This site is a static archive. Visit the current IWW website at ▸
Skip to main content

(2) The IWW With and For Labor

Evidently you have been misinformed about the I.W.W's "attitude" toward other organized workers, which is winning for it the respect of the rank and file of American Labor.

For your enlightenment we are enclosing clippings from our official English­ language paper, Industrial Solidarity, on

We are likewise enclosing

  • (C) A circular letter addressed by the Agricultural Workers' Union No. 110 of the I.W.W. to the striking railroad shopmen; and a copy of the resolution adopted by the Spring Conference of the A.W.I.U. No. 110, held in Omaha, Neb., May 1, 1922, which makes provision for preferential treatment for striking coal miners in the grain harvest.
  • Budding Dictatorship.

    If there is no truth in Williams' report, and if the R.I.L.U., as it professes, has no intention to dominate the I.W.W., why command that

    • (5) "it (the I.W.W.) must agree upon uniting with the Lumber Workers' Union of Canada"?

    Frankly this mandatory suggestion savors of American rather than Russian origin; it sounds more like Fosterian propaganda than an unbiased and uninfluenced statement by an international body, which "understand(s) that methods and measures are determined by social and economic circumstances obtaining in each separate country"; and which has no ambition to dominate the affairs of workers in America -- "Nothing of the kind."

    Would it be regarded as impertinent to inquire, whether the repudiation of Cascadden by the Canadian O. B. U. Lumber Workers; the affiliation of what remains of that body with the R.I.L.U. and its known inclination toward the Fosterian policy had any influence in the issuance of this ultimatum to the I.W.W.?

    Still further along you admonish the I.W.W. with an imperative "must" that

    • (6) "you (the I.W.W.) must come in contact with other independent unions, and the various revolutionary minorities in the American­ Federation of Labor."

    Why Whip Only One Horse?

    Why not advise these independent labor unions and militant minorities in the A. F. of L., if they are amenable to suasion by the R.I.L.U., to come in contact with the I.W.W.?

    As a statement of fact, and for your information, the contacts of the I.W.W. within the old, yellow unions of the craft system are far more numerous than you are aware, and much more effective than you have been permitted to learn. The militant minorities in the A. F. of L. consist, to a greater degree than is generally believed, of capable and active I.W.W. members. They are not so concerned about advertising as they are about results.

    The Political "Negro In the Wood­pile"

    When you offer such advice to the I.W.W. membership as is diplomatically and very adroitly given, where you say,

    • (7) "this is why we, too, want a united political and economical front with the workers' political party, the Workers' Party of America,"

    you certainly and effectively disprove Williams' assertion that you "leave nothing to imagination," for, in this instance, everything is left to imagination. Even outside of the I.W.W., where American workers take political action with some seriousness, the "workers'" party is not known sufficiently well to be mentioned without explanation; and in those circles where people are aware of its existence it is regarded more or less as political light comedy -- the Holy Rollers of American "labor politics."

    Moreover, upon the question of political action, and affiliation with political parties, or with anti-political bodies, the I.W.W. is definitely and unequivocally recorded as refusing alliance with one or the other. So important has this matter been deemed, that the resolution which committed the I.W.W. to this decision is inscribed in the written Constitution and By-Laws of the organization as a continual reminder to the membership. You will find it on page 59 of that document, which reads as follows:

    Political Parties and Discipline: Whereas, The primary object of the Industrial Workers of the World is to unite the workers on the industrial battlefield; and

    Whereas, Organization in any sense implies discipline through the subordination of parts to the whole, and of the individual member to the body of which he is a part; therefore, be it

    RESOLVED, That to the end of promoting industrial unity and of securing necessary discipline within the organization, the I.W.W. refuses all alliances, direct and indirect, with existing political parties or anti-political sects, and disclaims responsibility for any individual opinion or act which may he at variance with the purposes here­in expressed.

    Political action, to which the I.W.W. originally was committed, as one function of a working class union, was disposed of in the Fourth Annual Convention (1908) ,when it was decided to confine the activities of the organization to economic functions -- put it upon a strictly proletarian basis.

    Since that time it has found its most unscrupulous slanderers and relentless enemies in the socialist parties, and amongst the socialist politicians.

    Why Not Consult "Bill" Haywood?

    William D. Haywood is in a position to inform you about the virulence and vindictiveness with which the Socialist and Social Labor parties pursued the I.W.W. as an organization, and its members as revolutionists and workmates. He will recount for your information the tactics and propaganda which culminated in the adoption of Article 2, Section 6, of the Socialist Party Constitution, that expelled him and the entire industrial socialist element from the party.

    A cardinal tenet of I.W.W. policy is that politics be kept entirely out of the deliberations of the unions, and out of the columns of the official publications as well. This provision, of itself, would prevent our publishing your appeal, if there were no other reasons. But there are other reasons.

    The circular which you request us to publish bears all the earmarks of a joint production by the Workers' Party and Trade Union Educational League, written in New York or Chicago, and mailed to the I.W.W. via Moscow and Berlin. The arguments and charges are those to which we have grown accustomed -- without deviation, diminution or addition.

    Official Responsibility

    As officials of the I.W.W., we would, indeed, be blind to the interests of the membership, and careless about our own responsibilities, if we were to assist the "borers from within" to "liquidate the I.W.W.", or permit them to create dissension in its ranks, and thus to distract it from the task upon which it is making gratifying headway.

    Permit us to express the opinion of your request (to publish this appeal) that it is, outside of every other consideration, not only presumptuous, but inconsistent, coming, as it does, from Russia, where the government exercises its power to prevent open and free discussion, by those whom it regards as counter-revolutionists, as right, and requisite to the dictatorship. Why should the I.W.W., any more than the government of Russia, be expected to open its columns for the propagation of ideas that would imperil it, or impair its usefulness as an instrument of the revolutionary proletariat? Might we inquire, as seems to us pertinent, why you did not elect to use the organs of that party -- the Workers' Party, through which you expect "to rebuke President Harding" -- to carry your message to the rank and file of the I.W.W., and other American workers?

    Haywood, and others now in Russia, will inform you that not even the prestige of the R.I.L.U. would suffice to excuse us for opening up the columns of our publications to Foster's boring and the W. P's. political propaganda. This attempt to furnish Foster's auger with a Russian handle will deceive no one in the I.W.W.

    Face The Facts

    The differences of opinion among the American schools of Labor thought are the logical fruit of American industrial development. Social, racial, and various other factors, as well as industrial influences, have played a part in shaping these opinions. These differences should not be regretted, though we are all prone to be dissatisfied with and about them. We may as well face the fact that they are deep-rooted and stubborn. They cannot be wished away, -- they must be fought out. They involve principles of philosophy, methods and strategy, and the merits and demerits of the various schools will only be proven by economic tests. But for us to deprive ourselves of the advantage that organization confers, and this is, in effect, what your communication suggests, would be to render ourselves helpless, and, as we see it, to betray the working class of the United States and the world.

    We Are Open To Reason

    It is not impossible to convince the I.W.W., if it can be proven, that its position is unsound economically, philosophically, tactically or otherwise. We are wide open for constructive criticism, helpful suggestions and education, but we cannot regard the repetition of old, worn out and refuted fallacies as having educational value.

    As labor organizations go, the I. W, W. has survived over a longer-than­usual period and has won for itself a definite place in the labor movement of America. It would seem to have passed, or at least to be approaching the end of its experimental period. It is getting itself accepted. A fact that is being demonstrated to the regret of its enemies and the discomfiture of those who have slandered it and are, even now, vilifying and misrepresenting it at home and abroad.

    Next page: Compare the IWW With its Defamers