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Chapter 5 - The Only Real International

An International Proletarian Union

As will be seen the I. W. W. principle is not intended to apply to only one country, but is intended to cover wage labor in all countries. As the laborers in one industry are dependent upon and necessary to the laborers in all other industries, so are the workers of one country dependent upon and necessary to the workers in all other countries. Modern transportation has practically eliminated distance, and knits the countries of the world in an industrial whole. This interdependence of the workers in all the countries of the world, the I. W. W. is the first organization to give expression to. And it is fitting that the most highly developed capitalist country of the world should bring forth the labor organization most suitable to the needs of the world's proletariat. In the I. W. W. we find the genesis of the first proletarian international.

Building the New Society

"By organizing industrially, we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old (order)", states the Preamble. Here, in this declaration, we have that which differentiates the I. W. W. from all previous and present allegedly revolutionary organizations. This idea proclaims the rise of a new school of labor thought and makes a new program for the labor movement.

In the conventions and meetings of the I. W. W., in its first four years, two ideas that had dominated and vitiated every previous labor movement met and fought out their contentions—the labor political advocates and the anti-political forces. Hitherto, these two had divided the realm of labor thought and both had commanded much strength, although neither had succeeded in attaining a commanding position among the organized labor forces in America, since the failure of the political movement of labor (1828-1832), in the Atlantic states. Among labor progressives it was conceded that if a movement was not political, it must necessarily be anti-political, and vice versa. Marxists and Lassalleans had fought out their differences, and the followers of Bakunin and Proudhon had disputed with the united remnants of both.

The I. W. W. Neither Political Nor Anti-Political

When the Industrial Manifesto was issued, both the labor politicians and the anti-politicians prepared to capture the new movement and bend it to their purposes. The outcome was a disappointment to both, and each school claims, despite the evidence to the contrary, that the I. W. W. fell victim to the will of the other.

As a matter of fact, the I. W. W. rejected domination at the hands of either, and as its judgement directed, took from each what would stand analysis. It has accepted the economics of Marx, while rejecting his speculative philosophy and it has conned from other philosophers principles in accord with working class experience. For its fundamental principles it has drawn more heavily upon Marx, Engels and Dietzgen than upon others, but its philosophy is not that of the traditional Marxists, for it rejects the theory of working class advancement or emancipation through political action.

Nor is it anarchistic, because it aims at, and is endeavoring to organize a highly central form of organization which views industry and its problems from the highly collective instead of the individual viewpoint.

This, and this only, it has in common with the anarchist school of thought—it rejects political action, as an effective medium of organized working class activity.

It is an economic organization, operating in the economic sphere, using economic means for economic purposes at all times, and aiming at an economic objective—an industrialized society.

The Economic School

The I. W. W. philosophy is a new school of thought developed out of the contending philosophies of the past. The I. W. W. is the economic school of thought in contradistinction to the political and other schools which sought some other means than the organized control of human labor power to bring about the overthrow of capitalism, and its replacement by an industrial society.

Social evolution sustains the I. W. W. theory of "building the new society within the shell of the old". That which was responsible for the epochal changes that mark human social history has not been the development of political forms, but the development of economic forms. Moreover, it was only when these forms had developed to a point where they could bear the weight of social responsibility that revolutionary changes occurred. There is no reason to suppose that capitalist society will offer an exception to this historic rule. Only when the proletariat has developed a form which will suffice to safeguard human interest will the industrial revolution become the fact of history.

Russia Sustains I. W. W. Contention

Russia affords a striking example of what occurs when "forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old" has been neglected. Not that the revolutionaries of Russia are to be held responsible for a condition not of their making. They did the best they could. But the industrial facts were against them and they failed to achieve the goal they were bent upon achieving. They accomplished a political revolution, but in the absence of a sound industrial underpinning, the communist state collapsed and Russia has slipped back into capitalism. This has not occurred because the Russian revolutionists desired it, or schemed to bring it about, but because the law of economic determinism is operative under a communist as well as any other regime. The Russian experience supports the I. W. W. theory. By organizing industrially—not politically or militarily—the workers "are building the structure of the new society within the shell of the old."

Industrial Organization by Industries

Let us take the coal industry and look at it organized industrially as an industry. When the coal production workers are organized industrially, such an organization deprives them of no rights which they enjoy and choose to exercise. They will be at liberty to vote if they feel so inclined, or not vote, as they please. They may go to church or stay at home. Their activities in every sphere, outside of industry, are determined by themselves individually. In industry, however, they will all belong to one union of coal mine workers, regardless of what they do in or around the mines, coke ovens, etc.—engineers, loaders, firemen, oilers, machinists, blacksmiths, electricians, weighmen, miners, pullers, topmen—everyone, the object of whose labor is coal production, will be members of one union.

Productive Interdependence

But as the operation of the coal mine industry is dependent upon all other industries, this union of coal mine workers, in order to function successfully, must be linked with similar unions of the workers in all other industries. Before the coal mine workers can function industrially, in the social sense, there must be transportation provided. Unless the loaded cars are hauled away, no coal can be mined. For the object that inspires coal production is to supply a social need. Then it resolves itself into this, that the transportation workers are as necessary to coal production as are the coal mine workers. And again, the coal diggers must have machines or picks to dig with, mine cars, tracks to run them on, and motors or mules to haul them with. They must have houses to live in, and beds to sleep in; food, and means to prepare it. The clothing makers must have furnished them clothing, and the shoe workers footwear. Without all of these, they could not function. They help the coal workers, and the coal workers help them. Each depends upon all the others. They supplement and complement one another.

Each article for human consumption from coal to candy, represents the labor of the entire working class. This is why independent unions cannot fully serve the interest of the workers in any industry. Sooner or later these must break beneath the strain that the united capitalist class will subject them to. At best, they serve as points of resistence and are without the capacity to build for the inauguration of a new social order. But industrial unions, linked together, or one I. W. W. union. branched according to the arrangement obtaining in capitalist industry, generates the power to resist in the present, and to construct the new order as well.

The I. W. W. is not a federation or amalgamation of industrial unions, but one union, with several subordinate parts.

Next page: Chapter 6 - Labor's Greatest Enemy