What is the IWW? A candid statement of its principles, objects and methods

What is the IWW?

A pamphlet laying out the program of the IWW from 1922. It was translated through out the world, and most notably by Paul Mattick into German in the paper of the AAUD. It outlines how the IWW organizes via economic direct action and its vision of industrial administration vs political administration, calling for Industrial Democracy and Industrial Communism.

MOST every person in America has heard or read of the organization called THE INDUSTRIAL WORKERS OF THE WORLD, or the I. W. W., as it is commonly called, but very few people know what it really is and what it seeks to accomplish. Around the name "I. W. W." has grown up an enormous crop of misconceptions. The press of the country has given the I. W. W. a status in public opinion which very little corresponds with facts. For that reason we are sure that you will be interested in an authoritative statement of the principles, objects and methods of this organization, as well as of some other pertinent facts.

Some Misconceptions of the I. W. W.

The belief is not uncommon among the general public that the I. W. W. is a secret organization; that it mainly consists of foreigners; that we are an organization plotting in the dark to commit violence and bloodshed and to destroy life and property, and, finally, to overthrow the United States Government! There are large and powerful organizations in this country which make it their special business to create such misconceptions about the I. W. W.

The I. W. W. has absolutely nothing to do with political revolution or with political action of any kind, as you will easily understand when you have read further. We do not ask a man what his politics are no more than we ask him what his religion is or what the color of his skin is. That does not interest us. In fact, so disinterested are we, as an organization, in political, religious or race problems that we prohibit all such propaganda within our organization, as tending to distract attention from our objects and conducive to strife and disruption.

We center all our attention upon a question that equally concerns everybody, namely, the economic question, paying passing attention to other questions only when other currents cross our path and interfere with our work, or for purely educational purposes, but never in order to make propaganda for one party, creed, or race in preference to some other.

The I. W. W. Is a Revolutionary Labor Union

The initiative in the forming of the I. W. W. was taken in 1905, but the formation of the new labor union was accomplished at a great convention in Chicago in 1906, when the principles, objects, methods and structure of the organization were laid down and adopted, having remained unchanged unto this very day in all essential features. The I. W. W. was made into a labor union then, and has remained so to this day. Anyone who tries to tell you anything else is misrepresenting it. The members of this economic movement have not their eyes riveted on the government buildings, like the political parties, but on the factories, the mills, the shops and the other places of production. We draw no lines of distinction between the native American entitled to a vote and the foreigner who is not. Every one who works for wages, whether man, woman or child, is eligible to membership and permitted to vote in the union.

The I. W. W. Is a World Union

The founders of this now world famous labor union gave it the name of THE INDUSTRIAL WORKERS OF THE WORLD, thereby indicating that the aim of the organization would be to unite all the industrial workers of the world into one body. That object has not yet been realized, but the boundaries of its influence are far-flung. Administrations have been formed in England, Australia and South Africa; in Mexico, Argentina and Chile; in Scandinavia and in other countries. The I. W. W.'s chief claim to being a world union is, however, based on the fact that we have exerted a very strong influence on other labor organizations and caused them to adopt our program in spirit or in letter.

Although the present dues-paying membership is less than 100,000, we are a mighty world power. Over one million cards have been issued and our members are now scattered in every country under the sun. You find them in the coal mines in Spitzbergen, close to the North Pole. You find them in the whaling stations in South Georgia, away towards the South Pole. You find them in every ship that sails the oceans, carrying the seed of our propaganda with them to every port and planting it in fertile soil on distant shores. At the present time, when all other social theories and movements have failed, and give no promise for the future, the I. W. W. stands alone in the workers' thought throughout the world as the master of the situation. In that sense the ideal of the founders has been realized. It now remains to transplant the idea from the worker's brain into the soil of industrial life, and the idea of the founders will be a complete reality. With the aid of the near-related Syndicalist movements in other countries we hope to realize this plan in the near future by forming an Industrial International.

I. W. W. History Written in Blood

From the start the I. W. W. consisted largely of Western miners, metal workers, railroad men and migratory workers. In the course of the years it has extended its activity to a number of industries and has at the present time 29 Industrial Unions of a national scope. These you will find enumerated further on. A large part of the membership consists of migratory workers, and the strongest unions are those formed by the miners, the lumber workers, the agricultural workers, the construction workers, the marine transport workers, the metal workers, the textile workers and the railroad workers.

The organization has conducted many large strikes with varying success in many industries. Particularly successful the I. W. W. has been in improving the lot of the migratory worker in the agricultural, mining and lumbering industries, and the marine transport workers and the textile workers have also gained great advantages under the I. W. W. banner. Before the advent of the I. W. W. and during its earliest stages, the lot of the migratory workers, who roamed over the country with their blankets on their backs, was desperate. Once a man had dropped down into their ranks there was little or no hope for him to ever rise to his feet again socially. He was actually down and out. It is different today—thanks to the I. W. W. But we cannot go into details in this brief statement.

Naturally, the main activity of the organization up to date has been of an educational nature. In the carrying out of this work the organization has on several occasions come into conflict with the authorities on the issue of free speech, free press and free assemblage.

If we were to publish the names of all the I. W. W. members who have been put in jail since its inception, it would fill a book as large as the telephone directory of a Iarge city. Over 1,000 members were thrown in jail during the free speech fights which have been forced upon the I. W. W. in various parts of the country. About 900 I. W. W. members were arrested during the textile strike in Lawrence, Mass., in 1912. About 100 members a little later in Little Falls, N. Y. (1912-1913). Eighteen hundred I. W. W. members were incarcerated during the textile strike in Paterson, N. J. Eleven hundred and sixty-four men, mostly I. W. W., were kidnapped and forcibly "deported" from Bisbee, Ariz., in 1918 and kept in stockade for months. Thousands of members of the Western Federation of Miners were thrown in jail while that organization was part of the I. W. W. In 1920 a partial list was compiled of members thrown in jail since the beginning of the war. That list showed 1,327 names. Since then there has been a constant stream of our members through the jail doors, and at present there are still a couple of hundred men behind the walls, some of them serving life sentences, others condemned to five, ten, fifteen or twenty years at hard labor in the penitentiaries—all because of their activities in the I. W. W. The total number of I. W. W. members imprisoned since 1905 is about 10,000.

A score of I. W. W. members, or more, have been foully murdered by our enemies and their tools.

Outside of these major crimes against our members there are innumerable other crimes that have been committed against us, either in the name of "law and order" or without official sanction.

I. W. W. members have been tarred and feathered, deported, beaten, denied the right of citizenship, exiled, have had their homes invaded, have had their property and papers seized, have been denied the privilege of defense, have been held in exorbitant bail, have been subjected to involuntary servitude, have been kidnapped, have been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, have been framed and unjustly accused, have been excessively fined, have died in jail waiting for trial, have been driven insane through persecution, have been denied the use of the mails, have been denied the right of free press, free speech and free assembly, and have been denied every other privilege guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

I. W. W. members have been denied the inherent rights proclaimed by the Declaration of Independence—life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

I. W. W. halls, offices and headquarters have been raided without warrant of law.

I. W. W. property, books, pamphlets, stamps, literature and office fixtures have been unlawfully seized or destroyed.

It is easy to understand that only men and women of courage and conviction will voluntarily join such an organization. But the majority do not join it voluntarily. They are swept into it by hunger, suffering, exposure, poverty, misery and despair, just as the river banks are swept away by the turbulent river and carried to the sea. The turbulent river of collapsing capitalism is furnishing the membership to the I. W. W.

Thus the terrible persecution has failed in its attempt to suppress or extinguish the I. W. W. On the contrary, our teachings spread like a prairie fire, which neither blood nor violence can put out. For every hundred members put in jail, tens of thousands step forward to join and cheer with their presence those who are fighting the battle.

This very fact, it seems to us, should indicate to the out-side world, that there is a great natural force back of this movement, and that it is just as stupid to persecute us, as it was for Xerxes, the Persian king of antiquity, to have his soldiers whip and lash and chain the waves of Bosporus, in order that they might subside and allow his army to pass. This natural force, economic necessity, gives to our movement an intellectual and moral power that no gallows can kill, no prisons subdue. Even the most bigoted of our enemies should understand that, in order to survive such a terrible ordeal, our organization must have back of it a fundamental truth which cannot with impunity be ignored, but which should be investigated. The people are accepting our principles as a message of salvation in spite of all personal danger to them. What wonderful principles can these be? They are expressed in the Preamble to our Constitution.


The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace as long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.

Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the earth and the machinery of production, and abolish the wage system.

We find that the centering of the management of industries into fewer and fewer hands makes the trade unions unable to cope with the ever growing power of the employing class. The trade unions foster a state of affairs which allows one set of workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same industry, thereby helping to defeat one another in wage wars. Moreover, the trade unions aid the employing class to mislead the workers into the belief that the working class have interests in common with their employers.

These conditions can be changed and the interests of the working class upheld only by an organization formed in such a way that all its members in any one industry, or in all industries if necessary, cease work whenever a strike or lockout is on in any department thereof, thus making an injury to one an injury to all.

Instead of the conservative motto, "A fair day's wage for a fair day's work," we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, "Abolition of the wage system."

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 everyday struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been over-thrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.

The Object of the I. W. W.

In accordance with this declaration of principles the I. W. W. proposes to organize all the productive human forces, in this and, eventually, in other countries, that is, all workers with hand and brain, industrially, into Industrial Unions, Industrial Union Branches in the shops, and Industrial Councils. We shall later enumerate the main divisions of the new society we propose to organize.

To organize industrially was an idea that was born as a negation of or as a reaction against the old craft form of organization. To organize craft unions means to organize units of those who use the same tools, carpenters by themselves, painters by themselves, engineers by themselves, boilermakers by themselves, etc. Thus you get as many different unions as you have kinds of tool chests. This kind of unionism separates the workers in an industry in as many unions as there are crafts employed and thus builds fences between the workers rubbing elbows daily, instead of uniting them.

To illustrate, let us use an American shipyard as an example. In a shipyard where they are building iron ships, there are some forty different trades or occupations, more or less. We will enumerate some of them. There are the shipfitters, who cut the plate, there are the boilermakers, the machinists, the engineers, the electricians, the plumbers, the steamfitters, the asbestos workers, the ship carpenters, the joiners, the caulkers, the painters, the riggers, and so on. According to the craft union plan there will be a separate "international" union for each such trade, having nothing in common with the rest, except that they pay per capita tax to a common headquarters. Some of these trades may have gotten together in one "international," but as a rule each shipyard in America counts a great number of such craft unions. These craft unions in the same yard are frequently at outs with one another, and when discontent boils over it is nothing unusual for them to strike one at a time, one union thus being defeated by the others who are not on strike, as our Preamble says. Most everyone who has worked in American shipyards recognizes this description as correct. And, what is more, it is typical of practically all other industries, organized by craft unions. This is what we call "organized scabbery." It leaves the workers at the mercy of the employers. Those craft fences which cut the yard up in a score or more craft conscious groups, eyeing one another with suspicious glances, are just what he needs to keep the wages low, the workday long and conditions bad. We will not here go into other bad features of craft unionism in detail. Suffice it to say, that the I. W. W. sprang into existence partly as a reaction against such intolerable and irrational conditions.

Add to this the complete lack of idealism that characterizes craft unionism in all countries, their acceptance of capitalism and wage labor as a finality, their failure to hold out any hope for the future to the workers as a class and their tendency to organize so-called labor trusts with a view to shutting off outsiders from work rather than solving the problems of life for the masses, and you have the background against which the Preamble of the I. W. W. constitution was written.

The way the new union movement proposed to set all these things right was through industrial organization, as stated above.

Let us return to the example of the shipyard, in order to show what a typical industrial organization would look like. The first thing the I. W. W. does in a craft union yard, when it has a chance, is to tear down those fences which separate the crafts. It takes away the craft union cards of the boilermaker, the engineer, the plumber, the carpenter, the painter, etc., and tells them : "You are now no longer divided as boilermakers, engineers, plumbers, carpenters and painters. You are now united as shipbuilding workers, all of you, every person employed in this yard and all other yards. Instead of having twenty or thirty unions in this and in other yards we shall henceforth have only one union, 'The Shipbuilding Workers' Industrial Union.' Each yard forms a branch of that union, and in that branch we shall have the necessary councils or committees to secure co-operation between the workers of the different departments of the yard." In this manner all the workers of the yard will form one unified body; all the yards of the country, and eventually of the whole world, will form one Industrial Union, and the workers of that industry will thus be united for common action. There will also be Industrial Councils for each shipbuilding center. After that there will be no such a thing as one group of workers remaining at work when another group is on strike, thus defeating one another. When they strike, they will all strike together and win. Thus argue those industrial unionists who in the industrial union see mainly an instrument of warfare for battle with the employer.

But the object of the Industrial Union is twofold.

The first object, for the present, of the Industrial Union, is to serve as a militant organ in the daily struggle with the employing class for higher wages, shorter hours and better conditions. This needs no further explanation, except to state that we maintain that the Industrial Union, by uniting all workers in one body, is a much better fighting organ for this purpose than the craft union ever can be, being that the latter includes only the members of one craft.

Our second object is to have the Industrial Union serve as a means of taking over the industry by the workers and to function as a productive or distributive organ "when capitalism shall have been overthrown," or shall have ceased to function, i. e., collapsed. And as this collapse progresses the second object overshadows the first.

The Collapse of Capitalism

We hold that the capitalist system of production and distribution is in a state of serious breakdown throughout the world, this country included, and we consider it doubtful if the system will be able to get on its feet again as it has after every preceding crisis. The old organs do not function. The world is in a state of bankruptcy. It appears that billions of dollars will soon have to be written off the books of the world's capitalist class as a complete loss, and we know what that means to those who have nothing but their labor power to sell.

The old organs of production, i. e., the private owner with his usually small establishment, the stock company, the trust, the combination of trusts, seem no longer to be able to supply the needs of men. Hundreds of millions of people have to go without the bare necessities in all parts of the world, because they have no access to the soil or other natural resources or the industrial and commercial machinery. The necessities of life are getting beyond the reach of ever greater masses of the people, who are becoming desperate and threaten to blindly smash the system. Insurrections, riots, race wars, lynchings, military law, terrorism and great strikes have been the order of the day in many parts of the world for some time past, and particularly in America. Furthermore there is protracted unemployment on a scale hitherto unknown. Poverty and misery are driving people to despair.

All these social phenomena are symptoms of the progressive collapse of capitalism. Conditions in Europe and elsewhere warrant the belief that a final crash is impending when capitalist credit shall be completely deranged, and, as a result, all industrial enterprises shall be shut down. At least these terrible possibilities are not excluded, as the capitalist press admits.

Thus economic insecurity and worry for the present and the future are making life unbearable to millions. They feel that they are being enslaved, that they slowly but surely are being drawn into a world activity that serves no useful ends, that promises no security for the future. The tension resulting from this state of affairs causes the owners of the means of production and distribution to inaugurate a system of force and violence, in order to maintain their ownership and control. Production is now largely being carried on at the point of hidden bayonets or at the draped muzzles of machine guns, while gas bombs that will put a whole rebellious city to sleep or make the population die in paroxysms of laughter are being discussed in the press as a not distant possibility. The system can no longer stand on its merits. It can maintain its life only by force or threats of force, just as a dying person is kept alive through the administration of ozone.

Under these circumstances millions of workers are slowly but surely perishing, being shoved over the edge of the social precipice, and the rest of us are threatened with the same fate, unless we do something pretty soon. We cannot bear up under this mountain of misery indefinitely, and if and when the final crash comes we will all face starvation, exposure and other sufferings in-describable. Chaos, dissolution, civil war, terrorism by roving bands, and every man at the other fellow's throat—such are admittedly the prospects in many parts. And is there anyone who dares to say that this country is immune to such fate? On the contrary, due to the ruthlessness and brutality of our capitalist class, the great number of races and creeds, the animosity against the foreigner and the negro, the pernicious activity of professional "patriots" and hate breeders, such as the Ku-Klux Klan and the other similar societies, we have, in spite of the wealth of the country, the ingredients of the worst hellbroth the world ever saw. Certain elements seem to purposely steer for a head-on collision. It is time for all far-sighted, responsible men and women of labor, the only ones to depend on, to take steps to prevent a catastrophe of this kind.

It is under these circumstances that the I. W. W., hardened and chastened through years of cruel persecution, comes to the front with its program of world salvation, the only program conceivable that will solve the social problem and lead us into the calm harbor of a new society with peace and happiness and abundance.

By means of our Industrial Unions we propose to pick up the threads of production and distribution where they fall out of the impotent hands of the capitalist class and continue to produce food, clothing and shelter, in order that mankind may not suffer. We propose to inaugurate a rational system of production and distribution, without class oppression and exploitation of man by man. We maintain that the union of workers in each establishment is the organ best fitted to run that establishment. In other words, we would replace private ownership and control with common ownership and control, replace capitalism with Industrial Communism.

The Methods of the I. W. W.

When it comes to the question of methods the I. W. W. has perhaps been more misunderstood and misrepresented than in any other respect. We ourselves prefer to describe our methods as Economic Direct Action. What is it?

There is political or indirect action and economic or direct action.

To make it easier to understand I. W. W. methods, let us define both of them.

Political or indirect action is that kind of action which the workers use when they seek to attain their object by securing influence over or control of the governmental machinery. Such action may consist of ballots, lobbying, bribery, so-called mass action, bullets and political revolution. These are all means of political action. The I. W. W. rejects all these methods of attaining the aims described above.

Economic or direct action is that kind of action which the workers use when they seek to attain their object by securing control of the place of work, the factory, the mill, the shop.

Direct action is such action as you use when you try to improve your conditions by acting in person, jointly with your fellows on the industrial field.

Indirect action is such action as you use when you hire or elect representatives to improve your conditions.

There are certain "revolutionary" politicians,—political actionists—who want to use the economic organs, the unions, as a club with which to beat their way into possession and control of the government buildings. The I. W. W. does not wish to be a party to any such "shady" deal.

This difference between effective and ineffective economic direct action is best illustrated by comparing the I. W. W. with the craft unions, for instance of Chicago. The I. W. W. officials in accordance with their program and their instructions, constantly and systematically are unloading the power and responsibility, which has a natural tendency to fall upon an official, and driving it back to the rank and file in order to secure direct action by them. The craft union officials of Chicago (and other cities), on the other hand, beat the membership on every point and in many cases make themselves czars of their unions, surrounding themselves with terrorist gangs of sluggers and gunmen, who bulldoze the members and practice extortion and graft. When union men seek to attain their aims through such methods they are not properly using direct action. The members stay home and attend to their pleasures, while paying the czars and the sluggers so much a month to "act" for them. There may be some craft unions which this description does not fit, but everybody knows it fits a great number of them.

Even when these craft unionists strike—and the strike certainly is a form of direct action—they are frequently merely obeying orders. Everybody has heard how "the men are called off the job" and "ordered back." It is the czars, the sluggers and the bullies who "call off" and "order back" as their secret grafting operations require. Even when a strike vote is taken the members are often voting under durance, like the negroes in the South on election day. The strikers become the puppets of the czars.

It is as a negation of and as a reaction against such methods that the I. W. W. preaches its own form of economic direct action. We want to stir the workers into personal activity and participation in the struggle for a new society. We want them to keep matters in their own hands and govern their own affairs. If they do they cannot go very far wrong. But if they turn over their fate to other people's hands, they are most apt to be betrayed. Their officials should be their servants instead of their masters.

Our direct action method throws the chief activity of the union on the job, where it results in training the workers for the task of taking over and running the industry. Craft unionism throws the activity of the union into the union office and consists mostly in the questionable armchair work of the leaders.

For the present, direct action in the I. W. W. takes expression in job action and solidarity. Wherever I. W. W. men are employed they see that they get one or several job delegates and a job committee. Having thus gotten the job machine in working order they begin to exert pressure on their fellow workers and their employers in the thousand and one ways that are open to the man on the job, who earnestly wishes to improve his own lot and that of his fellow workers. By common action they pare off a little of the burden here and a little there, until life on the jobs becomes at least bearable. Before the advent of the I. W. W. it was customary to work a migratory worker to death as fast as the boss liked. Job action has put a stop to that. The I. W. W. has reduced the hours in agriculture, lumbering and mining, marine transportation and other industries. Through this direct job action with which the officials have little or nothing to do, the members have saved their lives and got a footing on the first step leading towards a new society.

The I. W. W. also practises that form of direct action known as the strike and the boycott, but it is always the members who decide the calling of a strike or a boycott, not the officials. The I. W. W. prefers the strike on the job to the strike off the job, resorting to the latter only when all other means have failed. The strike on the job consists in a withdrawal of efficiency calculated to force the employer to the desired concessions. The I. W. W. members realize that the strike off the job frequently turns into a prolonged fast while the employer seeks to fill the jobs with strike breakers, and for that reason they are loath to abandon the field of battle, that is the job, to the enemy.

The fundamental principles of the organization lead the workers to try to stay with the job and control it the best they can rather than lose control altogether by abandoning it. This is in keeping with the ultimate object of the I. W. W. which is to have the job organization, the job branch of the industrial union, take complete control and serve as the organ of production or distribution, as the case may be, when capitalist production has come to a deadlock. When the last job strike is fought and won we will stay for good.

Industrial Administration versus Political Administration

The important changes in the economic structure of society which are being forced on us by social evolution faster, almost, than we can disentangle ourselves from the debris of the old society, carry with them other important changes in the organization of society.

We hold that, in the nature of things, the economic collapse of capitalism will soon be followed by a political collapse. This is fully in accordance with the materialist conception of history, according to which all social institutions are traceable to the economic structure of society. If the economic structure collapses the governments will no doubt soon collapse also. Unless the political administrations quickly adjust themselves to the economic changes they cannot stand.

The political collapse will partly be due to a lack of revenue. When production and distribution are shut down, the government's income from taxes will be greatly diminished. But in a private ownership society the government needs funds just as much as an industrial enterprise or any other kind of business. If there are no funds with which to run city, state or national government, the officials and politicians will have to close up shop in one department after another. But even if it had great treasure stored, no government based on private ownership and taxes could continue long in a society where private control of production and distribution have collapsed. Such a government would be left hanging in the air and would shrivel up, unable to function as an administration.

This being our philosophy, we are, consequently, not engaged in the useless task of attacking a government which is in good faith elected by a popular vote, however much it may oppress us. A dog, when beaten with a stick, buries its fangs in the stick. The workers should have more sense than that. The government is the stick in the hands of the economic masters of every country. Leave the stick alone and turn upon the master, as the I. W. W. program provides. The workers of Russia, Sweden and Germany have twisted the governmental stick from the economic master, and are trying socialist governments. But the socialist stick is as bad as the capitalist stick.

The government, the administration is merely the reflex, the shadow of the prevailing economic system, and we are not running after shadows and reflexes. We are after the substance that throws the shadow. When the substance will crumble up in a heap and shorten, the shadow will shorten also.

This philosophy of ours does not deprive the I. W. W. members of the right to vote politically. They have perfect political liberty, but must not try to put our organization under any political control. That would break it up like an explosion.

As said before, when the economic collapse has gone so far that the sufferings of the people are unendurable, the people will have to have new organs with which to produce food, clothing and shelter, or perish. The whole mass of usefully employed people will have to line up industrially, in order to jointly bring order out of chaos and save society from destruction. We cannot possibly think of starting capitalism all over again.

About that time they will find that the old administrations are entirely unsuited to function. People will find that it will be necessary to shift from a political ad-ministration to an Industrial Administration.

We know how the political administrations are built up. Voting and representation are on geographical lines. The citizens vote promiscuously in their precincts, most of them unknown to one another and unacquainted with the nominees. These are generally presented to the voters by a political machine with many secrets that cannot stand the light of day. The officials are not selected for their fitness as much as for the power they wield in the political machine. As a result we see a highly industrialized society like the United States largely run by lawyers and professional politicians. Political administrations thus tend to become incompetent and help to run capital-ism in the ditch. This applies not only to capitalist ad-ministrations but also to the socialist ones. "Fill all the important offices with dependable bolsheviks irrespective of their competence," was the order in Russia. The industrial collapse of Soviet Russia was the result. Modern industrial society is too complex-to be run by party politicians and political administrations. An industrial society, in order to prosper, must have an administration of experts in every field, i. e., an Industrial Administration.

We no longer want a haphazard mixture of lawyers and other silver-tongued orators to govern us. The citizens of an industrial society want to elect their administration from their shop, their industry, their place of work, their occupation, whatever it may be. They all of them want to send their best and most expert men and women to form the administration. Every branch of human activity will be represented in this administration, whereas the political party administration is largely made up with-out any reference to their fitness. In fact, most politicians know no useful work. Their business is party intrigue and party machine "work".

By means of the Industrial Franchise, which gives the vote to all useful workers in their productive capacity; by means of Industrial Representation, which gives us expert public servants from every line of human activity, and by means of the resulting Industrial Administration, we propose to anchor all power for all times to come with the deep layers of the people who do the useful work with hand and brain, so that it cannot possibly slip away from them and give rise to another system of class rule.

This is truly what we mean when we speak of Industrial Democracy and Industrial Communism.

The Structure of the I. W. W.

As said above, the I. W. W. has at present 29 Industrial Unions in working order. Some of the Industrial Unions are as yet small, and are to be considered merely as a starter.

The following is a list of the Industrial Unions :

Department of Agriculture—100

Agricultural Workers Industrial Union No. 110.

Lumber Workers Industrial Union No. 120.

Fishermen's Industrial Union No. 130.

Floricultural and Horticultural Workers Industrial Union No. 140.

Department of Mining—200

Metal Mine Workers Industrial Union No. 210.

Coal Miners and Coke Oven Workers Industrial Union No. 220.

Oil, Gas, and Petroleum Workers Industrial Union No. 230.

Department of Construction—300

Railroad, Road, Canal, Tunnel and Bridge Construction Workers Industrial Union No. 310.

Ship Builders Industrial Union No. 320.

House and Building Construction Workers Industrial Union No. 330.

Department of Manufacture and General Production—400

Textile and Clothing Workers Industrial Union No. 410. Woodworkers Industrial Union No. 420.

Chemical Workers Industrial Union No. 430.

Metal and Machinery Workers Industrial Union No. 440. Printing and Publishing House Workers Industrial Union No. 450.

Foodstuff Workers Industrial Union No. 460.

Leather Workers Industrial Union No. 470.

Glass and Pottery Workers Industrial Union No. 480.

Department of Transportation—500

Marine Transportation Workers Industrial Union No. 510. Railroad Workers Industrial Union No. 520.

Telegraph, Telephone and Wireless Workers Industrial Union No. 530.

Municipal Transportation Workers Industrial Union No. 540. Aerial Navigation Workers Industrial Union No. 550.

Department of Public Service—600

Health and Sanitation Workers Industrial Union No. 610.

Park and Highway Maintenance Workers Industrial Union No. 620.

Educational Workers Industrial Union No. 630.

General Distribution Workers Industrial Union No. 640.

Public Utilities Workers Industrial Union No. 650. Amusement Workers Industrial Union No. 660.

As stated before, these Industrial Unions are composed of job branches. When the necessity arises for a depart-mental administration comprising several industrial unions, the necessary provisions will be made. The "law" making bodies of the I. W. W. are the General Convention, the Industrial Union Convention, the Industrial District Convention, etc. Other law-making bodies will be provided for as they are needed.

The executive bodies of the I. W. W. are the General Executive Board and a General Secretary-Treasurer. The Industrial Unions have a Secretary-Treasurer and a General Organization Committee.

The above is the skeleton of the productive and distributive machinery of the new society as conceived of by the I. W. W. and this machinery we hope to make the industrial administration of the future.

In addition there are administrative organs of a geographical character needed for local and regional administration, to take over the functions of the existing local administrations when they shall have ceased to function to the satisfaction of the majority of the people. These organs will also be elected by means of the industrial franchise. They will be industrial in character, and not political. These Industrial Local and Regional Councils have their counterpart in the present Labor Councils, the Russian Soviet, the French Bureau du Travail, the German Arbeiterboerse, the Italian Camera di Lavoro, the Scandinavian Lokal Samorganisation.

As a matter of principle, however, the I. W. W. refrains from laying down detailed rules of cast iron rigidity, for future generations to follow. We prefer to build the new organs as we go along, adapting ourselves to the economic pressure rather than complying with any dogmas or any authoritarian philosophy like socialism, bolshevism or anarchism. The I. W. W. may include many members who still proclaim themselves socialists, bolsheviks or anarchists, as the case may be, but neither of them can call the organization their child or servant. The I. W. W. is breaking a path of its own.

We are closely related to the European Syndicalists, as closely as different economic conditions warrant, but if you must give us a short name call us rather Industrial Communists. We are the product of the economic conditions of the highest developed industrial country in the world, our whole life is identified with these industrial activities, we think and speak in terms of industry, we seek salvation through industrial organization. We are Industrial Communists. Socialists, bolsheviks and anarchists and all other workers of different trends of thought are adopting our philosophy, principles, objects, method, structure and even our name. On the basis of these principles we stretch out our hand across the seas ready to join with the Syndicalists and other economic organizations in an INDUSTRIAL INTERNATIONAL, which will be a realization of the dream of the founders which caused them to select the name "The Industrial Workers of the World."

The Educational Work of the I. W. W.

Important though the achievements of the I. W. W. may be on the industrial field, its chief function so far has been education. It is through its efforts on that field that the I. W. W. has become a world movement. Unfortunately the I. W. W. is able to furnish only the most elementary industrial education at present. But the crying need is first of all a greatly improved general education. Statistics show that illiteracy in the U. S. reaches a staggering figure. The illiterates are found not only among negroes and foreigners but among native whites, as well. The figure for the latter is greater in certain parts than is generally believed. And these illiterates are practically all in the working class. Immediately above this group in the scale is another large group of near-illiterates and dullards who have also failed to ascend the social ladder for lack of an education. Only a comparatively small percentage of the workers can be reached with the printed word at this time, perhaps only 10 millions of the 40 million workers. The rest are in-different or inaccessible, due to ignorance and illiteracy.

How bad educational matters stand is proven by the war census. The psychologists have officially determined after examining 1,700,000 army recruits, that thirteen years is the average intellectual age of Americans fit for military service. Less than one third are above this average and only 4% per cent are of superior intelligence, according to the same official statistics.

Such figures are a staggering blow to those who speak of "dictatorship of the proletariat." It is also this sad state of affairs that accounts for the relative slowness with which our organization breaks ground. The craft union is often a mere conspiracy headed by a bully who knows it all, while the membership does not have to know anything beyond paying dues. It is different with the I. W. W. It requires a somewhat trained mind, with an intellectuality above the statistically determined figure of thirteen years, in order to grasp its significance and its world wide scope. Thus ignorance is the greatest obstacle we have have to overcome, many times greater than capitalist persecution. The capitalists know what they do, when they refuse to build schools.

An illiterate workingman is as dangerous to the aspirations of the workers in these trying times as a small-pox or bubonic plague patient would be to our health. For this reason we tactfully but firmly try to prevail upon our illiterate fellow workers to go and learn how to read and write. An illiterate man is next to impossible to reach with a coherent statement on any subject, and his opinion in big matters is, naturally, next to worthless. He knows little or nothing beyond what he experiences. He is mentally blind-folded, but he is still our brother and fellow worker. What we have said about the illiterate applies also to the near-illiterate who may be able to spell through a word and scrawl his name, but is unable to digest anything beyond the scandals in the yellow press. Like his illiterate brother he is helplessly drifting to social destruction unless somebody comes to his aid.

Ever since its inception the I. W. W. has carried at the top of the first page of its official organ the three words "education, organization, emancipation." They tell the whole story. Before we can emancipate we must first educate and then organize.

If the people want a peaceful transition, they should build school houses. If they want a catastrophe, they should close their doors. Instead of subduing desperate workers with jails and machine guns help them by educating them so they can solve the social problem. Unless the workers have a good general education to start with, a good deal of our industrial education falls on barren soil, or it will have to be of such elementary nature as to be of little help for dealing with the giant problems of the day, problems frequently too complicated for even a highly trained mind. However, there is small chance for improvement in the educational facilities, unless the teachers organize into one big union and put their united strength behind a most far-reaching program of general education, with particular stress on history, economics and evolution in its various aspects.

The I. W. W. members have in the course of the years made thousands of speeches and distributed tens of millions of pieces of literature, books, pamphlets, papers, handbills, etc. Most of the education thus disseminated has been of a general sociological nature. As yet the organization has not been able to specialize to any great extent on higher industrial education, but plans have for some time been under discussion of establishing a permanent "Bureau of Industrial Research" for the purpose of specializing on one industry after another, in order to create a series of Industrial Union Handbooks, covering the whole industrial field. Such a series of handbooks would give the workers a firmer grip of the situation when they are confronted with the question of taking over industry. This plan may be a reality in the near future. For the rest we recommend the reader to consult our book list which may be had on application.

The I. W. W. publishes over a dozen daily, weekly and monthly papers and magazines and you are requested to get in touch with our General Secretary-Treasurer in order to secure the reading matter you desire.

The Ethical Side of the I. W. W.

The Preamble of the I. W. W. is on the surface an economic document, but if you stop and think, you will realize that it is essentially a document of "hope, faith and charity", hope for ultimate justice, faith in humanity, and charity to one another. "An injury to one is an injury to all," says our declaration of principles, and this is only the golden rule from a working class viewpoint. The magic power of our gospel is not in the material advantages our program offers. Men would not go to jail by the thousands for the sake of a few dollars and cents alone. The fact of the matter is that our Declaration of Principles is also one of the most powerful ethical documents of the ages. Yes, to many the I. W. W. is a religion. It has accomplished with them what no other religion could. It has "saved" them, given peace to their minds and hope for the future.

What holds us together under such terrible pressure is not merely the economic necessity of having a union but the hope and the inspiration derived from the principle of human solidarity and the world-wide brotherhood of man which are at the bottom of our activities. Men are becoming tired and worn out mentally and spiritually in the hell of present day society. They are looking for something better for the future, if not for themselves, at least for the future generations of men. They are looking for spiritual deliverance, or salvation as it is commonly called, from the sodden, sinful, unclean and unrighteous life of capitalist society. They are longing for peace, purity, justice, love and happiness, and they feel that they have found the right way when they join the I. W. W. The sentiments, the ideas, the ethical principles easily read between the brief lines of the I. W. W. Preamble have thus become the intangible religion of the poor which carries them through the greatest trials and tribulations without breaking down, without giving up hope. This religion helps them to lead clean lives, makes them courageous against the strong, and kind towards the weak and defenseless. It is the kindly light that leads them through life.

The I. W. W. and the Unemployed

Thousands of unemployed will read this statement of the principles, objects and methods of the I. W. W. The thought uppermost in your mind, the ghost that haunts you night and day and crowds out everything else is how to get a job, so that you can eat, sleep and dress, without applying to the rescue mission, the police station or the "united charities." You are apt to lay this statement aside with the remark: "This is not a message for the jobless. It speaks only of and to the man who is industrially employed. Industrial organization is no good to me, unless the world gives me a job, and this statement does not show me how. The I. W. W. religion is no better for an empty stomach than are other religions. The one that saves my body to-day is worth more to me than the one who promises me a heaven for the future."

Well, fellow worker in distress! Perhaps the preceding lines have helped you to size up the seriousness of the situation, the cause of your distress. Perhaps they have given you an outlook which has strengthened you individually, to such an extent that you have new courage to live, to exert yourself to save your life. Perhaps the birdseye view of the world situation here presented to you will enable you, individually, to find a job. At least we hope you will make another gigantic effort and that you will find the job you must have in order to live without begging or stealing or appealing to charity. But that is as far as the above statement will take you. We have only one "consolation" to offer you, and that is that unemployment has hit the I. W. W. membership harder than most any other group of workers. The streets of our cities are full of jobless, destitute and hungry workers with I. W. W. cards in their pockets, and we cannot help them. The I. W. W. has no funds except what it received from these men when they had a job, or from those members who are still working, and those funds are being used, by the decision of these very men, for education and organization and for the defense and relief of our hundreds of prisoners.

As a matter of fact, the I. W. W. frankly confesses that it knows of no way to relieve the unemployed situation except to carry out the I. W. W. program in its entirety. That would wipe out unemployment for all times to come. It would not only put the jobless to work, but it would also put those in overalls who are largely responsible for your distress.

We have, consequently, no apology to make to the jobless, nor do we wish to shirk a grave responsibility with a subterfuge. We will be perfectly frank with you. You are a victim of the gradual collapse of capitalism. You are confronted with the grave question : Will capitalism rise again from the mat, where it is now gasping for breath, or will it continue to collapse? If "business picks up" temporarily you will have a chance for a job again some day, and then we hope you will be wise enough to join the I. W. W. in order to abolish unemployment. But if capitalism continues to collapse you are "up against it." Your very life is at stake,—yours and many millions of other lives.

The purpose of the capitalist class is to draw the curtain over your misery so that you will not come in contact with your fellows who are also unemployed. If the millions of you got together and compared notes and found out that you are silently but relentlessly being crowded over the precipice to sure destruction, you might undertake something to let the world know that you are not going die without at least a loud protest. In fact the millions might get it in their heads to make such a powerful demand upon society for a chance to work and live, that work or relief on a grand scale would be forthcoming. For there is plenty of capital with which to finance work. We will soon have the whole world supply of gold in this country. And there is plenty of the necessities of life to go around if they are properly divided.

The I. W. W. has for years had on its program a reduction of the workday as a cure for unemployment, but we have failed to make our voice heard. The craft unionists only work the harder in order to keep their jobs, caring nothing for the jobless. The employers have no feeling for your sufferings. On the contrary, they are in great glee over the strangle-hold it gives them over those they are able to employ. Neither of them takes any appreciable interest in you or is going to move a finger to help you. A few may do some talking about relieving the situation, but that is mostly in order to jolly the unemployed and gain time. What little emergency employment is furnished in some cities is only a drop in the bucket.

We repeat it, you are up against it. The I. W. W. has failed to prevail upon those in power to reduce the workday as a palliative, and we are not yet able to "put over" our big program. Outside of our ranks you have hardly any sincere friends. Nobody can save you except yourself.

The jobless have to get together, somehow, and make so much noise in the world as to attract attention. Only by making a public scandal in every city and town will you break the silence of the press and receive notice. Only fear of a general social conflagration will make the employers of labor, private or governmental, get together and devise ways and means. As long as you are contented to rot to death in silence, you will be allowed to do so.

If you are still able to stand on your legs for hunger, get up big meetings and demonstrations, without getting in collision with "law and order." Not a drop of blood should be allowed to flow. Such nonsense is absolutely unnecessary and avoidable if you keep the noisy provocateurs in the background. No doubt the employers will send their hirelings among you to stir up trouble and defeat your cause, but keep them down. Adopt resolutions demanding work or relief. Present them in person to the authorities and the press. All this will take time and some money. Time you have plenty. Money you will get from the employed if you show you are in earnest.

Do not hide the fact that you are jobless. On the contrary, it would be a good idea for the jobless to carry a simple "lodge decoration" over their shoulder with a legend such as "FOR HIRE," just as the taxicabs. If the streets were crowded with such signs, you certainly would attract attention, and you would find it easy to locate one another and come together for common action.

Such measures may not bring you relief in 24 hours, but they are bound to bring some results sooner or later. They are apt to bring some artificial life into capitalism for a while by creating pressure in the proper place.

But then, when you do get a job, then is your chance to take steps that it shall not happen again. Organize industrially in such great numbers that you are able, with your organized might, to cut down the workday to the required number of hours to provide employment for the jobless. That will possibly tide us over until we are able to take complete control and put an end to unemployment forever.

See that the unemployed get as much publicity and public attention as it is in your might to create, but keep out of the jails, the hospitals and the potter's field.

That is the best advice we can give you. And do not forget to join the I. W. W. at your first opportunity.

Posted By

klas batalo
Jan 10 2014 18:51



  • Modern industrial society is too complex-to be run by party politicians and political administrations. An industrial society, in order to prosper, must have an administration of experts in every field, i. e., an Industrial Administration.

Attached files


Juan Conatz
Jul 27 2014 01:39

Couple questions here.

How do you know this is from 1922? What was your source material on this post? Is there an author credited for this? What edition is this? I believe there were at least 4 editions. Who published this? Lastly, the thing about Mattick translating this for the AAUD paper, what is your source on that?

klas batalo
Jul 27 2014 15:48

Dated to around 1922:


Source on the Mattick connection:


Paul Mattick's translation of What is the IWW? A candid statement of its Principles, Objects and Methods, Chicago, Industrial Workers of the World, about 1922. See the original English . Reprinted in: battle cry, organ of the General Workers' Union (Revolutionary Operating Organization) , 1928, Volume 9, No. 43, pp. 2-3, 44, pp. 2-3, 47, pp. 2-3, 48, S . 2-3, 49, pp. 2 subheads and emphasis we have adapted to the English original. HTML tag: Thomas Schmidt for the Marxists' Internet Archive.