The best statements of the ideology of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) are to be found in the organizations's 1905 Manifesto, and in the preamble to the IWW constitution, as amended in 1908. Founded by socialists and trade unionists in Chicago in 1905, the IWW united skilled and unskilled workers—including immigrants, non-whites, and women—in a common struggle against capitalism. "Wobblies," as IWW members were nicknamed, were known for the dramatic language and their revolutionary commitment to total class warfare, which involved such tactics as direct action, propaganda, boycotts, and strikes. Before World War I, the organization was involved in at least 150 strikes. As a result of their labor activities and their antimilitarism during World War I, the IWW faced extreme federal and state suppression, and many of its leaders and members were jailed. The group also lost members to sectarian conflict and the appeal of the communist party. Whereas the IWW had some thirty thousand members in 1912, there were only ten thousand in 1930. However, many of their tactics have since become commonplace in the American labor movement.(From The Radical Reader edited by Timothy Patrick McCarthy and John McMillian)
Social relations and groupings only reflect mechanical and industrial conditions. The great facts of present industry are the displacement of human skill by machines and the increase of capitalist power through concentration in the possession of the tools with which wealth is produced and distributed.
Because of these facts, trade divisions among laborers and competition among capitalists are alike disappearing. Class divisions grow ever more fixed and class antagonisms more sharp. Trade lines have been swallowed up in a common servitude of all workers to the machines which they tend. New machines, ever replacing less productive ones, wipe out whole trades and plunge new bodies of workers into the ever growing army of tradeless, hopeless unemployed. As human beings and human skill are displaced by mechanical progress, the capitalists need use the workers only during that brief period when muscles and nerves respond most intensely. The moment the laborer no longer yields the maximum of profits, he is thrown upon the scrap pile, to starve alongside the discarded machine. A dead line has been drawn, and an age limit established, to cross which, in this world of monopolized opportunities, means condemnation to industrial death.
The worker, wholly separated from the land and the tools, with his skill of craftsmanship rendered useless, is sunk in the uniform mass of wage slaves. He sees his power of resistance broken by craft divisions, perpetuated from outgrown industrial stages. His wages constantly grow less as his hours grow longer and monopolized prices grow higher. Shifted hither and thither by the demands of profit-takers, the laborer's home no longer exists. In this helpless condition he is forced to accept whatever humiliating conditions his master may impose. He is submitted to a physical and intellectual examination more searching than was the chattel slave when sold from the auction block.
Laborers are no longer classified by differences in trade skill, but the employer assigns them according to the machines to which they are attached. These divisions, far from representing differences in skill or interests among the laborers, are imposed by the employers that workers may be pitted against one another and spurred to greater exertion in the shop, and that all resistance to capitalist tyranny may be weakened by artificial distinctions.
While encouraging these outgrown divisions among the workers, the capitalists carefully adjust themselves to the new conditions. They wipe out all differences among themselves and present a united front in their war upon labor. Through employers' associations, they seek to crush, with brutal force, by the injunctions of the judiciary and the use of military power, all efforts at resistance. Or when the other policy seems more profitable, they conceal their daggers beneath the Civic Federation and hoodwink and betray those whom they would rule and exploit. Both methods depend for success upon the blindness and internal dissensions of the working class. The employers' line of battle and methods of warfare correspond to the solidarity of the mechanical and industrial concentration, while laborers still form their fighting organizations on lines of long-gone trade divisions.
The battles of the past emphasize this lesson. The textile workers of Lowell, Philadelphia, and Fall River; the butchers of Chicago, weakened by the disintegrating effects of trade divisions; the machinists on the Santa Fe, unsupported by their fellow workers subject to the same masters; the long-struggling miners of Colorado, hampered by lack of unity and solidarity upon the industrial battlefield, all bear witness to the helplessness and impotency of labor as at present organized.
This worn-out and corrupt system offers no promise of improvement and adaptation. There is no silver lining to the clouds of darkness and despair settling down upon the world of labor. This system offers only a perpetual struggle for slight relief within wage slavery. It is blind to the possibility of establishing an industrial democracy wherein there shall be no wage slavery, but where the workers will own the tools which they operate and the product of which they alone will enjoy.
It shatters the ranks of the workers into fragments, rendering them helpless and impotent on the industrial battlefield.
Separation of craft from craft renders industrial and financial solidarity impossible. Union men scab upon union men; hatred of worker for worker is engendered, and the workers are delivered helpless and disintegrated into the hands of the capitalists. Craft jealousy leads to the attempt to create trade monopolies.
Prohibitive initiation fees are established that force men to become scabs against their will. Men whom manliness or circumstances have driven from one trade are thereby fined when they seek to transfer membership to the union of a new craft.
Craft divisions foster political ignorance among the workers, thus dividing their class at the ballot box as well as in the shop, mine, and factory.
Craft unions may be and have been used to assist employers in the establishment of monopolies and the raising of prices. One set of workers are thus used to make harder the conditions of life of another body of laborers.
Craft divisions hinder the growth of class consciousness of the workers, foster the idea of harmony of interests between employing exploiter and employed slave. They permit the association of the misleaders of the workers with the capitalists in the civic federations, where plans are made for the perpetuation of capitalism and the permanent enslavement of the workers through the wage system.
Previous efforts for the betterment of the working class have proven abortive because limited in scope and disconnected in action.
Universal economic evils afflicting the working class can be eradicated only by a universal working-class movement. Such a movement of the working class is impossible while separate craft and wage agreements are made favoring the employer against other crafts in the same industry and while energies are wasted in fruitless jurisdiction struggles which serve only to further the personal aggrandizement of union officials.
A movement to fulfill these conditions must consist of one great industrial union embracing all industries, providing for craft autonomy locally, industrial autonomy internationally, and working-class unity generally. It must be founded on the class struggle, and its general administration must be conducted in harmony with the recognition of the irrepressible conflict between the capitalist class and the working class. It should be established as the economic organization of the working class, without affiliation with any political party.
All power should rest in a collective membership.
Local, national, and general administration, including union labels, buttons, badges, transfer cards, initiation fees, and per capita tax should be uniform throughout.
All members must hold membership in the local, national, or international union covering the industry in which they are employed, but transfers of membership between unions, local, national, or international, should be universal.
Workingmen bringing union cards from industrial unions in foreign countries should be freely admitted into the organization.
The general administration should issue a publication representing the entire union and its principles which should reach all members in every industry at regular intervals.
A central defense fund, to which all members contribute equally, should be established and maintained.
All workers, therefore, who agree with the principles herein set forth, will meet in convention at Chicago the 27th day of June, 1905, for the purpose of forming an economic organization of the working class along the lines marked out in this manifesto.
Representation in the convention shall be based upon the number of workers whom the delegate represents. No delegate, however, shall be given representation in the convention on the numerical basis of an organization unless he has credentials bearing the seal of his union, local, national or international, and the signatures of the officers thereof, authorizing him to install his union as a working part of the proposed economic organization in the industrial department in which it logically belongs in the general plan of organization. Lacking this authority, the delegate shall represent himself as an individual.
Preamble of the Industrial Workers of the World
The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.
Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.
We find that the centering of the management of industries into fewer and fewer hands makes the trade unions unable to cope with the ever growing power of the employing class. The trade unions foster a state of affairs which allows one set of workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same industry, thereby helping defeat one another in wage wars. Moreover, the trade unions aid the employing class to mislead the workers into the belief that the working class have interests in common with their employers.
These conditions can be changed and the interest of the working class upheld only by an organization formed in such a way that all its members in any one industry, or in all industries if necessary, cease work whenever a strike or lockout is on in any department thereof, thus making an injury to one an injury to all.
Instead of the conservative motto, "A fair day's wage for a fair day's work," we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, "Abolition of the wage system."
It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. The army of production must be organized, not only for everyday struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.