Part 19 - A Labor Movement on Trial
The I.W.W. is the representative in this country of the labor movement of the rest of the world It is the representative in the United States of the idea that capitalism is wrong: that no man has a right, moral or otherwise, to exploit his fellow men, the idea that our industrial efforts should be conducted not for the profits of any individual but should be conducted for social service, for social welfare. So the I.W.W. says first, that the wage system is wrong and that it means to abolish that wage system. It says that it intends to do this, not by political action, not by balloting, but by organization on the industrial or economical field, precisely as employers, precisely as capital is organized on the basis of the industry, not on the basis of the tool. The I.W.W. says industrial evolution has progressed to that point there the tool no longer enforces craftsmanship. In the place of a half dozen or dozen who were employed, each a skilled artisan, employed to do the work, you have a machine process to do that work and it resulted in the organization of the industry on an industrial basis. You have the oil industry, controlled by the Standard Oil; you have the lumber industry, controlled by the Lumbermen's Association of the South and West, and you have the steel and copper industry, all organized on an industrial basis resulting in a fusing, or corporation, or trust of a lot of former owners. Now the I.W.W. say if they are to compete with our employers, we must compete with our employers as an organization, and as they are organized so we must protect our organization, as they protect themselves. And so they propose to organize into industrial unions; the steel workers and the coal miners, and the transportation workers each into its own industrial unit.
This plan of organization is extremely distasteful to the employers because it is efficient; because it means a new order, a new system in the labor world in this country. The meaning of this can be gathered, in some measure, from the recent experiences in the steel strike of this country, where they acted as an industrial unit; from the recent experiences in the coal mining industry, where they acted as an industrial unit. Instead of having two or three dozen other crafts, each working separately, they acted as an industrial unit. When the strike occurred it paralyzed industry and forced concessions to the demands of the workers. That is the first thing the I.W.W. stands for and in some measure and in part explains the attitude capital has taken all over the country towards it.
In the next place it says that labor should organize on the basis of some fundamental principle; and labor should organize for something more than a mere bartering and dickering for fifty cents a day or for some shorter time, something of that sort. It says that the system is fundamentally wrong and must be fundamentally changed before you can look for some improvement. Its philosophy is based upon government statistics which show that in a few years in this country our important industries have crept into more than two-thirds of our entire wealth. Seventy-five per cent of the workers in the basic industry are unable to send their children to school. Seventy-one per cent of the heads of the families in our basic industries are unable to provide a decent living for their families without the assistance of the other members. Twenty-nine per cent of our laborers are able to live up to the myth that he is the head of the family. The results of these evils are manifold. Our people are not being raised in decent vicinities. They are not being raised and educated. Their health is not being cared for; their morals are not being cared for. I will show you that in certain of our industries where the wages are low and the hours are long, that the children of the working people die at the rate of 300 to 350 per thousand inhabitants under the age of one year because of their undernourishment, lack of proper housing and lack of proper medical attention and because the mothers of these children before they are born and when the children are being carried in the mother's womb that they are compelled to go into the industries and work and work and work, and before the child can receive proper nourishment the mother is compelled to go back into the industry and work again. The I.W.W.'s say there must be a fundamental change and that fundamental change must be in the line of reorganization of industry, for public service, so that the purpose shall be that we will work to live and not merely live to work. Work for service rather than work for profit.
TO KILL AN IDEAL…
Some time in September, counsel told you, the I.W.W., holding these beliefs, opened a hall in Centralia. Back of that hall was a living room, where Britt Smith lived, kept his clothes and belongings and made his home. From then on the I.W.W. conducted a regular propaganda meeting every Saturday night. These propaganda meetings were given over to a discussion of these industrial problems and beliefs. From that district there were dispatched into nearby lumber camps and wherever there were working people to whom to carry this message--there were dispatched organizers who went out, made the talks in the camps briefly and sought to organize them into this union, at least to teach them the philosophy of this labor movement.
Because that propaganda is fatal to those who live by other people's work, who live by the profits they wring from labor, it excited intense opposition on the part of employers and business people of Centralia and about the time this hall was opened we will show you that people from Seattle, where they maintain their headquarters for these labor fights, came into Centralia and held meetings. I don't know what they call this new thing they were seeking to organize--it is in fact a branch of the Merchants' and Manufacturers' Association of the United States, a national organization whose sole purpose is to fight and crush and beat labor. It was in no sense a local movement because it started in Seattle and it was organized by people from Seattle, and the purpose was to organize in Centralia an organization of business men to combat this new labor philosophy. Whether in the mouths of the I.W.W., or Nonpartisan League, or the Socialists, it did not make any difference; to brand anybody as a traitor, un-American, who sought to tell the truth about our industrial conditions.
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