She is coming, O my masters, she is coming in her might,
With the red flag o'er her legions and her sword sharp, clean and bright;
She is breaking through your dungeons, she is tearing off your chain,
She is coming to take vengeance without mercy once again!
She is coming, O my masters, with a new might in her arms,
Her vision clear, unclouded by a dying Satan's charms;
She is coming in hate's beauty, with love's fierceness in her eye,
Like a maddened mother hast'ning where your tortured child-slaves die!
She is coming, O my masters, with her strong, steel-muscled hands,
She is reaching for your factories, your gardens and your lands;
She is calling to her standard all the sons of grief and toil,
She is promising your soldiers all your stolen wealth for spoil.
She is coming, O my masters! 'Neath her red, triumphal arch,
Lo! the guards that now surround you in her rebel ranks shall march!
She is coming as forever and forever she has come,
Arm in arm with Hope and Freedom, to the long roll of Right's drum!
She is coming, O my masters! Soon her troops shall rest their feet
In the limpid waters flowing through your bowers, cool and sweet;
Soon her hungered hosts shall gather in your gold-roofed banquet hall,
And to ecstatic music hold high revel o'er your fall!
She is coming, O my masters, she is coming in her might,
With the red flag o'er her legions and her sword sharp, clean and bright!
She is coming in hate's beauty, with love's fierceness in her eye,
Like a maddened mother hast'ning where your tortured child-slaves die!
|La Belle Sansculotte (Poem)||Covington Hall|
|Revolutionary Class Union||James P. Thompson|
|Free Speech Fights of the I. W. W.||Roger N. Baldwin|
|How The I. W. W. Defends Labor||Ralph Chaplin|
|Build For Power||C. E. Payne|
|The Industrial Union In Agriculture||Tom Connors|
|The Way Of The Wobbly||F. W. Thompson|
|The Colorado Conquest||Ed Delaney|
|Education||Clifford B. Ellis|
|International Relations of the I. W. W.||Joseph Wagner|
|At The Crossroads||John A. Gahan|
In step with productive development to industrial proportions, the Industrial Workers of the World was formed by a group of revolutionary unionists at Chicago, June 27, 1905. Among its founders were such figures as Eugene V. Debs, Thos. J. Haggerty, Wm. E. Trautman, William D. Haywood, and several of the men who have contributed articles for this commemorative pamphlet.
From its inception the I. W. W. has produced its own dauntless working class voices, and in these pages, marked by keen intelligence, broad information, clarity of logic, diversity of expression and loftiness of vision, leading writers, produced by the organization's power to rally articulation, have created a work that will endure to the greater glory of our glorious movement.
Because of the fortunate factors just enumerated it is believed by those privileged to have read the pamphlet in manuscript that this work is unsurpassed in its field, if, indeed, it has ever been equalled. The widest possible distribution of this 25th Anniversary of the I. W. W. pamphlet is certain to redound to the greater prestige and growth of the I. W. W., and to this end let all in our organization, or animated by a wish to see it flourish, pledge themselves to carry the pamphlet to the dark places of working class ignorance and light them with its working class truth.
"In order to understand the social movement it must be looked at as a process of natural history, governed by laws not only independent of the human will, consciousness and intelligence, but rather, on the contrary, determining that will, consciousness and intelligence."*1)
"Just as the real reason why people dress differently in winter than in summer is to be found in the different climatic conditions, so, the real causes of all social changes and revolutions are to be sought, not in men's brains, not in their more or less confused ideas of right and wrong or of truth and justice, not in the philosophy but in the economics of each particular epoch."*2)
Cannibalism was very prevalent among the ancients. We of today are shocked at the very thought of cannibalism. And yet, cannibalism is, in many ways, one of the most humane forms in which man was ever devoured by his fellowman.
When the productiveness of labor reached the point where man was able to produce not only enough to maintain himself, but more, then cannibalism died out and slavery began.
With the beginning of slavery, of course, society divided into classes. Morality took on a class character. Instead of "whatever is in the interest of the tribe is good", we have this formula, "Anything that is in the interest of the ruling class is good and anything against their interest is bad." "The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class."*3)
The master class was forced to organize in order to rule, and behold, "The State" appears! The State is merely the organized powers of oppression and coercion used by the ruling class to maintain themselves in their position as a ruling class. The State changes in form from time to time as conditions change, and it wears many different national uniforms, but it never loses its identity as "The State". The class machine of oppression known as "The State" will only disappear when the world's last class struggle ends.
In the fifth century the barbarians of the north swept down over western Europe and plundered everywhere until they reached the sea, then turned back. The slaves who fled to the woods at their approach were tilling the soil. They trembled at the sight of the organized barbarians, but the barbarians said to them, "Fear not, we will not kill you. Go on and till the soil, but remember, all you produce over and above what is necessary to maintain you you must give to us." Then followed over a thousand years of feudalism, those horrible centuries of blood and tears known as the dark ages during which the ruling class, led by their kings, claimed a divine right to rule and rob their fellowmen.
It was indeed a dark age. The phantom-haunted fogs of ignorance, superstition and fear hung like a pall over the human race. "The voice of liberty was strangled and murderers sat upon the thrones. The fires of persecution climbed around the limbs of countless martyrs. Brave men and women languished in dungeons and darkness." *4) "All the Mount Calvaries of truth and discovery were white with the fire-bleached bones of thinkers." *5)
Fortunately, society is not a solid crystal. It is an organism, not only capable of change but constantly changing. Gradually within feudal society, production for exchange, i. e. the capitalist mode of production, developed. The factory system came and later on machinery and modern industry. The discovery of America and the opening up of the world's markets increased the demand for commodities.
A commodity, by the way, is "any useful thing produced by labor for exchange" *6), and, note carefully, production for exchange is the capitalist mode of production. As capitalism developed within feudal society the capitalist class, i. e. the bourgeoisie, grew in wealth and power. They were compelled to pay heavy tribute to the Bishop and the King, but in spite of the reactionary forces that were hampering and trying to block and roll back the wheels of progress, capitalism developed. The capitalist class grew in wealth and power until they were able seriously to challenge the ruling class.
Here we have a situation that must exist before a revolution is possible, i. e. "the old society must be pregnant with the new." *7)
Finally came the trial of strength between the new and the old. A series of revolutions shook the world. The old went down before the greater power of the new! The capitalist class became the ruling class. The capitalist mode of production prevailed. The whole social structure changed to conform to the conditions arising from the capitalist mode of production. And behold! Capitalism, the paradise of the capitalist, the epoch of the bourgeoisie.
In feudal society the land owning class was the ruling class and that one great interest was represented by governments in the form of absolute monarchies. As the capitalist mode of production develops in any country there develops alongside of the "land interest" many other interests: merchant, manufacture, transportation, oil, steel, lumber, etc., all among the capitalist class. In the early stages of capitalism none of these interests was powerful enough to rule its own industry, to say nothing of rule the country. Here we have the foundation for Democracy. With the triumph of this class capitalist governments were formed. The absolute monarchy gave way to the constitutional monarchy or the Republic. The representative form of government appeared.
"The economic mode of production and exchange forms the basis of the whole social structure." *8)
Capitalism demands an educated working class. Workers who could neither read nor write would not be able to sort freight, read price tags, count money, keep books, use the tape measure, the square, the micrometer, etc. With the coming of capitalism the free school system appears. It is to the interest of the capitalist class to increase the productiveness of labor, in order to shorten that part of the working day during which we produce wealth for ourselves and correspondingly lengthen that part of the working day during which we produce surplus value for them. They educate us in order to make of us perfected instruments of production. But it is not enough that we merely work for them. They mis-educate us in order to get us to fight for them! Think of a slave class fighting to defend a slave system!
Capitalism is based on wage slavery. The capitalists hire wage workers to produce wealth, give them part of that wealth in the form of wages and keep the rest. We do not sell our labor to the capitalists; we sell our labor power. "That which confronts the capitalist in the market is not labor but the laborer and that which we sell is our labor power". *9) Labor power is just as different from labor as a machine is different from the work it does. "Labor power is the mental and physical capabilities of man which he exercises when he produces wealth". *10)
To illustrate what a wage slave is, suppose you owned a nice automobile and some one should say to you, "I want to use your car until it is all worn out. I will give it gas and oil enough to keep it running until it can't run any more." Surely you would not agree to that. You wouldn't allow anybody to use your car until it was all worn out just for gas and oil.
But, mark you well, if you are a wage worker that is what you are doing with your body. The capitalists use you until you are all worn out and all they aim to give you is what the chattel slaves got, what the serfs got, what a horse gets, a bare living, and you are not even sure of that. How about your children? You parents spend many happy hours teaching your children how to walk and how to talk. Long years are spent upon their education. When they get to be wonderful young men and women with their eyes brightly shining like the headlights on a new car, and with their veins and arteries like the wiring on a new car, and their hearts beating without a murmur, like the smooth running of new engines, then the capitalists say to the proud parents, "We want to use your children to produce wealth for us and for our children. Just as we have used you to produce wealth for us, so our children want to use your children to produce wealth for them when we are gone."
The parents ask, "What are our children to get for the use of their bodies during the precious years of their lives?" Answer, "Gas and oil". A mere living wage. The endless chain that starts and ends with work. Work to get money, to buy food, to get strength to work. Every increase in the productivity of labor, every invention, every victory of science and triumph of genius in the line of industrial progress, only goes to increase the wealth of a parasite class while the workers are only supposed to get what slave classes always got, a bare living and often not even that. This is wage slavery, the foundation of capitalism.
But capitalism is only a passing stage in the economic development of mankind. As capitalism spreads over the earth it produces the wage working class, i. e. the proletariat, the great class whose historic mission is to end exploitation of man by his fellow man. "Of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class. The other classes decay and finally disappear in the face of modern industry; the proletariat is its special and essential product." *11)
"The lower middle class, the small manufacturer, the shopkeeper, the artisan, the peasant, all these fight against the bourgeoisie to save from extinction their existence as factions of the middle class. They are, therefore, not revolutionary, but conservative. Nay, more, they are reactionary, for they try to roll back the wheels of history." *12)
In the early days of capitalism the wage workers were not conscious of their historic mission, they had no idea of revolution. Their whole idea of success was to work hard, save their money and get into business. When looking for employment they would take any job they could get, no matter how long the hours or how short the pay. They reasoned, "it is better to work hard for small wages than to remain idle, and consume what you have saved." Of course, the employers, the buyers of labor power, when they found that the sellers of labor power were willing to take any price offered, didn't offer much.
As a result, the workers soon found themselves working many hours a day for very small pay. They didn't get enough to live and keep themselves in normal condition, to say nothing of saving anything. They grew rapidly weaker and smaller. They were perishing. Then the unrest began. They realized that something must be done. But still no idea of revolution. They reasoned that capitalism was all right but it needed some improvements, some reforms. The capitalists in some cases gave such improvements as seemed necessary to keep from "killing the chickens that were laying the golden eggs." Marx said, speaking of the English Factory Acts : "Apart from the working class movement that daily grew more threatening, the limiting of factory labor was dictated by the same necessity which spread guano over the English fields. The same blind eagerness for plunder that in the one case exhausted the soil had, in the other, torn up by the roots the living force of the nation." *13)
But the workers were not satisfied. They wanted more than a living wage. They wanted a saving wage. What hope was there for them if they could not save something for their old age? And how were they to get into business? In some cases, the politician framed up the old age pension idea. They told the workers: "With an old age pension you won't need to save anything for your old age. When you get old the dear government will take care of you." They aim to get the workers to be satisfied with a mere existence wage and then work them to death before they have a chance to get old.
But the workers want to escape from wage slavery. Some of them soon learned that the laws of society are not made by the subject class, that reforms are either economically unsound or politically impossible. That the workers can get only what they have the power to take. If they have the power to take, and begin to exercise that power, the capitalists will often try to get ahead of them and give, hoping to get credit that they do not deserve and deceive the workers into the belief that the benefits do not come because of their own organized powers but because of kindness in the hearts of the capitalists. Rest assured, that if the workers allow their organized power to weaken, the hearts of the capitalists will harden accordingly. In the light of this fact how foolish it is for the workers to ask the capitalists to give them the shorter working day or week, or any other thing that they have the power to take.
Many workers have not learned these things yet and so much valuable energy is wasted in building organization founded upon the rights of labor, the right to vote, etc. "The rights of labor are only for times of relative peace in the class war. When the crisis comes these so-called tissues of civilization are brushed aside and the mailed-fist of the capitalist class is thrust in our faces." *14) Organizations founded upon the rights of labor are built upon sand, and when the storm comes the winds blow the sandy foundation away and the organization collapses. Clearly, the organization of the proletariat must be founded upon the solid rock of proletarian power. Liberty and power are identical.
A favorite plan of the workers in the early days was for one alone to ask the employer for more pay. It usually worked out about as follows: One worker would say to the others, "I am going to ask the boss for more pay and if he doesn't give it to me I am going to quit." The other workers, each speaking for himself, would say, "Go ahead and ask him and if he gives it to you, I will ask him." The boss usually answered by saying, "No, if I give you more pay all the others will want more."
Finally the workers got the union idea! Then, instead of "I want more," they went up together and said, "We want more, and if we don't get it we will all quit." It was a good idea and worked well. The organized workers having power were respected more and, above all, they respected themselves more. The union movement developed fast. The employers were afraid of this new power. They, being the ruling class, finally passed a law taking away from labor "the right to strike"—but they could not enforce it! The workers said, "We may not have the right to strike, but we have the power to strike!" And they went on strike in protest against the law that tried to make it a crime to strike. After a long and bitter struggle, during which many brave union workers went to jail, the right to strike was won by the organized workers.
Thus early in the labor movement was demonstrated a vital point, one that should be carefully noted, and that is, the difference between, and the relation between, the rights of labor and the powers of labor.
The unions at first were rather small autonomous groups, formed for the most part on trade or craft lines and with little, or no, idea of class solidarity. They did not recognize the irrepressible class struggle in society. Their idea was that capital and labor were brothers. In other words, the interest of the robbers and the robbed are identical! Their only hope of escape from wage slavery was to "work hard, save money, and get into business."
With the development of machinery and modern industry the meager savings of an individual worker are unable to cope, in a business way, with the giant combinations of capital. With the coming of "Big Business," millions of petty land holders, small shop keepers and petty bourgeoisie generally are being crushed out of business and forced into the ranks of the proletariat.
"In the sphere of agriculture, modern industry has a more revolutionary effect than elsewhere, for this reason, that it annihilates the peasant, that bulwark of the old society, and replaces him by the wage worker." *15)
The wage working class, the proletariat, is rapidly increasing in numbers and importance. "They dominate the nerve centers of the economic life." *16) They are the living parts of modern industry. The industries run when they run them, and stop when they stop. They are the only class that is able to operate the modern machinery of production. "The proletariat cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, without the whole superincumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air." *17) This great class is coming! All other classes are going!
"The centering of the management of industry into fewer and fewer hands makes the trade unions unable to cope with the ever growing power of the employing class." *18) When one craft is on strike all the other crafts remain at work and help to break the strike. When coal miners are on strike in one district or country, the transportation workers help the employing class by bringing in coal from other districts or countries. Thus the workers of one industry scab on the workers of another industry. The capitalist class cannot whip the working class. They can only defeat us so long as they can get one part of our class to whip the other part. We "defeat one another in wage wars."
The employing class, organized as a class, in employers' associations, etc. transfer orders, where possible, and back up each other in the class war. They know that if one group of workers fight and win, other workers will be encouraged to do likewise, and the more they get the more they will want. So, no matter how much the capitalists fight among themselves, they are as one against labor.
Now, we have, on a bigger scale, somewhat the same condition as existed before the first labor union was formed. When the members of one craft ask for more pay the employers say: "If we give you more then all the other crafts will want more."
From these conditions, and not from the brain of any savior or superman, comes the idea of industrial unionism. The idea that the industrial workers of the world, the proletariat, should organize as a class and back up each other in the great struggle for life and freedom.
This grand idea of solidarity of labor, a solidarity that knows no race, no creed, no country, is a result of historically developed conditions and has been developing for years in industrial countries.
Not only are the wage workers getting the idea of class organization but, because of the development of "big business", they are giving up the idea of becoming capitalists and, glory of glories, they are becoming consciously revolutionary!
In Chicago, Illinois, U. S. A., in the year 1905, an organization named "The Industrial Workers of the World" was formed. The present writer had the privilege of rewriting the Preamble of this organization in 1908, and it has stood unchanged from that day to this.
A study of the Preamble and Constitution of this organization will show the form and spirit of a 20th century revolutionary labor organization. The Preamble says in part, "It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. The army of production must be organized; not only for the every day struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old."
Thus the old society is pregnant with the new. The powers that rule the world today will never surrender to a weaker power. Clearly the thing to do is to build the power of organized labor. To try to save the petty bourgeoisie—farmers, shop keepers, etc.—is not revolutionary but reactionary. Reformers try to patch up capitalism. Reactionaries try to roll back the wheels of history. Revolutionists build the new within the shell of the old.
Capitalism is rapidly spreading over the earth, but the coming of the modern world is the coming of the proletariat. As Marx so well said, "What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable."
When the organized power of the proletariat becomes greater than the organized power of other classes, then will come the revolution! The old power will go down before the greater power of the new. Capitalism based on production for sale will give way to production for use. Thus will end the world's last class struggle. The age-long exploitation of man by his fellowman will cease forever, and this will be the crowning achievement of the human race.
Industrial Workers of the World, unite. You have a world and life itself to gain!
My first real contact with the I. W. W., when I was a hopeful young reformer in St. Louis in 1912, came about as the result of the Kansas City free speech fight. Some of the boys just out of jail dropped in to undeceive me about Kansas City's boasted municipal workhouse. They simply and dramatically told the story, new to me, of how free speech really is won.
That technique, developed by the I. W. W. in its ten year struggle to speak on the public streets despite police orders, is unique in American history. It demonstrated the powerlessness of all the forces of law and order in the face of men determined to fill the jails if necessary to win their right to talk. No power on earth can beat men with the courage to go to jail, willingly and cheerfully, for a principle. Not if there are enough of them.
I learned of that technique in the Kansas City fight; the same tactics that marked the score of struggles chiefly in mid-western and Pacific Coast states in the years 1906 to 1916. First the gag on street-speaking, the arrests of the speakers on any handy charge, their conviction and sentence. Then the call for volunteers, the continued stream of soap-boxers night after night on crowded downtown streets, the ceaseless arrests, and then the city's awakening in alarm to the menace of a jail filled to overflowing and new candidates arriving by every freight. The press calls for stern measures. Chambers of Commerce resolve on emergency committees, patriots rave. But nothing stops the invasion nor checks the soap-boxing. The men in jail won't work; they will sing songs. They become front-page copy. Every speech in court is printed in full; every incident in the jail makes drama. Finally, hopeless of stemming the tide and having no more jails, the champions of free speech are released; the fight is won. In Kansas City, sane heads in influential places pointed out the futility of boarding all these men at the city's expense just because they wanted to talk on the streets, and the chief of police surrendered, agreeing to let all the men loose on one condition as a face-saver,— that they could speak freely if they would not abuse the police. Since they had no intention of abusing the defenseless police, they agreed.
I watched similar tactics at work in St. Louis that winter in a campaign to make the city provide food and shelter for the thousands of homeless men who had come to town from the fields and camps. The I. W. W. men dropped into a restaurant, ate, and then presented their checks to the cashier, telling him to charge them to the mayor. Arrested, they made speeches in court that broke on the front pages. The town got excited over the prospect of thousands of men heading for St. Louis to eat on the mayor,—for out of jail or in it that was just what they did. After a few score had made the point clear, the City Council hastily passed an emergency bill to set up a lodging house with free meals, and the fight was won. And won on precisely the same tactics, the same dramatic and moral appeal that won free speech. No amount of lawful propaganda or public appeals could have turned the trick. Courage, numbers, team-work and dramatic sense did it.
These free speech fights of the I. W. W. cropped out without planning wherever the police put on the lid. They rarely had any relation to a strike. They were an outgrowth of street propaganda in cities where organizers were attempting to recruit members. As advertising for the. I. W. W. they were a huge success. Thousands of citizens who had only heard remotely of the organization were aroused to fear and hate by the menace they saw to property interests in the organization of these "outcasts of society." Revolutionary words seemed to take on reality when accompanied by such willing martyrdom. The shafts of revolt hit home because the guardians of property and law had no answer to the accusations. Here were men with a vision and nothing to lose. They could not be bought off nor intimidated. Short of killing them there was no answer to their determination to speak save surrender. And as some old farmer is quoted as saying, "You can't kill 'em; the law protects 'em."
This resistance of the I. W. W. boys, combined with revolutionary propaganda and songs couched in words anybody could understand, aroused passionate prejudice. Sober citizens forgot all law and order; they called for blood. And they got it. Though not a single case of violence by a single member of the I. W. W. marked a single conviction in scores of free speech fights, the violence against them was colossal. It would be futile to record the beatings, kidnappings, torture. Some ten men lost their lives in these fights. Something over 2,000 were sent to jail out of more thousands arrested.
And yet the net effect on the public mind was that the violence was chiefly on the part of the I. W. W. or directly incited by them. That the sworn guardians of the law and the leading citizens were incited to violence merely by ideas they feared is not held against them outside radical circles. They did their patriotic duty against those seeking to overthrow society. Charges of violence against the I. W. W. even in the total absence of proof, were gladly accepted to justify the violence against them. I know of no movement in recent history which so withstood the temptation to violent reprisals as did the I. W. W. in these free speech and other fights to keep the organization going. As a vindication of the power of organized non-violent resistance it is one of the outstanding examples of all time. Practically every fight was won.
Of course the price paid by the organization for these victories was high. Whether they were worth it in terms of the purposes of the I. W. W. is a matter of opinion. Many in the I. W. W. criticized the diversion of energy to a struggle against the police instead of against the bosses, and to winning a free speech that did not build unions. To win the right to talk tended to become the goal rather than the use to which that right was put. But I venture to appraise the effect of the struggle on the morale of the workers as far more important than its victories. The exhibitions of solidarity, of the sacrifice of the individual to the interests of his class, of uncompromising purpose, all built a personality around the I. W. W. which made it the unrivalled spokesman of native American militancy. It had more of the old revolutionary tradition in it, and in precisely its original spirit—1776—than any movement in or out of the working class since. Certainly no fight for free speech before or since has approached it in determination, dramatic tactics or success in its immediate purposes.
One of the significant factors in this struggle was its almost exclusive isolation in the I. W. W. Ordinarily free speech fights arouse widespread participation by those not directly affected who accept the old tradition of "letting them talk." But the violent prejudice aroused by the I. W. W. scared off timid liberals. Outside the Socialists and anarchists only a few staunch libertarians championed their rights. Contributions to defense funds came from middle-class sources in considerable amount, but they did not embarrass the givers by public identification with the I. W. W.
It is commonly said that most of those who fight for free speech do so to get their own rights, but would not lift a finger to get such rights for others. And it is charged, with, unhappily, considerable evidence to prove it, that some who have been loudest in demanding their own rights have denied those rights to others. One radical party breaks up the meetings of another. One A. F. of L. leader, an avowed champion of free speech, a few years ago called for the prosecution of the I. W. W. under the criminal syndicalism laws. He hired thugs to raid their halls and break up their meetings. But I have never heard of a single instance in which the I. W. W. has broken up a meeting of rivals or opponents. They accept for others the principle of a tolerance they fought so hard to gain.
The period of these struggles for the right to speak on the streets came to an end with the war. Everett was the last scene of significant conflict. With the war prosecutions, the energies of the organization were directed to saving it from attack by far more powerful forces than local police and chambers of commerce. And since the war, propaganda on the soap-box has gone out of fashion with the changes brought about in industry, in the tactics of radical organizations and in the I. W. W. itself.
Of the score of fights, two stand out as most conspicuous because most dramatic and tragic,—Everett, Wash. in 1916 and San Diego in 1912. Lives were lost in both; scores of men were beaten, tortured, kidnapped, deported, mobbed, prosecuted. They are so different in character that they deserve description,—that at Everett an exclusive I. W. W. struggle, the other in San Diego shared by Socialists, anarchists, liberals and orthodox trade-unionists.
The San Diego fight was significant because of the long-continued lawless violence by the police and a citizens' committee of "vigilantes" who deported and beat the free speech fighters; because of the undaunted resistance of the I. W. W. men who supplied most of the recruits; and because of the united front put up by organized labor, Socialists, liberals and even religious leaders. The active struggle lasted longer than any free speech fight on record—nine months. It attracted nation-wide attention and involved both state and federal governments.
The issue arose suddenly in December, 1911 when the San Diego City Council, in response to the urging of merchants, adopted an ordinance barring the customary street-speaking in the center of the city. Fifty blocks were closed. Socialists, single-taxers, trade unionists, the I. W. W. and religious groups at once formed the California Free Speech League to fight for their common rights. The day the law took effect, 40 speakers, including two lawyers, were arrested. They were held without trial under excessive bail. A hundred more were soon added, jamming the jails. Overcrowding, rotten food, illness, brutality marked their confinement.
The I. W. W. sent out a call for men. the trade unions pledged support to the fight. The reactionary press called for hanging or shooting without trial. The I. W. W. men began arriving. The police threw a mounted guard along the county line to turn them back. In the course of the eight months of the fight scores were seized, beaten, turned back; one group were forced to kiss the flag at the point of guns, another to run a gauntlet of thugs who beat them mercilessly. One labor man, not an I. W. W., was kidnapped, taken into the country and warned to keep going on pain of death if he returned. Other deportations followed. Altogether hundreds were seized by a self-appointed citizens' committee—vigilantes—taken far out into one desert, beaten and warned not to return.
Mass protest meetings were held in San Diego and Los Angeles. At one, in San Diego led by a woman evangelist, the fire hose was turned on speakers and audience for over an hour, injuring many. The fight, with its daily skirmishes, aroused the press all over the state. The death of one prisoner from a beating put iron into the fighters. Rising protests from all quarters over the state prompted Governor Hiram Johnson to appoint an official investigator.
Just when the fight seemed on its way to settlement with acquittals in court, a clash with the police resulted in the killing of one I. W. W., the wounding of several more, and of two police officers. Wholesale persecution followed. Raids and deportations were renewed. A visiting anarchist speaker was seized, taken out into the country by vigilantes, beaten, branded and tarred.
The report of the governor's investigator, sustaining the charges against the police and vigilantes, together with a further inquiry by the attorney-general, prompted the indictment of leading vigilantes. Even the federal government ordered an investigation. The free speech fighters resumed their meetings; distinguished outside speakers came in; press support grew. The men arrested were finally brought to trial. Some were sentenced to six months. But arrests stopped. The vigilantes were never tried. The fight was over and won.
The conflict in the seaport lumber town of Everett, Washington, in 1916, in contrast to the San Diego struggle, was short—less than a month—and it was an exclusive I. W. W. movement. The issue arose in a strike of the A. F. of L. shingleweavers, when police and thugs broke up picket lines and meetings. The I. W. W. decided then to try its hand at opening up the town. Attempts to rent a hall resulted in the arrest and beating of organizers, who were run out. The leaders then decided to approach the city from the sea. A boat was chartered in Seattle. When it landed in Everett, the 41 men on board were seized by the sheriff and his men, loaded into trucks and taken out of town. There they were made to run a gauntlet on a railroad track—kicked, beaten and stuck with sharp sticks. Driven from town, they determined to recruit larger forces. The week following 300 men en two chartered steamers left Seattle. Arriving at the dock in Everett, singing "Hold the Fort for we are coming," they were met by a fusillade of shots and scores of rifles in the hands of the sheriff and his deputies, many of them recruited by the lumber interests. Five men lay dead on the decks, others fell into the sea; 31 were wounded. Two deputy sheriffs were killed, 16 wounded—by crossfire, the defense contended in the trials, due to firing on the boats from three sides. All the remaining I. W. W. men were arrested at once, with all others who could be found in town, including three women. Seventy-four were charged with murder.
the dauntless spirit of the I. W. W. was evident when the very next day two men tried to hold a street meeting of protest. Arrested, they were tortured and beaten. Of the men charged with murder, one was brought to trial in Seattle several months later, and after two months acquitted. The others were then freed. Not a single one of the scores of deputies who fired on men merely seeking to land in town to speak on the streets, was arrested or prosecuted. The sheriff in charge of them later got a state job. The Everett fight resulted in the establishment of free speech after the trials. The I. W. W. opened a hall and held street meetings without interference.
San Diego and Everett—not typical of the many I. W. W. free speech fights, but the best evidence of the spirit of determination behind them. They emphasize what Mr. Dooley long ago said of rights. "Don't ask for rights; take them. There's something the matter with a right that is handed to you." And they illustrate the truth that law is only what its agents choose to make it.
When the war began there were few places where the I. W. W. was unable to keep open a hall or to speak on the streets. The war hysteria and the criminal syndicalism laws, together with the federal prosecutions, soon closed most of them. The fighting front of the organization shifted from the streets to the criminal courts. Shortly in many states it became a crime to be a member of the I. W. W. Yet after the war, the halls opened up again, though street speaking was far less common. Except for the period of terrorism following Centralia, the halls stayed open. But no fight for free speech on the streets has marked the years since, save for a little flurry in Toledo.
Among the outstanding free speech fights of the I. W. W. are the following: 1906, San Francisco, Cal.; 1909, Missoula, Mont., Spokane, Wash., New Castle, Pa.; 1910, Wenatchee, Walla Walla, Wash., Fresno, Cal.; 1911, Duluth, Minn., Victoria, B. C., Denver, Colo., Superior, Wis., Kansas City, M., Aberdeen, Wash.; 1912, San Diego, Cal., Aberdeen, S. D., New Bedford, Mass., Minneapolis, Minn.; 1913, Denver, Grand Junction, Colo., Minot, N. D., Seattle, Wash., Kansas City, Mo.; 1914, Aberdeen, S. D.; 1915, Paterson, N. J.; 1916, Old Forge, Pa., Everett, Wash.
Nobody in the United States today, where free speech remains a challenging issue, in strikes and out, carries on the tactics so dramatically worked out by the I. W. W. They wrote a chapter in the history of American liberties like that of the struggle of the Quakers for freedom to meet and worship, of the militant suffragists to carry their propaganda to the seats of government, and of the Abolitionists to be heard.
Far more effective is this direct action of open conflict than all the legal maneuvers in the courts to get rights that no government willingly grants. Power wins rights,—the power of determination backed by willingness to suffer jail or violence to get them. The little minority of the working class represented in the I. W. W. blazed the trail in those ten years of fighting for free speech which the entire American working class must in some fashion follow. Without that spirit no revolutionary program can succeed. Without it, the elementary rights of agitation remain a myth.
While education has been its chief achievement, militant industrial unionism in America has in the main followed two major lines--combat and defense. Both of these have been spectacular in the extreme. At every point where the Industrial Workers of the World contacted the powerful and firmly entrenched employing interests, friction developed on a scale hitherto unprecedented. With its revolutionary ideal and deeply rooted scepticism of all methods save those of the direct action of the workers at the point of production, the I. W. W., as might be supposed, was from the +beginning destined for a stormy career. In fact, the first year of its existence was marked by one of the most outstanding labor defense cases in history.
The Moyer, Haywood, Pettibone case was in reality the aftermath of the great strike of the Western Federation of Miners, which culminated in the gigantic frame-up against three of the officers of the Union. On January 19, 1906 William D. Haywood, Charles Moyer and George A. Pettibone were arrested in Colorado and spirited away to Idaho. No opportunity was given these men to see their families or to consult lawyers. One Harry Orchard, a stoolpigeon, made a purported confession in which the three miners were accused of conspiracy to cause the murder of ex-Governor Frank Stuenenburg of Idaho. This now famous case was made a matter of national importance by the energetic measures used by the defense. Publicity, both in the labor and capitalist press, resulted in stirring up public opinion all over the nation and the world. The I. W. W. learned its first big lesson in the tactics of labor defense from this case—one that was to be of utmost value in the years to come. Publicity won the day.
Eugene V. Debs' ringing slogan, "If they hang Bill Haywood they've got to hang me" became the battle cry that was echoed in many parts of the world. Clarence Darrow's masterly plea for acquittal prevailed over the narrowness and prejudice of the times. The acquittal of Haywood resulted in the dropping of the case against the others.
In July, August and September, 1909 the I. W. W. led the strike of 8,000 workers at the Pressed Steel Car Company at McKees Rocks, Penn. These men represented sixteen nationalities. The notorious state constabulary or, as the strikers called them, the American Cossacks, were called out. An amazing series of brutalities resulted. In order to call attention to the injustices being perpetrated against helpless workers, the strike committee issued an ultimatum which focused the attention of the nation on the scene. Ben Williams, editor of Solidarity, and a number of fellow workers had been arrested. Meetings were held all over the country and defense funds were raised. The true story of the eleven weeks of police brutality was given to the nation. The "Cossacks" made one last desperate attempt to break the strike with customary violence. A terrible encounter ensued in which the state policemen were forced to seek shelter in the company plants. The strike ended. The defendants were released. A similar story on a smaller scale was repeated in 1912-13 in Little Falls, N. Y.
While the Spokane free speech fight is mentioned elsewhere, the defense features are worthy of note. Six hundred members of the I. W. W. were arrested in Spokane, Washington, in the latter part of 1909. In order to put their purpose on the front page of the daily papers, more than 200 of them went on a hunger strike of from eleven to thirteen days. The persistence of the hunger strikers, coupled with the attendant publicity, forced the officials of the city to yield. In San Diego, Kansas City and other cities which sought to deny workers the right of free speech, similar tactics were used with similar results.
In 1912 a strike occurred in the textile mills at Lawrence, Massachusetts. This was another of the great strikes of labor history. About 30,000 workers speaking 27 different languages participated. The strike was well organized and splendidly directed. This and the Paterson, N. J. strike undoubtedly reveal Wm. D. Haywood at his best in the role of strike strategist. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the "Joan of Arc" of the American Labor Movement, and Joe Ettor and Arturo Giovannitti, for their courage and ability, became figures of national prominence during this strike. The two latter were falsely accused of the murder of a little girl who was killed in what was alleged to have been a street riot. Ettor, Giovannitti and another Italian named Caruso, were held in jail a year. The result of the trial was an acquittal. The defense work had been very extensive in scope. Public opinion, which rejoiced in the victory of the strikers, was emphatic in demanding the release of the defendants. It was discovered that one of the mill operators had planted evidence to help convict the unjustly accused men. This operator afterwards was reported as having committed suicide in Florida.
In the latter part of 1913 another great textile strike under I. W. W. leadership occurred in Paterson, N. J. The Doherty mill, owned chiefly by Japanese capitalists, was one of the largest units involved. All the hoary subterfuges of the employing class were used to discredit the strikers; the frame-up, patriotism, the spy system and open police brutality. This strike produced some of the most spectacular defense features in labor history. At one time the entire child-population of Paterson was removed to other cities to be looked after until the end of the strike, thus leaving their parents free to endure the hardships of the industrial struggle without worrying about their offspring. Bob Fitzsimmons, the fighter and Bertha Kalich, the actress contributed their talent at benefit performances. But the famous Paterson Pageant was by far the greatest strike benefit and defense-publicity stunt on record. Madison Square Garden in New York City was the scene of a colossal reproduction of the entire strike. Another striking feature of defense publicity was Bill Haywood's exposure of the millowners' methods of processing silk for profitable sale. This process is known as "dynamiting" and consisted of the loading of the fabric with lead, tin or zinc. These adulterations were exposed, to the consternation of the textile barons and the advantage of the strikers.
The Ford and Suhr case is another of the great milestones in the story of labor defense. In Wheatland, California, in 1913 a strike occurred in the height of the hop picking season. Richard Ford and Herman Suhr were arrested charged with the murder of Prosecuting Attorney Manwell and Deputy Sheriff Riordan. The trial aroused widespread interest and resulted in conviction for the death of Manwell. But the terrible conditions prevailing in the hop fields were exposed. For twelve years agitation for the release of Ford and Suhr was carried on in the face of the most intense bitterness on the part of the California ruling class and its prosecutors. Ford was released on parole in 1925. Rearrested and tried again for murder; this time with a verdict of acquittal. Suhr was released in 1926. The trial was handled by the California Branch of the General Defense Committee which obtained the signatures of a majority of the trial jury to a petition stating that they believed the convictions amounted to a miscarriage of justice.
The strike of the Southern lumberjacks which occurred in 1913 offers another example of the benefits to labor of well organized defense work. Intolerable conditions had driven the lumber workers to revolt. The strike was organized and directed by the I. W. W. A riot was planned and executed by company directors and gunmen. Fifty-eight men were arrested and thrown into jail. Four men belonging to the A. F. of L. were killed outright in a daylight massacre. Attempt to organize was the only reason given or required. Blacklist was used freely. Men and women were driven out of the country. The 58 men were confined in jail for months until news of the frightful conditions spread to all parts of the country. Thus the I. W. W. opened up the semi-fuedal South for labor organization.
The case of Rangel and Cline, like the one mentioned above, attracted a great deal of attention. The widest publicity was given to the facts in the case, but like Ford and Suhr, the two men were forced to serve a large part of their time in prison. In 1914, Charles Cline, an I. W. W. and a Mexican fellow worker named Rangel, were arrested near the border. They were charged with violation of the neutrality act for attempting to join forces with Mexican rebels across the Rio Grande who were attempting to overthrow the tyranny of Porfirio Diaz, dictator of Mexico. Both served thirteen years. The wide interest aroused by their case was still alive when both men were pardoned by the Governor of Texas, "Ma" Ferguson.
The famous Joe Hill case occurred in Utah in 1914. It was a classical case of the "frame-up" used against labor. A strike against the Utah Construction Company occurred at Bingham Canyon. It was a success. The I. W. W. song writer, Joe Hill, was the chief agitator and organizer. He was arrested in Salt Lake City for the murder of a local groceryman named Morrison. He was tried and convicted; appealed and lost. Gurley Flynn visited Joe Hill in jail, and urged him to accept the defense of the organization. Then started a period of defense activity only paralleled by the Sacco-Vanzetti case. The Governor's mansion was inundated with letters and telegrams. The Swedish Ambassador and even President Wilson were induced to appeal for clemency for Joe Hill. Protest meetings were held in all parts of the world. On November 17, 1915 Joe Hill faced a firing squad in the Utah penitentiary. His last message was "Don't mourn for me; organize." Joe Hill's body was sent to Chicago and cremated at Graceland Cemetery. His funeral was one of the largest in the history of Chicago.
The Everett Massacre occurred in 1916. Striking shingle weavers were denied the right to speak on the streets of Everett, Wn. Lumber workers were beaten with ax-handles and driven out of town. Loggers from Seattle attempted to come to Everett by steamship to hold a meeting. These were met as the steamer Verona reached the city docks, by a fusillade of bullets from gunmen about the wharves. Two hundred and ninety-four workers were arrested. Seventy-four were charged with murder of a gunman named Jefferson Beard, who was killed by crossfire of the sheriff's forces. The indictment was reduced and Tom Tracy went to trial. George Vanderveer of Seattle was the defense attorney. Great publicity was given this case. The defendant was acquitted. The remaining men were freed.
The Mesaba strike in 1916 ran true to form. The entire iron range was flooded with gunmen. Sixteen thousand miners were involved. There were kidnappings, sluggings and other forms of police brutality, culminating in the arrest of three organizers for libel. These men had said in open meeting that company gunmen had killed a striking miner named John Alar. They were freed later. Another miner sent to the penitentiary at Stillwater, Minn. was finally released, largely as a result of defense activities.
Among the war-time cases the one tried at Chicago was the largest. An attempt was made under the cloak of the "war for democracy" to crush the I. W. W. once and for all, by arresting all of its officials and many of the most active workers. One hundred and thirteen were put on trial. Eighty-seven were confined in the Cook County jail for a year awaiting trial. The defense was hampered in every conceivable way. One hundred men were convicted and sentenced to from a year and a day to twenty years. The expense of the trial and defense publicity work were enormous. During the first year of imprisonment only a little over $7,000 had been raised for the defense. When Bill Haywood was released on bail he suggested the organization of a general defense committee. The famous letter "In Memoriam" bordered with black, which was the first thing Haywood got out, brought in $9,000 in about a month. While the Wichita and Sacramento cases were going on another famous document, "With Drops of Blood," was published. The first month's returns from this were over $22,000.
The General Defense Committee was using profitably all the experiences of the past in I. W. W. defense work. Speakers were sent to all parts of the country. Each member released from prison on bail was immediately sent on the firing line. The capital building in Washington was inundated with protests. A million special protest cards were circulated and 3,000,000 "Amnesty by Christmas" stamps were prepared and used. In addition to these, hundreds of thousands of pamphlets and leaflets were circulated, in spite of the efforts of the Government to obstruct such work. The "Amnesty by Christmas" drive of the General Defense Committee in the Fall of 1923 is conceded to have been an important factor in securing a general release of political prisoners.
The members of the I. W. W. arrested in Kansas were first arrested and charged with vagrancy. It will be remembered they were picked up in the oil fields suspected of trying to organize the oil workers, thus interfering with the profits of that great patriot, Harry Sinclair! These men were held in jail two years awaiting trial. The original charge of vagrancy was changed on March 6 to violation of the Lever Act, which was quashed. New indictment was drawn charging 38 men with conspiracy prior to and during their confinement in jail. Men convicted in the Chicago case were named as co-conspirators. Numerous attempts made by defense counsel to quash the indictment were finally successful, but again a new indictment was drawn with certain changes made in it. Men went to trial on December 1, 1919. Verdict of guilty rendered with sentences ranging from three to nine years. During their confinement in jail two went insane; one died from influenza; three contracted tuberculosis.
The Sacramento Case, in 1917 also started with an explosion at the rear of the gubernatorial mansion, members of the I. W. W. being charged with the crime. Charles M. Fickert, then running for re-election used this as political capital. Every I. W. W. in town was arrested. Five days after the explosion two I. W. W. members were arrested. They had a package containing nine sticks of dynamite, five cakes of soap and a quantity of bacon. They said they were going prospecting. Evidence was lacking, so evidence was manufactured, with the help of the daily press. Defendants were charged with violating every war act and with numerous fires occurring in California. Defendants became convinced they could expect no justice and refused to employ counsel, using the "silent defense" method. A. W. Fox, Theodora Pollock and Basile Saffores employed counsel and were let off with fines. The others were convicted on all counts and sentenced to from one to ten years.
The California Syndicalism cases began after the passage of the law in the Spring of 1919. Eight members of the I. W. W. were prosecuted. Trials of I. W. W. members occurred for a period of over five years, accusations being filed in twenty counties; actual trials were held in fourteen. Five hundred and thirty-one persons were accused by indictment; 292 dismissed without trial; 264 were actually tried; 164 actually convicted. Three professional witnesses—Dymond, Coutts and Townsend—appeared against the accused at all trials, their method being to recount their acts while members themselves of the organization. No attempt was made to check up their statements. The I. W. W. started a state-wide campaign of organization and defense literature. Tom Connors was indicted on a charge of tampering with a juryman. These trials brought to light the character of the I. W. W. as an industrial union. To counteract the true facts and keep them from reaching the public, the injunction was resorted to, which meant that the accused would have no right to a jury trial. Direct violence upon the part of the predatory interests resulted in a mob raid upon the hall of the I. W. W. at San Pedro, California, a number of people, including several children being severely injured. A grand jury investigation whitewashed the entire business. The I. W. W. continued to function with more vigor than ever, and subsequently all criminal syndicalism cases were dismissed.
In the Centralia, Washington case of November 11, 1919, the charge was made that an American Legion man had been killed by members of the I. W. W. in Centralia. Ten men were involved. The trouble was the result of the Legion men going nut of the line of march to attack the I. W. W. hall. In the skirmish that ensued Lieutenant Warren O. Grimm and three other Legionnaires were killed. On March 13, 1920 a verdict was returned that was unacceptable to the court and the jury returned with new instructions. The new verdict rendered was "guilty of murder in the second degree" Britt Smith, Bert Bland, Commodore Bland, Ray Becker, James McInerney, Eugene Barnett and John Lamb ; Mike Sheehan and Elmer Smith were acquitted; Loren Roberts was adjudged insane.
Since the imprisonment of the Centralia defendants increasing efforts have been made to secure their release. Numerous books and leaflets have been circulated. Protest meetings have been held regularly and influential organizations and publicists have been interested and induced to make an effort to secure belated justice. Statements exonerating the defendants have been obtained from trial jurymen. It has been a hard and bitterly contested struggle from the beginning.
Legal defense, publicity, prison relief and relief funds for the families of imprisoned men have been supplied wherever needed by the General Defense Committee from the beginning.
"Not orthodox, but well planned."
In the fewest words possible that may be taken as an explanation of the methods of the strikes of the I. W. W. in the Pacific Northwest in the past quarter century. The strikes were not orthodox in that they did not follow any set rule, neither were they called by any officials.
They were planned, and very carefully, in that they were considered from every angle by the men who did the striking, and when called off the decision as to time and terms of ending was made by the strikers on their own initiative.
There were few questions of what course any officials would take. Officials followed instructions as a matter of course. Instead, there were reports that "We tightened up our picket line," or "The camp is out solid," or "Not a scab getting through." The slogan—had these unorthodox strikers stooped to slogans—might have been, "We run this strike."
There were two elements in the making of these struggles, outside that of the unbearable industrial conditions which were the prime cause. The first was a spirit of independence on the part of the strikers. On this fertile soil the delegates of the Industrial Workers of the World sowed the seed of industrial solidarity. Before they came, protests had been an individual matter. When a man did not like conditions he had quit one job and sought another. But the delegates proclaimed that "In Union there is strength."
the new idea took root and flourished. In the spring of 1907 a strike of saw mill workers in Portland, Oregon, brought the organization vividly to the attention of the Northwest workers. The strike was a success in one respect, the mills were tied up solidly.
In another respect it was not so successful. The workers did not yet have the idea they must stick on the picket lines and see that none but they should go back to work. So many left that not enough remained to do picket duty, and the few who stayed called .the strike off, allowing the mills to be filled with unorganized men. The workers struck as one, but considered this their full duty. They did not yet understand that workers must claim a proprietary right in the jobs, even in the industry itself.
In June, 1908, lumber companies in Western Montana cut wages in the saw mills. They were working on the nine hour day and there was no dispute on that point. The strike started July 1 at Bonner and the mills were closed until next spring. The strike was lost and the reduced scale held until 1916, when lumber pilers asked 25 cents a day increase. A short strike resulted which gained an increase of 19 cents a day. In 1913 there had been a strike to hold the nine hour day, which was won.
A number of free speech fights in the Northwest in 1909, 1910 and 1911 had focused attention on the I. W. W. By the spring of 1912 the delegates, speakers and writers had envisioned to the workers the possibility of action in their own interest. The cartoons of Ernest Riebe, "Mr. Block," were a large factor in showing the hopelessness of meekly accepting conditions imposed by the employers.
In March, 1912, a strike of saw mill workers in Grays Harbor was bitterly fought for about a month. Men and women formed solid picket lines which the companies could not break. As a last resort to break the strike, many of the active strikers were kidnapped and deported from the district, and the companies sent gun men and city officials to close the Finnish and Croatian halls where the strikers had headquarters. Those halls were nailed up with two inch planks and heavy spikes, and the owning clubs were not allowed to reopen them until several weeks later under threat of having them burned.
On March 28, 1912, a strike began on the Canadian Northern construction work. All activity in this strike was carried on by the I. W. W. and large numbers of men joined while it was going on. Considerable gains were made in wages and conditions, but the greatest gain was in the sense of power that arose. Five years later that feeling of power swept 40,000 lumber workers into the most spectacular strike the Northwest has ever seen.
In a strike of shingleweavers in 1916, members of the I. W. W. had given much help to the Shingleweavers Union. The lumber companies in Everett tried to drive every union man, and especially the I. W. W., from the town. In making that effort they caused the massacre of November 5 on the Everett dock, then charged 74 workers with murder to cover their own guilt. Thousands of Northwest workers joined the I. W. W. in protest against this travesty. Tom Tracy was the only one of the men ever brought into court. He was acquitted May 5, 1917, after a trial lasting two months.
Excellent generalship was used in the strikes of 1917. No action was attempted in the winter. When water began to run high in the spring, the river drivers in the "short log" district of Western Montana, Idaho and Northeast Washington demanded higher wages, and in many cases gained them. Where they did not gain, the companies lost heavily in logs left on the shores of the streams to be damaged by worms and rot during the summer. In several woods camps in this district strikes started in June against the rotten conditions and gained some headway. But no attempt was made until July to draw the loggers of Western Washington and Oregon into the strike.
Camps and mills in the Northwest close one to three weeks in late June and early July. When the lay-off comes, men from every camp are in Spokane, Seattle, Tacoma, Portland and Vancouver. There men hear of conditions in all camps and mills west of the Rocky Mountains. Discussion about "solidarity for better conditions" had been carried on for years. Speakers and organizers now held many meetings in the cities and towns during the lay-off, explaining principles and tactics to willing listeners.
When the camps reopened, delegates and organizers went into the woods, picking up the few loose ends of organization work and making ready for the next attack. Every camp operated with a full crew. But in three weeks after they started, hundreds of camps were silent. Thousands of men came out and picketed strategic points. Committees were elected to have immediate charge of activities. There were central strike committees in all lumber centers, and then one general strike committee for the lumber industry of the Northwest.
The demands were generally for the eight hour day, 50 cents a day increase in wages and better camp conditions.
The saw mill workers were not on strike with the woods workers and no effort was made to stop the mills. They soon ran out of logs and had to close. Some companies tried to have their mill crews cut logs, but the effort was a failure.. Some of the bosses in the Lumbermen's Association wanted to settle and they held many acrimonious sessions. When one of their meetings adjourned one great lumber baron came out with a blacked eye. But they had posted bonds that no company might grant the demands of the strikers until the Association should permit, so the strike went on. The workers were fighting the Lumbermen's Association, not a number of individuals.
When the strike had been on about two months, the question of further financing came up. Very little money had been received from outside sources. The strikers decided to "transfer the strike to the job." That is, go back to work and fake the eight hour day, which was the principal issue. Wage increases of more than the (demands had been offered, and the companies stood ready to make some camp improvements, so the working time was practically the only one to gain, and all there was of that was to take it.
When the strikers considered the time opportune, they instructed their committees to call the strike off. Woods workers formed themselves into crews and applied for jobs. They seemed satisfied with their holiday and ready to work. Things appeared right, until eight hours had been worked. In some instances men worked one day on the ten hour schedule, but mostly the eight hour day was taken at first.
Then came the test of power. Some crews were discharged when they first stopped work at the end of eight hours. But the companies were at heavy expense in preparing for operation, had the overhead costs for foremen and other items, and had stocked up with fresh meats, fruits and vegetables. Many thousands of dollars would be lost by discharging the men, so some companies gave in at first. Others discharged one or more crews before they realized all would act the same, but they finally accepted the eight hour day as an established fact the improvements in camp conditions cost not less than $25 for each of the 40,000 workers affected, an outlay of a million dollars. Two hours time off the work (day reduced the value of the output by at least a dollar per man and the wage increase added another dollar to the expense account, making well over $80,000 a day extra cost to the companies. No wonder the lumber barons raged like wild beasts in Centralia on November 11, 1919.
There were many smaller strikes in the construction and lumber camps of the Northwest from 1917 until the spring of 1923. Each had its individual cause, but all were to resist encroachments by the bosses on what had been won in wages and conditions, or to enforce demands that had been made by the men but not granted by the companies at first. The strike in the spring of 1923 was not so much in the interest of the strikers themselves, as it was a show of solidarity for the Class War Prisoners.
In each district, sometimes in each camp, there were local demands for improvement of certain conditions, but all were headed with the one demand, "Release the Class War Prisoners." When action began to be discussed in the fall of 1922, the companies tried to turn the movement aside. They looked around to see what improvements could be made. The bosses did less driving. As strike talk gained in volume some companies raised wages 50 cents a day. But in spite of these sops the men struck and showed such solidarity the Class War Prisoners gained years in commutation of their sentences. When the strikers went bask to work there was no effort by the companies to victimize them. Their organization was too strong.
A sporadic attempt at a strike in the woods was made in September, 1923, which has been a source of much misunderstanding. There had been some talk after the May strike of another effort in the near future. In August a representative committee elected from the various lumbering districts of the Northwest met in Portland to canvass the situation. One committeeman was instructed to vote for a strike in September. All others were instructed to the general effect that the members who elected them did not consider a strike in their districts advisable at that time, but they would support any action the majority decided on.
After the situation had been thoroughly canvassed, the committee decided, with only one dissenting vote, not to issue a strike call. The decision was published everywhere,, and men continued work with a determination that when they should strike again, it would be with more power than ever. Then a few, who wanted a strike at all costs, met in one Branch, issued a "strike call" and published it broadcast in the name of the I. W. W. This caused much confusion for a time, but workers now generally have a clear understanding of the event.
The strikes of the I. W. W. are the spectacular events that have marked the progress of the organization. They are the mile posts that measure the distance we have come, but they are not the road itself. That road is paved with the slow, painstaking work of many delegates and educators, proving to the workers that emancipation from wage slavery is possible, and that it will come from the conscious act of the workers themselves. The road of organization leads to the full social value of all production to go to the producers.
Looking down from a skyscraper one can scarcely discern the individual in the streets of the city below. Only currents or masses of men weave in and out among the buildings, and so it is that the history of a labor movement appears to the student who casually glances backward. A continual interweaving of persons, events and trends comes before the mind's eye, with an occasional inlay set forth prominently because of the real or imaginary significance attached to the subject. One such gem in the history of the Industrial Workers of the World is the formation of the Agricultural Workers Organization of the I. W. W. in 1915.
The signal importance attached to the formation of the Agricultural Workers Organization is due to the fact that around its development hinges the institution of the present structure of the I. W. W., a series of co-ordinating industrial unions. During the first eleven years of its existence the I. W. W. ardently advocated the industrial form of union structure, but only at the end of such period of time was able actually to install such system in its own organization. The story of the development of the A. W. O. No. 400 also presents a graphic picture of the part played by the migratory worker in the upbuilding of industrial unionism in the United States. A brief survey of conditions as they existed in the harvest area of this country at that time will assist an understanding of why such development took the particular trend it did take.
The wheat belt in the middle west section of this country, through which the horde of migratory workers swarmed each year at harvest time, consisted of a territory extending from the Pan Handle of Texas through Oklahoma, Kansas,
Nebraska, South and North Dakotas, Montana and Washington. The latter four of the states mentioned depended greatly on the :migratory worker for man power to harvest the small grain crops; this to a much greater extent than at the present time. An idea of the change occurring in this respect may be gleaned from the fact that in 1912 the State of Kansas required 85 per cent. of the necessary labor for the harvest period to enter the State from outside its border; today, the same State depends on other States to furnish a mere 10 per cent. of the needed harvest labor.
The large number of workers which were needed from beyond the respective state lines caused the farming communities in each grain growing state to develop high-powered publicity methods to attract the desired workers. Several times the number needed were advertised for, usually with the desired result of flooding the various districts with job-seeking migratory workers, from two to five men often being on the spot for each job. Once an oversupply of men was created, every available means of coercion was used to force the workers to accept a mere pittance as wages, while the business elements in the towns spared no effort to devise ways and means to retain each penny paid as harvest wages within the confines of their respective communities. To achieve success in this respect was not a difficult undertaking.
The very finest types among the somewhat heterogeneous American working class were to be found amid the horde which rode the railroad trains into the job-promising land of golden wheat. On top of boxcars, occasionally on the rods but usually inside of the boxcars, could be found hundreds of thousands of men from every walk in life. East, West, North and South, it mattered not as to direction, the most picturesque, and pathetic, one might say, aggregation of hungry and helpless workers ever assembled in one industry migrated about, seeking for an opportunity to exchange their labor power for some slight measure of the wherewithal of life. This was the ideal labor situation—ideal for the employing farmers—prevailing in the harvest fields of these United States prior to the formation of the A. W. O. No. 400 of the I. W. W.
Adding to the terrible situation described above a sprinkling of high-jacks, tin-horn gamblers, bootleggers and prostitutes, gives one a fairly accurate idea of what the unorganized agricultural worker faced as he entered the wheat growing area to seek a living. The farming communities well knew how to use these degenerates to the interests of the local employers. It is notorious that oftentimes the village or town marshal served as the village bootlegger much of the harvest country being in the local option belt and "dry" at the time. It also was a very ordinary and usual occurrence for the marshal, as well as other town or village officials, to work in cahoots with the high-jacks, tin-horn gamblers and bootleggers.
The general premise underlying these alignments with the social degenerates was that a slave without money, broke and hungry, was always a servile slave. Under such conditions the individualist thought only to secure a job which meant that he would eat for a few days; never, under such circumstances would he scruple about wage rates. During the years 1913 and 1914, however, some substantial benefits accrued to certain groups of harvest workers because of organization. Scattered members of various local unions of the I. W. W. formed temporary alliances on jobs and in harvest districts to curtail hours, and improve wages and job conditions.
Prior to 1915 many admirable victories were won as the result of the activities of I. W. W. members in the harvest fields, but, usually owing to the lack of a cohesive and lasting organization, these gains were of a temporary nature. A few isolated instances are of record where a wage of three dollars for a ten hour working day was paid, although the general top wage to that time had been two dollars and fifty cents, and the working day period from a sun-up to sun-down day to a sun-up to a far-into-the-night "day". The need for a more unified organization in the harvest fields was clearly recognized in 1914.
Acting on a recommendation from Frank Little, General Executive Board member, the Ninth Annual Convention of the I. W. W., which convened in Chicago, September 21, 1914, indorsed a resolution which instructed the general administration to call a conference early in 1915 of representatives from all I. W. W. locals whose members actively participated in the small grain harvest. In accordance with these instructions a conference was called for April 15, 1915, to be held in Kansas City, Mo.
The conference was called to order by a General Executive Board member on the date set. A total of nine delegates were seated from the following local unions of the I. W. W.: Local 57, Des Moines, Ia.; Local 66, Fresno, Calif.; Local 92, Portland, Ore.; Local 61, Kansas City, Mo.; Local 69, Salt Lake City, Utah; Local 173, San Francisco, Calif.; Local 64, Minneapolis, Minn.; and Local 26, Denver, Colo. The actual accomplishment of this conference was the formation of the Agricultural Workers Organization.
A resolution adopted by the conference determined the formation of a permanent union as well as deciding on the name for such union. Another action of the body was to set a two dollar initiation fee and ask all local unions of the I. W. W. located in the harvest area to bring their initiation fee to such level. A general secretary-treasurer was elected for the A. W. O., and his wages were set at $18 per week. A general organization committee of five members was provided for, as was an undetermined number of field delegates, the latter to work without pay.
A charter was issued by the general administration of the I. W. W. to the Agricultural Workers Organization No. 400 on April 21, 1915. This charter gave the A. W. O. No. 400 the status of a national industrial union. At the time of issuing this charter from the organization general office the matter of designating a number for it arose. The then General Secretary-Treasurer of the I. W. W. commented that inasmuch as this local was being formed by the elite of the working class a suitable number was 400. During the respective period the term "400" was a common expression in use to designate a group of plutocrats in "high society" who numbered around this figure and who owned the greater portion of the wealth in this vast nation.
It also was determined at this first conference that union operating programs must be determined close to the job, and provisions were made for field meetings to be held for the purpose of transacting such union business as was pertinent to each respective locality. Arrangements were made to protect members from highjacks when moving from job to job. This was one of the outstanding problems of the day because many of the high-jack gangs operated in conjunction with village and town officials, as well as railroad crews, and generally presented a real menace. The destructive effect of booze and gambling among the workers was clearly recognized by the body, and a policy which provided for the separation of these disturbing influences from the organization's activities was adopted. It is notorious that no booze or gambling was tolerated among organized harvest workers during the subsequent period.
On July 25, 1915, three months after the formation of the A. W. O. No. 400, a second conference was held in Kansas City, Mo. This meeting was called for the purpose of planning an organized movement of harvest workers into the northern wheat areas, the harvest then being about completed in the southern districts. Reports made to this meeting showed that organization receipts for the three month period, and around 90 per cent. of the total was collected during the last ten days, were $878, while expenses for the same period were $789. At this time the A. W. O. consisted of only one branch, the headquarters branch at Kansas City.
At this conference a tentative wage scale of $3 for the South Dakota area was set, and a $3.50 scale for North Dakota, the hours to be a maximum of ten in both instances. Many cases reported to the conference showed that wages had been raised from the standard $2.50 to a wage of $3 for 10 hours work in Kansas, while from every section where the union was active came reports of a vicious and persistent persecution of union members. More than 100 arrests of active members prior to the end of July were reported, with all but 12 being released within a period of a few days.
The July meeting in Kansas City decided to move the A. W. O. headquarters to Minneapolis, Minn. The following general meeting was held at the latter named city. Among the important actions taken at this meeting which was held November 15 and 16 was to arrange for the opening of branches in Kansas City, Sioux City, Ia., Omaha, Neb., and Des Moines, Ia. On December 12, 1915, a conference of 55 members was held in Sacramento, Cal., at which an additional local was formed. At the Minneapolis conference a plan of extending organization activities into the lumber camps and iron ore mines of the north central states was adopted.
During the winter of 1915 and early in 1916 the A. W. 0. 400, greatly assisted to achieve a substantial organization in both the Mesaba Range metal mining industry and the lumber industry of Minnesota and Wisconsin. So closely aligned with the organization activities in industries other than agriculture was the A. W. O. that during the early months of 1916 two national industrial union charters were issued by the General Administration of the I. W. W. wherein the headquarters of these unions were to be maintained jointly with that of the A.W.O. No. 400. On February 3, 1916 National Industrial Union charter 490 was issued to the iron ore miners in the Mesaba Range district. This union also formed branches throughout the respective territory while its headquarters was joined with that of the A. W. O. Likewise, on March 6, 1916, National Industrial Union charter No. 573 was issued to the general construction workers. This union was constituted and aligned similarly to I. U. No. 490.
Official reports made to the fall, 1916, general meeting of the A. W. O. No. 400 showed that the A. W. O. had initiated more than 8,000 members, and that the finances of the union were in excellent condition. Substantial progress was made during 1916 in organizing workers in the cities of the middle west, as well as in the lumber, metal mining and construction industries of the same area, the A. W. O. actively participating in these activities. The action of the 1916 general convention of the I. W. W. in revising the structure of the general organization changed the A. W. O. No. 400 into the A. W. I. U. No. 400. This structural revision by the Tenth (1916) General Convention of the I. W. W. arranged for the structure of the I. W. W. to consist of industrial unions and a general recruiting union. I. U. 490 became part of M. M. I. U., once No. 800, and severed its headquarters from that of the A. W. I. U., while I. U. 573 became C. W. I. U. No. 573, and for a time continued to maintain its headquarters jointly with the A. W. I. U. No. 400.
In May, 1917, the Construction Workers Industrial Union No. 573 held a convention in Omaha, Nebraska, and decided to sever its headquarters from that of the A. W. I. U. This convention represented 1200 members and five branches.
The A. W. I. U. hall in Kansas City, Mo., was raided by the authorities twice during March, 1917, but on May 30 of the same year the spring convention of the industrial union was held in the same hall. In attendance at this convention was a representative of the Non-Partisan League of America who requested a wage scale adjustment for the 1917 harvest between the A. W. I. U. No. 400 and members of the League. The Non-Partisan League members at the time comprised a majority of the grain growers in the State of North Dakota, and a considerable number in South Dakota, Montana and Minnesota. The representative of the League promised to make an endeavor to secure free transportation on railroad passenger trains for union agriculture workers when moving from job to job. The convention elected a committee of five to discuss wages, hours, etc., with the League administrators. Some benefit resulted from the subsequent negotiations, and, although no general definite agreements were made, the A. W. I. U. No. 400 achieved phenomenal success along organizational lines throughout the League territory.
During the first three years of its existence the agricultural workers' organization had effected a veritable revolution within the harvest area. The 12 to 16 hour working day disappeared, wages doubled, and harvest workers were being housed either in the farmer's home or given adequate blankets and clean sleeping quarters over a considerable portion of the wheat harvest country. No organized body of agricultural workers now feared the high-jack, and a union man became a sort of terror to the bootlegger and the gambler; no indulgence in liquor or gambling was tolerated either around the halls or outdoor meeting places. Likewise railroad train crews had changed from petty grafters, taking the razor or pocket, knife from a worker who lacked the demanded $1 per division, to some of the most substantial friends of the A. W. I. U. The number of railroad workers, especially train crews, lined up in the I. W. W. during this period is hard to approximate, but surely runs to a sizable figure.
The membership of the agricultural workers' organization more than doubled during the year 1917. This increase continued even after the great national raids on I. W. W. halls, September 5 of that year. In the course of these raids every scrap of paper, all records, even tables, filing cases and desks were removed from the headquarters of the A. W. I. U. No. 400 in Minneapolis, Minn. The persistent "war-time" persecution meted out to industrial unionists in this country during the following months greatly hampered the work of organization. However, this very persecution may have been partly responsible for the success achieved in organizing the agricultural workers of this country a few years later.
The tale of the more picturesque phases of the development of the A. W. O. No. 400 and the A. W. I. U. No. 400 (now A. W. I. U. No. 110) has been related. The delegates and members of this Industrial Union have at all times shown the greatest courage in the face of all obstacles which employers naturally raised against them. Their activity is at all times a ringing challenge to the boss class that would, without A. W. I. U. opposition, at once make conditions worse than ever before.
The strikes of the I. W. W. best show what is meant by solidarity and militancy. Action is the test of unionism; and the I. W. W. in action proves the merits of a unionism based squarely on the class struggle, untrammeled by any agreements or other "respectabilities". From call to settlement, the strikes of 25 years of struggle stand out as colorful, dramatic exponents of industrial unionism.
Many I. W. W. strikes—Lawrence and McKees Rocks for example—were not called by the organization. But where the I. W. W. calls a strike, it starts with a flourish. Scarcely was the new organization born before a strike of its members broke out in the great General Electric works in Schenectady. That it was a new organization with a new way of striking was indicated by the fact that they stayed in the shop and just quit work one December morning at 10 o'clock.
Taking entire command of the struck job is a Wobbly ideal; it found an early realization in Skowhegan, Me., when the employees of the Marston Mills, in revolt against discrimination and unfilled promises of increases, all walked out, taking the boiler room crew with them, blowing off the steam and pulling the fires before they left.
In Gray's Harbor, Wash., in 1912, a strike broke out for higher wages in the saw mills. The Lytel Mill was surrounded by a stockade twelve feet high surmounted by barbed wire and the guards at the gate were doubled. The wage slaves inside were to be kept immune. But 150 I. W. W.'s went over the top, cutting the wire, pulling the whistle, mingling with the saw mill workers as they swept out the front gate past the astounded guards. (Woehlke in Outlook, July 6, 1912).
The auto industry has always been a hard nut for unions to crack. There have been many small walkouts from departments, but few effective walkouts. The I. W. W. managed one. In the Studebaker plants in Detroit in 1913 the workers wanted weekly pay days. A constant agitation by noon-day speakers had kept the I. W. W. before them for some months. June 16 those employed at plant No. 3 at Delray walked out in the morning, held a meeting in an adjoining lot, formed in line and paraded to plant No. 1 arriving there at noon and swelling their ranks in this way by another 2000. The next day by the same tactics they brought out the men in other plants.
In the last large strike of the I. W. W.—the Colorado coal miners in 1927-8—it required still other tactics to make a clean walkout. For the first time in history the miners in all three fields in the state were brought out together by the call of solidarity. The state law required 30 days' notice before any strike; and the strike call for October 18 was given plenty of publicity. Particularly in the south there were closed mining camps difficult to penetrate, every inch of them company property. This was circumvented by calling at each house at supper time unobserved, leaving notice of a meeting that evening just outside the company line. The western coal field, high in the mountains and isolated from the main lines of communication was brought out by a caravan of 100 cars that left Lafayette in the north, did its duty, and then steamed into the south, raising the spirit of their fellow workers and bringing out the workers in the big Ideal Mine, immunized up to that time by the blood-thirsty guards of Rockefeller.
Working largely with the spread-out jobs of the lumber-jack and the construction worker the I. W. W. has often had the problem of inaccessibility before it in a strike call. In the Edison construction strike in California in 1922, many of the men on tunnel work were snow-bound high up in the mountains. In such camps the company clerks do not hesitate to tamper with the U. S. mail to keep out the I. W. W. But by December 1 the newspapers carried the news in headlines, and these men improvised snowshoes and skis for themselves and made their way through the deep snow of the mountain passes to join their fellow workers. The lumber strikes have ordinarily been called by "flying squadrons" that have reached all camps with the call of solidarity. The September 1923 strike in the Northwest woods presented a difficult situation inasmuch as there was a disagreement as to the advisability of calling it. The hurried strike call reached the most inaccessible parts, delivered from a 20th century union by 20th century methods—by airplane!
In all cases the I. W. W. leaves the strike to the members on the job. In the spring of 1923 the G. E. B. recommended a strike in all industries for the release of class war prisoners but left the date and the actual calling of the strike to those on the jobs. The marine transport workers, the lumberjacks, the construction workers all responded effectively. In all cases the I. W. W. calls its strikes so that there is no wavering and uncertainty, and the straight issue of the class struggle with its clarion call of solidarity is blazoned in the front.
I. W. W. strikes are run by the strikers. This is forcibly illustrated by the following incident in the great Paterson silk strike of 1913: Big Bill Haywood was seated in the Turn Hall headquarters of the Paterson strikers when he was approached by the leading rabbi of the city. A staccato dialogue took place as follows:
"Oh, Mr. Haywood, I am so so glad to meet you. I've been wanting to meet the leader of the strike for some time."
"You've made a mistake," replied Bill, "I'm not the leader."
"What! You're not? Well, who is he?"
"There ain't any He."
"Perhaps I should have said 'they'," persisted the prophet of the Chosen people, "Who are they?"
"This strike has no leaders," answered Bill.
"It hasn't! Well, who is in charge of it?"
"But can't I meet some responsible parties elsewhere? You know I represent the other churches of the city, the Catholic Fathers and the Methodist ministers are awaiting my report. I would like to find out all I can and then maybe we could come to some agreement with the mill owners."
"The mill owners already know what the strikers want," said Bill.
"They do! Why some of the leading citizens don't know yet!"
"That's funny," smiled Bill, "I just got off a train from Akron a couple of hours ago and I know."
"Will you please tell me?"
"It's very simple," answered Bill, "They want an eight hour day, abolition of the three and four loom system in broad silks, abolition of the two loom system in ribbons, and the dyers want a minimum wage of $12 a week."
"Well, well!" mused the other stroking his rabbinical beard, "I must say it's strange we had not heard all this!"
"There's an awful lot of things you never heard of, parson," said Bill.
"Do they have a strike committee, and where do they meet?" continued the rabbi.
"Right in this hall, every morning at eight o'clock."
"Who are they?"
"I don't know; and if I did I wouldn't tell," laughed Bill.
"How many are there?"
"One hundred and twenty-seven."
"One hundred and twenty-seven! MY GOD! What can we do with a strike committee of one hundred and twenty-seven that meets in a public hall before all the rest of the strikers?"
`"'I don't reckon that you can do much except the heavy looking on, parson," said Bill. "There ain't much left in the world for fellows like you to do except that, and besides this is an I. W. W. strike. In an I. W. W. strike there isn't room for anybody except the working class and the bosses; everybody else is excess baggage." (Solidarity, April 19, 1913.)
Picketing is the great essential in any strike. In Lawrence, 1912, when the pickets were stopped from standing, the moving picket line was adopted—an endless chain of rebel workers, marching in a circle around the mills, whose thousand-voiced "boos" sent chills down the spine of any potential scab. In their continuous struggle for better job conditions, the Agricultural Workers have had to maintain a picket line from Kansas to Northern Alberta. In the great construction strikes, as in the Great Northern and the Canadian Northern in B. C. in 1912, or the Great Northern in Washington in 1922, it has been necessary to picket employment offices from Los Angeles to Winnipeg, and from Seattle to Chicago. In such strikes, scabs are given free shipments. The I. W. W. has often adopted the effective tactic of shipping out its members in these consignments of scabs, often making up most of the shipment, quitting the train en route, leaving the railway in possession of a motley array of cheap suitcases packed with gunny sacks and bricks. In the B. C. construction strike of 1913 it was sometimes necessary, since shipments of scabs under guard reached the camps, to send in members to scab on the job to bring out the camp with them. The I. W. W. always pickets, if not in one way, then it finds another.
The time element in a strike is a most important factor. That is one reason why the I. W. W. leaves the strike in the hands of the strikers. Many of the I. W. W. strikes have been small, short strikes, won by calling them at the critical moment. In Los Angeles in 1912, a dramatic pageant required 150 extras to dress as Roman soldiers to carry the queen on the stage in a chair and carry her off. The usual rate was $1.50 but this time the extras were offered only 75 cents. There was too much unemployment to pull the regular kind of strike, so a group of I. W. W.'s hired out at the half scale. Four of them took hold of the queen's divan and the rest headed the procession behind her. When the cue was given for them to march on the stage, they stalled at the stage entrance. When the cue "All hail the Queen!" was given for the third time, the manager came up and asked what the matter was. He was told that they wanted $3.00. When the cue was given again the price went up to $4.00; and when they went on the stage it was only after they had each been handed five dollar bills. The next day the management hired another crew and picked their own men to handle the queen. But the I. W. W.'s were there; and, dressed as Roman soldiers, gracefully and majestically they circled the stage so as to have charge of the queen as she made her exit. They were all given $5.00 before they left the stage ; but the entire body of extras was marched in full uniform into the patrol wagons. The next day the manager had to plead with the judge please to let them out as he needed their regalia for the matinee. So out they came, marching though the city streets in splendid array, singing the songs of the I. W. W. A less ornate strike based on the same tactics of the critical moment, was that of the snow shovellers on the railway out of Janesville, Wis., in January 1910. The train was held up by the heavy snows; the men demanded "mittens, whiskey and a dollar an hour." They won out on the spot.
Closely connected with this tactic of the critical moment, is the intermittent strike. For instance in the construction strike on all Guthrie and Grant Smith camps in 1922, the strike was forced on April 28th before proper organization was effected; but it was transferred to the job until May 28th when the organization was able to handle it in good shape. The 1917 lumber strike is a well-known instance of the successful use of the intermittent strike. Here the strike on the job was also used, the men quitting at the end of eight hours, thus winning the eight hour day. An early instance of the strike on the job is that of the Chicago clothing workers in 1910. This strike of 580 men and girls against Lamm and Co. was started because of the discharge of one man. The company was forced to accede to all of their demands except the reinstatement of the man. The workers decided to go back on the terms offered; and there by passive resistance methods in a couple of hours they won a shop committee, not asked for and the reinstatement of this man.
The I. W. W. favors short strikes and these require few committees. But when a long strike cannot be avoided as Little Falls, Oct. 10, 1912 to Jan. 3, 1913, adequate provision must be made for relief, etc. Here a soup kitchen served wholesome meals at a cost of seven cents each ; another committee supplied rations for families. A publicity committee provided all papers with news and attended to the legal work, securing affidavits, etc. A special clothes committee ascertained the needs of each striker in that respect, and by systematic repairs and alteration made the fullest use of the clothing sent, even maintaining their own shoe repair shop. A social committee kept up the spirit of solidarity though the cold winter months combining education with amusements. There were picket and vigilance committees, and to co-ordinate all, the main strike committee.
The employers ordinarily try to inject violence into all strikes; the I. W. W. has had to adopt a variety of tactics to foil this game. Most reliable of all is a good vigilance committee. In Portland in 1923, in the longshore strike, it was necessary to close the blind pigs in order to keep order; the I. W. W. closed them. In the Goldfield strike of 1907 against payment in worthless and unguaranteed scrip, troops were brought in. The I. W. W. issued a straight appeal to "every $15 a month soldier-slave" to stand by his class. Violence was avoided and a federal investigation ordered the removal of the troops. In McKees Rocks in 1909, the I. W. W. had the steel trust cossacks to contend with—ruthless thugs who had crushed every previous revolt with bloody intimidation. The strike was spontaneous. Secretary Morrison of the A. F. of L. had visited the scene and decided that "These strikers are a lot of ignorant, unorganized foreigners, and the A. F. of L. can do nothing for them." But among them were refugees of the Russian revolt of 1905 who got in touch with the I. W. W. for assistance. An "Unknown Committee" was formed of these revolutionists; and to the Cossacks, after a striker had been killed by them, a notice was sent: "For every striker's life that you take, a trooper's life will be taken." A riot was started at O'Donovan Bridge by Deputy Sheriff Exler; four strikers were killed and the unknown committee took the lives of three Cossacks and called it quits, for it was already clear that this amount of discipline had checked the violence of the blustering thugs.
Lawrence furnishes a good illustration of the nature of strike violence. Dynamite was planted by a member of the School Board named Breen to incriminate the strikers. He was caught, convicted and fined $500!
A strike is a display of solidarity. If morale is to be maintained the workers must quit together and go back together. At this the I. W. W. has always aimed. It is up to the strikers to settle the strike. In Lawrence a large committee familiar from their work with every technical point that might be raised in such a settlement, confronted and surprised the company attorneys. The decision that raised the wages of textile workers by over $5,000,000 per year was ratified by a mass meeting of all strikers on Lawrence common.
Organization on the job is worth a multitude of promises and agreements. The Philadelphia longshoremen in their strike in 1920 ended it with as big a surprise as when it began, while the Shipping Board and the stevedores were wrangling over terms, thus transferring all the solidarity of the strike to the job in the form of complete job control. The great Iron Range strike on the Mesaba in 1916 used the same tactics and got results that could not have been obtained by prolonging the strike. The miners of Butte, fearing the defection of co-operating A. F. of L. union in their strike of 1919 that tied up the entire city, went back on the same score.
To write the history of I. W. W. strikes would take a book. The I. W. W. is out to win and in its striking ways it adopts winning tactics.
The working class in the United States are about as adept at grasping the significance of new theories or new methods as are the English people at grasping the sense of the average American joke. However, the same peculiarity is true of both in the same sense, in that when they finally conceive the full meaning of the thing under consideration and find that it can be as it is purported, then they go ahead with it, whether it be a new theory for the American or a new joke for the Englishman. So it was with the miners in the state of Colorado.
For many years the miners had been trampled underfoot by the coal companies. Attempts had been made, it is true, to break the company rule and monarchy but each attempt was like the first and all were unsuccessful. Laws were created for their benefit, only to be ignored. Time passed and with its passing conditions grew worse and the miner, stoic that he is, bore on uncomplaining. Only a few could find the time to look for a new method of attack, only a few could grasp the new idea when it was first presented in the form of the I. W. W. by a union organizer.
Considering this, then, it is not strange that when in September of 1927, when an announcement was made by the I. W. W. that a strike would be called on October 18, that both the coal miners and the mine operators chuckled up their sleeves. The miners chuckled because they had been through many strikes in recent years and had nothing to show for their trouble except the losses they had suffered. Many were of the opinion, too, that a strike which would close all the coal mines in the state was utterly impossible.
And the operators snickered among themselves, some even going so far as to laugh aloud at the statement. They were positive that their actions in previous strikes had been of such a character as to preclude the possibility of any future strikes of any magnitude. Indeed, it was such as to frighten stronger men than the miners were reputed to be. Did they not own the State, were not the militia, state police and all armed forces, as well as the courts ready to back their every decision with hot lead and court decisions? And if they were not sufficient did they not have their own hordes of gunmen to use as reinforcements? Solidarity there would be all right but it would be on the side of the operators and not with the miners, the lowly diggers of coal.
Despite such an atmosphere, the I. W. W. served notice on the State Industrial Commission that a general strike of the coal mining industry would be called and they served this notice in the manner prescribed by Colorado law.
Time passed and with the passing of each day more recruits to the idea of striking were gathered. Some miners acceded to the idea through mere curiosity; curious whether the I. W. W. and its methods were any different than the old line craft organizations or not; and with others the idea of tying up the entire industry went home and they began to appreciate their own strength. So great was this spreading feeling of solidarity that the operators thought better of their snickers and began casting their suave smiles of good fellowship around. Then came their announcement, virtually on the eve of the strike, that they would grant an increase in wages—but, that they were doing it at the behest of the employees who had petitioned for such an increase in the prescribed manner as provided for in the Rockefeller Plan. The employers were beginning to realize that a determined effort was afoot and that the two day strike which had been carried on in the Walsenberg district by the I. W. W. in August, as a protest against the death sentence of Sacco and Vanzetti, had not been a mere empty gesture.
Came the dawn of October 18 and thousands of miners picked their way through the murky streets of the Colorado mining towns; picked their way, not to the shafts or slopes of coal mines but to the union halls and meeting places. Meetings were called and picket lines formed. I. W. W. organizers explained the necessity of discipline, of how violence in every form should be avoided; explained that committees to govern the strike should be elected and all of the other details that go to make up a successful strike. Songs were sung and the pickets were on their way. Singing the stirring words of the song, "Solidarity" and indelibly imprinted in their memories was the phrase, "Watch the man who advocates violence."
Throughout the day they wended their way, not in groups of two or three but in great masses, hundreds strong. All day long they sang their songs and as they passed along their chosen routes their ranks were augmented by hundreds more.
With the coming of night they congregated about their meeting places and huge mass meetings were held. Speakers were present and they spoke in nearly every language prevalent in each respective district. Deep voiced Slays, speaking in terms of questions—and after each question the audience would respond in unison and the deep throated reply would sound not unlike the intonations of a Catholic congregation responding to the chanting of the priest during Vespers. Mexicans using the picturesque speech of their homeland became quite flowery in their eloquence. Italians, sometimes highly emotional, again very solemn, but always gesturing with their hands drew encore after encore. Then too, there were Russian, French and English speakers, but they all told the same story. The story of the miners' serfdom. The story of the I. W. W. and its method of securing victories. Strike! Solidarity would win!
Strike committees were elected early in the struggle and they agreed to the original demands which had been drawn up at the conference held in Aguilar earlier in the year. These demands, twenty-two in number, were for a return of the Jacksonville wage scale, for the enforcement of state mining laws, the right to have a checkweighman, pit committee, no union interference, etc. All of them important in the life of the average miner; all of them fair in every respect and of such a nature as to have been voluntarily acceded to by any employer if he were even half human.
Thus began a strike that was to stir the entire world. A strike such as had never before been witnessed in the coal industry of this country, and it was fitting that an organization such as the Industrial Workers of the World should be its sponsor. This was the greatest strike that had ever occurred in the industry. Never before had such demands been made and never had there been such a splendid display of strategy as was used by these determined workers. Indeed, it was only through such a union as the I. W. W. that the strike could have even been a remote possibility, for it was broad enough in character, great enough in wisdom and flexibility to allow for a change of program or tactics to meet every move of the boss and do it instantaneously.
The succeeding days found meetings being held and pickets still holding their ground. Their ranks were filled. Practically every mine in the state was idle. Great droves of miners were travelling from district to district in automobile caravans and wherever they went mines would close down. Fremont County was the last to succumb and when it finally fell into line a total of 325 mines out of a grand total of 343 in the entire state were closed down tight. This happened not in the summer time, but in the busy season; at that time of the year when the coal mine operators had a ready market for their coal. The operators were amazed, yea, dumfounded. Despite their laws, despite their jurists, their gunmen, state and private, their mines were idle and the country was crying for coal.
It must be understood, however, that the boss did not stand idly by and allow the I. W. W. to go on unmolested in its endeavors. Rather, the boss made the first move to thwart the strike with violence by raiding the I. W. W. hall in Walsenburg on the 16th of October in the dead of night. Cars loaded with gunmen had raced by in the street shooting the place full of holes and endeavoring to bluff the miners out. Next day the hall opened as usual and it remained open, bullets or no bullets. Governor Adams had reinstated the state police on the payroll of Colorado. Private gunmen were imported, county and city police officials were urged to violence and a miniature hell reigned in every coal camp. Men and women were jailed. Women and children as well as men were beaten up. Hundreds of pounds of roofing nails were strewn on the highways to stop the picket cars by puncturing the tires, but the strike went on. Each person jailed brought more recruits to the strikers' camp, each person beaten brought more relief to their exhausted relief funds.
No longer were the employers laughing. No longer were the workers chuckling—they laughed aloud. The world stood aghast. Something had gone wrong in Colorado. The miners were unafraid. Not only had southern Colorado gone on strike—the entire State was tied up.
A month passed. A month of excitement of the most stirring kind. The miners were getting along famously. They realized their power and had settled down for a long strike. But the operators had another trick up their sleeves. They remembered Ludlow and decided on a murder scene. Serene, Colorado was to be the place, at the workings of the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company's Columbine mine. On the morning of November 21 as the picket line wended its way toward the mine, as they had been in the habit of doing each morning, they found the road closed. They reached the gate and were suddenly attacked by a group of state police and company thugs. Shots were fired indiscriminately into the line of over six hundred men, women and children, all of whom were without arms of any description. Six people were killed as a result of the shooting and thirty-four others were badly wounded, including some women. Murder in the coldest sense of the word, yet the man who directed it was awarded a medal. This man was Louis Scherf, head of the state police.
Governor Adams declared martial law in northern Colorado and, the Columbine became the habitat for the state militia. Men were arrested and illegally detained—blood was on Colorado's hands and they would blot it with innocent humans' liberty. Men were in morgues, others in hospitals, some in jail, the militia was present bristling with rifles and bayonets affixed, yet the strike went on. Murdering had not broken its spirit.
The employers were beginning to realize that they were not dealing with an old line organization like the U. M. W. of A. The I. W. W. did not want a contract with one mine in each district; they wanted all the miners to get the same award and would not consider anything that was not effective for every miner in the state, regardless of the district. The I. W. W. fought on with tactics that were unbeatable. Compare them with those used in the strikes which were then going on in Pennsylvania and Ohio!
In Colorado the miners had elected their own committee, one for each locality, for each district and an all-state executive committee. Every committeeman was an actual coal miner who had been elected by the miners in the particular locality from which he hailed. Who else would know more about conditions in the mines than these men? There were no leaders telling them what to do or when they could do it. True, the I. W. W. had organizers from other fields on the job, but they were men trained in the sort of work necessary there and everyone of them took orders from the committees of miners. The miners handled all the funds, all of the relief and they saw to it that each district received its just share. If one district went hungry then all districts went hungry. If one ate, all ate. And not a man received a penny's wage throughout the entire period of the conflict.
Women were called into consultation. The miners' wives were important cogs in the strike machinery and in Colorado they showed their mettle. They were in every meeting, on the picket lines and were equally as active as the men. This was an innovation, something which had never occurred before, even as everything else as conducted along I. W. W. lines was new, and as a result people came to ask what sort of an organization this I. W. W. was. Everybody was fighting for them—meaning everyone connected with the physical end of the industry, and it seemed like an unexplainable matter.
And so the strike went on, day after day, week after week, the strikers and their families always showing the same indomitable spirit. They met bullets with smiles, clubs with laughter and jails with songs. Their meetings were broken up, their halls and picket lines raided, their homes desecrated but they carried on. Hunger, privation, sickness, childbirth, persecution in every form that thugs, state police, militiamen, county and city officers could possibly conceive, quarantines and murder were their lot, but they continued to strike, continued to sing and smile.
Then came the move on the part of the organization to have a public hearing of the miners' cause. The State Industrial Commission were petitioned to hear the story. They agreed and thereby declared the strike a legal one, despite the fact that they had originally declared it to be illegal because they stated that proper notification had not been given. The hearing began in Denver on December 19 and sessions were held in five other towns of the state. It proved a revelation to the citizens of the State as well as to all others that were in a position to read of its details.
Miners from every mine of importance came before the Board and told their story in their own way—in their own language. Day after day was consumed in hearing like stories told. Stories of how they had been forced to work in wet places, to move rock, to put up their own timbers, lay their own track and carry materials from old abandoned working places at the risk of their life—all without pay. They told of being robbed of their tonnage by company weigh bosses, of how in one instance there had not even been a scale on the tipple for a period of seven months. Grievance after grievance was mentioned and in not a single instance could the employers refute the testimony given. An indictment was written, a damning indictment that shall go down through the pages of working class history as a record in Colorado's industrial serfdom that could never be refuted.
After the Commission had concluded its hearing in Crested Butte it went to Walsenburg to take similar testimony and arrived there, about noon on January 12, 1928. The miners were overjoyed at their coming; they were pleased to think that they were going to have an opportunity to tell their story. And in their delight they planned to parade to the courthouse and welcome the Board. In accordance with their plan they started a line of march from the I. W. W. hall toward the courthouse, but were turned back after a short space had been covered. Turned back to find that they were practically surrounded by gunmen, who were even then pouring lead through the back door of their hall from a machine gun.
Two people were killed, a man and a fifteen year old boy. The hall was riddled, and for hours gunmen paraded the streets intimidating everyone who resembled a worker. This was an effort to stop the taking of testimony; it was thought that the miners would be too frightened to tell of conditions in the mines in and around Walsenburg if they were shot down in cold blood, but this thought proved erroneous also, for the hearing continued and the miners became more bold than ever before.
This hearing brought about a split in the ranks of the mine operators. An immediate concession was made by a number of operators, especially those operating on an independent basis, to the effect that they would grant practically every demand the strikers had made insofar as it was in their power. The offer was refused for the strike was state-wide and it was always maintained that no mine would operate unless all worked.
After four months of striking the miners voted by a majority of ninety per cent. to return to work. This was on February 19, 1928 and their demands had been practically all won.
An increase in wages of one dollar per day, checkweighmen on the tipples, pit committee in the mines, working conditions 100 per cent. improved and all state mining laws enforced, were the exact concessions earned and received. The miners had cleared themselves in the eyes of a sleepy public and, best of all, had discovered their own strength if properly applied.
Some may say that the strike was too long, others that it was too short, but none can deny that it was pulled at the right time and that the tactics pursued were proper as well as new to the industry. It is not our purpose here to argue over the length or brevity of the strike but it is safe to say that the strike was about as accurately timed as any strike ever conducted.
The strike proved the soundness of the I. W. W. It proved the potential power of the miners. And it brought about conditions which could never have been achieved in any other way. Considering the number of people involved in it, it was the cheapest strike ever held in this country from a financial viewpoint. Yet, more was accomplished than in any other five strikes in the State.
Education, in a practical and applied sense, may be defined as that training which enables one to understand and adapt one's self to material reality. When we say "material" we remove the question beyond the field of metaphysical philosophy. The primary concern of the average human is to make, a living—to survive—and that is a purely material problem. It deals only with the material factors of health, education and access to the material means of life unrestricted by man-made laws and inhibitions. If all men and women had an equal opportunity to make a living, education might be reduced to a simple and uniform course of instruction; but where equal access to the means of life is denied, the uniformity of school and college courses leading to uniform "degrees" makes the usual education no education at all. Most of our education today is mere mental gymnastics. It is designed not to fit one to make a living, but adapt one to the social order and teach respect for the class division of society into masters and wage slaves.
If education is to prepare one to perform the duties of life, as Webster says, it is apparent that it should be specialized to suit the needs of the individual. It is assumed by our educators that all members of society have certain duties in common, such as duties to the State, a common moral code and the amenities of social intercourse,. If all the members of society were of approximately equal economic condition, the assumption might be accepted as a practical working proposition; but in a society divided by class lines, it is an absurdity. The most important material fact of modern social organization is completely and deliberately ignored in education; namely, that society is divided into two fairly well-defined classes consisting of those who work for wages and those who exploit the wage workers for profit and live by a species of gambling in the wealth produced by the other class.
Even technical education is divided quite unnaturally and unnecessarily into two branches along class lines. These are the mechanical arts on the one hand and the so-called professions on the other. No one can tell just where the line of division between the two branches should be drawn. No one knows just at what point a carpenter becomes an architect or a building engineer; or at what point a reporter becomes a "journalist" or when a real estate huckster becomes a "realtor." Obviously, the line of division lies outside of the technical factors involved and concerns itself with something else. Roughly, it depends on whether you are going to use the technical knowledge gained by study to do useful and practical things—to produce wealth—or whether you are going to use it in the exploitation of those who do the useful things. Or it depends on whether you are going to be a wage worker, get a "job" and draw wages; or whether you are, going to exploit or direct the exploitation of wage workers; in which latter case you draw a "salary" or fees or profits and hold a "position." These distinctions have arisen with the advance of bourgeois society. In the earlier stages of capitalism and before, no such divisions existed. Benjamin Franklin never took a formal scientific course leading to a professional degree; Lincoln did not become an "LL.B.." by reading law as he lay on his stomach before the fireplace by the light of a pine-knot; the inventors whose work revolutionized modern society such as Stephenson, Watt, Arkwright, Eli Whitney, Blanchard, Elias Howe, Samuel F. B. Morse, Robert Fulton and others were just workers; they had no degrees and were not "professors." The class lines had not yet been sharply drawn when these did their work. They were members of a revolutionary class that had just come into power and they sprang from the masses of the common people. The necessity of educating them in the mental attitude of the ruling class had not yet developed in the minds of the rising bourgeoisie.
These distinctions of class grew out of the economic division of the people into masters and wage slaves as capitalism developed from the close of the eighteenth century onward. The pioneers of capitalism were revolutionists—an oppressed class. They were not distinguished or distinguishable in their earlier origins from the masses of peasants, artisans and laborers who were victimized, robbed, "plundered, profaned and disinherited" by the feudal nobility against whom they made common revolutionary warfare.
Our early bourgeois idealists thought they were establishing a "natural" society to succeed the social organization founded upon the artificialities of special privilege, birth and aristocratic rank. They asserted with perfectly naive sincerity that "all men are created equal"; that is, equal in the opportunity to engage in trade or business and by cleverness and artfulness, to get the best end of a business dicker. It was the philosophy of glorified huckstering and its avatar was a push-cart peddler exalted to the n-th degree of success. It was quite natural in an age when vast new continents were open to adventures for exploitation and when the individual trader was free to pit his wits against every other individual trader on a fairly even basis, unhampered by the gigantic combinations and mergers of the modern world. It then seemed needful only to rid the world of the feudal laws in restraint of trade to free the world and establish a democracy of opportunity in which only the naturally inferior would fail.
But, as H. M. Hyndman says, "events move faster than minds." The rise to power of this trading and exploiting class after the revolutionary destruction of the power of the feudal aristocracy, quickly developed the same class divisions and class contradictions that had formerly characterized feudal society. The trading class, formerly repressed, became the dominant class. It soon acquired class consciousness and awareness of the property distinctions that separated it by an immeasurable gulf from the wage workers who created the commodities in which it trafficked. But the ideas and ideology of its origins persisted in its educational system and education was founded upon the fallacy that bourgeois society had established its ideal—equality of opportunity. It persists in that absurd assumption today, when the integration of its capital, the concentration of wealth into fewer and fewer hands, with the spread of its dominion across the world have absorbed the formerly undeveloped resources of the earth and left the newer-born generations nothing but the opportunity to become wage slaves to the class which owns and controls the tools of wealth production and all the natural resources of land and minerals. These newer arrivals upon the world scene constitute a distinct class in society. They are the disinherited millions, ever increasing in relative and absolute numbers, who are born without wealth and educated into a social universe in which they have neither property nor the means of acquiring property. They constitute the world proletariat—the masses who have nothing to traffic in but their labor power which they must sell to the owning and employing class for the right to live. To impose upon them an impractical bourgeois education in which the idea of growing rich by engaging in trade and business prevails, when they will never have that opportunity, and when the State itself is devoted to the business of barring them from such an opportunity and fixing their status as wage slaves eternally, is an obvious absurdity. And yet that is just what bourgeois education does.
By way of practical illustration, we have selected at random from the hundreds of classified ads in the weekly "Nation" under the heading, "Positions Wanted," the following three, which are typical of the absurd mis-education for a career in life in which the opportunities are, disappearing as the class system in society develops a class crisis:
Young man, university senior, competent to tutor in Latin, French, Greek, Music, English, desires position with family for summer. An excellent companion for adults. Drives car well. Box 2368, c/o The Nation.
Versatile young man, college graduate, would like to make a travel tour with family, as tutor. Authority on drama, English, French, Latin. Plays piano well, drives any make of car. Charming adult conversationalist, indispensable at the bridge-table. Box 2369, c/o The Nation.
Harvard law student desires job for summer; experienced chauffeur, lifeguard, swimming instructor, hotel clerk, waiter, and tutor. Anything will do. What have you? Box 2287, c/o The Nation.
An "authority on drama, English, French, Latin. Plays piano well, indispensable, at the bridge table," wants a job driving a car! A "Harvard law student, chauffeur, life guard, swimming instructor, hotel clerk, waiter and tutor" wants a job at anything. "What have you?" Such is education in bourgeois society! Sterile versatility that leads to nothing and nowhere!
The purpose of education is to teach one to understand reality and to adapt one's self to it in the struggle for existence. Reality and the means of survival are one thing to a worker and quite another to an exploiter of labor; to one who has to make a living with his hands and skill and to another whose purpose in life and means of life are the deception and spoliation of those who labor. The one is a creator; the other is a beast of prey. They have nothing in common—not even a common morality. To instruct the workers in the righteousness of the methods and morality of a system that despoils them and denies them access to the means of life is to defeat the primary object of education. It is to discipline them as victims of a condition that not only does not adapt them to the realities of life, but makes them oblivious to the realities about them which work to their destruction.
Workers' education is, of necessity, an education in class consciousness. It is so because the economic structure in which they are born and without adaption to which they can not survive, is owned and controlled by a distinct class—the capitalist class. If the truth is taught to the working class it must reveal to them the character of that function which they perform in the economic structure. It must show them how the economic structure works in all its parts. It must analyze the working of the pitiless machine and reduce to exact measurement the benefits which they as sellers of labor power—their inevitable lot—receive; and what the other class —the owners of the structure—receive. If it does not reveal this it fails to educate at all. It mis-educates and deceives. It creates a false concept of the world and of social relationships. It prepares them for helpless exploitation and victimization. If the facts of society are taught to the worker he just inevitably becomes class conscious.
The necessity of class education is imposed upon the working class by the facts of industry. That striving toward life—the will to live—which is inherent in every living cell of life, makes it necessary to educate the workers in matters that are deleterious to their health, detrimental to their lives and restrictive of their chances of survival. The capitalist system or any system in which one class lives at the expense of and by the deliberate exploitation of another, is opposed to the chances of survival of the workers. Their lives are lived at a hazard by the imposition of adverse working and living conditions. Their meager share in the social division of the wealth produced by their labor is insufficient to sustain life. The hazard of existence is increased by their function in the economic structure as workers while that of the owning class is reduced at the expense of the workers. Life insurance and health statistics prove this to be a fact—a reality. To neglect instruction in such vital facts is to mis-educate. And to fail to attribute the facts cited to their cause—a class system in society—is to lie by suppression of the truth. That is why education in class consciousness is necessary.
Class systems are not eternal. They are an incident in the history of the human family. Class division is at war with the biological forces that make for race survival. That is why every class system in society has ultimately been overthrown by revolution. That is why the growth of the economic structure, which is a thing distinct and separate from the race itself, has revealed a constant tendency to widen the scope of the ruling class and to embrace an ever widening number of the race. Modern history is a comparatively brief span of years compared to the biological ages. It is a period of some few thousand years as contrasted with the millions of years in which the race was developing from the firstlings of human kind. It emerges at its dawn from a stage of primitive communism in which the individual was supreme. It begins the building of a social economic structure. It gains security of existence by sacrificing individual liberty. But evermore throughout the comparatively brief period in which the economic structure has been in process of evolution, the biological forces have been at war with the class forms. Revolution after revolution has broadened the ruling class lines and admitted an increasing number of the race to opportunity. The slave owning patrician gave way before a more numerous class—the feudal nobility; the feudal nobility in turn was overthrown by a more numerous class—the bourgeoisie; the increasing numbers of the proletariat are challenging the bourgeoisie for control of the economic structure, and the class lines have a tendency to broaden and disappear in a final classless society in which the workers will be the only class, embracing the entire human family, with ownership and control of the means of life in the hands of the collectivity. This is the final solution of social problems—industrial democracy.
The necessity that gave rise to classes in society has passed. The social economic structure is fairly complete. Its capacity to produce wealth has increased to a point where it is more than ample to provide sustenance for all who will work. The masses have been disciplined to use the social machinery socially without coercion. The only anarchic survivals are the ruling class and their parasitic existence. Production has been socialized. It remains only to socialize control of the economic structure and eliminate expropriation.
Workers' education comprehends this outline. Its purpose is to teach the facts of industry instead of the slave morality of the bourgeois schools. Its technical training is to develop technique, for the co-ordination of the productive forces in production for use and not for the maintenance of a useless class of capitalist parasites. It is to render education a vital, living, needful thing that makes for human survival instead of suppression. It is to develop the spirit of freedom and democracy without which the race can make no progress.
The I. W. W. is engaged in this task because it is one of the necessary functions in working class progress. It is the light-bearer of modern democracy—industrial democracy. It is, like every progressive force in society, opposed by the class antagonisms of an outworn system of ruling class education in "social control." It is devoted to realism and scientific truth. It is opposed to class fictions and illusions. It is purely materialistic. Its purpose is to strip the social structure of all its traditional myths and lay its structure and its workings bare. It is to train the working class mind and hand to freedom from ruling class control and exploitation—to enable the working class to master the world and control it in the interest of mankind. It is to enable them to "build the structure of the new society within the shell of the old."
To accomplish this it carries on its work of education by the means that lie to hand—through its papers, pamphlets, lecture bureaus, and through its first established college, the Work Peoples College of Duluth. But more potent still is the education it carries on at the point of production, on the job.
It interprets the phenomena of the class struggle as they develop in the form of strikes and lock-outs. It traces their origins. It instructs the workers in the nature of organization and its purposes. It shows them how to adapt organization to the changing economic structure to the end of building up power in the workers' hands. It is developing the institutions of working class control of the world through its job committees, district councils, business meetings, referendums and conventions. It is striving toward realistic co-ordination of the working class forces in the struggle for power. It is plastic, expansive, free, democratic, progressive. It is the advance guard of that rising proletariat which is preparing to take over the means of production and distribution in the interest of the human race and to banish exploitation and slavery of mind and body forever from the human scene.
Everything in the universe, from atoms to solar systems, is continually moving, changing, transforming, developing; likewise the history of the human race is nothing but a ceaseless change, a continuous development. In the course of its history classes are formed; these classes continually struggle for supremacy and, after prolonged struggle, one class succeeds another in the dominating position. The struggle continues until class divisions themselves are dissolved and a new, classless society results.
But although these struggles and changes are ceaseless, the apparent velocity of these motions greatly varies at different periods. There are times when whole series of important changes take, place so rapidly as to take one's breath away, to be followed by long periods of apparent stagnation, when social evolution seems not only to be standing still but even to be going backward. Of course, this is only an illusion, for, as a matter of fact, historical forces are continually at work, only their manifestations are of a more spectacular nature at one time than at another.
We have witnessed such a rapid moving period immediately after the world war, when the convulsions of old society appeared to be the birth pangs of the social revolution and of the proletarian commonwealth.
Another, though somewhat less spectacular period was that beginning with the present century. After half a century of chafing under the tutelage of politicians, the working class was suddenly showing signs of maturity, and of wanting to lead a life independent of its foster-parents, the socialist politicians.
The French labor unions, at the time, not only broke completely with all political party activity but actually laid down the basis of what is known as revolutionary syndicalism. The main teachings of this school were: (1) labor unions, by the use of direct action, are all-sufficient to carry on the every-day struggle of the workers against their employers; (2) labor unions, using direct action, are the only weapon the workers have for the overthrow of the present system of exploitation; and (3) labor unions are the only organs capable of carrying on production and distribution after the capitalist system is abolished.
The idea took so well with the French workers that in a very few years no longer the old traditional Socialist Party, but the General Confederation of Labor was the real opposition force confronting the French ruling class. Pulling off several district and general strikes in quick succession, and completely paralyzing the industrial and commercial life of France, the G. C. of L. was able to treat directly with the government and to dictate terms to it.
After half a century of unsuccessful struggle—pacifistic at times and bloodily terroristic at other times—led by politicians against czarism, the Russian workers came to the conclusion that medieval czarist despotism could be confronted and defeated only by the organized might of the economic power of the Russian wage workers. Action following thought, the world was soon amazed at the magnitude and results of the revolutionary struggles of Russia.
The spirit of independence of labor unions from political party tutelage was more or less expressing itself in all European countries. Even in Germany, the classic land of social-democracy, Bebel had to reverse the old dictum of his party which was: "General strike is general nonsense," and to admit that the general strike was one of the most potent weapons of the working class. Of course, he amended it to "political general strike."
During the same period mighty and rapid changes were taking place in the already highly developed industrial life of the United States. Gigantic trusts and combines were springing up everywhere; the middle class being pushed to the wall was panic stricken; its politicians armed with political pop-guns went out "trust busting," and its counterpart, the craft union system of the country, was crumbling and falling to pieces; the progressive elements in the craft unions were clamoring for a unionism based on new, modern principles. Such were the surroundings in which the I. W. W. was born.
From its very inception, the I. W. W. was international in sentiment and scope. Its name,: the Industrial Workers of the World was deliberately chosen, after a considerable debate on the floor of the initial convention, and after an amendment to name it the "Industrial Workers of America" was voted down. The Conference of industrial unionists held in Chicago, January 1905, elected a committee to make the necessary arrangement for the first convention. This committee was also instructed to write to the labor organizations based on class struggle, of all countries, inviting them to send delegates to the Chicago convention. None sent delegates, but the general offices of the labor unions of Germany, Australia, France and Denmark answered, expressing sympathy with the purposes of the new organization.
Shortly after the I. W. W. was launched, I. W. W. groups were formed in England, South Africa, Australia and other places, carrying the new message to the workers of the respective countries, and in several countries the established unions themselves indorsed the principles of the I. W. W. and offered to enter into close relationship with it.
Later on, I. W. W. sections, called administrations, were formed in several countries, among them in Australia, Chile, Mexico, Sweden, Germany. Especially through the Marine Transport Workers' Industrial Union of the I. W. W. were connections with workers of other lands made and maintained.
These I. W. W. organizations, outside of the United States, carried on their work and gave good account of themselves. To mention only a few instances: The port of the city of Tampico, Mexico was completely tied up by the I. W. W. in July 1920; in Chile the Marine Transport Workers of the I. W. W. maintained a strike for three months in order to stop the exportation of cereals needed in that country, but exported by the profiteers; on July 22 a meeting at Santiago, Chile was raided, and a long reign of terror was established in that country, throwing back for a time organization work there.
The Australian Administration of the. I. W. W. was organized in 1911 and it made steady progress until the war broke out. The war and patriotic hysteria furnished a good excuse to the master class and its political flunkeys to attempt to destroy the hated I. W. W. In September, 1915, Tom Barker, editor of our organ, "Direct Action," was sentenced to 12 months for writing: "Capitalists your country needs you. Workers follow your masters!" Due to the protests raised by the Australian workers, Barker was released after seven days. He was again arrested in March the following year and sentenced to 12 months, for his I. W. W. activity; but again, due to popular demonstrations of protest he was released in August. A systematic raid and persecution was inaugurated against the I. W. W., and finally it looked like the I. W. W. was put out of business forever; but the activity of the Australian fellow workers has been revived and is going at full swing at this writing.
In the pre-war period international relations of the labor organizations were of the loosest kind. Socialist parties and trade union organizations were loosely connected into a Socialist and Labor International, holding Congresses every few years, which were, hardly more than oratorical gab-feasts. There, was also an International Secretariat of the trade unions, whose function was to serve as a central information bureau for the unions of the different countries, to compile statistics, etc. The syndicalist unions of various countries were just preparing for the formation of an International of labor unions, when the world war broke out, and that, of course, prevented any further progress in that direction, at least for the time being. The war also severed the slender ties existing through the Socialist and Labor International and the International Secretariat of Labor Unions. Therefore at the conclusion of the war, the workers were confronted with the necessity of creating new international organs.
But after-war conditions were materially different from pre-war conditions. The war exigencies necessitated mass production, which meant centralization of industry; the state power of all belligerent countries was used to hasten the transformation from small capitalist production to the "American"system. Capitalist production had made giant strides towards internationalization of the processes of production, distribution and exploitation of labor. This made it easy for workers everywhere to see the necessity of labor organization on an international scale, even as the I. W. W. had earlier contended. And it was also apparent that the new international had to be an organization of action, not of mere phrase peddling, or of mere bureau for compiling statistics.
The conservative-reformistic labor unions, with the aid of their social-democratic leaders soon consolidated into the Amsterdam International. But although this was too revolutionary for Gompers and his A. F. of L., neither the I. W. W. nor other revolutionary workers would have anything to do with it. The necessity for a world revolutionary labor international was still apparent.
From among the sickening failures and betrayals of the Socialists and labor leaders during the world war, the I. W. W.—both in the United States and abroad—stood out conspicuously as an uncompromising champion of proletarian principles. Its prestige was high among the class conscious workers of the world, and the war having ended, the I. W. W. was expected to take, the lead in the reconstruction of the international labor front. The membership of the I. W. W. were aware of the situation; the 1920 General Convention instructed the General Executive Board to take immediate steps towards calling together an international conference of revolutionary labor unions in order to form an international organization. But some disturbing factors intervened.
The disillusioned and betrayed socialist workers of all countries rallied to the call of the Russian socialists and formed a new international (Third) of political parties with headquarters at Moscow. To this body flocked, besides sincere socialists, a horde of adventurers and buccaneers, whose ambition was to secure control over the workers' organizations in the various countries. These worthies saw the moves of the I. W. W. and other revolutionary unions, and they went to work to nullify as much as possible the work of industrialists. Thus, by the time the conference called by the I. W. W. and syndicalists was to meet in Berlin, another call was issued from Moscow, calling also for the formation of a labor union international.
Not wishing to divide the proletarian forces, and not suspecting the sincerity of the Moscow call, the Berlin delegates, after discussing among themselves their common attitude, decided to postpone their own conference and to participate in the Moscow convention. But, to their sorrow, they discovered that the so-called Labor Union International, sponsored by Moscow, was to be no more than a subordinate section of the political Third International. Yet, in spite of that, the delegates of many labor unions remained in it, hoping that the faults could be remedied later from within. They found out their mistake when it was too late, and only liquidation and disruption awaited their organizations. Thus were the politicians able to split the ranks of the revolutionary labor unions.
Later, the syndicalist organizations came together and organized their own "International Workingmen's Association," with headquarters in Berlin. However, by allowing the Moscow farce to take place before their own organization was effected, they lost a good deal of support, and were thus restricted to strictly syndicalist and anarcho-syndicalist organizations, mostly anarchist. Thus a good chance for bringing together all the revolutionary non-political labor unions was lost.
The I. W. W. being neither a craft, a political nor a strictly syndicalist organization, is affiliated with neither of the three Internationals. Being by principle opposed to political bunk and to craft form of organization, the I. W. W. finds itself in opposition to both the Amsterdam and Moscow Internationals. It is in friendly relations with that of Berlin, and is willing to co-operate with the unions composing it, whenever the occasion presents itself. In the course of its existence, the I. W. W. always supported every struggle of the workers against the master class everywhere, indifferent to what union the struggling workers are affiliated with.
There are revolutionary labor union bodies in every industrially developed country, that like the I. W. W., cannot identify themselves with either of the present Internationals. The I. W. W. deems it its duty to keep in touch with these bodies, to discuss with them our differences of tactics, programs, etc. This has been done in late years and we discovered that the I. W. W. program is received favorably in the European countries.
This friendly intercourse and inter-discussions is bound to result in a closer unity and in a more extensive co-operation, and will eventually lead to organic unity of these bodies internationally. It is possible that when a measure of organization on this line is accomplished, a union with the Berlin International will also take place. For while the I. W. W. has no logical place in a purely syndicalist and anarcho-syndicalist International, the entrance of a larger number of industrial unions into it would alter its character of "purity", and would transform it into something like the I. W. W., where anarchists, socialists and other ists can work together in harmony, for a common program.
Specifically the I. W. W. is the result of highly centralized American capitalism. This particular form and substance of capitalism is spreading rapidly all over the world. And as shadow follows the body, so the I. W. W. should and will follow capitalism to the farthest reaches of the earth.
It is said that capitalism is producing its own grave diggers; these grave diggers should be union men and they should carry the red cards of the Industrial Workers of the World.
We have wriggled, crawled, stumbled, staggered, sported, marched from primordial slime to the threshold of television. Animalistic cries of the gibbering arboreal beast rise to lyric beauty in Bori and Smirnov. Evolves the tomtom's savage monotone to polyphonic ecstasies before the baton of Stokowski. Across skies shoot airplanes at six miles a minute; America is spanned by man's winged wonder in fourteen hours. To the sea he returns, whence came his earliest life-bearing ancestors—but he returns in rigid submersibles, leviathans of steel and speed, incomparably mightier than all that dwell in the waters. Or taking cunningly annealed glass masses, he beholds a countless array of worlds, many millions of light years distant. These whirling worlds, far-flung through infinite space, he weighs, analyzes, ponders. Their orbits are charted, their ages gauged, their speeds computed from his vigil on lonely mountain peak or desert reach. Peering through other artful fabrications of the glass maker, he watches another silent universe, infinitesimally small, a universe of micro-organisms. In germs he sees terrific forces that scourge and slay. Having seen the perils he learns immunities and cures. The same instrument reveals to the fascinated eyes of a Rutherford wonders of energy jailed in atomic prisons, the electronic promise that, once harnessed, forever frees man from age-old drudgery and renders grotesque our titan machines, fit then only as museum pieces.
Think not, however, that the writer has become inoculated with the virus of the American masses' endemic optimism for vicarious prosperity. This seeming paean of man's marvellous achievements is sung only because incalculable possibilities depend on that evolutionary record. The concomitant history of mass enslavement enduring to the thrice blessed year of Light and Our Lord 1930 is more cruel, more damnable than all the tortures that might be conceived in the twisted, fanatic brain of a Torquemada or a Massachusetts district attorney.
Need we unearth a long-buried past to corroborate this charge of iniquity that our good patriots and other nice, respectable people will find so iniquitous? Hardly. The sound of every factory whistle is a shriek of violence. We need but hear it understandingly to know this, for it summons to slavery the human work animals. We need but hear endless, tired trudging of millions of little, ragged feet going to the mills and mines of our grand Republic, there to be incorporated—blood, bone, hope, life, all—into commodities that sell for profits. We need simply to reflect that of the 2,000,000,000 inhabitants of terra firma all but comparatively few are hungry, are insecure, are ignorant, are slaves. We have merely to remember the capitalistic playfulness of 1914-'18, in which millions upon millions of working class men and boys were butchered and maimed, while millions more of the slave populations suffered vile and fatal diseases. The shell-shocked still scream, and will still be screaming when the "'best of all possible systems in the best of all possible words" again drives our kind to wholesale, murder glorified by patriots as "civilized warfare," sanctified by the clergy as "civilized warfare," and commercialized thoroughly by the bourses, pits, curbs and 'changes.
We write in America the Prosperous, the earth's richest land, matchless haven of opportunity—where under the folds of her starry flag eight or nine million wage slaves can not find masters; where an ever intensifying battle for bread is sending ever more to find it in lunatic asylums or to graves where they shall not require it. America, the showy—where money is god and most of the people consequently godless. What a wonderful country are we, with all of our inventions, our machines, our radios, our mammoth factories and our people in the mass regimented to sausage-like sameness, a sameness of ignorance, docility, servility, shoddy, scraps, shacks and speed-up! This America needs another Walt Whitman to sing it. Our farmers in Iowa, too poor to buy coal have a way of burning corn for fuel; our miners sit in their hovel homes idle, and hungry for Iowa corn. Workers need shoes, and other workers want to produce them, but Lynn and Brockton factories stagnate—because you do not get shoes under the superlatively sane capitalist system because you need them, but when you have the price to pay for them. The difference is very tangible.
Production under capitalism is anti-social. It is anti-social because it operates against the interests of the producing class, the great social group. It refuses to act without the music of clinking golden profits. It endures on a slave basis. In its most anti-social aspect it creates bayonets, battleships, bullets and police clubs, to say nothing of its criminal creation of mansions for a parasitic minority and shanties for the useful many. Through the pages of this unique pamphlet, which the writer has carefully perused in manuscript, every conceivable argument, brilliantly presented with clearest logic, has been advanced by revolutionary industrial union thinkers, to show what has to be done, to make production pro-social. This writer need not weary you with repetition. We may profitably dwell on our indictment of the system. What one word sums up the damnation of bourgeois rule? Hunger.
What a word—hunger—in the human understanding! We rarely think of other than the belly form of hunger because that is so elemental, and the workers have ever been compelled to fight so desperately to assuage it. Yet in a world where, there is such a diversity of beauty in fine music, drama, sculpture, letters and other arts and sciences conducing to man's aesthetic, emotional and intellectual good, deprivation of these satisfactions is a very real sort of hunger for those with the faintest appetite for them. But what can the degradation, the denial be called that goes so deep that it renders most of the slaves insensible even to their aspiration? How long could this monstrous capitalism survive if the workers understood their loss and resented it? Capitalism is synonymous with violence, and the handmaid of chaos. Its beneficiaries care less for us than for dray-horses. While we work we are suffered to receive oats and a stall. When unemployed the oats vanish and the stall is removed. The biped work beast must destroy the monster that bestializes him, must put capitalism in its grave before manhood and womanhood in their finest flower, the flower of freedom, can flourish in the world, before hunger of body and of mind and heart are forever banished from the race.
We, the workers, are many, though divided because of ignorance. They, the capitalists, are, few, but strong organizationally, ruthless in policy, grimly determined to increase in power and to perpetuate their dictatorship over the hopeless existence of a robbed class. The thoughtless might conclude that there is no ray of hope for the workers. Indeed, this despairing attitude is like a terrible paralysis, preventing many from acting for working class progress. We have reached an era where action may not much longer be delayed if we are to escape the heavy heel of a tyranny unprecedented in the annals of man.
Fascism in hydra-headed guise, spreads across the world. Vast masses of people seem stunned into an apathy ill suited to their great need for the extension of liberty through industrial enfranchisement. Yet there is more than a ray of hope; there is a flood of hope's light, for the workers have numerical ascendancy, theirs is the creative power and eagerness to build; social justice is a sense peculiarly their own, evolution favors them, and they are educable. You who are low in spirit because the apathy magnifies itself in your vision, consider the strikes of the workers as outlined in this pamphlet; think of the courage of the vanguard of the revolutionary hosts; regard their tact, imagination, solidarity. Hear them singing as they fight. Take heart in the thrilling spectacle of their defiance of outlaws in uniform and extra-legal mobs that would throttle the message of social upheaval. Then away with despair; down with cynicism! Up action and faith, for truly, "Evolution makes hope scientific"!
Can we, having learned through battles how to fight, having suffered the miseries of defeat, and the joys of victory over an implacable foe; can we, see anything ahead for the working class but eventual triumph? Dare we the despondent thought of going down to the shambles under that Iron Heel limned by the fanciful London?
O, Liberty, can man resign thee,
Once having felt thy generous flame?
The reaction, the fascist hordes, ultra-capitalistic agents by their desperate deeds but show the desperate straits of a decaying system. Our duty, that which should be the mainspring of our lives, the joy of our hearts, is to agitate without ceasing until we have proved the leaven to move the suffering, inert mass to revolt. They are educable; ours is to educate them. Our agitators have again and again caused them by thousands to hurl defiance at the employers, to battle as an indomitable phalanx to victory after victory. Multiply our agitational power by every I. W. W. being a tireless agitator, and we can inspire the workers by millions to challenge not alone capitalist routine of day to day in production, but capitalist ownership itself of the productive equipment. Everything hinges on action. All will be won by action or lost because of its lack.
In one hundred years the workers have moved vastly nearer to freedom than in all the ages before this century. When the fierce thought first burned in the modern worker's brain questioning capitalist property rights, in that hour was doomed the regime of the robbers of trade and commerce. For that thought will not die. It lives and grows and circles the globe. It is in every land, in every port, in every industry, in every city, and every village. It is a restless, sleepless, gnawing, deathless thought of international tongue, the red thought of social revolution. Agitate mightily, bravely, incessantly for its propagation! That can be your only claim to glory, a glory surpassing that of kings and generals and all the makers of slavery and of death, for that is a glory of striving to bring to the old, sad world happiness for all, happiness founded on the justice of industrial equality and freedom from the chains of the wage system.
For us the night is long but we envision a red dawn, and in the all-pervading shadows of the unsocial derangement of capitalism we keep alight the bivouac, incendiary fires of hope and "fan the flames of discontent." The night will pass. Our species, the human workers, have built a world. Evolution of the tool has at last brought them within reach of the touch-stone making for universal abundance in equality. Nature no longer is a niggard. The genius and energy of the working class, laboring with hands and minds, have shown that there need be no want, no hunger, no famine. All that stands in the way is the arch-criminal, Capitalism, and we are in every part of the world ceaselessly sapping its foundations.
It will fall. With it forever go slavery, crime, war, ignorance, poverty and waste. On the ruins will rise the Industrial Commonwealth, home of a free race, happy, fair, friendly "without disease of flesh or brain." Thus will be realized the hope of martyrs, the dream of sages, by the almighty strength of the organized industrial workers of the world.
Transcribed by J. D. Crutchfield from an original kindly lent by FW Steve Kellerman.
Last updated 22 August 2004.