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Chapter 2 - Strictly Proletarian

Membership in the I. W. W.

The I. W. W. is a labor organization whose membership is confined to those who work in industry far wages or salary, which is another name for wages. Anyone who does not work for a wage is not eligible for membership in the I. W. W.

Now, it may be inquired, why is not anyone who is engaged in an industrially productive capacity entitled to be a member of any labor union, more particularly of a union which aims to include the entire working class in its membership and which assumes to act for and in behalf of the entire working class?

First, as an economic organization, the I. W. W. must represent a definite economic interest, otherwise, it could not function effectively. Unless a clear and distinct line of demarcation is drawn to distinguish a particular interest, no organization could express or advance it. Therefore the I. W. W. organizes the wage workers as an industrial element whose particular interest immediately lies in modifying the terms of its relationship to the owners of industry, while preparing to end that relationship altogether.

The terms of the relationship between employer and employee are expressed in the wage paid; in the hours worked, and the conditions obtaining on the jobs. For the wage worker on the job, everything else outside of these are irrelevant and immaterial. In these aspects of the wage relationship, the wage earners are vitally interested, and about these they are vitally concerned. Consequently, in order that no extraneous matter absorb the attention of the organization, or divert it from its function on behalf of the wage earners, the I. W. W. has confined its membership to those who have wages, hours and conditions of employment to settle with the employing class.

I. W. W. Serves Only the Wage Working Interest

Some persons are engaged in productive employment who are in a position to arrange their hours and conditions. In such self-employing capacity they are not irritated by restrictions that irk wage earners. They may have the same desire as wage earners for the overthrow of capitalism, but their interest is not identical with that of wage labor in the every day struggle against the wage relationship, because for them that relationship does not exist.

As a labor movement is necessarily and primarily concerned with the daily problems that confront the wage laborers in their working places, it is imperative that such a movement shall not admit into its ranks any element not completely in accord with the interest of those whose instrument it is intended to be. To introduce an alien and inharmonious element is invite discord and bring confusion. No organization can serve two interests simultaneously.

The Proletarian View Point

Then again, there are grades in the wage working class social division, whose admission into a working class economic organization is so dangerous an experiment that the I. W. W. has deemed it advisable and necessary, temporarily, to exclude them from membership. Managers, superintendents, foremen—those who hire and fire—are not admitted.

Those workers, from the very nature of their positions in industry, are prone to see all questions about the jobs, which they supervise and direct, from the employers' viewpoint. They would, because of this, tend to undermine the effectiveness of the union. Moreover, their control over the jobs, and, therefore, over the life conditions of the workers placed under them might be to obstruct the union in its functions, and might even defeat its purposes and its efforts. So that while the I. W. W. acknowledges the industrial kinship of these directors with the manual wage workers, it excludes them from membership, pending the time when industrial proletarian elements will have achieved such organization and industrial standing that the members of this group can be safely assimilated.

This, in a general way, explains why the I. W. W. confines its membership to actual wage workers who have no connection whatever with the employer which might serve to dull their consciousness, or to reconcile them to the wage relationship at any time.

I. W. W. Not a Political Organization

Another popular misconception, that has been planted and is being carefully fostered by the capitalist class, is that the I. W. W. aspires to be a great revolutionary political organization, which aims to overthrow existing governments and set up a bureaucratic tyranny of its own. Positively this is one of the greatest untruths spread and believed about the I. W. W. The I. W. W. is not a political organization. It has no political aspirations or aims. What it knows about politics and politicians has taught it to avoid both, like pestilence. The I. W. W. does not direct its activities against the government at all. All of its attention is centered upon the jobs and the wage relationship. The I. W. W. is neither a political nor an antipolitical organization. It is an economic organization.

Changing the Job Relationship.

Every day and every hour of every day, week after week, and month after month, year in and year out, the I. W. W. concerns itself solely with and about the wage relationship, which involves a constant struggle between employers and employees. It seeks and strives constantly to arouse the sentiment for a shorter work day among the wage workers. It endeavors to organize them to demand and secure shorter hours. It tries to organize the workers in an effort to secure higher living standards. It would organize the workers to obtain better and more healthful conditions.

It does not seek working class betterments by way of politics, but by way of economic direct action.

Direct Action

Now perhaps no other term used, not even the term "radical," has been so grossly misrepresented by the capitalist agencies to mean the violent destruction of life and property as "direct action." Working people have been led to believe that the direct actionists of the I. W. W. are men and women who go about the country loaded down with guns, bombs and chemicals, seeking something to destroy. Working people are made to tremble at the thought of the I. W. W. Destruction is alleged to be its sole concern, and violence preferable to the methods of peace.

Working people have believed this lying propaganda, and, unfortunately, many of them still continue to believe it, notwithstanding the fact, as before stated, that there has been a complete failure to fasten responsibility for crime upon this organization. Why do people go on believing what has been so often and so completely refuted? Simply because they have failed to investigate the facts. They are too indifferent to verify, or to disprove the allegations hurled against this and other labor organizations.

Next page: Chapter 3 - The Economic Factor in Society