Solidarity -- and a couple of other thoughts

Mike Ballard swillsqueal at
Tue Nov 19 11:14:24 MST 2002

Hi Ben,
--- benj <benj at> wrote:
> Here's an excerpt from something I wrote about the
> IWW a couple
> of years ago:
> **
> "The Wobblies saw themselves as building the new
> (socialist)
> society within the old. The "One Big Union" was to
> administer the
> new society. This was a better conception than the
> gradual
> parliamentary reformism espoused by many of the
> mainstream
> socialists -- an idea the IWW firmly opposed. Yet,
> the IWW did
> not devise a strategy for abolishing the capitalist
> order.

The primary issue for Marx and for the IWW was,has
been and is, the abolition of wage-slavery.  The
capitalist order rests on wage-labour.

The IWW strategy for abolishing wage-labour was/is to
organize our power industrially in classwide union.
The tactical angle was/is to promote solidarity among
workers to win the day to day battles with the
employing class and ultimately, when critical
organizational mass was/is reached, to replace
capitalism with a system of production/consumption for
use and need under ther grassroots, democratic control
of the associated producers.

> "With all their revolutionary intent, the IWW
> focused on the
> workers' day-to-day economic struggles. When faced
> with concerted
> attack by the state, the Wobblies had no strategy to
> deal with
> it, either by transforming economic struggles into
> insurrection,
> or by going underground. The Wobblies strategy in
> the end also
> proved to be gradualist, seeking to ignore the
> capitalist state
> rather than destroy it."
> **

The IWW came out of a tradition of socialism more
associated with the First International than the
Second or Third.  One of the fundamental principles of
its members was that the revolution could only be
accomplished as the class conscious act of the workers
themselves.  Thus, whatever tactics might become
necessary to accomplish the abolition of wage-slavery
would flow from the workers own assessment as time and
circumstance confront them.

When the Industrial Workers of the World have been
attacked, we have stood up for ourselves.  It is a
misreading of history to suggest that we rolled over
and played dead.  The IWW didn't die.  The IWW
survived all attacks from all quarters and continues
to this day even in Australia where they were
viciously wounded by the executive committe of the
capitalist class during WWI. Some Wobblies have been
forced underground over the years.  Some have bravely
stood trial for the crime of attempting to organize
One Big Union.  Others have been put up on trumped up
charges.  Some have been lynched.  The struggle for
freedom from wage-slavery continues.

> I think that looking at the history of the wobblies,
> and possibly
> more so in Australia, one can learn many invaluable
> lessons about
> the organisation of the working class. But then, one
> can also do
> that by looking at the Bolsheviks or at the Cuban
> revolutionaries. It doesn't mean we have to copy
> everything they
> did.

I agree.  To copy the conclusions which people made in
the past to deal with their situations and apply them
uncritically to the circumstances which we deal with
today would be dogmatic and ineffective.

In particular above I mention the "gradualist"
> weakness of
> the OBU scheme. I haven't seen a convincing
> latter-day IWW
> assessment of such weaknesses. Has such an
> assessment been
> written by any wobs?

I'll take a stab.  All revolutionaries are gradualists
until they have the organized power to accomplish what
they set out to do.  To make a social revolution, it
is necessary to do the educational, agitational and
organizational groundwork.  This kind of work takes
patience. The results will not appear in a puff of
smoke.  The social revolution is a long march, a very
long march indeed.  Outside events can short circuit
years of good work, just as wars and other sorts of
cataclysmic circumstance can accelerate the
revolutionary process.  But as Sandino said, "The
workers and peasants will get there in the end."

Wobbly greetings,
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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