A 1923 article by Armando Triviño, organizer of the Chilean IWW, discussing the IWW and the role of anarchism in the workers movement. Translated from the book Armando Triviño: Wobblie by Víctor M. Muñoz C. Editorial Quimantú, Colección Papeles para armar. Chile 2009
Thoughts on organization
Armando Triviño was the first Secretary General of the IWW in Chile and a prominent anarchist of his time. He was one of the main organizers in the IWW, and his work led to frequent repression by authorities, and exile across countries of the Southern Cone of Latin America. He worked for the international IWW in Chile until the time of dictatorships against its militants where he found himself working for anarchosyndicalism with the IWW in Argentina and ultimately Bolivia. This letter was part of a series of polemics in the Chilean anarchosyndicalist world around the role of unions and anarchists within them. In 1924, the IWW of Chile endorse anarchist-communism as its objective so the issues were bigger than only the question of affiliations. Indeed the Chilean syndicalist movement would divide across the next decade over the vision of unions in revolution, industries as the basis for structure, and the relationship of union sections to the organization as a whole. -Translator SN Nappalos
Santiago, September 1923.
Now I will explain that its not only laziness and inertia that corrodes the comrades of Antofagasta, but rather the individualist scourge more or less well developed in their tradition. The workers organization is like water: water takes the form of its container. If the organization only has catholics, the tactics, preaching, and action will be catholic; if its branchess don’t have doctrines nor ideals and only are occupied with economic questions, it will be opportunist, led and managed by the most careerist, impulsive, ambitious, or by the most mediocre. That’s to say, a guarantee for all can be a threat to no one.
An organization like that is an obstacle to ideological propaganda, for the ideas themselves, and for whatever kind of innovation, renovation, or revolution. But it changes if anarchists agitate and create a libertarian environment of respect to people and wage war on ideas that are outdated, dogmatic, sophistical, and give life and broad solidarity without sanction or obligation, and with all this yielding control, initiative, and responsibility to the assemblies and only the assemblies, putting all the power in collective acts to the commissions of appointed men to carry out questions of administration and relations of the unions. In sum: making action anarchically in the unions without the members being anarchists. Being the assembly’s guarantee to share their ideas with all the men so that they’re discussed, the anarchists are doing alone in the unions, that, whether we like it or not, will always exist in the capitalist regime, in fact have enormous importance as a base and axis of capitalism.
Let me say to you that the union which tries to reduces itself to trades affairs, economic questions of moral trade and nothing else, barring exceptions in which it acts in a sphere more broadly, is following the lure of class struggle for the anarchists who dream more of human struggle.
Here is where lies the window of the IWW, an organization formed for employees, professionals, and producers, namely the unsalaried that are in discord with the authoritarian capitalist regime and struggle for a better society. These men will join if the circumstances allow it. And when the situation arises where they strike to better their situation, they find surely the solidarity of their comrades of council or section.
The general tactics of the IWW’s organization itself is the most libertarian known, and it would be even more if the anarchists would dedicate their activities, perseverance, solidarity, and with their intransigent anti-authoritarianism ensure that it will not be oppressed, rolled, or pushed around. The workers should see necessarily that in the IWW they find assurance of their dignity and will come to fight for it dignifying themselves in the act of destroying authoritarianism and creating a fraternity of men and peoples. This is what the IWW does and shows in its name that crosses all borders and goes above all the names of bourgeois countries.
The IWW, industrial workers of the world, struggle to conquest the land that has been usurped by tyrants to take into their possession all the worthy men who don’t feel ashamed for their work in the soil or the machinery. And this is not only a lyrical desire, but rather a reality that we show all members of this international organization.
For these reasons, we should help to form and strengthen the IWW, because the other [labor] organization that covers workers in this region is today only a communist dictatorship manipulated for authoritarian politicians from its leaders to its branches. From here I believe that before strengthening only the [anarchist] groups there is expediency in serving the general organization in order to avoid grazing it in the pastures of the politician wolves. I’m not an enemy of the groups, but also I’m in the union because I believe the branches must base their practices in the school of libertarian action more broadly and favorably. And this camp is the IWW because without it, notes Federica Montseny: “The great influence within unionism that has always impeded the anarchists is when they convert into a political party”.
Here in Chile we the anarchists have left the Chilean Workers Federation [Federacion Obrera de Chile] which has converted into a political party, and if we continue attached only to the groups the same will happen with the IWW, but instead it will move towards parliamentary politics, it will become opportunist unionism as many believe who do not know it. The groups are the ideological weapons of the anarchists; the unions are the production and distribution arms that we have to train in the libertarian environment. We must make anarchic libertarian propaganda so that the organization is anarchic libertarian, demonstrating and adopting this attitude in all the circumstances. The IWW is known as broadly libertarian and anarchic, and should be as the rail on which runs the splendid and beautiful idea of anarchism that will cross luminating the hearts and minds thus similarly destroying hatred, sophisms, and prejudice.
And that’s enough for today.
We salute our anarchist comrades that don’t disdane the union because it is the child of our fraternal action against the tyrants and exploiters of all times.