THE I.W.W.

BY CARLETON H. PARKER

The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 120, No. 5 (Nov. 1917)

Cover of the March 1911 Atlantic Monthly (Closest I could find to the date of this article)

I

ANY economic problem arising in the United States to-day is seen in a vivid setting of war expediency. The particular national danger to which the population is becoming increasingly sensitive colors every issue, social, economic, or moral, and the old logical approaches to them are rapidly going into the discard. To-day prostitution, drink, and the free-and-easy American consumption of food and goods have been assailed with a vehemence and impatience astounding when compared with the gentle analyses in vogue a few years ago. This tendency gives the consideration of such a phenomenon as the I.W.W. a dual nature — first, the now dominant one of the I.W.W. in relation to the war-psychology of America; and second, the I.W.W. in relation to the normal progress and evolution of American industrialism.

The intensity of the war temper which plays about the I.W.W. makes it very difficult to advance an analysis of a scientific nature touching even this latter relationship. Except in the form of complete and unconditioned denunciation, interest in this American manifestation of syndicalism is taboo. The Federal Government has within very recent weeks judged the I.W.W. a menace to America's preparedness in war, and the union's leaders are either in prison or in danger of imprisonment. This positive action by the Department of Justice has so emphasized the relation of this union to the worries and expediences of our state of war, that the I.W.W., as an economic problem, has practically disappeared. But since the war-time behavior of the I.W.W. finds its only psychological explanation in its economic environment and experiences, this latter tabooed relationship must be the major concern of this article.

Another unappreciated consideration might be noted in passing. The domination of the press of this country over the form and method of publicity has given Americans a deep-seated bias in favor of a vivid and dramatic presentation of all problems, economic or moral. The rather gray and sodden explanation of any labor revolt by reference to the commonplace and miserable experiences of the labor group would lack this indispensable vividness. Just as the French enjoy the sordid stories of the life of the petty thief when garnished and labeled 'Pictures of the Parisian Apache,' so the casual American demands white hoods and mystery for the Kentucky night-riders and a dread, sabotage-using underground apparition for the I.W.W. An important portion of I.W.W. terrorism can be traced directly back to the inarticulated public demand that the I.W.W. news-story produce a thrill.

The futility of much conventional American social analysis is due to its description of the given problem in terms of its relationship to some relatively unimportant or artificial institution. Few of the current analyses of strikes or labor violence make use of the basic standards of human desire and intention which control these phenomena. A strike and its demands are usually praised as being law-abiding, or economically bearable, or are condemned as being unlawful, or confiscatory. These four attributes of a strike are important only as incidental consequences. The habit of Americans thus to measure up social problems to the current, temporary, and more or less accidental scheme of traditions and legal institutions, long ago gave birth to our national belief that passing a new law or forcing obedience to an old one was a specific for any unrest. The current analysis of the I.W.W. and its activities is an example of this perverted and unscientific method. The I.W.W. analysis, which has given both satisfaction and a basis for treating the organization, runs as follows: the organization is unlawful in its activity, un-American in its sabotage, unpatriotic in its relation to the flag, the government, and the war. The rest of the condemnation is a play upon these three attributes. So proper and so sufficient has this condemnatory analysis become that it is a risky matter to approach the problem from another angle. But it is now so obvious that our internal affairs are out of gear, that any comprehensive scheme of national preparedness would demand that full and honest consideration be given to all forces determining the degree of American unity, one force being this tabooed organization.

It would be best to announce here a more or less dogmatic hypothesis to which the writer will steadfastly adhere; and human behavior results from the rather simple, arithmetical combination of the inherited nature of man and the environment in which his maturing years are passed.*) Man will behave according to the hints for conduct which the accidents of his life have stamped into his memory mechanism. A slum produces a mind which has only slum incidents with which to work, and a spoiled and protected child seldom rises to aggressive competitive behavior, simply because its past life has stored up no memory imprints from which a predisposition to vigorous life can be built. The particular things called the moral attributes of man's conduct are conventionally found by contrasting this educated and trained way of acting with the exigencies and social needs or dangers of the time. Hence, while his immoral or unpatriotic behavior may fully justify his government in imprisoning or eliminating him when it stands in some particular danger which his conduct intensifies, this punishment in no way either explains his character or points to an enduring solution of his problem. Suppression, while very often justified and necessary in the flux of human relationship, always carries a social cost which must be liquidated and also a back-fire danger which must be insured against. The human being is born with no innate proclivity to crime or special kind of unpatriotism. Crime and treason are habit activities, educated into man by environmental influences favorable to their development.

There is one current objection to the above reasoning, and that is the opportunist one that this psychological explanation softens society's criticism of the act, — say, in this case, sedition, — and makes difficult its suppression. This may, indeed, take place, but since it is a result of the transitory state of affairs itself, it does not then justify the abolition of proved and scientific methods of analysis. Besides, since any preparedness which can be relied upon in the coming dangerous years of our participation in the war must be based on calculation of fact, and not on the loose and pseudo-hysterical emotions of desire, there is more need of proved scientific methods of social analysis than America has yet felt. The modern psychological study of human behavior makes it impossible to view an I.W.W. as a mobile and independent agent, exercising free will and moral discretion. The I.W.W. is the result of a social admixture; he is a more or less finished product, and any explanatory analysis should deal alone with the antecedent experiences which produce in a most natural and everyday manner those practiced habits which we describe as 'being an I.W.W.' Syndicalism is then, like patriotism or pacifism, a state of mind.

In the State of Washington there have recently been mass meetings, private and public, devoted to the problem of the I.W.W. In one informal meeting a lumber-mill operator of long experience advanced a policy of suppression, physical violence, and Vigilante activity. A second operator, listening, observed, `If you lost your money, you would be the best I.W.W. in the state.'

It is an established, even an obvious fact that the upper reaches of business and society possess their I.W.W. The state of mind characterized by ruthlessness, high egotism, ignoring of the needs and helplessness of much of society, breaks out at different social levels under different names, but the human elements and even much of the vocabulary remain the same.

It must be reiterated that any attempt to use, at this particular day in our history, the modern psychology of behavior in an analytic way is not only frowned on, but results in an immediate persecution of the scientist who so offends. A certain editor in Yakima, in the State of Washington, has been known beyond his state limits for his strong and individual editorial policy. His editorials are more widely quoted than those of any other paper in the state. This editor inadvertently put the I.W.W. horror to the practical test by interviewing some fifty I.W.W.'s interned in a Yakima jail. These individuals had held the Yakima Valley in terror, and local feeling made lynching and extremes of violence not only possible, but immediately to be expected. The editor observed in an editorial the following day that the I.W.W. were much like the agricultural workers he had known all his life. Their desires were similar, and the details of their complaints touching the life they led were worthy of sympathetic investigation. They were not, he thought, incorrigibly unpatriotic. He thought that he could even trust some of them. These observations resulted in an immediate ostracism of the editor. He was cut by many friends, he was widely and violently condemned, and his influence was seriously impaired. His method of analysis had been a very fair, if rough and ready, approximation of that used by modern dynamic psychology.

The interesting paradox, that these modern replicas of ancient intolerance and persecution will be carried through by a people sincerely ready to sacrifice kin and wealth in the cause of liberty, becomes no difficult problem to analyze and explain. Little has been written or made current to show how open to phobia and mob-suggestion is a nation which, long accustomed to the habits of peace and absorbed in its commercial pursuits, has the props of this life suddenly knocked out from under it. As in a daze America has seen conscription established, prices fixed, industrial plants commandeered, freedom of speech modified. This is not an over-turning of merely an unimportant feature of American life — it is the negation of nearly everything that the nation has hitherto stood for. The habit and order of everyday thinking is made in-efficient and inapplicable. While outwardly 'business as usual' seems to some extent to be in force, inwardly and in the hitherto secure mental back-ground is chaos and the potentiality for almost any kind of irresponsible reasoning. Even in the rather secure social retreats of small town life we find, for instance, outbursts of spy-hunting, so cruel and at such variance with all the ideas of fairness and control which had been long accepted as American virtues, that one sees how widespread this psychological disturbance has become.

Josiah Royce has said that America's national danger was her openness to mob-suggestion. Her century of service as an immigrant melting-pot brought its penalties with it, and it was beyond reason to expect to see a nation which, in Ross's words, possesses a sturdy prophylactic against the hysteria of mob movement rise from a scramble of transplanted nationalities, severed from their traditional religions, their rules of dress, morality, and political life. The I.W.W. can be profitably viewed only as a psychological by-product of the neglected childhood of industrial America. It is discouraging to see the problem to-day examined al-most exclusively from the point of view of its relation to patriotism and conventional commercial morality.

II

The reason for the current condemnation of the I.W.W. is that it is a viciously unpatriotic organization. With this fact in view, the present writer undertook a special investigation among the I.W.W. leaders. He pointed out that our nation was fighting another nation which suppressed free speech, which not only opposed a free individualism, but moulded a citizen's mind to suit the particular and competitive needs of the state. This nation, if it subjected us, would bloodily suppress just such disquieting agencies as the I.W.W. Methods of discipline would be turned back a hundred years to the ancient system of gaining unity of citizenship through fear, and these policies would be enforced by a harsh military organization, flushed and confident with victory.

This presentation was invariably met by the I.W.W. leaders with a recital that for them there was only one war, and that was the class war between the `master class' and the 'slaves.' It was, they argued, purely incidental whether a German or an American politician ruled the political machinery. It made even less difference whether the industrial master were German or American. The class war was without national lines.

In answer to the argument that a bad political system might postpone in an important way the evolution they desired in the class conflict, the leaders decried the importance of the war and its political results. They quoted with astonishing facility the rise in the cost of meats, textiles, shoes, and so on. Their figures proved to be accurate. They had circulated through their lectures the fact that steel plates had risen from $26.50 a ton in 1913 to $200 in 1917, and the story of the increase in the surplus earnings of United States Steel, Bethlehem Steel, and the powder companies. This they joined to a dissertation on the increase of American farm-tenancy. Presumably they were better acquainted with American social statistics than the academic class in which the writer lives. It is perhaps of value to quote the language of the most influential of the I.W.W. leaders.

You ask me why the I.W.W. is not patriotic to the United States. If you were a bum without a blanket; if you had left your wife and kids when you went West for a job, and had never located them since; if your job never kept you long enough in a place to qualify you to vote; if you slept in a lousy, sour bunk-house, and ate food just as rotten as they could give you and get by with it; if deputy sheriffs shot your cooking cans full of holes and spilled your grub on the ground; if your wages were lowered on you when the bosses thought they had you down; if there was one law for Ford, Suhr, and Mooney, and another for Harry Thaw; if every person who represented law and order and the nation beat you up, railroaded you to jail, and the good Christian people cheered and told them to go to it, how in hell do you expect a man to be patriotic? This war is a business man's war and we don't see why we should go out and get shot in order to save the lovely state of affairs that we now enjoy.

The argument was rather difficult to keep productive because gratitude — that material prerequisite to patriotism — seemed wanting in their attitude toward the American government. Their state of mind could be explained only by referring it, as was earlier suggested, to its major relationships. The dominating concern of the I.W.W. is what Keller calls the maintenance problem. Their philosophy is, in its simple reduction, a stomach philosophy, and their politico-industrial revolt could be called without injustice a hunger-riot. But there is an important correction to this simple statement. While their way of living has seriously encroached on the urgent minima of nutrition, shelter, clothing, and physical health, it has also long outraged the American laboring-class traditions touching social life, sex-life, self-dignity, and ostentation. Had the food and shelter been sufficient, the revolt tendencies might have simmered out, were the migratory labor population not keenly sensitive to traditions of a richer psychological life than mere physical maintenance.

Considering their opportunity, the I.W.W. read and discuss abstractions to a surprising extent. In their libraries the few novels are white paged, while a translation of Karl Marx or Kautsky, or the, dull and theoretical pamphlets of their own leaders, are dog-eared. Few American analysts have realized what firmly held traditions have been established throughout all the working classes by the muck-raking literature of the last twenty years. It is rather an alarming experience for a conventional member of the middle class to inquire of almost any labor group how they esteem the morals of the commercial middle class. Veblen's acute reasoning touching the decay amid the ranks of industrial labor of the prestige of law and order, of the conventional rights of property and individual liberty, seems to find abundant illustration. A statement that the present industrial order and its control promise a reasonable progress and happiness (and this the middle class are forced to claim), is received as a humorous observation, not only by the I.W.W., but by American trade unionism as well.

There will be as many degrees and shades of patriotism as there are social classes in our society. The patriotism which placed fifty thousand volunteers on the rolls of the Reserve Officers' Corps is not an inborn sentiment, or anything which arbitrarily came with habitation of American soil. It was an acquired habit of mind and reflected a rich background of social satisfactions which, in the mind of a young officer, had sprung from his country, America. Not only the self-sacrificing quality of this patriotism, but the very patriotism itself, depends on the existence of these social satisfactions. Cynical disloyalty and contempt of the flag must, in the light of modern psychology, come from a mind which is devoid of national gratitude and in which the United States stirs no memory of satisfaction or happiness. To those of us who normally feel loyal to the nation, such a disloyal sentiment brings sharp indignation. As an index of our own sentiment and our own happy relations to the nation, this indignation has value. As a stimulus to a programme or ethical generalization, it is the cause of vast inaccuracy and sad injustice. American syndicalism is not a scheming group dominated by an unconventional and destructive social philosophy. It is merely a common-place attitude — not such a state of mind as Machiavelli or Robespierre possessed, but one stamped by the lowest, most miserable labor conditions and outlook which American industrialism produces. To those who have seen at first-hand the life of the Western casual laborer, any reflections on his gratitude or spiritual buoyancy seem ironical humor.

An altogether unwarranted importance has been given to the syndicalistic philosophy of the I.W.W. A few leaders use its phraseology. Of these few, not half a dozen know the meaning of French syndicalism or English guild socialism. To the great wandering rank and file, the I.W.W. is simply the only social break in the harsh search for work that they have ever had; its headquarters the only competitor of the saloon in which they are welcome. They listen stolidly to their frequent lecturers with an obvious and sustained interest. The lecturer's analysis and dissection of the industrial structure is often as abstract as a dissertation on value by a professor of economics. The applause comes when the point is illustrated by some familiar and vigorous action through which the `boss' is humiliated graphically, told in phrases taken from camp speech. Their competence to expound this philosophy of theirs is about equal to that of a Pittsburg Republican to discuss the significance of Schedule K; but the concrete details of industrial renovation find eager interest.

The American I.W.W. is a neglected and lonely hobo worker, usually malnourished and in need of medical care. He is as far from being a scheming syndicalist, after the French model, as the imagination might conceive. His proved sabotage activities in the West total up a few hop kiln buntings. Compared to the widespread sabotage in prison industries, where a startlingly large percentage of materials is intentionally ruined, the I.W.W. performance is not worth mentioning. It is to the less romantic economic phases that we must turn for the true cost of the problem.

The characteristic of the I.W.W. movement most worthy of serious consideration is the decay of the ideals of thrift and industry. To this can be added, in place of the old-time traditional loyalty to the employer, a sustained antagonism to him. The casual laborer of the West drifts away from his job without reflection as to the effect of this on the welfare of the employer; he feels little interest in the quality of workmanship, and is always, not only a potential striker, but ready to take up political or legal war against the employing class. This sullen hostility has been steadily growing in the last ten years. It is not as melodramatic as sabotage, but vastly more important. To the student it is of major importance, because it can be linked up more directly and with more accuracy to its psychological causes. In a word, it is a natural psychic outcome of a distressing and anti-social labor condition. This sullen hostility develops very naturally the surface manifestations of unpatriotism, hostility to religion, and unlawful action; but the more important characteristic is the deeper economic one of the growing unreliability and decay of the workmanlike spirit among the migratory laborers.

To revert for a moment to the economic point of view — the I.W.W. movement can be described with complete accuracy as the extension of the American labor strike into the zone of casual, migratory labor. All the superficial features, such as its syndicalistic philosophy, its sabotage, threats of burning and destruction, are the natural and normal accompaniments of an organized labor disturbance in this field. The American strike, in contrast to the English and German, has evolved, for certain psychological reasons, into a militant and violent affair. To the American employer the breaking of a strike satisfies a curious medley of desires. It appeals to his strong primitive sporting instinct; it is demanded by his highly cultured American individualism; and it satisfies whatever ideas of legal rights he has imbibed from the loose traditions of laissez faire. Taking all the environmental influences which focus on industrial management and property ownership in this country, strike-breaking is a very normal managerial activity. Like Calhoun in San Francisco, the American manager has been willing to stake his entire fortune on an anti-union venture, which from no standpoint promised profits or peace.

Nowhere else in the world does the unique American custom of importing strike-breakers exist. The nation-wide anti-union programme of the National Manufacturers' Association is even as uniquely American. And these highly individualistic industrial habits are practiced upon a labor class which is in a most peculiar way unfashioned to acquiesce peacefully.

For those who care to see, there is abundant evidence that the trade-union movement in the United States has become revolutionary. The much advertised split between the American Federation of Labor and the I.W.W. is bridged over with significant ease when the prosecution of an I.W.W. case suggests the class struggle. This temper has not prevented the leaders of the American Federation from giving the support of a traditional American patriotism to the present war, but no publicist of note has dared to analyze the spread of embarrassing strikes throughout the United States during the past two months, the most critical months of our war activities.

A reasonable induction from the industrial facts would be that the American labor class is not participating in the kind of patriotic fervor that is in vogue among the upper middle class. It is not sufficient to say that their wage demands occupy their attention. Coupled with this ancient interest is a set of traditional and complicating forces which determine the attitude of labor. The recital of the war-profits in steel, in copper, in foods, in medicines, does not fall on an ordinarily receptive audience. It falls on the minds of a labor class with a long-cherished back-ground of suspicion.

As I have already said, the most vivid chapter in American periodical literature was the period of magazine muckraking. A new and remarkably effective school of pamphleteers arose and operated in a psychologically ripe situation. Their audience had been played on from the early days of the granger movement and was tuned to absorb as truth the bizarre expose of industrialism. While the magazines dropped the propaganda, a few years ago, Federal commissions and state investigations continued and imparted dignity and substance to the earlier and more temperamental denunciation. Few members of the middle class know how revolutionary is the material to be found in the Federal Immigration Commission's report, the Federal report on Woman and Child Wage-Earners, the Massachusetts Minimum Wage Commission's report, or even the volumes on Occupations of the United States Census. For instance, this latter sober source solemnly announces on page seventy-one of its volume on Occupational Statistics that 609,000 of the small boys of the United States between the ages of ten and thirteen are accurately to be catalogued as 'workers gainfully employed.'

The laboring class in the United States reads much more on economic matters than the middle class, and is more accustomed to meetings and debate in which the material of the reading is used. The middle class is strangely ignorant of the literature dealing with its own activities. Those who teach college economics to the sons and daughters of the middle class are constantly amazed at the contrast between them and the few children of the laboring class who reach the university.

It is by no means a far cry from the attitude of the American laboring class toward the war to an analysis of the I.W.W. The I.W.W. is, as has been said, the aggressive American labor movement, emerging at the lower and less disciplined social level. The not surprising inability of the American citizen to note the growing class-consciousness of the trade-union movement made it certain that he would not read the writing on the wall regarding the strike methods, which would be manifest when this class struggle gained force and form among the migratory casual labor of the West. If the American trade-union world is only conditionally patriotic in its attitude toward the war, the I.W.W. is violently negative, for the same reasons, though they are more deeply felt. Casualties and deaths in the trenches, with their all-diverting suffering at home, will reinforce patriotism, and silence for a time the class demands and cries; but the ingredients of the social mixture will not be changed to any important degree.

War, to the American labor world, is an episode, and for them the making of a living, which completely dominated their thoughts before the war, runs on through the war period itself. Following out this argument, therefore, patriotism rests upon the degree of satisfaction and content with which labor views its lot. The labor mind in America is in profound unrest, and it is the imperative duty of those Americans on whom falls the duty of thinking and planning to accept such facts as all-determining, and not to misuse the moment by useless, if admirable, moral indignation. It is needless to point out with what handicap the President and those devoted citizens must work in their effort to create at this eleventh hour in our social evolution that patriotism and unity so imperatively needed by the nation.

III

The I.W.W. is a union of unskilled workers in large part employed in agriculture and in the production of raw materials. While the I.W.W. appeared in the East at Lawrence, Paterson, and certain other places, at the height of strike activity, its normal habitat is in the upper middle West and the far West, from British Columbia down into Old Mexico. But within the past year, apart from the Dakota wheatfields and the iron ranges of Minnesota and Michigan, the zone of important activity has been Arizona, California, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Colorado. The present war time I.W.W. problem is that of its activity in the far West.

It is fortunate for our analysis that the I.W.W. membership in the West is consistently of one type, and one which has had a uniform economic experience. It is made up of migratory workers currently called hobo labor. The terms 'hobo miner,' 'hobo lumber-jack,' and 'blanket stiff' are familiar and necessary in accurate descriptions of Western labor conditions. Very few of these migratory workers have lived long enough in any one place to establish a legal residence and to vote, and they are also womanless. Only about ten per cent have been married, and these, for the most part, either have lost their wives or have deserted them. Many claim to be 'working out,' and expect eventually to return to their families. But examination usually discloses the fact that they have not sent money home recently, or received letters. They are 'floaters' in every social sense. Out of thirty suicides in the cheap lodging-houses in San Francisco in the month of December, 1913, but two left behind any word as to their homes or their relatives. Half of these migratory workers are of American birth, the other half being largely made up of the newer immigrants from south-eastern Europe.

The membership of the I.W.W. which pays regular dues, is an uncertain and volatile thing. While a careful study in California in 1915 showed but forty-five hundred affiliated members of the I.W.W. in that state, it was very evident that the functioning and striking membership was double this, or more. In the State of Washington, in the lumber strike of this year, the I.W.W. membership was most probably not over three thousand; but the number of those active in the strike and joining in support of the I.W.W. numbered approximately seven thousand. A careful estimate of the membership in the United States gives seventy-five thousand. In the history of American labor there has appeared no organization so subject to fluctuation in membership and strength. Several times it seemed on the point of joining the Knights of Labor in the graveyard of laboring-class movements, but, energized by some sudden strike outburst, it appears again as an active force.

This tenacity of life is due to the fact that the I.W.W. not only is incapable of legal death, but has in fact no formal politico-legal existence. Its treasury is merely the momentary accumulation of strike-funds. Its numerous headquarters are the result of the energy of local secretaries. They are not places for executive direction of the union so much as gregarious centres where the lodging-house inhabitant or the hobo with his blanket can find light, a stove, and companionship. In the prohibition states of the West, the I.W.W. hall has been the only social substitute for the saloon for these people. The migratory workers have almost all seen better economic and social days, and carry down into their disorganized labor level traditions, if only faint ones, of some degree of dignity and intellectual life. To these old-time desires the headquarters cater. In times of strike and disorder the headquarters become the centre of the direct propaganda of action; but when this is over, its character changes to that of a rest-house, and as such is unique in the unskilled workers' history.

It will be of great value to understand the conditions under which as a matter of fact the American unskilled worker lives and works and is prepared for the drop down into the migratory class. In 1910, of the 30,091,564 male persons in the United States who were listed as bread-winners, approximately 10,400,000 were engaged in that unskilled work from which the migratory class is recruited. Under what conditions did this population, which furnished the present migratory group, work? What was their wage, and how long a period in each year were they employed? A typical Chicago slaughter-house in 1912 paid 82 per cent of the employees less than twenty cents an hour. This company worked their men on an average thirty-seven and a half hours a week, and this gave the 55 per cent of the men who averaged seventeen cents an hour a weekly income of $6.37.

In the steel industry the government report of 1910 shows that 29 per cent of the employees worked a seven-day week, 20 per cent a seven-day week with a twelve-hour day, and 43 per cent a twelve-hour day six days a week. This Federal study reports that 49.69 per cent of the employees received less than eighteen cents an hour. This last is the group of the unskilled. In the steel industry eight per cent of the workers earned less than fourteen cents per hour, and 20 per cent under sixteen cents.

The Federal Immigration Commission's report (1910) announced that not one of the twelve basic American industries paid the average head of a family within one hundred dollars a year of the minimum for family subsistence, and that two thirds of the twelve industries paid the family head less than five hundred and fifty dollars a year. Professor Frankfurter's brief before the Supreme Court in the minimum wage case (1916) alleges that half of the wage-earners' families in the United States have an income below that needed for adequate subsistence. To quote the authoritative research of Warren and Sydenstricker of the Federal Public Health Service, 'in the principal industries, fully one fourth of the adult male workers who are heads of families earned less than twelve hundred dollars, one half earned less than six hundred dollars, and less than one tenth earned as much as one thousand dollars a year. Approximately one fourth of the women workers eighteen years of age and over employed in the principal manufacturing industries earned less than two hundred dollars a year, and two thirds less than four hundred dollars.'

In reference to the even more vital statistics of total family income these two investigators say, 'The conclusion is also indicated that one in every ten or twelve working-class families had, at the time of the investigation (1912 to 1914) an annual income of less than three hundred dollars a year! that nearly a third had incomes of less than five hundred dollars, and over one half of the families had incomes of less than seven hundred and fifty dollars a year.' The numerous studies of the cost of living of this period are fairly unanimous in stating that eight hundred dollars is absolutely necessary for the adequate minimum of subsistence for an American laboring-class family. Professor Fairchild of Yale said in 1913, 'If we fix these standards of living in mind, and then look back over the wage-scales given on the foregoing pages, we are struck with the utter inadequacy of the annual incomes of the foreign-born to meet even these minimum requirements of decency.'

It is reasonable to argue that working-class parents suffer in the conventional way in the death of their children. The Federal Children's Bureau reports, 'For all live babies born in wed-lock the infant mortality rate is 130.7 in a thousand; it rises to 255.7 when the father earns less than $521.00 a year or less than ten dollars a week and falls to eighty-four when he earns $1200 or more.'

The irregularity of industrial employment is as important an element as the height of the wage-scale. Dr. Devine says that unemployment heads the list of the causes of American destitution. The American coal-miner must expect unemployment from one fourth to one third of his time. In 1908 the unemployment in all trades was 35.7 per cent. Statistics pointed to nearly a 20 per cent loss for all industrial workers in the year through unemployment during this period. The combination of low wages, the unskilled nature of the work, and its great irregularity tends to break the habit and desire for stable industry among the workers. Millions drift into migrating from one industrial centre to another in search of work. In these centres nearly all saloon-keepers run an employment-agency business of a more or less informal kind, and to the saloon the job-hunter turns. In return for the job it is his obligation to drink up part of his pay-check, and, if he is a married man, his history here becomes marked by a recital of excuses sent to the distant wife instead of money. The worker slides down the scale and out of his industry, and joins the millions of unskilled or ex-skilled who float back and forth from Pennsylvania to Missouri and from the lumber-camps to the Gulf States and California. They lie up in the winter in the cheap lodging houses, in a state of pseudo-hibernation. Thirty dollars plus a few weeks of ice-cutting enables them to weather the winter through. Some 150,000 are in Chicago, as many in New York, 40,000 in San Francisco, perhaps 250 in Phoenix, Arizona.

In one San Francisco lodging-house, out of two hundred and fifty beds, there were eight with outside ventilation. A New York study disclosed that the lodging-house inmates were eleven times more tubercular than the average population. The beds seldom have linen, and the covers are usually dirty quilts which have to be repeatedly fumigated during the winter on account of vermin. The migratory worker lies up for the winter with a thirty-dollar stake, according to the report of the Chicago Commission on Unemployment. Often this will not stretch ever the period, so recourse is had to the street, the saloons, and the city. In a ten-year period, the Chicago police stations gave lodging to 1,275,463 homeless men, and the municipal lodging-house to 370,655. Only 20 per cent of these were residents of Chicago.

In the spring this labor group drifts out toward the first work. In the main, they 'beat their way.' Between 1901 and 1905 23,964 trespassers were killed on American railroads, and 25,236 injured. These were largely tramps and hobos. The railroad companies calculated that at a given time there were 500,000 hobos beating their way or waiting at stations to catch on a train, or walking the tracks. This group might be called the fraction of the migratory millions actually in transit. Numerous statistical studies show that the average term of employment of the migratory worker is between ten and fourteen days. With a stake of ten dollars he will retire to a hobo camp beside some stream, — his 'jungle,' as the road vernacular has it, — and, adding his daily quarter or half a dollar to the 'Mulligan fund,' he will live on until the stake is gone. If he inclines to live further on the charity of the newcomers he is styled a 'jungle buzzard' and cast forth. He then resumes his haphazard search for a job, the only economic plan in his mind being a faint realization that about August he must begin to accumulate his thirty-dollar winter stake. Each year finds him physically in worse disrepair, psychologically more hopeless, morally more bitter and anti-social. His importance to any forecast of our nation's future lies in the uncomfortable fact that proportionally he is increasing in number and his recruiting group above is increasing in unrest and economic instability.

The menace of this drift has not escaped the critical authorities. John R. Commons, of Wisconsin, in an analysis of the labor unrest in America and the danger of class conflict, said, 'While immigration continues in great volume, class lines will be forming and re-forming, weak and unstable. To prohibit or greatly restrict immigration would bring forth class conflict within a generation.'

And a no less careful political scientist than Woodrow Wilson wrote in 1913, 'Don't you know that some man with eloquent tongue, without conscience, who did not care for the nation, could put this whole country into a flame? Don't you know that this country from one end to the other believes that something is wrong? What an opportunity it would be for some man without conscience to spring up and say, "This is the way. Follow me!" — and lead in paths of destruction. . . . We are in a temper to reconstruct economic society as we were once in a temper to reconstruct political society.'

It is a conventional economic truism that American industrialism is guaranteeing to some half of the forty millions of our industrial population a life of such limited happiness, of such restrictions on personal development, and of such misery and desolation when sickness or accident comes, that we would be childish political scientists not to see that from such an environment little self-sacrificing love of country, little of ethics, little of gratitude, could come. It is unfortunate that the scientific findings of our social condition must use words which sound strangely like the phraseology of the Socialists. This similarity, however, should logically be embarrassing to the critics of these findings, not to the scientists. Those who have investigated and studied the lower strata of American labor have long recognized the I.W.W. as purely a symptom of a certain distressing state of affairs. The casual migratory laborers are the finished product of an economic environment which seems cruelly efficient in turning out human beings modeled after all the standards which society abhors. The history of the migratory workers shows that, starting with the long hours and dreary winters of the farms they ran away from, or the sour-smelling bunk-house in a coal village, through their character-debasing experience with the drifting 'hire and fire' life in the industries, on to the vicious social and economic life of the winter unemployed, their training pre-determined but one outcome, and the environment produced its type.

The I.W.W. has importance only as an illustration of a stable American economic process. Its pitiful syndicalism, its street-corner opposition to the war, are the inconsequential trimmings. Its strike alone, faithful as it is to the American type, is an illuminating thing. The I.W.W., like the Grangers, the Knights of Labor, the Farmers' Alliance, the Progressive party, is but a phenomenon of revolt. The cure lies in taking care of its psychic antecedents; the stability of our Republic depends on the degree of courage and wisdom with which we move to the task.