The primary purpose of this study is to tell the story of the Industrial Workers of the World for the period beginning with the year 1932 and ending with the year 1948. The I.W.W. was organized in 1905. Professor Paul F. Brissenden and others have dexcribed its activities fully from the date of organization to 1918. John S. Gambs and Ralph Chaplin are prominent among those who have related the story from 1918 to 1931. Reference to the attached bibliography will provide more complete information concerning available literature.
Since no books could be found covering the activities of the union after 1931, the story presented in this thesis was obtained from newspapers and periodicals issued since that date. The I.W.W.ts paper "Industrial Worker" is the source of most of the information, although other publications referred to in the foot-notes were also used.
A great deal of help was received from Mr. Fred Thompson, Editor of the Industrial Worker, who has been a prominent “Wobbly” for many years. Mr. Thompson has read this thesis, and has supplemented it with facts not obtainable elsewhere. No attempt has been made to review the history of the organisation prior to 1931, since this has been done by many others.
Mr. Gambs closed his book with the question: "What is the place and function of a mild, gentle I.W.W. in the American labor movement, Is it likely to grow or to decay?" The final sentence in the answer which he gave to his own question was: "If it survives the years, it will probably survive as did the Blanquist Party or the Knights of Labor--for futile decades after its hour of lustihood”
Almost two decades have elapsed since he made this prediction. It appears to me that his prediction was right. The organization has continued to exist, but it certainly has not regained its former strength. In fact, it is hard to understand how it has continued to maintain itself in the intervening years. At any rate, it has done so, and the members whom I have contacted in the Chicago headquarters are by no means pessimistic about its future.
One of the three major parts of this thesis describes chronologically the activities of the union beginning with the year 1932. The other two parts explain the philosophy of the organization and the details of its structure.
The chronological section of this thesis will show that the union was able to carry on during the depression by organizing the unemployed. Out of this organizational work developed some success among migratory construction worke~ in the western states. In the middle thirties the I.W.W. missed a promising chance for growth, when it was unsuccessful in its vigorous attempt to organize the auto industry.
At about the same time it was able to organize a few small units in Cleveland, some of Which it still holds. It will be seen that Cleveland is virtually the only place where the union has continued to show some signs of strength. Although it has a few members in various sections of the country in certain industries such as lumber, marine transportation, construction and metal mining, the activities of these members are insignificant. Nevertheless, these activities have been described in order to show that although still very weak, the organization isn't dead yet.