William "Big Bill" Haywood

THE CONSTRUCTIVE PROGRAMME OF THE IWW

1913

Saturday 12 February 2005, by William Haywood

THE CONSTRUCTIVE PROGRAMME OF THE IWW

by B. H. Williams

Editorial in "Solidarity," June 7, 1913

The charge is now being made and repeated constantly by the enemies of the Industrial Workers of the World, that our organization is committed "exclusively to a program of violent destruction"; that "the I. W. W. would destroy society and industry, leaving nothing but chaos in their place." With much eagerness and flourish a large part of the labor press is repeating this nonsense, until no doubt many sincere workers are misled by it, which is, of course, the intention of the enemy. In order to offset this, and supply our own active members with material with which to educate outside workers, "Solidarity" hopes from time to time, to deal in detail with the structural forms of the "One Big Union." Our readers should understand that it is not the alleged "noisy talk" of the I.W.W. agitator that is so much feared by the capitalist master, as it is the attempt by the I. W. W. to BUILD CONCRETELY THE WONDERFUL STRUCTURE OF INDUSTRIAL SOLIDARITY, that shall replace the rule of the masters by the organized control of industry and society by the working class.

A brief outline of the structure of the I. W. W. is here given, for the benefit of those who can be induced to enter more into detail with regard to their own particular industry, and to apply that knowledge in their propaganda among their fellow workers:

Local Industrial Union

(1) The fundamental unit of I. W. W. organization, as provided for in our constitution, is the LOCAL INDUSTRIAL UNION, "branched according to the requirements of the particular industry." The I. W. W. takes account of the evolution of modern industry, from the era of small shops with distinct tools or implements of labor around which were grouped equally distinct craftsmen. For example, the word "blacksmith" or "weaver" at once suggests the mental picture of the man at the forge with hammer and anvil at hand; or the picture of the man or woman at the loom. The idea of the particular TOOL USED by the workers stands out in bold relief when the trade is thus named. The craft form of union followed logically from that method of production. But when we say "metal and machinery worker" or "textile worker" the concept is different. The tool is lost sight of, and in its place the PRODUCT comes to mind—a printing press; or cotton, woolen or silk cloth. There are many subdivisions or specialized groups of "metal and machinery workers" as there are of "textile workers" co-operating together in turning out the given product. As a consequence, a metal and machinery shop, or a textile mill, can no longer be properly organized on a craft basis, according to the tools used by the workers.

Recognizing the fundamental changes due to industrial evolution, the I. W. W. provides for the organization of all workers in a given metal and machinery shop or a textile mill, into ONE SHOP BRANCH—with regular branch officers, shop committees and general shop meetings or referendum, to deal with questions pertaining to their shop interests alone. In this way, we get directly at the boss or shop owner, at the closest possible range.

But there may be many shops of the same kind in the same locality. Most matters do not concern a single shop only; for example, an eight-hour day, or an increase in wages is a matter that cannot well be settled by a single shop organization. Hence the shop branches must be grouped in such a way that all the workers in a given locality, or in all localities can act as a unit against their employers and for all the workers at once. So for the purpose of local unity of a given industry, all the shop branches are bound together in a LOCAL INDUSTRIAL UNION, for instance, of "metal and machinery workers" or of "textile workers." This local industrial union functions through a central committee or council composed of delegates from each of the shop branches, having all necessary officers to transact affairs of general concern, to maintain communication between the branches and larger subdivisions of the same industrial union, and so on. All detail work except important matters that require attention of the entire local membership, is attended to by the central committee or council. Such important matters are referred to a general meeting or a general referendum of the local membership. In this way, by the I. W. W. plan of organization, every possible detail is provided for.

Industrial District Council

(2) Just as the local industrial union is the unit of I. W. W. organization, so GENERAL LOCAL UNITY is of prime importance in the development of the organization. Without strong healthy and vitalized local organization, a general weakness is inevitable all along the line. The I. W. W. cannot properly function from the top down; it must function FROM THE BOTTOM UP. Consequently, the I. W.W. provides for the very important formation known as the INDUSTRIAL DISTRICT COUNCIL, whose function it is to secure and maintain local unity and solidarity of all industrial groups. The district council is composed of representatives from each and all of the local industrial unions of a given locality. In case of a strike in a given industry the council becomes a most effective instrument for calling into action all the workers of the locality to aid their struggling brothers. Raising funds, carrying on propaganda and organization, calling out workers in other industries, are some of the possible means by which the industrial district council may function as a quick and effective means of promoting local solidarity.

National Industrial Union

(3) But local unity is not sufficient, the local industrial union and the district council are not complete in themselves. An eight hour day or demand for a general advance in wages may originate as a local movement, but in order to be successful against a MANUFACTURERS’ ASSOCIATION or in face of the advantage that one competing capitalist will naturally take of another, such a movement must involve the entire industry. For instance, the Paterson textile workers (1913) demanded an eight hour day and succeeded in completely tying up the silk shops of that city. Immediately the bosses shouted that they could not "compete with the mill owners of Pennsylvania, New York and other sections of New Jersey." Thereupon the I. W. W. took them at their word, and proceeded to call out about 20,000 more strikers in the sections named, practically paralyzing the entire silk goods industry. The strikers of Hudson county, New Jersey, were offered their demands and requested to return to work. They refused, "until such time as the Paterson strikers should be granted the eight hour day and other concessions."

Thus the I. W. W. plan of organization has provided the NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL UNION for the purpose of bringing together all local industrial unions of a given industry into one national body. All the textile workers of the nation are to be united in one national industrial union. To transact its affairs, maintain unity of action and intercommunication between locals, etc., the national industrial union elects national officers and a national executive board, holds national conventions and deals with national matters through the referendum.

Through this form of organization, the textile workers, for example, will tend more and more to assume control of that industry, and to regard it as their particular RESPONSIBILITY, in relation to the industrial society as a whole. Hence the basis of that claim by capitalist writers (and given a foundation in the assertions of some "half-baked" "syndicalists") that the I. W. W. proposes to "have the miners own and control the mining industry; the textile workers own and control the textile industry," etc. This is not true, as will appear later. Suffice it to say here, that the national industrial union is provided for by the I.W.W. constitution to enable the workers in a given industry to maintain, in detail, the national unity and solidarity of that industry. This form of organization is seen to be essential both for purposes of defense and aggression against the capitalist enemy, and for shaping an essential part of the structure of the new society which it is seeking to form within the shell of capitalism.

Department Of Industries

(4) Following the same "industrial lead" through the "vein" of modern capitalist industry, we find that a still larger grouping—of closer allied industries—is necessary. That is provided for under the name DEPARTMENT. In dealing with "departments," we cannot speak with the same assurance as with regard to the other subdivisions of the organization. Owing to the close inter-relation of "allied industries," the departmental lines are not clearly defined. Nevertheless, the I. W. W. constitution provides tentatively, for the following departmental structure:
1. The Department of Agriculture, Land, Fisheries and Water Products.
2. Department of Mining.
3. Department of Transportation and Communication.
4. Department of Manufacture and General Production.
5. Department of Construction.
6. Department of Public Service.

Each of these six departments will embrace all the national industrial unions of closely allied industries in the respective department to which they may properly belong. Under this classification, as at present conceived, the national industrial union of textile workers would be included in the Department of Manufacture and General production. A national industrial union of "Municipal Workers," having charge of the lighting, heating, paving, watering and otherwise administering cities, would belong to the Department of Public Service. But, as suggested above, the question of departmental grouping will have to be gone into more thoroughly, as the constructive work of organization proceeds. The concept of "departments" only brings out more clearly the inter-relation of one industry to another, and provides for the closer unity of allied industries.

General Organization-Union Of The Working Class

(5) On this question of "closer unity" the I. W. W. constitution goes even farther. It proceeds on the understanding that wealth production is today a SOCIAL PROCESS, in which the entire working class co-operates to feed, clothe, shelter and provide the entire population of the world with the accessories of civilization. No single group of workers stands alone; no single industry is sufficient to itself; no group of industries can operate independently of other groups. For instance, the textile workers would be unable to "clothe the nation" if other groups of workers did not supply them with food, build machinery for the mills, raise cotton, wool and flax as "raw material"; transport products to and from the textile factories, etc. At bottom, all the working class co-operates with or aids directly or indirectly any group of workers in performing its function.

Consequently, just as the local industrial union binds together the branches; the national industrial union the locals, and the departments the national industrial unions—so the departments, whether more or less than six in number when this form of grouping is worked out, will be brought together in ONE GENERAL UNION OF THE ENTIRE WORKING CLASS, whose functioning will bind together all workers of all industries into one co-operative commonwealth.

This form of organization precludes the idea of the workers in one industry "owning and operating that industry for themselves." That proposal is found to be impossible of realization in view of the social character of production. The GENERAL ORGANIZATION of the I. W. W. is for the purpose of securing and maintaining the co-operation of all industrial groups for the work of social production for the use and benefit of all the people. The general organization has also another purpose at the present time—that of binding all the workers of the organization together for common defense and aggression against the master class. Its present success along this line brings forth the cry that the "I W. W. is trying to destroy society."

Through this form of organization thus briefly sketched, the I. W. W. is seen to have a constructive program, supplementing its destructive tactics against the capitalist enemy, that is invincible. And it is this CONSTRUCTIVE PROGRAM that alarms the masters and their retainers more than all the "loud talk" which they attribute to I. W. W. agitators. This program should be debated, studied and understood by all I. W. W. members first of all. Moreover, it should form a part at least of every soap-boxer’s speech. Without it, the "tactics" of the I. W. W. are of as little value as geometrical figures without material substances through which to express their meaning. Tactics are inseparable from organization. Therefore let us study and work to build the organization that, while striking capitalism its death blow, is at the same time preparing to put in the place of capitalism a new and better society.