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Chapter 11 - How the Workers Can Manage Industry

THE objection is sometimes raised to the I. W. W. program of industrial democracy, that industry could not run unless financed by capitalists, and that without bosses to employ them workers could not exist. These objectors do not understand the difference between capital and capitalists. Capital means "stored up labor power," or "wealth that is used to produce more wealth." Wealth is "nature's material adapted by labor to suit the needs of man." The machinery Or production, such as sawmills, steel plants, factories, mining machinery, railroads, is capital. The money used to buy raw material and to pay wages is also capital. The former is known as fixed capital and the latter as circulating capital. Capital is necessary to carry on production. If all capital were destroyed, industry would stop. The great majority in civilized countries would die from cold and hunger. The few survivors would eke out a precarious existence by the crude and primitive methods of the prehistoric savage. The race would slowly and laboriously have to rebuild civilization, a task which would probably take centuries.

Labor is the creator of capital, and existed before capital; but without capital, labor could produce only on a very limited scale. On the other hand, capital without labor could produce nothing. The I. W. W. does not propose to abolish capital. What it does propose is to abolish capitalists. A capitalist is one who owns capital and lives off profits produced by workers. Capital is necessary to society; but the private ownership of capital is not necessary; on the contrary, it is responsible for most of the evils from which society suffers today. If all capitalists were to pass out of existence industry would go on as usual, for it is run entirely by workers. With a system of industrial democracy capital will still exist but it will be owned and controlled by the useful members of society instead of by a parasite class.

Each job will be run by the workers as at present. But instead of being controlled by a foreman representing capitalists, it will be controlled by a foreman elected by and responsible to the workers, and subject to removal at any time he fails to function properly. Everyone familiar with industry knows that on the average job there are men just as capable as the foreman, and usually much more so. As a rule foremen do not get their jobs on account of superior ability as workmen, but because of their willingness to do the dirty work of the capitalists and to put the interest of their employers before that of their fellow workers. The workers will elect the most efficient man as foreman and will back him up with their full co-operation, for it will be to their interest to the job run so as to produce the maximum of results with the minimum of efforts. Under capitalism the interests of the workers and employers are diametrically opposed. It is to the interest of the workers to do as little as possible. They do not care whether the job is run efficiently or not so long as they get their wages. Much is said and written about efficiency, but the profit system, by causing conflicting interests on every job, makes real efficiency impossible. With industrial democracy the interests of all will be identical and harmonious co-operation will result. Peace, prosperity and efficiency will take the place of the present system of graft, robbery, incompetence and fraud.

Under capitalism, control of camps and sawmills is centralized through foremen, superintendents, general managers, boards of directors, and lumbermen's associations until it culminates in the Lumber Trust. Under a system of industrial democracy, control of the lumber industry, instead of centering in the hands of parasites and their tools, will center in workers' committees culminating in the general executive committee of the Lumber Workers' Industrial Union. The industrial unions of workers will have played their part in overthrowing capitalism and will have taken on their new functions of carrying on industry.

With the abolition of the profit system, management of all industries will be greatly simplified. Under capitalism a vast amount of energy is wasted in disposing of the finished product. Even in trustified industries there is still considerable competition. The sales department is an indispensable part of every company. High salaried salesmen are employed and much money is spent for advertising. With industrial democracy all this waste will be eliminated. Systematic production and distribution will displace the haphazard methods of capitalism.

In order that the industry may be run more easily and efficiently, it is probable that the country will be divided into several lumber districts corresponding to the different lumber regions.

Control of each district will center in a district executive committee, which will be elected by a vote of all lumber workers in the district. The district committees will be responsible to the rank and file and can be removed at any time by referendum vote. Running the industry by districts instead of by companies will eliminate a vast amount of inefficiency and waste. Expenses of accounting will be greatly reduced. Instead of a separate accounting system for each of the many companies in a district, one will suffice for the whole district. Under capitalism it often happens that when a mill runs out of logs it shuts down, although there may be others within a short distance, belonging to different companies, with more logs than they can use. Under industrial democracy no mills will run short, for logs will be distributed to the best advantage among all mills in the district. The district executive committee will know how much lumber and forest products of all kinds are produced in each camp and mill. They will know how is needed in all other industries in the district; and it will be their business to see that the local demand is supplied as far as timber resources of the district permit.

The function of the general executive committee of the industrial union will be to exercise a general supervision over the industry as a whole. They will keep track of production of lumber and all forest products, and the demand for these from other industries. They will know how much is produced and consumed in each district. Orders from districts where demand is greater than supply will be placed to the best advantage among other districts. The G. E. C. will probably be divided into several departments, such as the Bureau of Production, Bureau of Distribution, Bureau of Forestry, Bureau of Statistics, Bureau in charge of the Forest Products Laboratory, etc. Methods used in different parts of the world, for logging and manufacturing lumber and by-products of all kinds, will be studied and the most efficient and economical adopted. Working methods will be judged from the viewpoint of the best possible service consistent with the safety and welfare of the lumber workers and the conservation of the timberlands. Dangerous and wasteful methods will be discarded.

Expert timber cruisers will ascertain the amount of standing timber in all parts of the country, and means will be devised to use it to the best advantage. Scientific reforestation will be carried on with a view to making each district supply as much as possible of its own demand. Logged-off lands near the great centers of population, which are not put to any other economic use, will be reforested so as to supply the demand with the minimum of transportation. Skilled foresters will determine the species best suited to soil and climate of different sections. Forest product laboratories will ascertain what woods are best suited to different uses, and how by-products can be used to the best advantage.

Destruction of forests by fire and insects will be reduced to a minimum. The natural resources of the country will belong to all the workers and it will be to the interest of all to prevent destruction of their own property. There will be no timber thieves to start fires to drive homesteaders off the land, to put rivals out of business or to secure logging permits on government reserves. The present fire prevention system will be improved and extended. Airplanes, wireless telegraphy, the telegraph, telephone and all the most efficient and modern devices for detecting, reporting, and fighting fire will be used.

With the waste and destruction of capitalism eliminated, it is probable that two or three hours of work a day will be sufficient to supply the needs of society. With short hours and improved methods of transportation, it will no longer be necessary for loggers to live in camps. In thinly settled forest regions, villages can be built, ten or twenty miles apart. Passenger trains can be run into the woods to take the loggers to and from work. If any prefer to live in camp they will be perfectly free to do so, and camps will be built and run for the health and comfort of the workers. But any man who so desires will be free to have a home of his own.

All industries are interdependent. One cannot run without all others. Therefore control of all industries must be centralized. There must be a means by which the workers in each industry are kept in touch with those in all other industries. To this end all industrial unions are brought together under the head of the One Big Union of all the workers. At the General Convention of this One Big Union, the delegates from all industrial unions meet on a common ground. Each delegate is instructed by the rank and file of the union he represents. They compare notes, interchange ideas, adjust differences and settle disputes between the different industrial unions; they devise ways and means and lay plans by which they can co-operate to the best advantage to run industry as a whole. The general convention is the legislative body of the One Big Union. But all legislation passed must be ratified by referendum vote of the rank and file. The general executive board is the executive body. This is composed of representatives from each industrial union. The function of the G. E. B. is to exercise general supervision over the affairs of all industries between conventions, and to see that all legislation passed at the convention is carried out. It is not to be supposed that the G. E. B. is endowed with autocratic powers or can dictate to the industrial unions.

It is simply a committee to carry out the will of the rank and file as expressed by referendum. Its members can be removed at any time by referendum vote of the membership. Each industrial union will run its own affairs without interference from the G. E. B. so long as it lives up to the constitution of the One Big Union. The G. E. B. will only act in case of disputes between industrial unions or violation of the constitution. will bear the same relation to industry as a whole as the general executive committee bears to an industrial union.


The objection is often made to the I. W. W. that it does not believe in government. This is a mistake. The I. W. W. believes in the most efficient form of government possible. Some revolutionists object to the word government on the ground that it implies a governing class and a class that is governed. The word government is used here in the sense of self-government, or administration of their own affairs by the workers. Carrying on industry is the most important of all human activities, for without the industries civilized society could not exist. Therefore the most important function of government is to see that industry is carried on in such a way that the greatest possible benefit to all the people will result. To be efficient, a government must be constituted on the basis of industrial, instead of local, representation, for only those who work in and understand the industries, are competent to legislate concerning them. It is true that under industrial democracy none but workers could be elected. But if these workers were elected on the basis of geographic division without regard to the industries in which they worked, it would be impossible to secure a balanced representation from all industries. Too many would be elected from some industries; others would not be represented at all. All industries work together to carry on production, so all industries must be represented in legislation concerning production.

The job is the unit of production, therefore the job branch must be the unit of government. On all matters concerning that job alone, the job branch will have full power to legislate. Matters concerning the members of one industrial union in one district alone will be handled by the district council of that industrial union. In cities and districts there will be general industrial district councils composed of delegates representing all job branches of all industrial unions in the district. Their function will be to deal with matters that concern the members of all industrial unions in that district alone. Matters that concern all the members of an industrial union will be legislated on by the general convention of that industrial union. Legislation concerning all industrial unions, or society as a whole, will be passed by the general convention of the One Big Union of all workers. The present government of the United States is a government by the big capitalists who control industry. Regardless of whatever theoretical forms of government may exist it is inevitable that those who control industry will be the real government because, by controlling industry, they control the source of all human power. Under industrial democracy the government will be of the workers, by the workers, and for the workers. It will also be a government by those who control industry, for the workers will control industry. That is the only system under which a genuine democratic government is possible.

The following is a rough parallel between the present capitalist government and that of the future industrial democracy. A small job corresponds to a town or village, a large plant to a city, and its different shops to the city wards. The job branch meeting corresponds to the town meeting, the job committee to the board of aldermen, and its chairman to the mayor. The industrial union corresponds to the State, the industrial union convention to the State legislature, and the chairman of the general executive committee to the governor. The One Big Union of all workers corresponds to the nation, the General Executive Board to the cabinet and its chairman to the president. An international convention composed of delegates representing workers' unions of different countries would correspond to the capitalist League of Nations.

The Money Question

When industrial democracy is firmly established there will be no need of money. With the waste of capitalism abolished, and with the improvement of machinery, the material necessities of life--food, clothing, shelter and fuel--will be produced in such great abundance that they will be as plentiful as water. Every worker will take what he needs, just as everyone drinks enough water to satisfy his thirst. In all cities, towns, villages, and at convenient places in the rural districts there will be storehouses filled with everything necessary to supply man's material wants. With improved systems of communication and distribution a telephone call will bring whatever is needed. Proof that a worker Is doing his share in production will entitle him to what he needs. This will be a simple matter. No complicated system of accounting will be necessary. For instance, each worker might have a due book. Every day he worked, a stamp could be affixed. By simply showing a paid-up card, he could take what he needed. The old, the immature, and the sick will not be required to work. If a healthy man of working age refuses to work he will starve. There will be no incentive to take more than is needed. A man might use two or three suits of clothes, but more would only be an encumbrance. He could not sell them, for no one would buy when clothes could be obtained free at the public store-house. Some will take more than others, for the needs of all are not alike. A man with a large family requires more than a single man. Some drink more than others at public drinking fountains, but no one objects, for there is enough for all. Greed for gain is a mental disease caused by the insecurity of capitalism. In a free society it will soon disappear.

Many things now considered luxuries will be in common use. There is no reason why every worker could not have an automobile if he so desired. Such luxuries as only satisfy a perverted passion for vulgar display will be no longer produced. Public buildings will embody the highest skill of architects and mechanics, but such things as million dollar mansions for private individuals will be unknown. Idleness and extravagance, today looked up to as marks of distinction, will be frowned on as evidence of degeneracy. Such things as cannot be within reach of all who want them will not be produced for private use. If a man wanted a house with fifty rooms he could not have it. But no sane man would want such a house, for no man could use fifty rooms. At the convention of the One Big Union-the legislative body of society, which will probably be in session the greater part of the time-it will be decided how many hours a day and how many days a year it will be necessary to work. When a worker puts in the required number of days he will be free to do as he pleases the rest of the time. If a worker desires a long vacation he can pay his card up ahead by working extra shifts. If he wants to travel, he will not have to ride the rods or take a tie pass; a paid-up card will entitle him to transportation by boat, train or airplane to any part of the world.

But how about visiting countries still under capitalism? There will be no such countries. The world is not big enough for capitalism and industrial democracy to exist at the same time. Between these two systems there is a fight to a finish. If one country alone established industrial democracy it would be crushed by the economic blockade; The different countries of the world are closely interlinked by industry and commerce. One is dependent on the other for coal, food, raw material, and manufactured products. Most countries would be confronted with a shut-down of industry and consequent starvation if isolated from the others. Italy would face a coal famine; England a food famine; Germany would run out of food and raw material. Russia is dependent on the outside world for locomotives, agricultural machinery and manufactured goods of many kinds. The Russian workers, helped by the economic power of the workers in other countries, have succeeded in fighting off the military power of the world capitalism; but economic pressure has forced them to compromise, and capitalism has been re-established in Russia. The forces that make for revolution are at work in all countries. There is every reason to believe that capitalism will soon receive its deathblow in some of the most powerful countries in the world. It will then be crushed in the remaining countries by internal revolution, backed by the economic power of the industrial democracies.

When the workers of all countries take over industry it is probable that national boundary lines will disappear. Armies will be disbanded and navies will go to the scrap pile. Under capitalism all wars are caused by competing groups of capitalists struggling for possession of foreign markets in which to dispose of the wealth plundered from the workers. Wages are only sufficient to buy back a fraction of the wealth produced. Consequently a surplus piles up, factories shut down, and we have panics, unemployment and wars. With the workers getting the full product of their labor no surplus will be piled up for the benefit of parasites; there will be free interchange of products among all parts of the world, and all incentive to war will have disappeared.

In this chapter it has been the aim of the writer briefly to outline a practical plan by which industry can be run without capitalists, and to show that industrial democracy is not only possible but is the only logical and reasonable system. It is impossible to say how the future society will be run in all its details; but it is quite easy to show how everything can be done and to answer any objection that might be raised. The examples given are merely tentative. It is only attempted to give a general idea of how the workers can control industry and govern themselves; no doubt much better ways will be devised when the time comes.


The object of this pamphlet is to impress on all lumber workers the necessity for job organization. The organized lumber workers are fighting the common enemy. Organized and unorganized alike are benefited by their struggle. No man worthy of the name wants to lie down while others fight his battles. The most valuable asset of the Lumber Trust is the ignorance, cowardice, indifference and inertia of the workers. These are what give the timber thieves their power and enable them to resist the militant minority. There is no neutral ground. A worker who will not do his share in the work of organization is, to all intents and purposes, a scab. True, he may never have actually worked as a strike-breaker, but if all workers failed to organize there never would be any strikes.

By industrial organization alone can the power of capitalism be broken and economic freedom gained. With "big business" the real government, the futility of political action is evident. The worthlessness of the ballot box has been proven many times in the past. So long as control of industry remains in the hands of the capitalists, armed insurrection is suicidal. The workers have no military organization, no arms nor the training to use them. The American "red army" would be slaughtered like sheep by the highly developed machinery of war in the hands of the capitalists and their tools. The power of the workers is neither political nor military, but industrial. By organizing industrially we strike at the very root of capitalist power-control of industry.

Organization implies action. Every man must do his part. There is a vast difference between an organized body of men and a herd of deadheads with cards in their suitcases. Let no one imagine he is keeping up his end by simply taking out a card and paying his dues, or that by paying dues he is hiring someone to do his fighting for him. To get those things that make life worth living some effort is necessary. Intelligent, organized effort alone can win. To get concerted action, meetings must be held on the job. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain. Far better not to live at all than to crawl through life as a meek, humble, servile and submissive work animal, whose only ambition is to sell his labor power for a lousy bunk and rotten, adulterated food. Let every man demonstrate his fitness to survive by doing his part in the fight for INDUSTRIAL DEMOCRACY.

"Life is strife for every man, For every son of thunder.
Then be a lion, not a lamb, And don't be trampled under."