(3) Compare The I.W.W. With its Defamers
There is not in the history of labor organizations another union that has encountered and withstood a tithe of the persecution that has been visited upon the I.W.W. Its dead are numbered by hundreds -- fallen in the front rank of the class war fighting; its ranks are generously sprinkled with maimed and bruised and battered victims of the class struggle; it has met every challenge of the American ruling class and given of its best that the spirit of labor be kept alive; it has aggressively defended established rights of the workers and is leading in the fight to conquer new rights for them. The jails have overflowed with its membership -- undaunted victims of the class war. Its ringing challenge to American capitalist property has sent the sluggish blood of thousands of American workers coursing through their veins and fired them with the aspiration to be free men and women. At such times it has succeeded in riveting the attention of millions upon industrial conditions that victimize the manhood, womanhood, and childhood that labor in the mills and factories of this country.
Do Not Know The I.W.W.
Yet, you intimate that the I.W.W. exists in vain, and "unless it changes its attitude to other labor unions" that it will cease to be a factor in the labor movement. How little, after all, you know about the I.W.W. You predict a blank future for it unless, forsooth; it consents to be guided by your council.
For seventeen years its demise has been predicted annually, and at shorter intervals; and its obituary is written and ready in the "morgues" of every reactionary sheet in the United States, including those who speak in the name of a communism to which they are strangers. But, like the report of Mark Twain's death, these predictions have always proved to be "greatly exaggerated" -- and premature. The I.W.W. has persistently refused to die and establish reputations for the dilettante labor generals who have the progress of the revolution mapped and charted, and who alone are "competent" to lead the proletariat to victory. They are especially endowed and (self) selected to thrust salvation upon the working class. They will tell you that themselves. We have listened to them for, lo, these many years. However, we seem to have an inherent preference for organizing and depending upon ourselves. The I.W.W., for seventeen bitter and bloody years, has struggled to teach organization to us. It has made mistakes, and it has learned from its mistakes. Perhaps it is still making mistakes, but it can be depended upon to remedy them. If not today, then tomorrow, or when experience qualifies it.
Now, fellow workers, we ask these questions in all seriousness: Do you believe that the R.I.L.U. has so great an experience, more particularly an American experience, as has the I.W.W.? Do you consider yourselves better qualified to deal with, or less liable to be fallible in your judgment about American labor affairs than the I.W.W.?
You see the American labor movement from afar off, and you base your opinions about the I. W. W's. part in it from information furnished by observers. whose partisanship disqualifies them for reporting impartially. Upon such information, and superinduced perhaps by resentment over Williams' report, you justify your "appeal to the rank and file of the I.W.W."
We do not question your sincerity at all. However, we are satisfied that this appeal, based upon misinformation, would not serve the end at which you aim; nor would it be of assistance in mollifying the antagonism that exists between the element whose doctrine it carries, and the I.W.W.
General Defense Committee, An Achievement
Your reference to the sphere and activities of the General Defense Committee as "political" can only be founded upon a conception that anything which is intended to influence opinion about a governmental act is political in character. Our conception of the G.D.C. and its work is that both are devoted to publicity and propaganda, in an effort to surround the I.W.W. and its membership with such protection as a general opinion will provide.
Through the G.D.C., the membership of many labor organizations outside of the I.W.W., has been aroused to the danger of a growing evil which selects militant and talented labor personalities for its victims. Besides arousing the working people, this agency has been instrumental in enlisting liberals of all kinds, even including church organizations. It is thus functioning to bring to new and hitherto hostile or indifferent elements a knowledge of the I.W.W., its membership, program and methods; and interest in the problem of the workers is thus created. With whether this committee and its work, or the results of that work are designated political, or otherwise, we are not in the least concerned. To us the General Defense Committee is an extra-functioning body, designed for a particular work and operating in a sphere -- outside of the work places -- where the I.W.W., by its very nature, is not qualified to function.
To others than those who are hostile to the I.W.W. the General Defense Committee is an achievement, typical of the resourcefulness of this organization. It is not evidence of wrong principle, but of a weak condition. Its function is not politics, but publicity as one means of defense.
Of those portions of the "appeal" which dealt with the officials and the press, you will appreciate that these are matters to be dealt with by the general convention, which is scheduled to convene in Chicago, November 13, 1922. Until then, we, very naturally, shall refrain from commenting upon the things you avow and intimate about us and the papers.
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