Submitted by Juan Conatz on August 30, 2014

The One Big Union Monthly (February 1920)

Articles from the February 1920 issue of The One Big Union Monthly.

Submitted by Juan Conatz on September 20, 2014


How an industrial union works - Giovanni Baldazzi

An article by Giovanni Baldazzi on the day-to-day realities of industrial unionism.

Submitted by Juan Conatz on September 20, 2014

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



9 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on September 21, 2014

I read this decades ago, can't recall squat tho....glad this was reposted by Juan

The One Big Union Monthly (June 1920)

Articles from the June 1920 issue of The One Big Union Monthly.

Submitted by Juan Conatz on September 14, 2014

Shop Organization the base of the IWW - George Hardy

An 1920 article by George Hardy, advocating some structural changes for the IWW.

Submitted by Juan Conatz on September 14, 2014

Transcriber’s Introduction

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.

British Shop-Stewards

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.

Supply Stations

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.

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.

Regional Council

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.

Social Center

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.

Industrial Departments

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


The One Big Union Monthly (August 1920)

August 1920 issue of The One Big Union Monthly, an early publication of the IWW.

Submitted by Juan Conatz on May 24, 2012


-Political Stew for 1920, Cartoon by Dust
-IWW Preamble
-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
-Book Advertisements
-IWW Publications
-IWW Literature List
-The IWW in Theory and Practice: Book Announcement


Juan Conatz

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on May 24, 2012

Heh. Check out the letter in here from KAPD/AAU to the IWW. Interesting.


11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on May 24, 2012

Love the cover....seems so appropo...informative contents given the time.

City central councils

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.

Submitted by Juan Conatz on September 20, 2014

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


The One Big Union Monthly (October 1920)

Articles from the October 1920 issue of The One Big Union Monthly.

Submitted by Juan Conatz on September 20, 2014

Solving the social problem through economic direct action - John Sandgren

An article by John Sandgren which outlines his views on IWW organization and is critical of the Communist Party (USA).

Submitted by Juan Conatz on September 20, 2014

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

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


The One Big Union Monthly (December 1920)

Articles from the December 1920 issue of The One Big Union Monthly.

Submitted by Juan Conatz on September 1, 2014

Shop organization in the Metal & Machinery industry

An article about how the Metal & Machinery industrial union of the IWW was organized.

Submitted by Juan Conatz on September 20, 2014

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


The One Big Union of Canada

Winnipeg general strike, 1919.
Winnipeg general strike, 1919.

A 1920 article describing conflict within the One Big Union in Canada over industrial vs. regional organization.

Submitted by Juan Conatz on September 11, 2012

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)



9 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by fnbrilll on September 1, 2014

Most historians that I've read in regards to the LWIU are now identifying a personality clash between the LWIU secretary (Winch) vs the OBU board for most of the conflict. LWIU was strong in the Forest Camps but weak in the mills. OBU leadership was hoping to capitalize on strength of LWIU in membership combined with the rest of the OBU's strength in towns and pushed for geographic organization to capture the mills.

Not taking a particular side but I think a more nuanced understanding is needed than this article which seems to be taken at face value.