Lucy Parsons addressed the founding convention of the Industrial Workers of the World revolutionary union on two occasions and her speeches touched on issues close to her heart: the oppression of women and how to develop radical new tactics to win strikes. Her ideas clearly were in advance of the time, presage the "sit-in" strikes of the 1930s, the anti-war movement of the 1960s, and her words resonate today. Delegate applause interrupted her speech several times and at the end.
We, the women of this country, have no ballot even if we wished to use it, and the only way that we can be represented is to take a man to represent us. You men have made such a mess of it in representing us that we have not much confidence in asking you . . .
We [women] are the slaves of slaves. We are exploited more ruthlessly than men. Whenever wages are to be reduced the capitalist class use women to reduce them, and if there is anything that you men should do in the future it is to organise the women. . . .
Now, what do we mean when we say revolutionary Socialist?
We mean that the land shall belong to the landless, the tools to the toiler, and the products to the producers. . . . I believe that if every man and every woman who works, or who toils in the mines, mills, the workshops, the fields, the factories and the farms of our broad America should decide in their minds that they shall have that which of right belongs to them, and that no idler shall live upon their toil . . . then there is no army that is large enough to overcome you, for you yourselves constitute the army . . . .
My conception of the strike of the future is not to strike and go out an starve, but to strike and remain in and take possession of the necessary property of production. . . .
. . . . Let us sink such differences as nationality, religion, politics, and set our eyes eternally and forever toward the rising star of the industrial republic of labour; remembering that we have left the old behind and have set our faces toward the future. There is no power on earth that can stop men and women who are determined to be free at all hazards. There is no power on earth so great as the power of intellect. It moves the world and it moves the earth. . . .
I hope even now to live to see the day when the first dawn of the new era of labour will have arisen, when capitalism will be a thing of the past, and the new industrial republic, the commonwealth of labour, shall be in operation.
I thank you.
This article donated by William Loren Katz
Taken from the Lucy Parsons Project
Speech is found in the official Minutes of the 1905 IWW Convention in Chicago from a copy found at the Tamiment Library of New York University's Bobst's Library, and is slightly edited for clarity
Copyright 2004 by William Loren Katz [williamlkatz.com]
I devote page 296 to her in my THE BLACK WEST [Touchstone, 1996]