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Chapter 1 - Misconceptions

Almost every person has heard or read of the organization called the Industrial Workers of the World, commonly known as "The I. W. W." Most of these people have heard or read what the I. W. W. is not, and consequently have misconceptions regarding this organization, its policy, functions and aims. Being unacquainted with this labor union, they judge it by its reputation. Now, the character of the I. W. W. and its reputation are two entirely different things. Its character is what its membership makes it, while its reputation is what its enemies have represented it to be.

Lying Capitalist Propaganda

Its enemies are the capitalist class, and capitalist henchmen of every kind and stripe. They know that if the workers understood the I. W. W. they would flock to its standard and enroll themselves into its membership by hundreds of thousands. Therefore, every power which the capitalists control is directed to slandering the organization, misrepresenting its principles, lying about its methods, and vilifying it and its membership. Press, pulpit and platform thunder their vicious falsehoods against the I. W. W. Pseudo-patriotism has been invoked to the point of frenzy by campaigns where facts were utterly ignored, or were distorted for the sinister purpose of maligning an organization which has a clearer conception and is animated by higher purposes than any union that has ever presented itself to the working people.

With an assumed regard for human welfare, the capitalists, with their lickspittles and apologists have insidiously cultivated the belief that the I. W. W. is an organization driving recklessly forward to the violent destruction of human society. The capitalists calculatingly and cold-bloodedly took, and still take, advantage of the disposition among the working people to adopt ready-made opinions in preference to forming their own opinions. Press, pulpit, platform and screen have been used to present the I. W. W. in such light as would oppose its reception with all the bitterness that prejudice could array against it.

Those who have been led to object to the I. W. W., only object to what they believe it to be. But the I. W. W. is different, something entirely different.

The "Foreign" Misconception

There is a widespread belief that the I. W. W. is an organization of foreign origin. On the contrary, it is a labor organization of American origin. Born of American labor experience and conditions, it was organized in Chicago, Illinois, in 1905. Dealing primarily with and guided by the facts of American economic life, it serves the economic interests of the American working class on this continent.

At the same time, it is also designed to serve the wage working interests in all the countries of the world, in many of which it has branches, and in all of which its influence is felt.

The opinion is commonly, too commonly held, that the I. W. W. membership consists mainly of foreigners. This charge is as old as labor unionism. The "foreign contention" has been used to discredit every union since labor first began to organize. It is conveniently overlooked that the "Pilgrim Fathers" were "foreigners", and that the only real "Americans" are the Indians.

In the I. W. W. membership in the United States, the prevailing nationality is American. Of course, there are workers of all nationalities in the I. W. W., because there are workers of all nationalities employed in American industry. While the employers find employment for foreigners, the I. W. W. will find it as necessary to organize them as to organize natives. As we work with foreigners, we must combine with foreigners. All those who work for wages the I. W. W. will organize, whether they be white, black, or yellow; men, women or children.

To Unite All Workers

Race color, religion, nationality, age or sex do not provide grounds upon which the I. W. W. will divide those whom the employing class have united industrially. Industrial solidarity of labor is a prospect of which the employing class stands in dread is why the capitalists strive to blacken the reputation of the I. W. W. They will scheme, lie, frame-up and vilify it in order to prevent such industrial organization among the workers as the I.W. W. is endeavoring to bring about. When they say that the I. W. W. is a foreign organization, they appeal to a patriotism to which they themselves are strangers, which their records as financial industrialists proves conclusively. With the I. W. W. there are no foreigners. All are workers, and we have only one enemy—the employing class which exploits our labor.

I. W. W. Shuns Secrecy

It is also alleged that the I. W. W. is a secret organization. Those who utter that falsehood know in their hearts that the I. W. W. has successfully resisted every attempt to drive it underground. Its members have fearlessly asserted their beliefs and undauntedly faced mobs, insane with bloodlust, rather than retract their honest opinions. I. W. W. members have gone to jail by thousands, but the organization has never been forced into the retirement of secrecy. Their meetings have been held openly, in open halls, or upon the street corners, often with the jails to adjourn to.

There are no "grips" or "passworts''—no "hokus-pokus" of any kind. The I. W. W. is a wide-open organization which covets the light and avoids methods and acts that need the shelter of darkness, or the covering of a disguise. Truth is its doctrine, and overalls its uniform; the fellowship of wage toil is its qualification for membership, and loyalty to the cause of labor is its creed and test. It maintains eight publications, in six languages, to make its ideals known to all.

The I. W. W. and Violence

It has been rumored, and the rumor found acceptance, that the I. W. W. is an organization which endeavors to achieve its aim by violent methods. Violence has played a great part in the development of the I. W. W., but the I. W. W. has been the victim, and not the author of that violence.

In cases where employers have tried to connect the I.W. W. with acts of violence they have failed ignominiously. There has never been established in any court action a connection of the I. W. W. with crime. In all such cases the I. W. W. has been exonerated. In the world war cases the sabotage and violence counts were thrown out by the United States Appellate Courts. Yet in spite of all this, there is an increasing propaganda maintained, whereby it is still sought to perpetuate the idea that the I. W. W. is a criminally disposed organization.

The Source of "Labor Violence"

In the history of American Unionism, the first established connection of organized labor with criminal violence is found when the capitalists planted an agent—James McPartland—among the Molly Maguires.

Since then the "agent provocateur" has became a fixed institution in American labor unionism. In fact, providing men who will mislead labor and provoke violence in order to destroy labor unionism, has itself become an industry.

Senator Pettigrew, of South Dakota, who speaks with fifty years' experience in public life to guide him, has this to say of labor violence:

The great combinations (of employers) would hire private detectives and use force, if necessary, to beat strikers into submission. In order to justify the use of force, in the eyes of the public, they would send secret agents among the strikers, advocating some act of violence which these agents represented to be for the welfare of the workers. They would talk violently and excite the men and advise bomb throwing and even murder. They (these agents) even perpetrated such outrages. Generally the assaults were against property, and of course immediately the army or police, or both, were called in to restore law and order.

The Megaphones of Criminal Capitalism

Senator Pettigrew might have added that the capitalist press seizes upon these made-to-order riots and committed-to-order outrages to inflame public opinion against labor organizations. The pulpiteers of capitalism take up the hue and cry, and they are echoed in every circle that depends upon the favor of capitalism for existence.

No other organization has been so grossly misrepresented in this respect as has the I. W. W. The attempt to fasten an ill-favored reputation upon this organization has cost the capitalist class millions of dollars, and has cost the I. W. W. the lives of many and the liberty of hundreds of its members. Besides, because of manufactured opinion, those who oppose the organization most bitterly, know the least about it.

In order that such among the workers, who have been misled into the belief that the I. W. W. is other than it is, may have an opportunity to judge it upon its merits, this pamphlet has been written. We shall here state without equivocation the principles, aims and methods of the I. W. W. Common fair play should grant us a hearing. Of the outcome we have no fear.

Next page: Chapter 2 - Strictly Proletarian