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"High Spots" of the 13th IWW Convention (Part 1)

By Roy Brown,  Industrial Pioneer, June 1921, pages 50 to 56, inclusive. Published by the Industrial Workers of the World


The Thirteenth Convention of the Industrial Workers of the World was called to order on May 9th, 1921, at 9 A. M., by Roy Brown, the Chairman of the General Executive Board.

Seating of Delegates

E. W. Latchem was elected temporary chairman and J. J. McMurphy temporary recording secretary, after which the Convention went into the general routine of electing a Credentials Committee and Rules Committee. The Convention then adjourned until the Credentials Committee could bring in its report.

The afternoon session was called to order at 1.40 P. M. to hear the report of the Credentials Cornmittee. The following is the report:

List of uncontested delegates and vote of each:

Agricultural Workers' Industrial Union No. 110 Albert Bare 28 - Ed Donnelly 28 - Thos. Connors 28 - Tom Wallace 28 - J. H. Snyder 28

Lumber Workers' Industrial Union No. 120 Nels Olson 59.6 - Dan Murray 59.6 - Chas. Craig 59.6 - W. Smith 59.6 - J. J. McMurphy 59.6

Metal and Coal Mine Workers' Industrial Unions No.210 and 220 Thos. Bones 50 - Ben Decarso 50

General Construction Workers' Industrial Union No.310 Ed Archibald 27.6 - Jesse Sigal 27.6 - W. W. White 27.6 - P. Ryan 27.6 - Roy Leonard 27.6

Building Construction Workers' Industrial Union No.330 John Jackson 8

Metal and Machinery Workers' Industrial Union No.440 Fred Bowerman 22 - Wm. Stockinger 22 - Frank Peterson 22

Printing and Publishing Workers' Industrial Union 450 Mm. Kinsberg 4

Marine Transport Workers' Industrial Union No.510 J. Michaelson 14

Railroad Workers' Industrial Union No. 520 E. W. Latchem 14 - M. Carlson 14

Public Utilities Workers' Industrial Union No.650 A. J. Carroll 2

They were all seated with the exception of A. J. Carroll of the Public Utility Workers' Industrial Union. Carroll was not seated on account of not being a wage worker.

Then came up the proposition of whether or not they would seat the three delegates representing the Philadelphia Branch of the Marine Transport Workers. On motion they were given a voice but no vote in discussing the matter of the Philadelphia Suspension.

Election of Committees.

After this the convention went into permanent session and elected the temporary chairman E. W. Latchem as permanent chairman and Tom Wallace as permanent recording secretary.

The Rules Committee reported that they had drawn up a set of 21 rules to govern the Convention, practically all of which were accepted, with the exception of a few, which were amended. The rest of the day and most of the next day were taken up in the election of various committees to attend to the business of the Convention.

Collection for Class War Prisoners.

On the afternoon of the second day a motion was brought up to elect a committee of three to send telegrams of cheer to the class war prisoners. Upon argument that the prisoners could not eat the telegrams and that this would only be giving good money to the capitalists, in paying for the telegrams, the motion was made to take up a collection for the benefit of the class war prisoners, which was carried. The sum of $53.00 was collected to buy little necessities for the boys in jail.

The Suspension by the G. E. B. of the Philadelphia M. T. W. Branch and of Bakers' Local No. 46 Sustained by the Convention.

The next question on the floor was the suspension of the Philadelphia M.T.W. Branch. The Philadelphia Branch was charged with violating Article 6, Section 3, of the Constitution, by charging a $25.00 initiation fee. There was a lengthy debate on this question, it being argued from every angle from the afternoon of the second day until the morning of the 4th day. The motion was made "that we sustain the General Executive Board for suspending the Philadelphia Branch of I. U. No.510 for not living up to the Constitution". The motion was carried with 20 yeas and 3 nos. On the demand of a roll call vote, the motion was carried by 774 yeas and 96 nos, --26 votes not voting.

The same action was taken with regard to the New York Bakers, known as Local 46. They were also charged with violating the constitution with regards to high initiation fees, which were $15.00.

Report of Defense Secretary.

John Martin, Secretary of General Defense, gave a review of the past activities of the Defense. He reported that a large number of fellow workers were still in penitentiaries and that funds were needed to give those fellow workers and their families relief. He also reported the denial by the U. S. Supreme Court of a review of the Chicago case, and that the defendants who were out on bond had been ordered back to the penitentiary. He stated that "Out of the 46 fellow workers who had been released on bonds, all reported at the penitentiary with the exception of the following nine: Wm D. Haywood, Vladimir Lossieff, J. H. Beyer, Herbert McCutcheon, Grover H. Perry, Charles Rothfisher, Leo. Laukki, Fred Jaakola and George Andreytchine. Haywood, according to the reports received, has left the country and it now in Russia. His reasons for leaving the United States are unknown to me as I had not the least knowledge of his departure, nor even of his intention of taking such a step, until the day I was informed by a Federated Press reporter that he was in Russia. The whereabouts of the others above mentioned are not known and it is to be expected that the government will in the near future forfeit their bonds".

Owing to Fellow Worker Martin having to return to Leavenworth, George Williams was appointed as his successor to the secretaryship of the General Defense Committee. Williams reported the following:

"According to a list compiled by Fellow Worker Martin from accounts of former secretaries, a total of $41,342.27 was collected as loans to the Bail & Bond Fund and a total of $23,228.91 refunded. In addition to the above amount of $23.228.91, the sum of $16,789.45 was put up as bail in the form of cash and Liberty Bonds. This amount ($16,789.45), as near as I can tell by the records, represents cash originally collected by the Defense Committee and used to buy Liberty Bonds for bail and distributed in the following manner:

E. J. McCutchion $ 4,000.00
J. H. Beyer 10,000.00
Laukki and Jaakkola 600.00
V. Lossieff 564.45
Wm. D Haywood 1,625.00

Fellow worker Williams offered the following suggestions for reimbursing the bond money:

"That the General Executive Board, after the approximate shortage has been definitely established, shall be empowered by this Convention to issue a compulsory assessment stamp, of whatever denomination would be advisable under the circumstances, and the funds from this source be kept exclusively for the purpose of paying back anyone holding receipts for money loaned to the organization as bail on the Chicago defendants and that all money collected over and above the amount needed to meet our obligation on the Chicago case be used as directed by the next Convention.

"That cash refunds be made on the basis of sixty per cent and a further receipt be issued against the fund that is to be collected by the G. E. B. In connection with this, it is, of course, understood that any money left over in the present Bail & Bond fund, by being uncalled for, would be reverted to the fund to be collected by the G. E. B. mentioned before. However, the matter of paying back Liberty Bonds cannot be handled in the same way, because those holding receipts calling for a specific Liberty Bond with a certain number is their personal property and cannot be held after it is demanded. Those who hold receipts for bonds which were placed on those defendants who jumped bail will have to be paid from the special fund mentioned before at their face value.

"Another thing which should be considered by this Convention is a setting of a time limit on the repayment of all cash and Liberty Bonds. It is certain that some cash loans and even Liberty Bonds, will never be called for, and therefore, if no time limit is set for collection by those holding receipts, the residue of the present Bail & Bond Fund would be carried for years. In view of this possibility, I suggest that a limit of six months from the date of the release of bail be set, and after that date all cash and Liberty Bonds received as loans and remaining still uncalled for, be turned over either to discharge obligations pending against the organization for bail, or be turned over to the Defense Fund, or to the Rehabilitation Fund.

"A point has been raised as to our responsibility to those individuals who have furnished bonds for those who have skipped. There are some who think that inasmuch as those who jumped bonds were members of the I. W. W. that we are in duty bound to stand good for losses of this character. About this I have no suggestion to offer. But a declaration of policy concerning this is needed to settle any argument that may arise in the future.

"There are many other problems which will perhaps arise concerning the Bail & Bond Fund, but I think if the matter is handled according to the suggestions made herein, we can terminate the whole matter to the satisfaction of everybody concerned.

"There remains to be dealt with the matter of the future policy of carrying on the Defense work. There is no doubt that in the past there has been both a waste of money and effort in carrying on the work. This condition is not the fault of any individual but it arises, I think, from the loose manner in which relations are maintained with different parts of the country. The present branches of the Defense Committee, with a few exceptions, work entirely independent of the General Defense Committee and in some cases there is a decided hostility between the branch and what is supposed to be Headquarters. Of course, much of this can be traced to certain conditions and feeling existing between individuals. It must be apparent to anyone that much waste of money has been borne by the organization in handling its affairs. Each branch generally hires its lawyers without regard to the fact that other lawyers could be secured who are already on the payroll of the General Defense Commitee. A systematic handling of legal talent by a centralized committee would, no doubt, remove much unnecessary expense from the branches and the organization as a whole. The lawyers are the heaviest expense and something should be done to cut down the outlay for counsel fees, etc., by adopting an intelligent, systematized method of handling the legal end".

He also suggested the plan of establishing a Rehabilitation Fund for the purpose of taking care of fellow workers upon the expiration of their sentences, in order to give them a chance to recuperate after their long terms of confinement.

Report of the General Executive Board.

Next the members of the General Executive Board reported their past activities in behalf of the organization. In regards to sending out the referendum to endorse the Third International, they stated that the previous Board had endorsed the Third International and that the last Convention had endorsed the Board's report. Consequently, the present Board was at a loss to know where the membership stood, but after the question had been thoroughly discussed in the organization press, the ballot was declared void.

The Board then brought out the necessity of establishing a Bureau of Industrial Research and stated that it had endeavored to do so, but that owing to a lack of finances the work had to be postponed.

The rest of the report dealt principally with such past activities of the organization with which the membership is already familiar. The important thing in the report was the emphasis laid on the necessity of eliminating inefficiency and wastefulness within the organization to as great an extent as possible. To that end the Board offered the following suggestions:

"In order to have a successful fighting and efficient organization, order, system and discipline are absolutely necessary, and to make this possible we hereby present for your consideration the following recommendations:

  • (1) That all Industrial Union Headquarters be centralized in General Headquarters.

  • (2) That each Industrial Union be in charge of the Chairman of the General Organization Committee representing said Industrial Unions. Each Industrial Union having a Chairman who will operate the affairs of the organization.

  • (3) That financial transactions be taken care of by the General Secretary-Treasurer, who will employ such assistance as is deemed necessary to properly handle the accounts of the Industrial Unions. The accounts of the Industrial Unions be kept separate, indicating just what they have to work with.

  • (4) Through the perfection of the present system of handling the accounts of the Small Industrial Unions, the burden of accounting will be taken off the shoulders of the Organization Cornmittee, allowing them more time to function on organization matters.

  • (5) The selection of Secretaries of Industrial Unions can be eliminated, as the General Organization Committee would control the Industrial Unions and the Chairman would be left in the otfice to handle organization work.

  • (6) The Chairman of the General Organization Committee should be the member of the General Executive Board representing his industrial union. This would result in the G. E. B. being in close communication at all times, and be under the control of the Industrial Unions.

  • (7) The General Executive Board would hold monthly meetings and in case of important issues coming up a special meeting could be called, for immediate action to be taken thereon.

  • (8) The office of the Chairman of the G. O. C. should be located at General Headquarters.

  • (9) The Chairman of the G. E. B. would be selected by the members of the G. E. B., as is done under the present system, and the alternate of the member selected as Chairman of the G. E. B. should serve as Board member and Chairman of the G. O. C.

  • (10) The General Secretary-Treasurer of the I. W. W. should be selected by the G. E. B.

  • (11) The duties of the General Secretary-Treasurer should be to manage the General Office and supervise the accounts, and he should have the qualifications necessary to efficiently carry on this work.

  • (12) All branches to function direct with General Headquarters and all delegate and branch accounts be accurately kept at all times.

  • (13) To give efficient and prompt service to distant districts ordering supplies, etc., it may be found necessary to establish supply stations. These stations, however, would not keep any accounts. By shipping literature and supplies in large enough quantities to go by freight, transportation cost would be reduced and would permit the branches in such immediate vicinity to be promptly served.

  • (14) The One Year Service Clause for officers will have to be abolished in time, and the sooner the better. An executive position requires executive ability".

Reports of The Industrial Pioneer

The afternoon session was taken up in the reports of the manager and editor of "The Industrial Pioneer". The manager, Harry Feinberg, reported progress in regards to increased circulation and finances, and concluded with the following:

"The Industrial Pioneer" is the only magazine in the country that advocates clearly and uncompromisingly the ideas of revolutionary industrial unionism, and with the co-operation of the membership there is no reason why it should not be made the most influential labor publication in the country."

The editor, Henry Van Dorn, reported that he was employed to assist John Sandgren on the magazine and that after Sandgren was discharged he was selected by the G. E. B. to take the editorship of the magazine. He reported, in part:

"In the course of the next few weeeks we found that it would be essential to make several far-reaching changes in the magazine if we were to continue to issue it at all. Money was not coming in as fast as it should, and many of the branches had positively refused to handle the magazine, especially the December issue, on account of its reactionary attitude. We had to do something to create favorable sentiment and to improve the finances.

"The first step taken in that direction was the changing of the name to "The Industrial Pioneer". This had to be done as the magazine could not be sold any more under the old name".

He also made a statement in regards to getting the magazine out in a more elaborate and economical manner, as well as the following:

"As far as the policy of "The Industrial Pioneer" is concerned, I have tried to get away from all personal attacks and controversial squabbles, and to print educational propaganda along the lines of pure I. W. W. principles.

"The magazine still continued to point out the fallacies of revolutionary political organizations as represented by the Communist parties, but this was done in a scientific spirit for the purpose of educating our readers, instead of in a spirit of personal and unjudicious attack.

"One of the changes in the policy of the magazine was to lay more emphasis on the necessity of militant direct action and less on the evolutionary exposition of the class struggle. In my opinion what we need at the present time is not philosophy but ACTION. Evolution is not going to get us anything unless we get it ourselves".

Communication from Christensen

A communication from the Defense attorney, Otto Christensen, was read before the Convention in which was stated that the Organization was in debt to Christensen to the extent of $9,000.00 or $10,000.00. The communication was turned over to the Grievance Committee.

Following this the G. E. B. members made verbal reports, all of which were accepted.

Telegrams from Philadelphia and R. T. U. I.

A telegram was received from the Philadelphia branch of M. T. W., reading as follows:

"Impossible to hold meeting. Instruction of body if not reinstated after Philadelphia controversy: Return home at once. Body knows change means suicide. Answer requested".

At the morning session of the 6th day a telegram from the American Bureau of Red Trade and Industrial Unions was read, as follows: "In the name of the R. T. U. I. we send greetings to the 13th Convention of the I. W. W. We feel confident that out of this Convention the I. W. W. will emerge with full solidarity with those workers that have already affiliated under the banner of the R. T. U. I."

The greater part of the morning session was taken up in discussion over the past activities of some of the G. E. B. members.

Report of Tie Vapauteen

In the afternoon session Rosa Knuuti, the business manager of "Tie Vapauteen", our monthly Finnish magazine, reported that the vast majority of the Finnish membership wanted the magazine taken from New York and placed in the General Headquarters in Chicago; and that since this was done it has proven to be a good move both financially and editorially.

She stated in part:

"One of the substantial reasons for the above action, was the effort to undo the antipathy that the publication had created by publishing articles either too critical of the 3rd International, on the one hand, or lacking discretion in lauding the aims and purposes of political enthusiasts, on the other, which seriously threatened the existence of the magazine. The circulation of the publication, which at its best ranged from 5,000 to 6,000, came down scarcely 3,500. It was at this figure when the G. E. B. took it over; since then it has recuperated and now with the May issue reaches the 6,500 mark. This is apparently due to the changes made in editorial policy, and the moral backing of Headquarters, which has increased the circulation in general.

"In connection with the printing of the publication at Headquarters, very little trouble or handicap has been experienced.

"As to the future of the magazine: The importance of a monthly publication as a propaganda medium among the Finnish workers cannot be over-estimated. The very lifeblood of the organization lies in its current public actions, and emphatically so, in regard to its foreign issues. The philosophy of the I. W. W. is gaining more ground every day, and its literature is not only accepted, but it is being demanded by the workers as logical and consistent teachings for the solution of their social-economic problems.

Tie Vapauteen has not as yet become the interest of the whole I. W. W. membership, to the extent that it should, but it is the wish of the Finnish Press Committee, under whose charge and supervision the magazine is edited, that the membership at large take steps toward increasing the circulation, aiding it with articles and taking a real interest in their own publication".

Resolutions Passed.

The rest of the afternoon was taken up with resolutions, most of which were turned over to the various committees. The following were carried:

"Resolved, that any member who accepts nomination for an official position and declines after name has been placed on the ballot, shall not be eligible for any office for two years, unless good cause is given, such as sickness or being in jail.

"Resolved, that the G. E. B. shall see that all I. W. W. papers are pursuing the same editorial policy of Industrial Unionism.

"Resolved, that we preach the general strike as the only means for the liberation of class war prisoners.

"Resolved, that in the future all speakers for the I. W. W. shall be routed by and bear credentials from the District or the General Organization Committee, or from the G. E. B. of the I. W. W.

"Resolved, that all I. W. W. agitation must be towards the control of industries, more so during periods of unemployment, as at present."

This being Saturday the Convention was adjourned until Monday, May 16th, which was the 7th day.

Greetings to Irish Fighters for Freedom.

Immediately after opening the morning session a resolution was adopted, which read:

"Resolved that the 13th Convention of the I. W. W., assembled in Chicago, Ill., in May, 1921, extends greetings of good will and encouragement to the valiant Irish men and women who are putting up such a splendid fight for the abolition of wage slavery".

Resolutions About Bulletin, International Affiliation and Press Fund.

These other important resolutions were passed:

"Resolved that the G. E. B. be instructed to issue a bulletin once a month to contain matters pertaining to charges, internal affairs and personal disputes, which are of no interest to non-members. No articles of this nature to be published in any other I. W. W. publication".

"Resolved that any international affiliation of the I. W. W. that may be decided upon shall be ratified by a referendum vote of the membership, before becoming effective".

"Resolved that each industrial union of the I. W. W. pay a per capita tax of 5 cents for each due stamp sold into a fund for the upbuilding and maintaining of a more efficient I. W. W. press".

The G.E.B. Sustained in Removing John Sandgren.

During the afternoon session, John Sandgren, the ex-editor of the One Big Union Monthly, was given the floor to explain his position. After a thorough examination of all parties concerned the G. E. B. was sustained in removing him.

More Resolutions.

During the morning session of the 8th day, the following important resolution was concurred in:

"Resolved, that we proceed without delay to an inventory of all industrial equipment, embracing its productive capacity, its sources of raw material, and the transportation avenues by which the raw material comes, and the finished product is distributed. That there be a parallel inventory of all the workers necessary to operate this equipment, with a view to organizing production and the distribution of the product to the producers, and, be it further

"Resolved, that we compile the entire process of the production and distribution of the food supply of the country, and as an immediate step, be it further

"Resolved, that the delegates ask their district organization to ascertain at once:

  • A. The supplies of such staple products in their districts as meat, fish, flour, milk, butter, eggs, potatoes, and all staple vegetables and fruits, canned goods and fuel.
  • B. The extent to which each district supplies its own wants.
  • C. The source of the rest and the means by which it is transported.
  • D. Local records of all warehouses, where food is kept or whence it is distributed, and, be it further

"Resolved, that the general organization be instructed to take up an inventory of packing houses, flour mills, canneries, etc., which produce food on too large a scale for the local investigators."

"The committee of Branch 1, N. Y., I. U. No.440, elected to draft this resolution, also recommends that the Convention instruct the general organization to ask each local to choose a member to serve on the committee to undertake detailed organization of this work."

The afternoon session of the 8th day was taken up by the report of the Constitution Committe. No action was taken on the constitutional resolutions.

Resolutions Concerning Defense.

The morning session of the 9th day was taken up with resolutions concerning defense and bond matters. After the Ways and Means Committee brought in their report, the following reslutions were adopted:

"Resolution No.1: The Committee of Ways and Means considers the I. W. W. honor bound to pay back those who loaned the organization money and bonds, so therefore, we suggest that the G. E. B. shall be empowered by the Convention to issue a special voluntary assessment stamp of $1.00. The funds from this source to be kept exclusively for the purpose of paying anyone holding receipts for money loaned to the organization as bail on the Chicago defendants, and that all money collected over and above the amount needed to meet our obligations on the Chicago case be used as directed by the next Convention. This fund to be handled by the G.E.B.

"Resolution No.2: Resolved that owing to the shortage in the Bail and Bond Fund the paying back of all cash loans be made on the basis of 60%, and another receipt issued for the remaining 40%, same to be paid out of the fund to be raised for the purpose of paying off the shortage.

"Resolution No.3: Resolved, that on and after January 1st, 1922, all funds remaining in the present Bail and Bond Fund, and still uncalled for, shall revert to the Rehabilitation Fund.

"Resolution No. 4: Resolved, that the General Defense Committee be instructed to handle only cases arising out of organization activity".

The afternoon session was taken up with the report of the General Secretary-Treasurer's office and the report of the international delegate, George Hardy.

An account of the report of the international delegate will be found elsewhere in this magazine.

Report of General Office.

The report of the General Office follows, in part:

"The financial statement for the fiscal year (April 1st, 1920 to March 31st, 1921) will be found in the General Office Bulletin for April, 1921, on page 2. You will find therein total receipts amounting to $79,653.30; total expenditures, $50,508.98. The difference of $29,144.32 was used to advance the publications and the International Printing Company. This account is the real account of the General Organization.

"The total receipts from publications, International Printing Company, General Recruiting Union and Small Industrial Unions, personal deposits, etc., amount to $187,186.75, and the total expenditures, including withdrawals and advances to the various publications, small Industrial Unions, etc., amount to $183,595.30, leaving balance of $3,591.45.

"Cash on hand April 1st, 1920, was $4,690.30, which leaves a balance in the bank April 1st, 1921, of $8,281.75. At the end of the fiscal year there was $9,531.32 belonging to the Small Industrial Unions, the General Defense, publications and personal deposits, which leaves the General Organization a deficit if $1,249.57. The cause of this deficit is on account of various publications and indnstrial unions, and the International Printing Company owing a large debt to the General Organization.

"You will find our total resources, which takes in the inventory, such as supplies and literature on hand, to be $8,803.28, and the actual debt owing Headquarters from the Industrial Unions, publications and the International Printing Company, amounting to $64,927.73, and the balance on hand in the bank and petty cash, $8,306.75, making the total resources $82,037.76. This total includes the cash on hand of $8,306.75, less $25.00, petty cash, leaving $8,281.75 which does not belong to the General Organization, but, as previously stated, belongs to the Small Indusrial Unions, Defense, etc. You will find that we have entered this in our liabilities of $9,531.32, which leaves an actual debt due the General Organization of $72,506.44.

"The supply account was the actual cost of supplies delivered to the Industrial Unions. The General Organization does not make a cent profit on supplies. Due books were previously sold to the Industrial Union's at 20 cents each, which is practically the actual cost. Since the International Printing Company had machinery installed to manufacture these books they are delivered to the General Organization for 10 cents, to which we have added 3 cents for overhead expenses, such as numbering, stamping, shipping, etc. It is up to the Convention to decide whether the General Organization should stand the full loss of supplies in the field, or whether or not the Industrial Unions should stand for the loss. The General Organization does not get any supplies on credit, but pays the actual cost on delivery. You can readily see by studying the financial report that when Unions do not pay the per capita, the 50% of the assessments, and the cost of supplies and literature owing the General Organization, it cramps the General Organization to such an extent that it takes practically all of the receipts to cover the actual expenses it takes to maintain the General Organization, leaving nothing for education or organization work, which is the function of the General Organization.

"You will find under the caption "Indebtedness of Industrial Unions" that there is owing to the General Organization $12,333.20 for per capita tax alone. This is for dues actually collected by the Industrial Unions from the membership since January 1st, 1920, and $7,839.75 for General Organization aesessments that were actually paid for by the membership during the same period.

"When the members pay dues they are expecting the per capita tax to go to the General Organization, also when they buy an Organization Stamp they expect the 50% to go to the General Organization, and without this the General Organization cannot accomplish anything in educational and organization work. Again, if the Industrial Unions do not pay for supplies received, the General Organization has to take from whatever per capita and assessments are paid in to cover the cost of the supplies rendered to the Industrial Unions.

"The literature debt to Headquarters is light compared with the other accounts. It is $1,614.01. You will find in this statement that the Industrial Unions owe the General Defense $20,957.12. A great portion of this debt they should be given credit for on account of different branches and districts of the Industrial Unions remitting defense assessments and donations to some of the local defense committees, and the Industrial Unions. not rendering any statement or receipts of these transactions, did not receive credit, but the rest of the statement of indebtedness is accurate".

A complete financial statement will be printed in the complete minutes which will be distributed to the membership.

Owing to going to press we are forced to close this article; the balance of the Convention will be reported in the next issue.