Solidarity -- and a couple of other thoughts

Mike Ballard swillsqueal at
Sat Nov 16 19:07:59 MST 2002

--- "Jose G. Perez" <jgperez at> wrote:
> Mike,
>     Thanks for posting the Preamble of the Wobbly
> consitution. I can't
> imagine a genuine revolutionary in the United States
> who doesn't have a
> little bit of that "fellow worker" spirit in her or
> him, and I daresay most
> of us don't have nearly enough of it, and it is
> perhaps our greatest
> failing.

I agree, Jose.  We seem to be able to recognize our
differences much better than we can unite around what
we have in common--our class interests.  The
overwheming majority of individuals are wage-slaves.
Our exploitation is rooted in Capital which grows by
employing our labour.

>          But at the same time, inspiring to read as
> it is, even today, the
> relatively narrow focus of the document is striking.

It is a radical statement.  It strikes at the root of
a tree which has many branches.

> There is no reference,
> not even an oblique one, to imperialism and war, nor
> to the many forms of
> oppression engendered by the capitalist system. The
> focus is exclusively on
> the economic exploitation aspect of capitalism.

The focus of the IWW is on what we have in common.
The point is to organize as a class to have the power
to change the way we live.

> the same token, the
> strategic solution offered, "By organizing
> industrially we are forming the
> structure of the new society within the shell of the
> old," is very narrow,
> inadequately so.

As I've said before on this list Jose, nothing is
stopping Wobblies from expanding their horizons beyond
what they hold in common.  Wobblies are not barred
from acts of solidarity with others.  Some Wobs are
assisting the indigeneous in their struggle for more
democratic rights in Mexico.  You'll find other Wobs
on the lines of defense around women's clinics.  Wobs
everywhere are holding up signs in the anti-Iraq war
demonstrations proclaiming, "Workers!  Don't kill
other workers."  The list goes on.  Of course, Wobs
have also been active helping the ILWU in its struggle
for continued existence.

>     Organizing industrially is a *step* towards
> class organization, but is
> not yet the thing itself, which can only be
> accomplished in the political
> arena.

Perhaps.  I maintain that classwide organization for
the strategic purpose of abolishing the wages system
is political too, perhaps the most political thing we
can do as workers.

It is, of course, the old debate between
> revolutionary unionism and
> revolutionary socialism, but in the years preceding
> WWI, both kinds of
> revolutionaries had no problem working together in
> the IWW. Those who wanted
> something more than One Big Union also had the
> Socialist Party,

Of course.  Bill Haywood and E.G. Flynn were both
members of the SP.  De Leon and Connolly were SLP
members.  All took other routes as history rolled on.
In my opinion, they were mistaken to do so.

> particularly the Debsian left wing. And I'm willing
> to bet more than one
> revolutionary syndicalist went ahead and voted for
> Debs, wore the buttons,
> went to the campaign rallies. He was, after all, a
> fellow worker, the most
> important thing of all.

Debs was a pretty damned good socialist.  Like Jack
London, who was at times both an SLP and SP member, I
don't think that Debs was ever a member of the IWW.
He spoke in its favour many times; but never a Wobbly
as far as I know.  Now, Helen Keller was both an SP
member and a dues paying member of the IWW.

>     That spirit of comradeship, even among fighters
> who had a pretty
> fundamental difference on the road going forward, is
> something that was much
> more prevalent in those days. It is that spirit
> which urgently needs to be
> recaptured today by the Left, and given concrete
> form in organization.

I think that the IWW could be such a vehicle.  I also
think that the political differences which we are all
bound to have--can be struggled with outside the union
hall.  We can all agree that we need to unite as a
class to have the power to revolutionize society.
What we can't agree on are the tactical questions
concerning specifics of how to deal with the ills
which spring out of the system of wage-labour--whether
to run candidates for office, whether to call on
Iraq's workers to overthrow their ruling class or stop
at just demanding an end to imperialist war plans and
possibly even a war.  We can do those things outside
the union hall.

>     We have spent decades wandering in the desert
> wilderness of disconnected
> campaigns, movements, sects, counter-sects, and even
> anti-sect sects. It's
> time for the American revolutionary workers movement
> to return to its roots.

Agreed José.  I say, let's roll the union on and the
scare the shit out of the bosses!

Mike B)

"Man first begins to philosophize when the necessitites of life are supplied."  Aristotle

"determinatio est negatio"  Spinoza

"There are no ordinary cats."  Colette

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