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

Chapter 8 - Organization

All wealth is produced by labor being applied to the natural resources of the earth. Wherever labor and natural resources come together, there industry springs up--a job comes into existence. The wealth produced on the job is divided in two ways. Part goes to the workers in the form of wages and part to the capitalists in the form of profits. The share of each is determined by the amount of control they exert over the job. On every job there are two conflicting interests. The capitalist wants to make the biggest possible profits in the shortest possible time. To accomplish this he must get as much as possible out of the workers and must give them as little as possible. He wants hard work, long hours, low wages, and low running expenses, which make rotten conditions. The workers are on the job to make a living. They want to make as good and as easy a living as they can. To this end they must have short hours, high wages, easy work and good conditions. This conflict of interest is the cause of the struggle that goes on between workers and employers--the class struggle.

In this as in all struggles the side with the most power will win. The secret of power is organization. The capitalists are few in number. They do no useful work but live as parasites off the labor of the workers. They are entirely unnecessary to the running of industry. They perform no useful function in society. But they are organized, and by virtue of their organized power they control the natural resources of the earth and the machinery of production, and only allow the workers access to them on condition they can make a profit off their labor.

The workers are absolutely necessary to running industry. They furnish the labor power without which not a wheel would turn. But they do not control their own labor power because only a small percentage are organized. Being forced to deal as individuals with the organized power of the capitalists they are helpless and have to accept whatever conditions the employers see fit to impose on them. On all jobs where the workers are unorganized their standing is little better than that of work animals--of cattle. They only receive enough in the form of wages to enable them to keep in working condition, just as a four-legged beast of burden is fed enough hay and grain to enable him to furnish motive power for his master's wagon. If an individual worker voices a protest he is discharged. This causes no inconvenience to the boss, for it is easy to get another to take his place.

But when the workers begin to organize, a change takes place. When all the workers on a job, or even a fair percentage of them, make demands the boss cannot discharge them without shutting down or seriously crippling his job. Fear of stopping or reducing his profits forces him to make concessions. He will try to compromise. Just how much he will concede depends entirely on the strength of the workers' organization. Where the workers are unorganized there are two contending forces--that of Labor and that of Capital. Unorganized, the workers are powerless and must tamely submit. With organization they gain power and are able to dispute the control of the capitalist. Hence, where the workers are organized, hours, wages and conditions are always better than on unorganized jobs. Provided, of course, the workers' organization is genuine and not a fake controlled by the bosses.

Workers Organized to Produce

Organization is the keynote of power and success. Without organization nothing worth while can be accomplished. Even wild animals and birds know enough to organize for mutual protection. By organization and co-operation primitive man was able to overcome the beasts and reptiles of the primeval forest, and rise to civilization. Without the workers being organized to carry on industry, production would stop and the world would go back to savagery.

When a man goes to work in the woods his object is to get wages--money. He wants to make a "stake" and to make it as big, as easily, and as quickly as possible. He cares nothing about the profits of his employer. When a lumber company hires men to work in the woods their object is to make profits, and to that end they must get out logs. They are not concerned with the welfare of the workers. Thus we see there are two distinct objects to be accomplished--that of the workers "organized"--arranged in interdependent groups each co-operating systematically with the other so as to work to the best advantage and produce the greatest results. One set of men fall the trees. Others cut them up into logs. One man acts as hook tender; others set the chokers. A fireman keeps up steam in the boiler, and the engineer runs the donkey. Some load the logs on cars and the railroad crew haul them out of the woods. Some act as riggers, and some as cooks and flunkies. The whole crew is working together systematically to get out logs--to accomplish the object of the company--and they work successfully. They get out many logs and make big profits for the company because they are organized for that purpose.

Suppose the same number of men were to go into the woods, and instead of working in an organized manner, each one was to work as an individual. Suppose each carried in his own tools, his own food and his own cook-stove; built his own shack, did his own cooking, cut his own roads, and tried to get out logs all by himself. How much headway would they make? We all know they would accomplish practically nothing. If a boss put men to work that way they would consider him insane. They would his object of making profits. Yet that is exactly how the great majority of men go to work to accomplish their own object. Have unorganized men any reason to consider themselves sane? They co-operate systematically to produce wealth for their employers, but not to protect their own interests. Small wonder hours are long, wages low and conditions rotten.

Occasionally we hear of a number of men breaking out of jail, but who ever heard of such a break from a lunatic asylum? It takes organized action to break out of captivity, and it is a well known fact that lunatics neverorganize.

Industry Run Entirely by Workers

The workers in each camp co-operate to get out logs. Each camp is a unit in the producing organization composed of workers and controlled to supply the sawmills. The production and distribution of lumber is carried on by the co-operation of loggers, railroad men and sawmill workers. These producing organizations are composed entirely of workers, either by hand or brain. Foremen, superintendents and general managers are all workers, as well as the men who do the actual manual labor on the job. To the extent that they take part in managing and organizing industry they are useful and necessary, but their remuneration is usually out of proportion to the value of the work they perform. In this way they are subsidized or bribed by the company to prevent them from combining with the other workers to take control of industry. These company officials are known as salaried workers and are usually part workers and part parasites. As a rule the higher officials of a company are also stockholders, and to the extent that they draw dividends they are parasites. The work of a general manager may be worth $10,000 a year, but if he receives a salary of $100,000 a year then he is 10 per cent worker and 90 per cent parasite. If in addition to his salary he draws dividends of $100,000 a year then he is 5 per cent worker and 95 per cent parasite. Besides performing their useful and legitimate function of managing industry these officials, under the present system, play the part of slave drivers to speed up the workers and produce the greatest possible profits for their masters. They are also used to spy upon the other workers and prevent them from organizing. But although the workers are divided and some are used in a manner detrimental to the others, the fact remains that industry is run entirely by the workers.

How Industry is Controlled

Each camp is controlled by a foreman, who in turn is controlled by a walking boss or superintendent. Each department of a sawmill is controlled by a foreman, and control of these is centralized in the hands of the superintendent. Logging and sawmill superintendents are controlled by the general manager from the head office of the company. The general manager is controlled by the board of directors, the members of which are usually large stockholders; and the board of directors is controlled by the stockholders. Thus industry is run by workers and controlled by parasites. Under the present system all officials, from straw bosses to general managers, are rated by their ability to grind profits out of the workers.

One Hundred Percent Parasites

While a small amount of stock may be held by individuals who are part workers and part parasites, by far the greater part is held, and all control exercised, by one-hundred-percent parasites. For instance, a person may hold millions of dollars worth of stock in the Lumber Trust, but take absolutely no part in the management of the industry. His sole occupation is drawing dividends. He may never even have seen a logging camp or a sawmill. Such people live in million dollar mansions or swell hotels, surrounded by luxury and extravagance. They have residences in different parts of the world, and migrate from one to another with the changing seasons. They travel in palatial steam yachts, luxurious pullmans and high-priced touring cars.

When the lumber worker is wading through snow with the thermometer 40 below zero, or slinging heavy rigging through mud and rain, he may find some comfort in the thought that high rolling parasites who live off the product of his labor are playing golf at Palm Beach or sailing on the sunny waters of the Mediterranean. Or when trying to sleep in a filthy, unsanitary, vermin infested bunk-house, inhaling the stench of drying socks and the sickening germ laden odor from the slime covered floor, it may be an inspiring thought to the "timberbeast" that in a palatial mansion in a land of perpetual summer where the soft night breezes waft the perfume of roses and honeysuckle through the open windows, tended by liveried lackeys, entertained by the entrancing strains of an all-star orchestra, sated with rare wines and costly foods, and surrounded by amorous, languorous eyed females, his masters are holding a "brilliant society function." When a lumber worker is unable to keep his family in decency or is condemned through poverty to a life of "single blessedness," let him ponder the fact that his labor makes it possible for some parasitic timber thief to buy a diamond necklace for his lady friend's lap-dog; and that lack of organization on the part of lumber workers makes this state of affairs possible.

While the old financial pirates who stole the timber lands were men of criminal instincts and anti-social character, it cannot be denied they had shrewdness and ability. But the descendants of these men who inherit their vast wealth, enjoy it without having made the slightest effort to gain it, and wield the enormous power it places in their hands, may be entirely lacking in ability of any kind--may even be degenerates of the Harry Thaw type.

How the Parasites are Organized

The capitalists are organized, not to produce wealth but to separate the workers from the wealth they produce. They are the robber class. By fraud and violence they have stolen the natural resources and the machinery of production and by fraud and violence they hold the workers in subjection and continue to rob them. In most industries the capitalists are organized into trusts by means of which they reduce competition among themselves to a minimum. Those industries which are not trustified and in which the majority of the employers are small, such as agriculture, are controlled by trusts in other industries on which they are dependent, such as the railroad trust, the packing-house trust, the harvester trust, and the banking trust. These trusts, by con. trolling transportation, markets, supply of agricultural machinery, and credit, have reduced the farmer to a condition in which he is just as effectually exploited as a wage worker. The various great combinations of capital are all interlinked by means of common ownership of stock and interlocking directorates. While there may be many thousands of stockholders in the different companies which go to make up a trust, the control is centralized into the hands of a very few men who own large blocks of stock. By means of "rigging" the market these trust magnates are able to force the prices of stock down when it suits their purpose to buy, and to put prices up when they are ready to "unload." In this way they loot and plunder the smaller stockholders who are known in Wall Street as "shorn lambs." Another way in which the big stockholders rob the small ones is by forming subsidiary companies. For instance, the controlling stockholders of a railroad often form construction companies, and let contracts to themselves at profiteering prices.

There are many ways in which the interests of different groups of capitalists conflict. Where such is the case the advantage always rests with the biggest capitalists. They can install larger and more expensive machinery, manufacture on a larger scale, produce cheaper and so undersell their competitors till they put them out of business, or force them to sell out at their own terms. Great financial interests which control railroads are also engaged in many other lines of business, such as lumber and mining, and they can stifle competition by withholding cars from their rivals. Big capitalists can maintain the strongest lobbying committees at Washington and are better able to bribe Congress to make them presents of the natural resources of the country. Consequently the control of industry is constantly becoming concentrated into fewer and fewer hands, and in the near future we may expect to see control of the industries of all countries concentrated into the hands of one gigantic worldwide trust.

Although the interests of capitalists conflict in many ways, and big capitalists prey on small ones, their interests are all identical in maintaining the system by which they rob the workers. On this point they all recognize their community of interest, and display solidarity. To protect their interests as a class and to hold the workers in subjection they are united in commercial clubs, boards of trade, chambers of commerce and similar organizations of a class nature.

By means of their wealth the capitalists control the government, press, schools, colleges, churches, theaters and moving picture shows. They use these institutions to control the minds of the workers and prevent them from realizing their true position in society. By control of the press and the means of communication, such as telegraph and telephone lines, they suppress news of interest to the workers, or distort and color them to suit their own purposes. By false teaching and cunningly devised propaganda they make the workers think they are free and independent "sovereign citizens," while as a matter of fact, they are dependent for their very existence on permission to toil for a master. By theoretically placing the ballot in the hands of all citizens they lend an appearance of truth to the outworn fallacy of "government of the people, by the people, and for the people." By their control of schools and colleges they propagate the lie of "equal opportunity," and teach the economic falsehood that the interests of labor and capital are identical, and the requisites for success are honesty, industry and loyalty to employers. Subsidized churches preach the divine right of property, and counsel meekness, obedience and self-denial. Theaters and moving picture shows ridicule the revolutionary movement, glorify scabs, and show how the chief sucker on the job may rise to affluence by marrying the boss's daughter.

Literature is also prostituted to capitalism. The reading matter dished up to the "public" in the form of "popular novels" and magazine stories is of the cheap and trashy variety. The "heroes" of this intellectual slush are the kind that rise from poverty and win success by being good dogs for their masters and traitors to their fellow workers. The purpose of the detective story is to bluff the workers into submission by creating in their minds an exaggerated idea of the ability of "Sherlock Holmes" and all his scabby tribe, whose intelligence, in actual life, is of the lowest order. Such literary garbage is widely advertised and reviewed, and sold by the car-load, while books and writings dealing with facts are refused publication, or if they do get into print, are limited to a small circulation, being boycotted by the capitalist press.

When fraud and deceit fail to hold the workers in subjection violence is used. The beast of capitalism throws off his cloak of democracy and shows himself in his true colors. The machinery of a servile state is called into action. Anti-labor laws are passed. Injunctions tie up union funds and prohibit workers from striking. Corrupt judges sentence workers to long terms in the penitentiary for the "crime" of being active in the labor movement. Police and detectives frame up on active union men. Mob rule is stirred up by the press. Union halls and offices are raided. Workers are kidnapped, beaten, tarred and feathered, deported and murdered. Private armies of gunmen shoot down strikers and rape, torture and murder their wives and children. All who dare to question the right of the ruling plutocracy are hounded and persecuted and terrorism holds sway.

The capitalists have organized the workers to produce wealth. They themselves are organized to rob the workers. And they have organized all society to protect their stolen property and privileges. They are strongly entrenched in power, but this is no reason for discouragement. The capitalists are strong, but not with their own power; they are strong with the power of the workers. Industry is the source of all wealth and of all human power. Only the workers can run industry, for only the workers have the labor power. Therefore all human power comes from the workers. Without workers, capitalists could not exist, but without capitalists workers could live as human beings, instead of existing as beasts of burden as they do today. The power of labor is the greatest in the world, in fact it is the only human power in the world. Without labor to produce food, clothing, shelter and fuel, human life could not exist. Without labor to feed, clothe, equip and transport them, armies could not fight; governments could not function; scientists could not study; professors could not teach; editors could not write. All human activity would come to an end.

Without the power to produce wealth there could be neither financial power, political power, intellectual power, military power, nor any other power. The workers do not control this power because they are not organized for that purpose. Lacking control of their own labor power the workers are reduced to the level of cattle, mere beasts of burden toiling to produce wealth for their masters, whenever their masters see fit to give them permission to toil. Organized in such a way as to control their own labor power the workers can control the world.

To organize means to come to a common understanding as to the end to be accomplished, and then to work systematically together for the attainment of that end. How the workers must organize will be explained in the next chapter.