socialist republic." While not going that far, the west coast IWW
weekly, Industrial Worker, proudly pointed to this example of
working class solidarity in which Canadians, Americans, Italians,
Austrians, Swedes, Norwegians, French and other countrymen --- one
huge melting pot into which creed, colour, flag, religion,
language and all other differences had been flung -- were welded
together in common effort. Even "demon rum" was proscribed,
which alone indicates the seriousness of the strikers.

Authorities arrested the strikers by the thousands for "unlawful
assemblage" and vagrancy. Many were forcibly deported at
gunpoint. But the picket lines held. In August they were joined
by 3,000 construction workers on the Grand Trunk Pacific in BC and
Alberta. The entire action, better known as the Fraser River or
Fraser Canyon Strike, was popularized in song by Joe Hill's
"Where the Fraser River Flows." The strike also spawned the
nickname Wobbly. A Chinese restaurant keeper who fed strikers
reputedly mispronounced "IWW" in asking customers "Are you eye
wobble wobble?" and the name stuck.

The CN strike lasted until the fall of 1912, when exhausted
strikers settled for a few minor improvements: better sanitary
conditions and a temporary end to the gypo system. The BC Grand
Trunk strike was called off in January 1913 after the Dominion
government promised to enforce sanitation laws. A greater gain
was development of the "camp delegate" system in which the IWW
secretary in town delegated a worker to represent him in the field
-- a method later refined into the permanent "Job Delegate" system
of the roving Agricultural Workers.

Other unique features of the strike are worth mentioning. One,
used again in the 20's on the Northern Railway strike in
Washington, was to "scab on the job" by sending convert Wobs into
scab camps to bring the workers out on strike. Another came in
response to the "free" transportation offered scabs by the
Railways on condition a man's luggage was impounded until such
time as his strike breaking wages repaid the fare. Large Wob
contingents signed on, leaving the Railways with cheap suitcases
stuffed with bricks and gunny sacks, and then deserted en route.

Edmonton, Alberta was then a major railroad construction center
and in the winter of 1913- 14, thousands of workers from all over
Canada and the US were stranded there without jobs or funds. The
city fathers refused to alleviate their plight. The IWW
established an Edmonton Unemployed League, demanding that the city
furnish work to everybody regardless of race, colour or
nationality, at a rate of 30 cents an hour, and further, that in
the meantime the city distribute three 25-cent meal tickets to
each man daily, tickets redeemable at any restaurant in town.
These demands were backed by mass parades which police clubs and
arrests could not stop.

On January 28, 1914 the Edmonton Journal headlined the news: IWW
Triumphant! The city council provided a large hall for the
homeless, passed out three 25-cent meal tickets to each man daily,
and employed 400 people on a public project.

That summer the IWW began organizing a campaign in the Alberta
wheat fields, but the guns of August were drawing near.


With the outbreak of World War one and Canada's subservient entry
as British cannon fodder, the federal government effected a number
of articles in the War Measures legislation embodied in the
British North America Act. IWW members were hit by a wave of
harassment and arrests that presaged that which swept most of the
American IWW leadership into jail in 1917-18 (by 1920 there were
2,000 Wobblies behind bars in the USA). In late 1914 the union
could claim only 465 members in Canada and in 1915 its last three
remaining branches dissolved. Agitation continued, however,
especially among Finnish lumber workers in Northern Ontario.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 caused severe jitters in the ruling
classes around the world and with the unilateral withdrawal of
Russian forces from the war effort against Germany, the conflict
in Europe reached a critical stage. This was coupled with a
number of mutinies in the Allied forces and weary dissension on
the homefronts. Repression was intensified and Canada a number of
Wobblies were jailed in 1918. The "Vancouver World" of August
5, 1918 outlined the "facts" in the case of Ernest Lindberg and
George Thompson:

**Two IWW Prospects Caught in Police Trap-- Couple Declared Active
at Logging Camps Arrested and German Literature is Seized... "Lot
of Good Rebels Quitting, stated letter...Message in German to
Tenant of House is postmarked Glissen.**
Lindberg, accused of delivering speeches in a logging
bunkhouse, after which a number of workers quit their jobs and
returned into the city, was held under the Idlers Act. Thompson,
**who is alleged to be a firebrand and whose connection with the
pro-German element is said to be close**, was charged with having
banned literature in his possession, including copies of the Week,
LaFollette's Magazine (LaFollette: anti-war Progressive US
Senator), and of the Lumber Worker, as well as letters written in

The World went on to editorialize:

** For some time past the Dominion authorities have been alive to
the situation existing in the camps, and have been desirous that
the ringleaders of the movement which is responsible for draining
of the logging centres, should be found... By the arrest of
Lindberg and Thompson, the authorities believe they have succeeded
in locating two main workers in the IWW cause, although there are
others who will be carefully watched and apprehended in due
course... The IWW is the short term used for the Industrial
Workers of the World, an American organization with very extreme
policies, Bolsheviki principles, and far reaching aims for the
betterment of the conditions of the masses. Like other large
organizations, it has two factions, the red flagging element
generally regarded as dangerous as inciters against the observance
of law and order. The organization is disowned by all but the
lowest type of union labour men, as well as by Socialists.***

On September 24, 1918, a federal order in council declared that
while Canada was engaged in war, 14 organizations were to be
considered unlawful, including the IWW and the Workers
International Industrial Union (DeLeons' expelled Detroit faction
of the IWW).. Penalty for membership was set at 5 years in

The same order banned meetings conducted in the language of any
enemy country (German, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Turkish etc) or in
Russian, Ukrainian or Finnish (except for religious services.)

IWW organizer Dick Higgins was tried under the War Measures Act in
Vancouver, but a defense by the Socialist Party of Canada kept him
out of jail. In the USA, two of those receiving minor sentences
were well known British Columbia unionists who had been
temporarily organizing in the USA, as headlined in the B.C.
Federationist September 1918:
**IWW Members Given Long Terms: G. Hardy and A.E.Sloper are among
those who received year terms.**


1918 witnessed a major change in Canadian Labour. The drive for
industrial unionism resumed and stiffened resistance against the
AFL affiliated TLC and the latter's support for conscription and
the suspension of civil liberties.

This groundswell culminated in the founding of the One Big Union
at the Western Labour Conference in Calgary in March 1919.
Directly affiliated to the OBU were a number of independent mining
and lumber industrial unions, but its influence reached into a
majority of TLC locals west of Port Arthur, Ontario. This
explosive mix of militant independent unionists and rebellious TLC
units resulted in the Winnipeg General Strike that summer. It
began with the building trades striking for recognition, followed
by the metal trades, and on until 30,000 workers were out directly
or in sympathy and a Central Strike Committee was running the
city. Fred Tipping, a member of the Strike Committee, explains
the situation:

**First of all, you should remember that there were a series of
unsuccessful strikes through 1918. In a sense the 1919 strike was
a climax to many months of labour unrest due to a great deal of
unemployment after the War, big increases in prices and no job
security. Bear in mind too that Winnipeg and Vancouver were
centres of advanced radical thought at the time. The Socialist
Party of Canada/Marxist had been strong for a number of years and
had gained support among industrial workers and even farmers. In
the Winnipeg Trades and labour Council you would find men who were
Marxists and others who supported the IWW. There was also the
Social Democratic Party, many of these people were strong
enthusiasts for the Russian revolution and were commonly called
Bolsheviki. When the Social Democrats split during the War some
of these later joined the Communist parties. Others of us became
members of the Labour Party -- later to become the Independent
Labour Party and then the CCF. The idea of the general strike
seemed to have been in the air. Don't forget that not too many
months before, some key people on the Strike Committee had
attended the OBU conference in Calgary and the general strike was
a weapon much favoured by the OBU. Then there was the attitude of
business. They were first generation businessmen. I call them
Ontario bushmen. Most of them had been farmers. They felt
paternalistic to the workers. "I don't want a bunch of workers
telling me how to run my plant," was a remark commonly heard. On
the other hand the union leaders had come from industrial England.
They had years of bitter strike experience. They were not
novices**---- Canadian Dimension/Winnipeg----

The strike was smashed by a combination of government troops and a
"Citizens committee." Many strike leaders were arrested and tried
for subversion. A number of immigrants were deported. The OBU
was shattered as an all-industry federation as court after court
ruled that the TLC "internationals" owned the contracts in the
majority of organized locals, though the OBU continued to hold the
Lumber Workers Industrial Union, some mine unions, the Winnipeg
streetcar workers, and Saskatoon telephone operators.

After a series of disastrous strikes by its 23,000 members, the
LWIU collapsed in 1921. Stepping into the breach, the newly
founded Workers Party -- later the Communist Party-- declared war
on the OBU's industrial unionism and succeeded in directing it
into "geographical unionism," following the dictate of Lenin's 3rd
International union strategy, which was to break up dual or
independent unions and bring them into locals affiliated with the
AFL, which the Communists hoped to capture from within. By the
mid-twenties, the Communist TUEL had captured about a third of the
important union positions in the AFL, but were purged overnight by
a counter-coup of the Gompers faction.

The Communists were aided in the move for geographical unionism by
some syndicalists, especially in Edmonton, who had moved toward
that defensive concept in the period of the OBU"s decline. In BC,
the Communists managed to get many of the lumberworkers "east of
the hump' into the AFL Carpenters union.

AT the same time, however, the IWW was reorganizing in Canada. In
1916, virtually extinct in the rest of the country, the IWW had
moved from the Minnesota iron fields in the Mesaba Range northward
into Ontario and had gained a large following in the northern
woods, especially among Finnish Lumber workers. After the orders
in council outlawing the IWW in 1918, organizers went underground.
In 1919 the Ontario lumber workers joined the OBU, but Wobbly
delegates continued to bootleg union supplies to the minority who
wanted to keep their IWW membership books as well, as well as did
OBU-IWW delegates in B.C. On April 2, 1919 the ban on the IWW was
lifted. Two branches were formed in Toronto and Kitchener.


An exchange of union cards was arranged between the IWW and the
OBU locals still functioning in the lumber fields, seaports and
Great Lakes. This exchange was a system in which separate unions
recognized as valid the union cards of workers transferring into
their own jurisdiction from that of the other union and required
no initiation fee. an OBU an d IWW delegate travelled together
to the 1921 Red International of Labour Unions conference in
Moscow. The obu delegate, Gordon Cascaden, was denied a vote
because he represented the "anarchist wing "of the OBU.

The IWW delegate, who originally supported ties the RILU, argued
against affiliation on his return.... Among the ultimatums RILU
attempted to impose... was that the IWW affiliate the virtually
defunct Lumber Workers Industrial Union/OBU in Western Canada,
already permeated by Communists.

Following the collapse that year of the LWIU, the IWW, OBU and the
Communists all made bids for the former members. Some sections
joined the Communist Red International (a way station to the AFL
Carpenters) others made an abortive attempt to revive the LWIU,
which still had support in the east. The remainder joined IWW.
largest section being the Vancouver LWIU branch, which had
revolted when LWIU joined the Communists. By 1923 IWW had three
branches with job control in Canada: Lumberworkers IU 120 and
Marine Transport Workers IU 510 in Vancouver and an LWIU branch in
Cranbrook BC for a total of 5,600 members.

Organizing in the 20's was extremely difficult. The defeat of the
Winnipeg General Strike and the depression of the early part of
the decade weakened unions everywhere. During 1921 and 1922 the
usual cause of strikes was resistance to wage reductions. Most
such disputes were won by the employers. A large number of
strikes were smashed by scabs drawn from a vast pool of new
workers migrating from the farms to the cities.

Nonetheless, 1924 marked a peak year for the IWW in Canada. This
was in direct contra distinction to the US IWW, which underwent a
disastrous split over the questions of decentralization and
amnesty for IWW prisoners in federal prisons (the decentralists
demanded total autonomy of all industrial unions, with no central
clearing house or headquarters dues. The anti-amnesty faction
called for a boycott on any federal amnesty., instead relying on
class struggle to win the release of imprisoned Wobblies).

The split in the US IWW puzzled the Canadian membership, who
decided to support the Constitutional IWW in Chicago instead of
the decentralist Emergency Program IWW in the West -- the latter
lasted for ten years; the resulting raids and counter-raids
destroyed IWW power in the western lumber fields and caused a
temporary membership drop nationwide.

In Northern Ontario the Canadian Lumber Workers (the OBU remnant
of the LWIU) voted in 1924 to bolt the geographically based OBU
and join the IWW. The same referendum elected a Finnish
lumberworker, Nick Vita, as secretary. Vita had joined the IWW in
1917 and secretly carried an IWW red card through the War Measures
Act and his years in the OBU. In 1919 he had attended the IWW
Work People's College and then Ferris Institute, a business
college in Michigan, after a meagre three months of school before

Vita's first chore as secretary was to issue 8,000 IWW union
cards. Branches were set up in Sudbury -- Ontario head office -
and Port Arthur. Vita began organizing railroad workers and
miners in Timmins and Sudbury districts, but a brief success of
3,000 recruits soon faded. That same year an Agricultural Workers
Organization IU 110, was formed in Calgary. Four IWW organizers
were arrested on charges of vagrancy. IWW headquarters in Chicago
provided legal fees and three of the cases the charges were
quashed. On January 1, 1924, after the firing of an IWW member of
the Cranbrook BC branch IWW Lumber Workers IU120 struck the lumber
owners, calling for an 8 hour day with blankets supplied, minimum
wage of $4 per day, release of all class war prisoners, no
discrimination against IWW members and no censuring of IWW
literature. After three weeks the camp operators tried to bring
in scabs from Alberta and Saskatchewan. Pickets severely
curtailed the scabbing and on February 26 the operators served an
injunction on the officers and members of the IWW to restrain the
strikers from picketing. The seven companies asked for
$105,340.41 in damages. At a mass meeting March 2, strikers voted
to "take the strike back on the job." As the injunction came up
for review on June 24, the Mountain Lumbermen's Association paid
to the IWW $2,450 to settle out of court.

In 1925 the LWIU branch disappeared from Cranbrook -- a not
unfamiliar event in the IWW, which still refused to sign binding
contracts with employers, and often dwindled away as an
organization after specific demands had been won. A new
Agricultural Workers branch was formed in Winnipeg, bringing the
IWW a total of 6 branches in Canada for a membership of 10,000 --
the same as in 1910.

Included was a coal miners branch in Wayne Alberta which fought
that year the IWW's first large strike in coal -- a bitter and
losing affair. Fighting a mandatory dues check off to the United
Mine Workers, which did not represent them, the miners originally
joined the OBU, but along with the Ontario lumberworkers switched
to the IWW in 1924. The mine company offered a 10% wage increase
if they agreed to accept the UMWA. Considering it a bribe, the
miners refused and struck, unsuccessfully.

The Winnipeg AWO folded in 1926, as did the Alberta Coal Miners IU
branch, but a new General Recruiting Union branch was formed in
Port Arthur, in addition to the lumberworkers for a total of 4,600
members in Canada. Seven branches carried 4,400 members through
1927-28 -- the IWW General Convention in Chicago urged a joint
IWW/OBU convention, which did not materialize -- in 1929 the
Calgary GRU disappeared, bringing membership down to 3,975.

The IWW Lumber Workers Industrial Union 120, came under
competition in 1928 from the refurbished Lumber Workers Industrial
Union of Canada, organized by the Communists following the failure
of their AFL take-over bid, and in tune with Stalin's new 1928-34
"left turn" period which demanded independent Communist unions.
Communist organizers who had left for BC in the early 20's to
bring carpenters and lumberworkers there into the AFL now returned
home to build dual unions under the aegis of Workers Unity League.
A number of meagre contracts were obtained from small operators in
the northern Ontario woods, for whom the largely Finnish
lumberjacks worked. IWW branches asked that union policy be
changed to allow them to sign contracts as well, but the 1932
General Convention again voted against allowing binding contracts,
and a majority of Ontario lumber workers ended in communist
controlled unions. Ironically, it was only a few years later that
the US IWW was signing contracts and running in federal NLRB


The early 30s were a watershed era in the history of North
American labor. Initially stunned by the vicious poverty and
unemployment caused by the Capitalist breakdown in 1929-31, the
working class by 1933-34 had gained the offensive in a massive
wildcat strike wave that swept the continent. The period saw an
upsurge in IWW activity in Canada, a phenomenon applicable also to
the OBU, which even expanded organizing into the New England and
opened a hall in San Francisco, and the Canadian Communist Workers
Unity League, which was especially strong among textile workers,
needle trades, mine and mill workers, and seamen's unions.

Radical influence was also strong in the US mass strike period,
represented by the IWW: longshore, maritime, lumber,
construction, mining, metal trades, early auto organizing, and
unemployed -- the Socialist Party: needle trades, unemployed,
later auto -- the Communist Trade Union Unity League: mine and
steel, textile, furriers, longshore and seamen, teachers,
unemployed, veterans, Blacks ---- Trotskyists: Minneapolis
Teamsters -- and the Musteite CPLA/American Workers Party: Toledo
Auto-Lite strike, unemployed.

By 1930, the Sudbury IWW LWIU folded, but a new Lumber workers
branch formed in Sault Ste. Marie, giving the union 3,741 members
in Canada. Canadian delegates met in Port Arthur September 20,
1931, and voted to form a Canadian administration, primarily to
overcome customs problems over supplies sent from Chicago and to
coordinate specifically Canadian industrial activity. The move
was submitted for consideration at the IWW Convention in Chicago
November 8-19, 1931, where it was referred to a general membership
referendum and ratified. The Canadian administration was to be
autonomous but ultimately responsible to the General
Administration and paying a monthly 1/2 cent per capita for
international organizing costs.

IWW unemployment agitation generated a number of arrests,
especially one big crackdown by Royal Mounted Police at Sioux
Lookout, Ontario. Ritchie's Dairy in Toronto was unionized IWW
for a time, and a fisher's branch formed in McDiarmid, Ontario.

Organizing was undertaken in the Maritimes but did not sustain
itself. In 1935 the IWW had 12 branches in Canada with 4,200
members: 2 branches in Vancouver-- Lumber workers and General
Recruiting Union -- General Membership Branches in Sointula, BC,
Calgary, Toronto, Sudbury; lumber workers in Fort Francis,
Nipigon, Sault Ste. Marie, and Port Arthur Ontario; a General
Recruiting Union in Port Arthur; and a Metal Mine Workers branch
in Timmins, Ontario.

The working class rebellion of the mid thirties culminated in a
series of sit down strikes -- using the tactics developed a few
years earlier in the auto plants by the IWW, including the little
cards passed hand to hand, reading: "Sit down and watch your pay
go up." -- which established the Congress of Industrial
Organizations/CIO. The CIO was a reformist semi- industrial
movement launched by the United Mine Workers which succeeded where
the revolutionary industrial unions had failed. Its success was
due primarily to its willingness to collectively bargain with
employers for modest wage and conditions changes and then to
enforce submission to the contract on any subsequent rank and file
rebellion. Both the Roosevelt administration and a sector of
"far-seeing" Capitalists saw in this an opportunity to corral the
strike wave into the bounds of a lightly reformed capitalist
system. (Slower to move, the Canadian ruling class followed suit
only toward the end of the Second World War.)

Hundreds of unauthorized work stoppages were suppressed by CIO
chieftains. At one point CIO head and leader of the United Mine
Workers, John L. Lewis, threatened to dispatch "flying squads of
strong-arm men" to bring auto wildcatters into line.

The CIO drive coincided with a far reaching right turn by Stalin
(and by iron-fisted extension, the then monolithic world communist
movement, sans Trotskyites of course). The Workers Unity League
was jettisoned by the Canadian Communists; its independent unions
were brought into the AFL or CIO or sabotaged. Communist
militants flocked into the CIO organizing committees and
assiduously worked themselves into key positions, ranging from
stewards to actual union presidents. The CIO ventures were highly
successful, initially in the US and after WWII in Canada.

The Communists captured the leadership of ten industrial unions,
including the United Electrical Workers, the Mine Mill & Smelter
Unions, the Fur and Leather Workers, the Canadian Seamens Union
and United Fishermen, and the B.C. Ship builders Union. They also
become strong in the International Woodworkers, especially in BC,
the AFL International Longshoremen, and others.

In the broader Canadian union movement, a number of things were
happening. In 1921 TLC expelled the Cdn. Brotherhood of Railway
Employees in favour of the Brotherhood of Railway and Steamship
Clerks from the USA. In 1927, the CBRE, the OBU remnant, and the
old CFL joined together to form the All Canadian Congress of
Labour. The CFL had been the stillborn result of the merger of
the Knights of Labour and some national unions in 1903, after
their expulsion from AFL-dominated TLC.

First called the National Trades and Labour Council, in 1908 it
became the Cdn. Federation of Labour, a big name for so little,
and now in 1927 it dissolved into the ACC of L. The All-Canadian
Congress grew, in its own reactionary way; in the early 30s the
OBU supported the red-baiting bureaucracy, only to find itself
later ousted. In 1937 the ACCL chiefs aided the anti-union
Ontario Premier Hepburn in his attack on the AFL, CIO, and
Communists -- all seen as "American."

In 1938, however, the TLC under AFL pressure expelled the CIO
unions in Canada and, in a complete flip-flop, the CIO units
joined the ACCL in 1940 to form the Canadian Congress of Labour.
Considering that many of the CIO organizers were Communists, and
all the CIO unions internationals from the USA, it was quite a
marriage of convenience. In 1943 the CCL came out in support of
the social-democratic Cooperative Commonwealth (now the New
Democratic Party)-- although the Communists were supporting the
Liberal Party.

After WWII the CCL grew closer to the TLC, especially as both were
expelling communists en masse. Finally in 1956 the CCL and TLC
merged to form the Canadian Labour Congress. Another independent
union body organizing during this period was the Canadian and
Catholic Confederation of Labour in Quebec, established in 1921,
now the syndicalist

The success of a moderate semi-industrial unionism, temporarily
fringed with a radical hue, greatly hampered the revolutionary
industrial unionism of the IWW. Another factor was the extremely
conservatizing influence of the Second World War -- ostensibly an
anti-fascist crusade -- with its no-strike pledges, for which the
Communists were the strongest backers in the interests of the
Soviet Fatherland -- even to the point of denouncing all strikers,
such as the United Mine Workers, as "fascist agents."

Even so, the IWW in the USA was able to stabilize a number of
solid job units, particularly metal shops in Cleveland area, and
by fighting the no-strike pledge expanded general membership on
the docks and construction camps. In 1946 the IWW numbered 20,000

IWW agitation continued strong in Canada until 1939, especially in
northern Ontario, but Canada's entry as British ally into the war
and the resulting mass conscription and War Measures Act, caught
the union without a job-control base. Moreover, in-fighting with
the Communists had become particularly vicious. Sudbury was being
organized by the Communist controlled Mine Mill & Smelters to the
point that J. Edgar Hoover later called it the "red base of North

Wobbly units in Sudbury and Port Arthur were mixed membership
branches of scattered lumbermen, miners and labourers. During the
Spanish Civil War 1936-39, the IWW in Ontario actively recruited
for the anarcho-syndicalist CNT union militia in Spain, in direct
challenge to the Communist sponsored Mac-Pap International
Brigade. A number of Canadian Wobs were killed in Spain -- some
possibly shot by Stalinist NKVD agents. Not only weapons and
ammunition but even medical supplies were denied the CNT by the
Communist-controlled government of Madrid. Violent altercations
erupted at northern Ontario rallies for the communist doctor
Norman Bethune, soon to quit Spain for Mao's partisans in China,
when Wobblies openly denounced Communist perfidy.


In Toronto where the IWW Canadian Administration headquarters was
temporarily moved, Wobblies gave physical support to the soap
boxing efforts of anarchists from the Italian, Jewish and Russian
communities. Pitched street battles often occurred at Spanish CNT
support rallies, and IWW secretaries McPhee and Godin, both former
lumberjacks, were noted for their quick despatch of Young
Communist goon squads.

But the War halted IWW organizing. A number of young Wobs were
immediately inducted into the Armed Forces. At war's end
re-growth was too slow. In 1949 membership in Canada stood at
2,100 grouped in six branches; two in Port Arthur and one each in
Vancouver, Sault Ste. Marie, Calgary and Toronto.

Meanwhile the government in the USA was attempting to destroy the
IWW once and for all. After refusing to sign the Taft-Hartley
anti-red clause, the IWW was denied the certification services of
the National Labor Relations Board. In 1949 the IWW was placed on
the Attorney General's list, which came replete with mailing
curtailments, refusal to members of government jobs, loans or
housing, and FBI harassment of individual members, especially at
their place of employment. To cap it off, the IWW was slapped
with a "corporate income tax", the only union in North America to
be so taxed. As a culminative consequence the IWW lost its last
shops, including all the IU440 Metal shops in Cleveland.

During the same period the AFL and CIO began a mass purge of
Communists in its ranks, an easy task, so riddled was the
Communist party with opportunism and cowardice. Completed quickly
in the US, the expulsions were slower and less thorough in Canada,
lasting beyond 1955. Those unions the reactionaries could not
purge they expelled and then raided. The Communists in Canada
managed to hold only the United Electrical Workers, the remnant of
Mine & Mill, and the United Fishermen in BC.

The Canadian IWW retained branches in only Vancouver, Port Arthur
and Calgary by 1950- 51. The following year the Canadian
Administration in Port Arthur folded and membership reverted to
the services of the Chicago office. By comparison, the OBU-- by
now a mild trade grouping in Winnipeg - continued until 1955-56
with 34 locals and 12,280 members at which time it merged with the


The Cold War snuffed out the Canadian, British and Australian
administrations of the IWW. It remained for the General and
Scandinavian administrations to hold together scattered Wobs in
Canada, USA, Britain, Sweden, and Australia. Through the 1950s
the IWW still exerted some power on the docks and ships with IU510
branches in San Francisco, Houston and Stockholm. But with the
early sixties, the IWW was near extinction.

Yet, the IWW survived. One, in the courage and dedication of
old-timers who kept the structure going. Two, with the slow
influx of young workers of a casual labour hue. In the mid-60s,
the IWW organized a restaurant job branch in San Francisco, only
to be raided by the Waiters & Waitresses Union. In 1964 the IWW
led a blueberry harvest strike in Minnesota. With the Vietnam War
the IWW began taking in young workers with ties to the campuses.
IN 1968 it was decided to sign up students alongside teachers and
campus workers into Education Workers IU620. There followed a
wild and erratic campus upsurge, two notables being Waterloo U in
Ontario and New Westminster BC. The results were nil in
themselves, but it got the IWW over the hump and left a fine
residue of militants who left campus to find jobs.

The next 5 years spawned some 20-odd industrial drives, including
one among construction workers in Vancouver, another among
shipbuilders in Malmo, Sweden, and two tough factory strikes in
the USA. For the most part unsuccessful, a number had interesting

In a Vancouver drive, a construction crew in Gastown was signed
IWW -- but certification before the Socred-appointed BC Labour
Board was denied, the IWW declared not a "trade union under the
meaning of the Act." A subsequent strike fizzled.

Industrial organizing efforts continue. The IWW has picked up a
number of newspapers, print shops and print co-ops over the years,
a few highly viable and long lived.

The new IWW has its own list of labour martyrs: the San Diego Wobs
shot, bombed and arrested during the 1969-71 Free Speech Fight and
Criminal Syndicalism frame up trial. Robert Ed Stover, knifed to
death in San Quentin Prison, where he was framed on an arms cache
charge; and Frank Terraguti, shot to death by Chilean fascists in
Santiago during the 1973 coup.

In 1975, the IWW is organizing in Canada, USA, Sweden, Britain,
Guam, New Zealand and Australia.
*see also WHERE THE FRASER RIVER FLOWS, New Star (Canada) 1991*