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Myth #2 - The IWW is a political organization and not a "real" labor union

This is a claim made by sectarian leftists, insurrectionists, and business unions.  The myth is also often exploited by union busting employers.

Sectarian leftists see the IWW as a rival to their own aspirations, because many of them are in the business of trying to "capture" union locals by infiltrating them and take over the leadership of these same unions through elections and constitutional reforms to further their own ends (which is not to suggest that rank & file workers shouldn't try to keep their unions accountable through their internal electoral processes), but the IWW has historically refused to allow tactics such as these and has also argued against using the IWW as a vehicle to engage in similar machinations. Given the IWW's history, sectarians believe that capturing the IWW might give them more legitimacy. Furthermore, the IWW would represent democratic competition against a bulwark of trade unions controlled by a dogmatic political sect. Additionally, the IWW rejects the building of "workers parties" as an organizing strategy (but allows individual members to engage in doing so if they so choose), and this runs counter to various dogmatic political party discipline(s).

To insurrectionists, the revolutionary goals of the IWW are an anathema to their idealistic post-capitalist, post-statist, and/or "post-leftist" utopian visions.  They see any form of organization (other than spontaneous, ad hoc formations) as inherently counterrevolutionary.  To them, the IWW, sectarian leftist parties, and trade unions are all one-and-the-same.  While this is a debatable perspective, attempts to engage in the debate with insurrectionists over the IWW's difference in perspective generally accomplishes little.  It is sufficient to say that the IWW generally rejects the insurrectionist tendency to lump the IWW in with either business unionism or sectarian leftism.

Some rank and file trade unionists also do not believe the IWW is a real labor union, because they either haven't heard of the IWW, or their union histories tell them so. The fact that many American history books completely ignore the vast and colorful history of the IWW, and those that do mention the IWW have been historically inaccurate certainly contributes to this widely held confusion. Perhaps some trade unionists believe that "real" labor unions are pro-capitalism, and since the IWW calls for the abolition of wage slavery and the overthrow of capitalism, that this makes the IWW "political" and not a union.

Of course, the business union bureaucracy finds the IWW to be an anathema to their generally class collaborationist perspectives and their strategy of constantly attempting to forge an ill-fated "partnership" with the employing class. It not only shouldn't be not surprising, but it should be expected that they will attempt to dismiss the IWW as "not being a real" union in an effort to discredit us. However, in the eyes of most workers, it is the very tendency to make peace with their class enemy that discredits the business union bureaucracy and has resulted in the slow decline of organized labor in the industrialized world.

The IWW has always been a revolutionary, class-struggle labor union first and foremost. The primary concern of the IWW is organizing workers industrially, at the point of production, for the purpose of abolition of wage slavery and the tyranny of capitalism. Such things the IWW considers to be the most developed form of unionism. The employing class uses the myth that the IWW isn't a real union to try and dissuade workers from joining. Sometimes they use this myth in order to convince workers to choose a conservative business union instead of the more radical IWW. The irony is that the employing class would just as soon use another myth to dissuade workers from joining a conservative business union altogether if they could.

Next page: Myth #3 - The IWW doesn't negotiate or sign contracts with employers.