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Chapter 17 - The Principles and Methods of the IWW

A Brief Review

IN THE preceding pages we have repeatedly drawn conclusions and made comments to the tables and facts compiled, conclusions and comments reflecting the general philosophy of the I. W. W., and our viewpoint on the subject here before us, and leading up to our program. For that reason we need not here make any lengthy exposition of that program. For more detailed information on that point we refer to our press, our pamphlets and books, announced elsewhere. Here we shall only briefly state the principles, objects and methods of the I. W. W.

First of all we refer the reader to our preamble, a document as short and as simple as it is famous. From this document it appears that the I. W. W., in contradistinction to the machine controlling the U. M. W. of A., does not recognize any community of interest between the working class and the employing class. These are the words :

The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace as long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.

Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the earth and the machinery of production, and abolish the wage system.

In another chapter we have printed the old preamble of the United Mine Workers. The reader will note the difference. While our declaration of principles recognizes the incompatibility of the interests of the two classes and calls for the absolute annihilation of the capitalist class as a social factor, the declaration of principles of the U. M. W. of A. apparently accepts capitalism and wage slavery as an inescapable finality. It also recommends con-ciliation and arbitration in order to escape the conflicts which we declare as natural and inescapable as the antipathy between fire and water.

Furthermore, it would try to save the life of the capitalist class by buying the mines from them, paying them the full price, presumably with the intention of paying interest on that capital ever afterwards.

The fact that the history of the U. M. W., in spite of this conciliatory attitude towards the capitalist class, is a history of giant battles, proves that our contention is right and theirs wrong. The further historic fact that the union, after 30 years of conciliation and joint conferences, is on the verge of destruction while the membership is in a desperate position, in some places fighting a losing battle for life, shows that we are right when we say that "there can be no peace between those two classes."

Our position must be an offensive position from start to finish. To make treaties of peace and sign contracts with the employers we consider useless. We know that they will keep no contract which is favorable to the workers and unfavorable to them. History proves it. But there is no necessity to argue this point, as we are now confronted with a wholesale violation of "sacred" contracts and of the agreement covering 1920-1922 in the coal industry. They have broken against the spirit of the contract by shutting down the union mines and running the unorganized mines. For it is the same people who control both. We all know that the operators are organized into district and national organizations, and whatever they do, they do as an organized body with joint responsibility. Those who signed the contract have a secret understanding with those who did not. For further proof of the intimate relations among and the joint responsibility of the whole capitalist class in this matter we refer to the charts accompanying the text : "Who Is Who in the Coal-Mining Industry." We think that we have conclusively proven the correctness of the initial statement of our preamble, even as far as the coal industry is concerned.

The I. W. W.will sign no contracts with any employer which would bind our hands while the operator would feel bound by them only as long as they are more profitable to him than no contract at all. We fight for the largest concessions that we are able to force upon the employers, but when we have attained our temporary object we sign no articles of peace, but immediately get ready for the next battle, openly acknowledging that it is only a breathing spell before the next battle. We want no peace with them. It is a battle to the finish for control of the world.

We pay no attention to the hypocritical plea of the employers that they cannot afford to grant further concessions, that they are making no profit, that the cost of production exceeds the selling price, etc. We know that such talk is all "bunk," a down-right fraud perpetrated upon the workers, and we have proved it on these pages.

With the facts in mind which are so clearly illustrated on the "Who-Is-Who" maps and by the table of "national" wealth, we point out that the capitalist class have got all the wealth there is, that they are all organized together into one economic net-work, that they are jointly responsible, one for all and all for one, for the economic welfare of the workers, whether it be the coal industry or any other industry. We will not consider their separate pleas of poverty. We know that that is only shuffling the responsibility, in order that nobody shall be held responsible. When the dummy operator of a coal-mine tries to prove with his books that the miner is asking too much when he asks for enough to live on, and that he will "go broke" by conceding a living, we prove to his workers that he is trying to fool them. There may be a few single mines operated on the one-horse plan outside of the general capitalist combine illustrated on our map, but they are few. For the sake of these left-over industrial stragglers we cannot sacrifice our claim to a living. If those operators cannot exploit their mines and give the workers a chance to live, they really ought to shut down. They have no right to try to carry on with a starving crew, any more than a person has a right to drive a half-starved mule or a horse. If the business does not give enough to feed the horse, it is a sign to quit business, and not to cut wages. As for the other operators or employers we point out that they and their partners own and control nearly everything in sight, that they have practically unlimited resources, and that they have actually pooled all their interests, and that they are jointly responsible for the welfare of the coal-miners and all other workers, and that they have to take care of them the year round, from year to year, whether they have any employment for them or not, and that it is their business to look out for our living as long as they hold us off with guns from running society the way we want to run it. Just as the farmer feeds his horse well the year round, whether he is busy or not, so we, the workers, demand a living the whole year round whether we have work or not. To turn the workers out in industrially slack times to shift for themselves is criminal, as long as there is little or no chance of making a living outside of the network outlined on our "Who-Is-Who" map.

They will have to settle among themselves from what part of the pile of "national" or, rather, capitalist wealth our living is going to come. That is no concern of ours, as long as we are not running society. It will be different when we take charge through our union. Then we will also take the responsibility for our living. Seeing that all the important coal companies and banks are combined through interlocking directorates as per map, we fling the operators' poverty plea back in their face. The whole pile of wealth is theirs, and the poverty plea is a lie.

We make no secret of the fact that we consider that pile as the accumulation of unpaid wages, or, in other words, as stolen wealth, and that we propose to take it back as soon as we have educated the workers to the idea of organizing for that purpose.

From this class struggle philosophy of ours you will understand what position we take in the present battle fought by the miners. Not only do the I. W. the coal-mining industry back up the most far-reaching demands, but the whole organization, the agricultural workers, the construction workers, the lumber workers, the metal miners, the textile workers, the marine transport workers, the railway workers of the I. W. W., consider your battle as their own. Your victory is their victory. Your defeat is their defeat. We will help fight for the wage scale demanded. We will help fight for the six-hour day and the five-day week.

One of the fundamental principles of the I. W. that an injury to one is an injury to all. This is what we call class solidarity.

The I. W. W.differs in this regard from both the U. M. W. of A. and the A. F. of L. In the A. F. of L. it is no infrequent happening that one craft union "scabs" it on another craft union in the same industry. On the contrary, it is the order of the day in past and present. The A. F. of L. knows nothing but craft solidarity. Industrial solidarity is what the I. W. W.demands.

On this point let us again quote our preamble :

We find that the centering of the management of the industries (see "Who-Is-Who" map) into fewer and fewer hands makes the trade unions unable to cope with the ever growing power of the employing class. The trade unions foster a state of affairs which allows one set of workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same industry, thereby helping to defeat one another in wage wars. Moreover, the trade unions aid the employing class to mislead the workers into the belief that the working class have interests in common with their employers.

These conditions can be changed and the interests of the workers upheld only by an organization formed in such a way that all its members in any one industry, or in all industries if necessary, cease work whenever a strike or a lockout is on in any department thereof, thus making an injury to one an injury to all.

The first one of these paragraphs does not apply to the United Mine Workers of America, as that union has already fought clear of the craft unions of the A. F. of L. and organized the mine workers industrially, that is, all the workers in and around a mine belong to the same union, irrespective of their occupations. So far, so good.

But while we in the A. F. of L. have what is called craft scabbery, we have in the United Mine Workers of America what is called "district scabbery." It frequently happens that one district goes out on strike, while the others, or most of them, remain at work and supply the employers with the coal they need. Such scabbery is in no way part of the industrial organization program, and is condemned by the I. W. W.

But there is another factor, which puts at naught the industrial form of organization, and that is the lack of cohesion among the different industries organized by the A. F. of L. It has been the rule so far for the railroad workers to haul the coal mined by strike breakers or to keep transporting the coal in stock, thus helping the operators to defeat the miners. Not only that, but union firemen and union engineers in other industries fail to show their solidarity when a fight is on, except possibly by a meaningless financial contribution. Such action helps to break the strike. One industrial union standing alone may be a bit better than a craft union, but it will get practically nowhere unless it is firmly linked up with other industrial unions for mutual aid in offense and defense. In order to be able to conquer over the One Big Union of capital as illustrated on the "Who-Is-Who" maps, we must have a One Big Union of the workers. If, as we have seen, the coal and railroad capitalists are interlocked financially, the coal-mine workers and the railroad workers must also be interlocked. If the coal and railroad industries are merely the tentacles of the large capitalist octopus, headed by a handful of great banks, the workers must also organize the coal-mine and railroad workers as the tentacles of a still more formidable labor octopus, the One Big Union, or will succumb. Just as superiority in naval warfare has hitherto belonged to the power which had the most and the biggest super-dreadnoughts, so victory in the class war belongs to the side which has the biggest and the strongest One Big Union super-dreadnought.

The Coal-Mine Workers' Industrial Union No. 220 of the I. W. W. is not to be a solitary dreadnought like the United Mine Workers. It is to be one out of 29 similar dreadnoughts, whose fighting crews comprise all the workers of the world.

Such a flotilla of industrial dreadnoughts will ram and sink capitalism.

But the One Big Union of the I. W. not merely a fighting organization. It is a constructive force with a world pro-gram, proposing to solve the whole social question, as indicated by the next lines of our preamble.

The preamble continues :

Instead of the conservative motto: "A fair day's wage for a fair day's work," we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watch-word : "Abolition of the wage system".

We do not add the Coal-Mine Workers' Industrial Union No. 220 to our forces merely to secure a living for the present. We realize that as long as capitalism exists there will be no permanent solution of the social problem that is acceptable to the workers. The employers will never cease to harass us and oppress us and exploit us. As long as rent, interest and profit continue to exist, so long will there be no peace or security or well-being for the workers. For that reason we propose to abolish the wage system, in order to secure the full product of our toil. In the place of the old organs of production and distribution, that is, the private owner, the stock company, the trust, the combination of trusts, industrial and financial, as illustrated in this book, we propose to create new organs of production and distribution. And these new organs are the job branches, the industrial unions, the industrial departments, the industrial councils, shop committees, and whatever other organs we may need to make it a One Big Union. Through the branches of Coal-Mine Workers' Industrial Union No. 220 we propose to take over and run the single mines. Through the whole industrial union we propose to take over and run the whole industry, nationally and, finally, internationally. Thus we shall do away with rent, interest and profit. The coal-mine workers shall receive the full value of their toil, just as the workers in other industries shall receive the full value of theirs.

This is what our preamble says on that point :

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 capitalism, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been over-thrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.

The United Mine Workers also seem to have realized the futility of any longer maintaining private capitalism, which their leaders have so strenuously been upholding all these years. Failing to make any appreciable headway against the operators and failing to materially and decisively improve the coal-miners' lot and create any security for their future, they have brought up the question of "nationalization," but mostly as a trump in the game they are playing with the operators. But we have considered that in a separate chapter.

Such nationalization under a political government is something entirely different from what we have in view. We propose to make the coal-miners their own masters through the union. Nationalization would simply replace the old master with a new one. It would not abolish wage slavery, .as provided for in the I. W. W.preamble.

What the I. W. W.proposes is socialization, not nationalization. Socialization by means of an industrial administration.

The union becomes part of the organic structure of the new society.

On to Chapter 18

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