DESTRUCTION THE AVOWED PURPOSE OF THE I. W. W.

Samuel Gompers, American Federationist. 20:534-7. July, 1913.

The I. W. W. is destructive in theory and in practice. It would destroy the State and the ownership of property and substitute for these voluntary collectivism or a form of anarchy. It claims that the campaign of education and that constant reform are antiquated and ineffective, advocates "direct action," and the destruction of the present that Utopia may be superimposed on the ruins. As the Industrial Workers of the World state in their own literature: "There is just one bargain the Industrial Workers of the World will make with the employing class complete surrender of all control of industry to the organized workers." Since the purpose is to subvert present economic conditions and principles, all policies and methods are destructive. They say society is composed of two classes—the employing and the employed—whose interests are diametrically opposed and incapable of conciliation. Hence the wrongs of the employed can be righted only by dispossessing the employers. Upon this basis their program is prepared.

So irrevocable and so ineradicable do they consider the line of demarcation between the two classes that one of their interpreters, Mr. Pouget, even postulates for them two distinct systems of morality:

The truth is that, as there exist two classes in society, so there exist two moralities, the bourgeois morality and the proletarian morality.

Yet Mr. Pouget deems even this morality too constrictive.

For in considering the transfer of industry to the workers from an ethical standpoint, he says :

We are going to take over the industries some day, for three very good reasons: Because we need them, because we want them, and because we have the power to get them. Whether we are 'ethically justified' or not is not our concern.

Their destructive policies begin with opposition to the trade union. For this they would substitute a type of organization that would unite all the workers into one ardent, compact, awe-inspiring union, eager to sacrifice personal and immediate benefits to a dream of future perfection. Such an organization would constitute a sort of militant flying wedge to reach by direct action the heart of industry—for to the victors belong the spoils. The tactics employed in this "organization" are the general strike, direct action, and sabotage.

The general strike is to enable the workers to approximate the fighting strength of the employer—for action "altogether," with irresistible solidarity, would sweep all difficulties away. The mere fact that different groups of men working at different trades have different interests, presents no difficulties to these theorists who demand that all workers be ever on the qui vive to forego their individual desires and welfare and the interests of those dependent on them for the sake of the "altogether" Utopia. Since the "altogether" strike with folded hands for industrial purposes is impracticable because of difficulties presented by human nature, more aggressive methods are employed.

In actual practice it is hard to distinguish between direct action, sabotage, and violence. Direct action, they say, is getting results by more immediate methods—that is, appropriating. The term sabotage is derived from sabot, meaning a wooden shoe. The propagandists say sabotage is a slang word used figuratively in the sense "to work clumsily." Less prejudiced writers find a more sinister connotation, derived from the action of French peasants in throwing their wooden shoes into machinery as a strike device. Direct action interpreted means violence, force, sabotage, the strike in which are used all the methods condemned by humanitarian standards—that the ultimate ideal may be obtained immediately. Sabotage is just another term for destruction. The leaders suggest that delicate and expensive machinery may be ruined by careless handling or dropping in foreign articles; food or other articles may be made unfit for sale; salespeople may refuse to show stock, may injure sales by displaying all the defects in the goods or by telling the whole truth; expensive mistakes may be made intentionally, as perishable goods billed to the wrong destination. One of their leaders dropped this suggestion*):

With two cents worth of a certain ingredient utilized in a peculiar way it will be easy for the railwaymen to put the locomotives in such a condition as to make it impossible to run them.

The whole purpose of this program is not to secure changes that will bring present benefits to the workers, but to make the employers so dissatisfied, so hopeless, that they will retire in despair, leaving the workers in possession of industry. And then what? Which of them knows? Is it not true that if society is "too individualistic for a socialist State" it is equally "too communistic for an individualist State?"

We would not disparage idealism, but the vision of all the workers of the world, banded together in one world-wide organization against all other forces of society, nations, and States is too chimerical to be seriously entertained by an intelligent man or woman confronted with the practical problem of securing a better home, better food and clothing, and a better life. Intelligent, practical workers want an organization that will benefit them now, and will protect them in the enjoyment of advantages secured while additional benefits are sought. It is well and inspiring to work for the uplift of all humanity, but that usually can best be done if each will attend to his own immediate obligations so that all may daily grow into better things rather than suddenly be carried skyward by a cataclysmic uplift to strange and unaccustomed heights and duties.

However, the most serious objections to the Industrial Workers of the World are not their utopian theories, but the violence, the "ceaseless class war" without regard to humanitarian rules of war, and the needless suffering inflicted upon the workers and society. It has been said that in advising waiters on strike their leaders called attention to the opportunities in serving food to destroy even life. This has been put into words by one of their spokesmen thus :

They do not recognize the employer's right to live any more than a physician recognizes the right of typhoid bacilli to thrive at the expense of a patient, the patient merely keeping alive.

Although the ultimate ideal is individualistic in the extreme, when industry shall be controlled by the groups of workers, when neither State nor laws shall exist, yet the method of attaining this goal sacrifices individual welfare at every stage. The workers are to become pawns to be directed and used by a "live minority" for the ultimate good of all. Present possessions and present benefits are to be lightly cast aside in response to the call of the leaders for immediate, united action for revolutionary purposes. Such methods fail to take human nature and the evolutionary character of progress into account. Both employers and employed who have had experience with the I. W. W. turn with appreciation to the American Federation of Labor.

Then, too, the workers are done a criminal injury and injustice when the I. W. W. comes among them to instill impracticable ideals, so to inflame the imagination by the hallucination that in yet a little while the workers shall inherit the whole earth and all its riches. Deluded by this leadership, unorganized workers who have no conception of hours, fair wages, sanitary or standardized conditions of work; who, since they are unorganized, have been unprotected, domineered over and cruelly treated by employers who take every advantage of their dependent and defenseless position—these toilers have been persuaded to believe that the so-called Industrial Workers of the World will lead raw recruits of labor to immediate, final, and absolute emancipation from every industrial, economic, and social ill; that they will immediately become the owners of all wealth, the directors of all the means of production and agencies for distribution. Dazed by the anticipated dizzy heights of mastery of world-destinies, intoxicated by the vision of triumph and absolute control, workers have entrusted their welfare to these industrial "promoters" only to come to a realization of the futility of their visions, of blasted hopes and wasted opportunities. Then they turn in wrath upon their deluders and misleaders.


Transcribed by J. D. Crutchfield who held his nose the whole time.

Last updated 21 April 2004