(4) I.W.W Not a Syndicalist Organization
There is evident, in your comment upon European syndicalism, a failure to appreciate that the I.W.W. is not a syndicalist organization. It is an economic working-class organization, in which the unit is the industrial union; and in which jurisdiction is industrially determined instead of territorially. It teaches that the power of the working class lies in its ability to control its labor power. This, in turn, depends upon such an organization as the I.W.W. proposes to the workers, and is teaching and assisting them to build up. It places reliance upon economic action and waits only upon opportunity to demonstrate the correctness of its contention. It is an economically militant organization, which acts upon the theory that the workers learn to fight by fighting. It places no reliance upon political action, nor does it teach reliance upon physical force. It organizes the wage-earners as workers -- the social element upon which, and whose productive efforts, society depends.
Why I.W.W. Is Not Political
The I.W.W. believes that the time devoted to politics is misspent, and that the energy so expended is misdirected and wasted. We believe that the class character of the state will not permit that institution to aid the proletariat in its class struggle. Therefore, we teach the workers that what they really require is not to influence the state favorably toward them, but to put themselves in such position, through an economic class organization, that they will be enabled to protect themselves against the hostility of the capitalist state.
The I.W.W. is cognizant of the fact that it is trying to destroy a social relationship, and that the accomplishment of this aim will involve strikes and demand agitational, educational and organizing efforts with all that this implies in a capitalist state, jealous of its power and fearful of economic action by the workers. We are not unaware, as you seem to infer, that as the organization grows, and the workers -- impelled by a growing consciousness of power -- become more and more assertive that clashes will occur between the workers and the forces of the state. Our perspective shows us that such conflicts are inevitable, and we are satisfied that our economic preparation will enable us to deal with these phenomena when we are confronted with them. These probable occurrences are not outside our calculations, we assure you.
The capitalist class relies upon the state as its agency and instrument for holding the workers in subjection, and to preserve its rights to exploit their labor-power. The workers must provide themselves with an instrument more powerful than the repressive forces of the state -- an organization for the control of their labor-power. The workers must make use of the every day struggle to provide the material out, of which this agency is to be fashioned. Progress is naturally slow and tedious, as is the evolutionary process. As the idea of industrial unionism takes root and is nourished by the workings of the capitalist system existing nuclei in the industries develop, gradually, but surely and significantly.
Keeping Abreast Of The Revolution
To us the revolution is primarily a process rather than an event. With capitalist development driving the workers every day in a revolutionary direction, and at an ever-increasing pace, our concern is to take step with the revolution and keep abreast of it. The final act of the revolution, to us, means the birth of a new society. With this viewpoint, our conception of the labor movement is necessarily monistic. To us the workers are producers; and industry is the social function in which the labor-power of the workers is expended. It is in this capacity that the workers are aggrieved, and it is in this capacity that they are qualified to exert the maximum of social influence -- as economic factors. Moreover, as this recognition spreads among the workers the industrial unions will become the expression of it -- the workers will construct the organism of the new society within the shell of the old society. We design to organize the consciousness of the workers, as capitalism has arranged them in the industries and, being thus enabled to control their labor-power, the workers will be irresistible, and competent to carry on the social functions.
I.W.W. Born Of American Labor Experience
This theory, of which the I.W.W. is the only tangible expression in the world, is being accepted by ever-increasing numbers of the consciously revolutionary workers in the American proletariat. The I.W.W., by its tactics, is consciously constructing the revolutionary organism which will overthrow and replace the capitalist system. Such an idea has nothing in common with political socialism or communism. Neither has it anything in common with syndicalism, as we understand the term. The ultimate objective -- a society free from the wage slavery -- we do share with both of them. Upon the means and methods by which it is to be achieved we are at variance.
The I.W.W. is not a "freak" organization. It is the natural outgrowth of American labor experience with politics, and with the defeatist maneuvering of labor politicians.
The "Black International," of the Eighties, which bore some resemblance to syndicalism, is another influence that directed American workers in the development of a purely economic organization like the I.W.W.
Political labor movements, in America anyhow, can only take root in the labor unions, where they find the machinery ready to hand with which to reach large masses of the people. Union funds are made available for political purposes and the organizing and publicity factors are converted to political functions. Politicians in this country have invariably used the union movement as a stepping stone to influence and power for themselves. It is in the nature of politics that this should be so.
The history of American unionism testifies to the destructive influence of labor politics and labor politicians. Experience has proven that, when politics moves into a union, economic effectiveness moves out, and hope for the workers moves out with it.