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Myth #9 - The IWW is a Marxist organization

This is a commonly held myth, and an obvious one at that, but a myth it still remains.  It is true that the IWW draws much inspiration from Karl Marx and his critiques of capitalism, including his treatise, Value, Price and Profit from which the IWW Preamble is somewhat paraphrased:

At the same time, and quite apart from the general servitude involved in the wages system, the working class ought not to exaggerate to themselves the ultimate working of these everyday struggles. They ought not to forget that they are fighting with effects, but not with the causes of those effects; that they are retarding the downward movement, but not changing its direction; that they are applying palliatives, not curing the malady. They ought, therefore, not to be exclusively absorbed in these unavoidable guerilla fights incessantly springing up from the never ceasing encroachments of capital or changes of the market. They ought to understand that, with all the miseries it imposes upon them, the present system simultaneously engenders the material conditions and the social forms necessary for an economical reconstruction of society. Instead of the conservative motto: “A fair day's wage for a fair day's work!” they ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword: “Abolition of the wages system!"

Nevertheless, just because Marx was one of the inspirations for the IWW, he was by no means the only inspiration.  The roots of the IWW are varied and ecclectic to say the least.  The IWW was conceived, orginally, by six radical unionists:

Clarence Smith, secretary of the American Labor Union; Thomas Haggerty, editor of that union's paper, The Voice of Labor, George Estes and W. L. Hall, president and secretary of the United Brotherhood of Railway Employees, Isaac Cowan, American representative of the Malgamated Society of Engineers; and William  E Trautmann, editor of the Brauer-Seitung, official organ of the United Brewery Workmen...The six men were all in the general sense of the word, socialist as, in that age, were most staunch unionists, either espousing some specific socialist program or expressing some faith in some vague "cooperative commonwealth" as the solution to the "labor question".

--Why the IWW was Started, The Industrial Workers of the World: Its First 100 Years, by Fred W. Thompson and Jon Bekken.

And according to Staughton Lynd and Andrej Grubacic, in Wobblies and Zapatistas, the IWW is a direct descendent of the movements that coalesced around the Haymarket anarchists in Chicago a decade earlier, and the builders of that movement existed "(at the) confluence of the intellectual traditions of Marxism on one hand and anarchism on the other."

So while the IWW is certainly inclusive of both Marxism and Anarchism, it is neither explicitly one or the other.

Some contemporary anarchist thinkers and historians claim that the IWW is strictly an anarchist (or Marxist) organization (or at least it has been in the past). This is inaccurate. The IWW welcomes all members of the working class regardless of their political perspective as long as they agree to abide by the IWW Constitution and work towards the emancipation of workers from wage slavery and the abolition of capitalism. The followers of many ideologies as well as non-ideological workers agree that this is a desirable goal.

Historically, self-described anarchists have been a minority of the IWW's membership, but they have never been unwelcome. Some of the most lasting contributions to the IWW's program of industrial unionism have been made by both anarchists and non-anarchists.

Recently anarchism has become associated by many with the use of consensus process to run meetings, the rejection of large scale organization (including large scale organization of smaller democratic units), internal constitutional practice, membership fees, historical context as set of guidelines for not making the mistakes of those that came before us, and elected positions of responsibility. The IWW has always had these structures and practices and most IWW members believe they should endure, even if they may need occasional reform. Anarchists, however, are as capable of dogmatism and sectarianism as any other political tendency and for some, this is not good enough, and so they equate the IWW's organizational structure and constitutional process with "authoritarianism", which they also believe is inherent in Marxism. It is a logical--though errouneous--conclusion therefore, that the IWW is simply another Marxist sect, and hence, an historical relic.

Next page: Myth #10 - The IWW is a Communist Party Front Group.