(B) The I.W.W. in the R. R. and Other Strikes
We are requested to define the attitude of the I.W.W. toward the strike of the railroad shops crafts' workers, now in effect throughout the United States.
In the first place the I.W.W. does not merely adopt an attitude or strike a pose whenever workingmen, organized or unorganized are out on strike. From the I.W.W. strike occasions command such active assistance as it it is able to extend without any reservation whatever. It is thus it regards the strike of the railroad shopmen.
For instance, since the shopmen's strike was declared every influence which the I.W.W. could exert has been wielded to assist the strikers. Our members have been instructed to do all in their power to prevent the recruiting of strike breakers, and the service thus rendered to bring about a successful outcome it is impossible to calculate.
Besides this kind of assistance, the various industrial unions of the I.W.W., even before the strike declaration, had instructed their delegates to actively assist striking shopmen in the carrying out of plans which the shopmen had decided upon in the conduct of the strike. The I.W.W. through its members in railroad employments and members in other employments in contact with local strike situations, have assisted to the best of their ability the cause of the shopmen. Moreover, the machinery of the industrial unions have been at the disposal of the striking shopmen in the harvest fields and upon construction work. In fact, wherever a striker came in contact with the I.W.W. as an organization or its members as fellow workingmen, he found understanding sympathy and ready help.
Shopmen's Strike Also I.W.W. Strike
Insofar it could be done without unduly interfering with the arrangements which strikers themselves made, or which were made for them, the I.W.W. has made the strike of the shopmen its own fight. This has been the traditional policy of the Industrial Workers of the World. We do not feel indifferent to any struggle in which m.embers of the working class are engaged. We believe their fight is our fight and that our assistance is due them. So that we have not an attitude to define so much as we have misunderstood activity to explain.
The most vindictive enemy of the I.W.W. cannot charge it with strike breaking or conducting any of those devices whereby assistance is rendered to employers for the carrying on of an industry in which workers are out on strike. Our idea of a strike is idle machinery and unoccupied working places. Whenever and wherever we find workers assisting in the operation of a plant or industry when there is a strike, we denounce such workers as scabs whether they are organized or not. Now, men enslaved to a custom, no matter how pernicious it is, do not welcome exposure even when it is honestly intended and borne out by facts. The acceptance of a union card as a license to continue working and thus defeat a striking body of workmen has won the I.W.W. 90 per cent of the opposition it encounters from craft union sources. But we are convinced that our aim is a correct one and gratified to note that, in increasing numbers the members of the craft unions are recognizing that our contentions in this respect are sound.
While we are always ready to extend a helping hand to workers engaged in an industrial dispute we are at the same time interested in assisting them to learn from their experiences on these occasions. Not to do this would be to withhold from them a contribution of greater value than anything else we have to offer. We would not be true to them or worthy of our own conceptions if, because of some temporary advantage or prospect, we refrained from offering constructive criticism. Upon that is predicated the future progress of labor.
Typical Craft Conduct
The defeat of the will of the maintenance of way men by their officialdom we regretted, though it was a manifestation which is entirely in harmony with the traditions of the craft system of unionism. The I.W.W. literature has pointed out, time and time again, that actions of this kind were to be expected. So, while we were not at all disappointed, we naturally regretted such a blow at railroad solidarity as Grable and his fellows delivered in the first days of the strike.
On the other hand, the action of members of the Big Four brotherhoods in different sections of the country where they have shown a disposition to come to the assistance of the shopmen, we regard as commendable and the most hopeful sign in this struggle. We interpret it as indicating that the spirit of the workers will not much longer brook the restraining bonds of the craft system. Naturally, we shall bend every energy to encourage the growth of that spirit and a multiplication of such occurrences. We feel a pardonable pride in recognizing that these displays of real union recognition are due in great measure to the propaganda efforts which we have carried on for seventeen years.
We are satisfied that as the strike extends beyond the industrial limits of the shop crafts that the prospect of winning increases. We shall do everything possible to help the shopmen win in any event, but our greatest contribution to their success lies in influencing where we can other railroad labor classifications to lend their industrial support to the strike by refusing to function in transportation until the last scab is out of the shops.
While the seven shop crafts retain their separate autonomies, we see a potential threat to the splendid demonstration of solidarity they have thus far maintained. The circumstances in the railroad shop situation may press them together so that their present unity will be preserved to the end. But the danger that inheres in craft autonomy is always present.
The need for unity of the railroad workers as one industrial group should be amply proven by the railroad workers' experience in the past as in the present. Until these experiences have been given organization expression in the railroad industry, such situations as the present will occur and recur.
From 1877 up to the present time, the railroad workers have had many experiences which should have driven home to them the need for one union in which all railroad workers would be included. The mutual value of such an organization is self-evident. The shopmen, if the other railroad classifications were joined with them would have had their power multiplied. So, too, with the others -- engineers, firemen, conductors, trainmen, etc.
When the Big Four undertook to act together in 1917, their demands were conceded forthwith. If all railroad workers were to act together in an emergency there is no power outside of themselves strong enough to deny their demands.
This is what the I.W.W. sees and what it concentrates itself upon to bring about. Its vision is not limited by the vague and indeterminate boundaries of an industry, but extends to include the workers in all industries. It plans not only for industrial and social betterments today and tomorrow but for the emancipation of labor by the organized workers.
With this end in view, it throws itself on the side of the workers into every conflict in which the workers are engaged. It helps them as it can to overcome obstacles that impede their progress, but it endeavors, above all things, to overcome the handicaps of economic ignorance and ineffective organization which militate against the successful waging of industrial warfare.
With All Workers
We are with the shopmen in this struggle as we are with the workers everywhere in all their struggles. That they are prone to misunderstand us and misinterpret our motives is to be regretted. But this shall not deny us, or prevent us from doing our best to help them win. Even though they deny us, we shall not deny them. They are of our class and with us they are always right and always worthy of our assistance and support. The Cause of the shopmen is the cause of all workers; their problem is our problem, their fight our fight; we win in their victory or lose in their defeat. We shall unite with them as far as circumstances permit us to, and we shall endeavor to rally all other workers to their support -- solidarity of all workers is the prime need of labor.
The future will vindicate our stand. The close of the shopmen's strike will find these workers closer to our position and with a clearer understanding of our actions and our motives.
"Help the striking shopmen to win," is the slogan of the I.W.W.; the I.W.W. industrial unions and everyone of their members. That's our attitude, that's our position. This governs our every action in connection with the strike.