Daniel De Leon, Socialist Reconstruction of Society
No copyright ---- This document is in the public domain
Socialist Reconstruction of Society
by Daniel De Leon
An address delivered in
Union Temple, Minneapolis, Minn.,
July 10, 1905
Workingmen and Workingwomen of Minneapolis:
Our chairman did not overstate the case when he said that the
Industrialists' convention, which closed its sessions day before
yesterday in Chicago after two weeks of arduous labors, marks an epoch
in the annals of the labor movement of America. I may add, although
his words imply as much, that the Chicago convention marks also a
turning point in the history of the land.
What was done there? You will be able to obtain an approximate
idea, a hint, from the public declaration - the Preamble to the
Constitution - adopted by the convention.
The document is short; I shall make that shortness still
shorter by picking out just three of its clauses, the clauses which I
consider most important, and by the light of which the significance,
not only of all the others, not only of the document itself, but of
the movement which uttered it may be appreciated, gauged and
The three clauses are these:
There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are
found among millions of working people, and the few, who
make up the employing class, have all the good things of
The second clause declares:
The working class and the employing class have nothing in
Lastly, but not least, the third clause is as follows:
Between these two classes a struggle must go a until all
the toilers come together on the political, as well as
the industrial field, and take and hold that which they
produce by their labor through an economic organization
of the working class without affiliation with any
These three clauses I propose to take up with you in the order
in which I have read them.
THE FIRST CLAUSE
I consider the first clause pivotal. Does it state a truth?
Does it state a falsehood? Is it true that the condition of the
working class is one of hunger and want? Or is the contrary
statement, heard so often, the correct one? Upon this subject the men
engaged in the social question are irreconcilably divided. Deep is
the cleft that divides them.
On the one side stand those who were gathered, or were
represented, at Chicago. They maintain that the condition of the
working class is one of hunger, want and privation; that from bad it
is getting worse and ever worse; that the plunder levied upon them
mounts ever higher; that not only does their relative share of the
wealth which they produce decline, but that the absolute amount of the
wealth that they enjoy shrinks to ever smaller quantity in their
hands. That is the Socialist position.
Over against that position is the position of our adversaries
of various stripes - from the outspoken capitalist down to the A. F.
of L.-ite. They assert that the condition of the working class is one
of well-being; they claim that from good it is getting better and ever
better; they maintain that both the absolute amount of the wealth that
the workingman enjoys and his relative share of the wealth that he
produces is on the increase; some of them, like the English organ of
the New Yorker Volkszeitung Corporation, the Worker of February 5 of
this year, go so far in their assault upon the Socialist position as
to pronounce "a wild exaggeration" the claim that "the capitalist
system filches from the working class four-fifths of all that class
The two positions are irreconcilable. If the latter be true,
or even approximately true, then the other two clauses that I am
considering from the Preamble, aye, the Preamble itself, together with
the whole work of the Chicago convention, fall like the baseless
fabric of a nightmare; contrariwise, if the former; if the Socialist
position is true, then all the rest are conclusions that cannot be
escaped, and the Chicago convention built upon solid foundation. All,
accordingly, centers upon this first clause. Is it true? Is it
false? Let us see.
Let me introduce you to this document. You will find it
excitingly interesting. It is entitled, as you see, "Uncle Sam's
Balance Sheet." As you notice, it is full of figures. Be not alarmed
by them. I shall need but two of these columns, the last two, for my
purpose. I have not cut out the others, in order not to lay myself
open to the charge of presenting a "garbled document." This poster is
intended to give, both statistically and pictorially, a convincing
presentation of the progress in affluence made by the people of this
Let me introduce you a little closer to the document. The
columns of figures that you see were not gathered by me; they were not
gathered by any Socialist; quite otherwise. This document was issued
or circulated by the National Committee of the Republican party during
last year's presidential campaign. Seeing, moreover, that on this
first column are given the successive Democratic and Republican
administrations that presided over the nation's destiny during the
last fifty years, it is fair to consider that the statistical, aye,
also pictorial, presentation of conditions cast upon this canvas, is
the joint product of both the ruling parties.
You may ask why I trot be fore you the figures of the foe; why
not present you with my own. I shall tell you. If I say, "John Jones
is a thief," the charge may or may not be believed: I would have
to.prove it. But if John Jones himself says he is a thief, then I am
saved all further trouble. It is a fundamental principle of the law
of evidence that a man's own testimony against himself is the best
evidence possible. By tacking that poster before you, I have clapped
the highest spokesmen of the capitalist class upon the witness stand.
They cannot go back upon their own words. I propose to make them
I must earnestly request you to desist from applauding. The
heat in this hall with this vast audience is intense. We must all be
anxious to get out as soon as possible. These frequent interruptions
by applause only deter the hour of our joint deliverance.
There is one more thing I wish to introduce you to on this
document before I take up the figures. As I stated, the document is
intended to be a pictorial, besides a statistical presentation of
affairs. Let me invite your attention to this picture on the poster's
extreme left. You will notice it is Uncle Sam - but how lean, how
hungry, how poor, how shabby, how scraggy he looks! That is supposed
to represent the country as It started. Now look at this other
picture on the poster's extreme right. You will notice by the goatee
and other tokens that it is still Uncle Sam - but how changed! No
longer are his clothes in tatters; they must be of good material
because they do not burst despite his immense girth. He has a gay,
jaunty appearance; judging from that, from the tip of his hat, the
twirl in the feather that surmounts it, and the twinkle in his eye, he
is probably on a spree, half overseas - his face shining with the oil
of contentment. That picture is intended to symbolize the country
today. Now let us find out who this Uncle Sam is - the working man or
the idle man, the capitalist. The figures will tell us exactly.
This first column is headed "Product of Manufacture." It gives,
from decade to decade, the value of manufactured goods in the country,
from 1860 down to 1900. I shall not read off the figures in detail;
they would be too cumbersome to carry in your minds. Nor is that
necessary. I shall mention them only in round numbers.
For the decade of 1860 the value of manufactured products
amounted to nearly $2,000,000,000 in lump sum.
For the decade of 1870 it amounted to over $4,000,000,000.
For the next decade, 1880, it amounted to over $5,000,000,000.
For the decade following, 1890, it was over $9,000,000,000.
Finally, for the decade of 1900, the value of manufactured
products was over $13,000,000,000.
This is a magnificent progression, as you' will notice. From
nearly $2,000,000,000 in 1860, the wealth produced by labor rose
steadily, until in 1900 it reached the gigantic figure of nearly seven
times as much - $13,000,000,000 ! This, no doubt, indicates a vast
increase of wealth with a corresponding potential increase of
well-being. So far so good.
But be warned in time. The existence of a good thing is no
evidence of its being enjoyed by the working class.
I must right here request you to get your thinking caps ready.
Let me take an illustration. Suppose I say that in this hall, with a
thousand people, there is $10,000 to be found. That fact alone is no
indication as to how that $10,000 is distributed. It may be that, on
an average, each one has about $10: It may also be that of that
$10,000 I alone have $9,999.99 in my pocket, in which case only a lone
copper would be left to straggle in the pockets of the remaining 999
people in this hall.
This first column of the poster informs us what the value is of
the goods produced. It does not tell us how that wealth is
distributed. It only gives us an idea of the increasing magnitude of
labor's productivity. As to distribution, it is to the next column
that we must look; and now make ready for the exciting interestingness
that I promised you.
The next column is headed "Wages Paid." Here also the amounts
are summed up from decade to decade. I shall run over them, again in
In the decade of 1860, the total wages paid to the workingman
was over $300,000,000.
In the next decade, 1870, the total wages rose $400,000,060 -
they were over $700,000,000.
In the decade of 1880, they rose by $200,000,000 more, and
amounted to over $900,000,000.
In 1890 the increase in the total wages paid was double. The
wages paid to the workingman was over $1,800,000,000.
Finally, in 1900, the wages were over $2,300,000,000, or
$500,000,000 more than in 1890.
If we take a bird's-eye view of this wages column, its purpose
is obvious. The way the figures are arranged they are meant to convey
two ideas - first, that the share of the individual workingman is
vast; secondly, that his rise toward affluence is steady and still
It is expected that when a workingman is told or sees, black
upon white, that in 1860 his class received the gigantic pay of over
$300,000,000, he feels quite sure that he has a big chunk of that
amount. The largeness of the total is intended to act as an opiate on
his feverishly pinched purse. And when, black upon white, that
initial total is seen to swell and double, from decade to decade,
until it reaches the giddy height reached in 1900, then he is expected
to be so thoroughly dazed and muddled that he knows not whether he
stands upon his feet or his head, and is utterly incapable of
thinking. The gigantic wealth, that is supposed to be his, positively
Now let us look closer at these figures. From now on until I
get through with this poster, I must ask you put your thinking caps
on, and keep them tied firmly to your heads.
Whenever figures of wages are presented to you, you must submit
them to two tests. Not until you have done so will the figures convey
to you any practical information. I propose to submit with you this
column of wages to the two tests that I have in mind.
The first test is to ascertain the relative size, or
percentage, that the wages bear to the total wealth produced. The
test is easy. It merely involves a plain arithmetical calculation.
Any fourteen-year-old child should be able to do the sum. Let us
apply the test.
The poster informs us that in the decade of 1860 the wages paid
were over $300,000,000. It also informs us that the wealth produced
by labor during that same period was nearly $2,000,000,000. Applying
that arithmetical calculation to the two full sets of figures, we
ascertain that the wages were twenty per cent of the wealth produced.
Now we are in possession of a fact. It is not a very cheering
fact, but it is a useful fact to know. It is the first fact that
conveys practical information. By its light the huge total wage of
over $300,000,000 shrinks to its real, its social, dimensions. We now
know, from the figures given by the poster itself, that in 1860, out
of every $100 that he produced, the workingman got only $20: somebody
else got $80; from it we learn that in 1860 the workingman was
plundered out of $80 for every $100 worth of wealth that he brought
into existence. Immediately a suspicion arises in our minds as to who
this fat and festive Uncle Sam must be. But we snuff out the
suspicion; twenty per cent of one's product is not much; indeed, it is
very little; but we remember that this is only a start, and that the
soaring figures promise progress. Encouraged by this hope, we proceed
to test the next decade.
Applying the same arithmetical calculation to the figures given
on the poster for the decade of 1870, we again ascertain the
percentage of labor's share - the relation that the increased total
wage bears to the increased total production. What we there discover
gives such a shock to our nerves that the pencil almost drops from our
hands. Remember that in the previous decade the share of labor was
twenty per cent; remember also that we were promised progress. The
expectation started by the promise justified the hope that we would be
getting at least one per cent more. Vain hope! The share of labor,
as brought out by the test of the figures furnished by the poster
itself, is - eighteen per cent!
A curious progress, this. It is the progress of the cow's tail
- downward. In 1860, the share of labor was $20 out of every $100
worth of wealth that it produced; in 1870, we find its share has gone
down to eighteen per cent. In 1860, the plunder levied upon the
workingman was $80 out of every $100; in 1870, the plunder, as
revealed by the figures furnished by the poster itself, is $82 out of
every $100 worth of wealth produced by the workingman.
The suspicion, started in our minds by the revelations in 1860
as to who this stout and lusty Uncle Sam is, revives. But again we
suppress it. Our hopes are buoyed up by the consideration that many a
babe, instead of immediately growing, is assailed by the whooping
cough, measles and bronchitis, and declines, but only temporarily; he
rallies quickly, and then grows strong uninterruptedly. That may have
been the case with us in 1870. Cheered by these thoughts we rush on
to the next decade.
Again we apply that simple arithmetical calculation, now to the
figures of the wages paid and the wealth produced in the decade of
1880. The percentage traced by our pencil looks absurd. We must have
made a mistake. We go over the sum once more. No mistake. The
workingman's share in 1880 is lower than the twenty per cent that it
was in 1860; it is lower than the eighteen per cent that it was in
1870; it is now seventeen per cent!
Arrived at this point, we are no longer able to suppress the
suspicion as to who this rotund and jolly Uncle Sam is. Nevertheless,
we do not yet lose heart. Still mindful of the promise held out by
the poster regarding our progressive affluence we proceed to the
The same arithmetical calculation is gone through. We compute
the ratio of the wages paid in 1890 to the wealth produced in that
decade. Lo, a surprise! The decline has stopped, the percentage of
labor's share in 1890 has risen above the percentage in 1880; it has
risen above the percentage in 1870; it is now again twenty per cent as
it was in 1860.
Thankful for small favors, we look back. Having expected
another decline our agreeable surprise almost makes us feel happy.
Nevertheless, we wonder where the "progress" comes in.
The figures furnished by the poster itself reveal that we are
in 1890 just where we were when we started in 1860. After thirty
years of arduous toil; after thirty years, during which the soil of
the land was literally drenched with the sweat and blood and marrow of
the workingman; after thirty years during which the American working
class produced more heiresses to the square inch than the working
class of any other country, to purchase European noblemen for
husbands; at the end of thirty years during which the working class,
as this poster itself shows, produced a phenomenal amount of wealth -
at the end of these thirty years the American working class is just
where it was thirty years before, the wretched retainer of only $20
out of every $100 worth of wealth that it produced!
This is hardly a progress worth bragging about. It is
conservatism of misery. Nevertheless, hope springs eternal in the
human breast. Perhaps the long lean years are at last over. Perhaps
a brighter day is suddenly to burst upon us, and we are suddenly to
make up for lost time so as to look in 1900 like this affluent,
well-fed, well-clad, jolly Uncle Sam who, according to the poster,
typifies the worker.
And so we apply the test to the figures for 1900, the last ones
furnished on the poster. The same arithmetical calculation is
resorted to. Woe is us! Our hopes are dashed. The percentage of the
share of labor comes down kerslap. It is as low as it ever was -
seventeen per cent! The temporary rise in 1890 was but the flicker in
a dying man's eye - the precursor of collapse.
The lie attempted to be given to the Socialist regarding the
outrageousness of the plunder that he maintains the working class is
subjected to by the capitalist class, rolls down the throat of its
utterer. Even making allowance for the value of imported raw material
to which the labor of other countries has given value, even making
generous allowance for all that due allowance should be made for, the
figures to which this poster testifies establish the conclusion that
the pittance of one-fifth of its product is a liberal estimate of the
share that the working class is allowed to retain.
The first of the two tests, to which these figures of "Wages
Paid" must be put, dispels their halo; it exposes a good portion of
the naked and hideous reality; it points to the conclusion that, not
this lusty Uncle Sam, but that other miserable being at the other end
of the poster typifies the American workingman. The second test will
establish the fact beyond peradventure.
Let me go once more over the figures on this column of "Wages
Paid" so as to refresh your memory. The wages paid in the
manufacturing industries are here given as:
Over $ 300,000,000 for 1860;
Over $ 700,000,000 for 1870;
Over $ 900,000,000 for 1880;
Over $1,800,000,000 for 1890; and
Over $2,300,000,000 for 1900.
The purpose of such a presentation of the run of wages is
obvious. The intention is to convey the idea that the condition of
the individual workingman improves; that it has improved gigantically.
The presentation of figures in that way is intended to convey the idea
that the wages or earnings of the individual workingman have soared
upwards - and to convey the idea crushingly. I shall prove to you
from the attitude of this witness, whom I have here pinned on the
stand, that his purpose is to obtain a snap judgment upon imperfect
information; that he is guilty of that worst form of deception which
consists in stating a half-truth and suppressing the other half; in
short, that he is a swindler.
Keep your thinking caps tight on your heads. Is the fact that
in 1860 the output in wages amounted to $300,000,000 and that in 1900
the output ran up $2,000,000,000 more - is this fact enough to warrant
any conclusion as to the improved condition of the workingman?
Let me illustrate with a simpler instance. Suppose I were to
tell you that last month I paid out $10 in wages, and that this month
I am paying out $20. I would now be paying out double the amount in
wages that I paid out last month. Does that mean that my workingmen
are now getting twice as much wages as they did last month? They may
- and they may not. Whether they do or do not, depends not merely
upon the increased total of the wages paid; it depends upon something
else besides. What is that something else? Obviously, the number of
men that I employed last month, and the number of men that I employ
If last month I employed only two men, it would mean that their
wages averaged $5 apiece; if this month, however, I am employing ten
men, then, although the total amount that I am now paying out in wages
doubled, the wages of my men would have gone down by over fifty per
cent. The total wage may rise mountain high,. and yet the individual
wage may decline perpendicularly.
Let us now bring this column of dazzling figures paid out in
wages to the touchstone of the principle that I have just elucidated.
The first thing noticeable is the total absence from this, or from any
of the other columns on the poster, of any statement with regard to
the number of men among whom these successive grandiose figures have
to be divided. No statement of their number for 1860; no statement of
their number for 1870; no statement of their number for 1880; no
statement of their number for 1890; no statement of their number for
The witness on the witness stand is dodging; he is
prevaricating; he is perjuring himself. We should need no more than
that to know what to do with his case. Nevertheless, I do not propose
to convict him by indirection; I propose to convict him explicitly.
The census, furnished by the agents of the identical class that
got up this poster, informs us that, in 1870, there were 2,053,966
workingmen employed in the manufacturing industries. The wages paid
to them, according to this poster, were $775,584,343. By dividing the
total number of workers to whom these wages were paid into that amount
we obtain the figure of $377 as the average annual wage for that
decade. Stick a pin there.
In the next decade, 1880, when the total wage stated on this
poster was $947,953,795, there were according to the census 2,732,595
workingmen engaged in manufacturing. Dividing this figure into that
grand total of wages we shall obtain the average wages paid then, and
thereby also an idea of the workers' condition. The figure obtained
is $346 - $31 less than before! Although the total wage had risen
during the last ten years about $200,000,000, the individual wages
went down $31!
We proceed to the following, the decade of 1890. For that
period the poster gives $1,891,228,321 as the wages paid. The census
informs us that that amount must have been distributed among 4,251,535
workingmen. Again dividing this number into the total wage paid to
them we obtain $445 as the average wages. This denotes a rise. What
these absolute rises amount to, that they vanish like mist before the
sun, that they are a snare and a delusion, in fact a cheat - that I
shall make clear presently. For the present, sticking closely to the
present line of inquiry, we shall consider it an absolute gain.
So considering it, it is legitimate to contrast the gain made
by the workingmen with the absolute gain made by the class whom we now
know this fat Uncle Sam represents. After twenty years of such toil
as I need not describe to you, we find that the wages of the average
workingman increased by the giddy amount of $68 a year, or nineteen
cents more a day, while the small class that this jolly customer -
this rotund Uncle Sam - here represents, progressed during that same
period only to the tune of the modest figure of $3,228,883,529 - and
there were no four million of them among whom to divide that little
We proceed to the next and last, the decade of 1900, when,
according to this poster, the total wages paid were $2,330,578,010,
and, according to the census, there were 5,306,143 workingmen engaged
in the manufacturing industries. Dividing the latter figure into the
former we obtain the average wages received by the workingmen. It was
$439 - $6 less than in 1890! Take notice - notwithstanding the total
amount of wages paid had increased by $439,349,689, the actual
earnings of the average workingman decreased by $6!
I stated a minute ago that the average increases in wages
credited to the individual workingman are "paper increases," and I
promised to prove it. I shall proceed to do so now.
As we have seen, the wages declined $6 between 1890 and 1900.
Nevertheless, the figures actually show that from 1870 to 1900 there
is an increase in the average wage amounting to $62 a year. Even if
this paltry figure could stand, it would be a mockery. What else but
a mockery is an increase of $62 a year, after thirty years of toil,
for the class the sweat of whose brow and the marrow of whose bone
raised the total wealth during that period by the gigantic figure of
$8,806,954,124! It is a tragic mockery.
There is but a step even from the tragic to the ridiculous. 1
shall prove to you that even that paltry $62 increase dwindles down to
the proverbial "thirty cents." The line of argument that I shall now
take up is but a subdivision of that second test to which I have been
submitting this column of "Wages Paid," and which has knocked the
bottom from under it. The secondary test to which I shall now submit
it will smash the remaining fragments. 1 must request you not to drop
your thinking caps. You will need them.
You saw how misleading, because insufficient, were all
comparisons of wages paid at different epochs, without a simultaneous
statement of the number of wage earners, among whom the wages were
distributed in the respective periods. I shall now prove to you how
such comparisons of wages paid at different epochs, even to the
identical wage earner, are also misleading, and given with "intent to
deceive," unless other factors are considered.
Let me begin the argument on this head with an illustration.
Say that last year my wages were $1 a day and that this year my wages
are $1.25 a day. Is the mere fact that I am receiving in cash
twenty-five cents more than last year sufficient premises from which
to conclude that this year I am better off by twenty-five cents' worth
Let me help you to the answer by giving you a further
illustration. Suppose that last year, when my wages were a hundred
cents, the cost of living-rent, food, clothing, the absolutely
necessary necessaries of life-was ninety-nine cents. What would
follow? It would follow that I had a penny over and above my wants.
I could either put that in the savings banks, or invest it in stocks,
as we are told that workingmen do extensively.
But suppose further that now, when my wages are one hundred and
twenty-five cents, the cost of living has gone up so as to run up to
one hundred and twenty-six cents. What is the result? The result is
that I am "busted."
You see the point. He who tells us that our wages have gone up
without stating how the cost of living is conducting itself - such a
man is attempting a fraud upon us. That, once more, is the case with
the witness whom I have nailed on this board. On that subject also he
is silent as the tomb. His silence, however, need not leave me in the
lurch. I don't need him. I shall, with your consent, turn you into
living statistical columns.
I request all those of you, the women included, who certainly
know a good deal on this head - all those of you whose experience it
is that the cost of living is now lower than it was twenty or ten
years ago, to raise your right hands. I shall request the chairman to
count the hands.
I shall now request all those to raise their right hands whose
experience it is that the cost of living is now just what it was
twenty or ten years ago, no lower and no higher. Kindly raise your
right hands, those of you who can testify to that. I shall again
request the chairman to count the hands.
I shall take a third poll. Let all those raise their right
hands whose experience it is that the cost of living has gone up and
gone up perceptibly. Will the chairman count?
From the Atlantic, across and beyond the Mississippi, that is
the identical response I have everywhere received from the audiences
that faced me. Beginning with rent, the necessaries of life have
everywhere gone up. There goes a big chunk - the bulk, probably even
more - of that wondrous $62 increase in wages since 1876!
I shall now proceed to knock out whatever fraction may possibly
still remain of the "increase." You have seen that a knowledge of the
cost of living is indispensable in order to form a correct idea as to
whether an increase in wages means improved conditions. You have seen
that there may be an increase in wages and yet no proportional
improvement in conditions if the cost of living has increased.
Intimately connected with the subject of the price paid for goods is
the subject of the quality of the goods. Again let me illustrate
before entering upon the subject itself.
Suppose that twenty years ago I paid $10 for a suit of clothes
and that that suit lasted me two years, say two winters. Now, suppose
again that this year a suit of clothes, that looks as good. lasts me
only one year, say one winter. What does that show in point of price?
It shows that, whereas twenty years ago a $10-bill furnished me with
clothing for two years, now a $ 10-bill furnishes me with clothing for
only one year. In other words, if I do not wish to be in rags the
second year, the clothing that twenty years ago cost me only $10, now
costs me $20. The conclusion from this fact is that "deterioration"
of goods spells "increased price." On the face of things the price has
remained what it was; in point of fact it went up.
Now then, both in food and clothing the extent to which
deterioration has gone during the last twenty years staggers
imagination. The reports of the shoddy turned out by our factories
would be incredible were they not so well authenticated. This is a
matter of general experience. It is particularly the housekeeper who
makes acquaintance with this fact. Inquire from any woman fifty years
old today and she will be able to tell you upon the subject tales that
are sad. One elderly housekeeper whom I interrogated upon the subject
put it this way: "When I married and bought a suit of underclothing
for Henry it lasted two years, often longer; now when I get any
underclothing I have to start darning the darned thing from the time
it is put on."
Similarly with food. There is hardly an article of food,
especially the food that the workingman can afford to buy, that is not
adulterated, consequently, that has not deteriorated in quality.
Essays galore are cropping up upon the extent to which this baneful
practice has gone. These essays show that health is thereby
undermined, even if life is not thereby speedily snuffed out. One of
these essays of recent date claims that the food adulterations are
directly responsible for the death of over 400,000 infants a year; and
it traces the sickness and death of thousands upon thousands of adults
to the same cause.
Let me quote another authority upon this head. You will find
on page 132 of the Congressional Record under date of last December
12, the following passage. It is a passage from the speech delivered
by Senator Stewart in the course of the debate on the food bill:
"I do not think the country has any idea of the extent of the
poisons that are administered in the food that is sold and
eaten in this country. I think it is sapping the foundation
of the constitution of our people. If we had to raise
soldiers now as we did in 1861 I do not believe that
throughout the country we could find as large a percentage of
young men fit for hard service as there were at that time."
The proof of the pudding, in this as in everything else, ever
lies in the eating. If wages really increase, and the cost of living
does not rise, and the necessaries of life - food and clothing - do
not deteriorate; if they remain good or even improve, what must be the
result? Obviously the people who enjoy them must be hale and hearty;
they must be healthy while they live, and their lives must be long.
If, on the contrary, earnings barely increase and that increase is
more than eaten up by higher prices and by the deterioration of such
necessaries of life as food and clothing, the fact is bound to appear
in the condition of the class that is affected thereby.
If you ever are in New York, take a walk in the evening on 42nd
Street, or Fifth Avenue where the clubs are located of the Republican
and Democratic parties, and of several other capitalist societies.
There must be similar clubs here in Minneapolis; they are found in all
our large cities, even in some smaller manufacturing towns. Peep
through the large pier-glass windows into the gorgeous precincts. You
will see grey heads abound. Is it that these gentlemen are
prematurely grey? Is it that they are so poorly fed and clad that it
has turned their hair? Hardly! I admit that their aged appearance is
somewhat to be accounted for by their lives of dissipation, and their
covert Mormon practices. Nevertheless, they have reached old age.
Such is the good quality of the goods that they consume that all their
dissipations and immoral practices do not prevent their reaching old
Having taken in that sight, move into the wards which the
working class inhabit, and drop into the places where workingmen
congregate. Make sure and take along a little pad of paper and a
pencil. On that pad jot down a tally mark for every grey head that
you come across. You will find few indeed to record. Why, look at
this assemblage of workingmen. There is hardly a grey head among
them. In an assemblage of half this size, but of capitalists, you
would find the grey heads numerous. Among workingmen they are far and
few between. Is it that the workingmen are so well-fed and so
well-clothed that their hair preserves its color even into old age,
and thus conceals their years? Oh, no! The grey heads are few among
them because their hair is not given a chance to turn. Long before
the season, they have sunk into early graves, the victims of intense
toil, aggravated by small earnings, and this in turn aggravated by the
adulteration of the goods that alone their earnings can purchase.
An interesting sidelight is thrown upon this subject by the
official report recently made to his government by the British consul
in Chicago. Speaking of the machinists in particular, he said that if
a machinist in the United States is forty-two years of age and out of
work, it is difficult for him to get a job; and he proceeds to explain
why - said he, if the man has worked as hard as he is expected to,
then he is worn out at forty-two; if he is not worn out, then it is a
sign that he did not work so hard as he is expected to, and they have
no use for him either way.
I wish to furnish one more piece of testimony under this head
before I dismiss the subject. The man I am about to quote is not a
"fire-brand agitator"; although he often spoke in public, his subject
never was of the sort that might tempt a man to exaggeration. It is
Huxley, the slow, plodding, accurate scientist. He said that
four-fifths of the people die of slow starvation. There may be those
among you who are of a statistical turn of mind. If such there be,
they may have nosed among the statistics of mortality furnished by the
census and other official sources. Such friends of statistical turn
of mind may say: "Why, that's nonsense; a man or two may occasionally
die of starvation; but hundreds and thousands of them, impossible! I
have seen the statistics on mortality; I have seen the list of
diseases; there are consumption, pneumonia, all sorts of other
diseases; but I never saw starvation entered among the causes of
People holding such views are in error; in serious error. A
man may be dying of slow starvation and not know it. His stomach may
be full; he may never have felt the gnawings of hunger; and yet he may
be dying of slow starvation. If in summer a man is not properly clad,
he is emitting more heat than his system can stand - he is dying of
slow starvation; if in winter he is not clad warm enough, he is
consuming more heat than his system can afford - he is dying of slow
starvation; his stomach may be replete, he may imagine himself
well-fed, but if the matter in that stomach is adulterated food, then
the organisms that carry the nutrition from the stomach, and spread it
throughout the body, find no nutrition to carry, the tissues that are
consumed are only partially replaced - that man is dying of slow
The fact is brought home to him when it is too late; aye, it is
concealed from him and from his friends even then. He catches a cold;
a robust constitution would cast off the distemper without difficulty;
his constitution, however, is not robust; his constitution has long
been drained by slow starvation; the slight distemper throws him on
his beam ends; it develops into pneumonia; he dies; the physician
reports pneumonia as the "cause of death" - but starvation it was.
And so down the line of consumption, rheumatism, diabetes and
most of the other ills plentifully bestowed upon the working class by
the "increased wages" that the capitalist class lavishes upon the
working class. Because - never lose sight of this fact - it is the
identical capitalist class which regulates wages, on the one hand,
and, on the other hand, raises the cost of living, and adulterates the
goods needed to live on, which, as you saw, is but another form of
We are through with the witness. He stands convicted out of
his own mouth. The condition of the working class has gone from bad
to worse. Not this roly-poly of an Uncle Sam, but that other
emaciated being typifies the wage earner of the land.
Some say, and I am of those, that craft or pure and simple
unionism has promoted, aye, urged on these wretched conditions.
Others, I know, claim that pure and simple or craft unionism is not to
be held responsible; they claim that, on the contrary, were it not for
pure and simple unionism, conditions would now be even worse. Those
who are of this opinion hold that, instead of being decried, pure and
simple unionism should be praised for what it does.
Even accepting this, the most favorable summary possible of the
work of pure and simpledom, it would follow that pure and simpledom
is, at best, a brake to check the downward run of the chariot of
labor; it would follow that pure and simpledom not only is utterly
incompetent to emancipate the working class, but that it is not even
able to prevent decline; that all there is in it is the capacity to
slacken or reduce the downward trend of things. Even accepting this
most favorable of views, it would be an argument to cast the thing
The mission of unionism is not to act as rear guard to an army
defeated, seasoned in defeat, habituated to defeat, and fit only for
defeat. The mission of unionism is to organize and drill the working
class for final victory - to "take and hold" the machinery of
production, which means the administration of the country.
I shall, however, prove to you that pure and simpledom deserves
no credit whatever. I shall prove that it is directly responsible for
existing evils, that it is an accomplice in capitalist crime, and has
become a scourge to the working class.
THE SECOND CLAUSE
This takes me to the second clause of the three clauses of the
Preamble that I proposed to take up with you, the last two of which
are, as I stated in opening, pivoted upon the first which I have just
demonstrated. The second clause - I shall read it again - is as
The working class and the employing class have nothing
In a way, this clause also stands proved by the figures on this
poster, together with the obvious conclusions that flow from them.
Whatever the interests may be of a class whose material welfare
steadily towers up, and the interests of the class whose material
welfare, and all that thereupon depends, sinks perpendicularly and in
even tempo with the former's rise, as illustrated by these figures -
whatever these two sets of interests may be, they can have nothing in
common. The relations between these two sets of interests are not
even the relations of two, though opposing, yet supplementary forces,
such as physics tells us of. They are the relations between the
vampire and the victim, whose blood it drains - and such relations
surely establish nothing in common. Of all one-sided relations, these
relations "take the cake and the pie." Indeed, people who prate about
the "mutuality," the "brotherhood," the "identity" of interests of the
capitalist, or employing class, and the working class, demand of the
workingman that for which they would spank their own children if they
believed it possible. They want of you that you believe it possible
to divide an apple between two men in such a way that each shall have
the bigger chunk. An impossibility!
If the workingman produces four dollars and the capitalist
takes two, there are only two left to the workingman; if the
capitalist takes three, the workingman has to put up with one; if the
capitalist appropriates three and a half, there is nothing but fifty
cents left to the workingman. Inversely, if the workingman hangs on
to a whole dollar, the capitalist's share is reduced to three; if the
workingman pushes forward and keeps two, there are but two left for
the capitalist; should the workingman preserve three, the capitalist
would have to put up with one; and should the workingman "divide" in
such a way that he "takes and holds" all that he produced, my
capitalist will have to go to work. In other words, he would cease to
be a capitalist.
Now, then, the figures on this poster quite clearly illustrate
the law that underlies the capitalist system of production. That law
does not aid the workingman to preserve an increasing share of his
product; it aids, aye, it requires the capitalist to intensify his
plunder increasingly. His chunk must be ever thicker, ever and
correspondingly thinner must be the workingman's slice. No common
interest there! As far as this aspect of the clause which I have just
read is concerned, it is too obvious to require further proof. But
weightier sense and meaning, meaning and sense of more immediate,
practical pith and moment lie imbedded in that clause.
It is an inevitable consequence of the falsehood regarding the
hand-in-hand prosperity of capitalists and workingmen that their
relations are mutual, and, consequently, that they stand upon a
footing of equality. Of course, if the two are getting along
swimmingly, they must be peers, even if it be conceded that their
peerage may be of different rank. Down from that parent falsehood,
set afloat by the capitalist professors, politicians and pulpiteers,
and zealously carried into the ranks of pure and simple unionism by
the labor lieutenants of the capitalist class, a long line of descent
of increasingly insidious and practically pestiferous falsehoods may
be traced. The ancestral falsehood of the hand-in-hand progress of
capitalist and workingman begets the son-falsehood of the equality of
workingman and capitalist; the son-falsehood begets the grandson-fraud
of "contracts"; and you will see how the grandson-fraud litters a
prolific progeny of its ilk to labor's undoing.
What is a "contract"?
I am not going to give you any Socialist definition of the
term. The term has nothing to do with Socialism. It is a term the
meaning of which has grown up with the race's experience. The
definition I shall give is the law book definition. It is the
definition accepted and acted upon in all the courts of equity.
A contract is an agreement entered into by two equal parties; a
contract is an agreement entered into between peers; a contract is an
agreement entered into by two freemen. Where the parties to a thing
called a contract fall within these categories, they are said to be of
contracting mind and power, and the document is valid; where that
which is called a contract lacks any of these essential qualities,
especially if it lacks them all, the thing is null, void and of no
effect; it is a badge of fraud of which he is guilty who imposes the
contract upon the other.
Let me illustrate:
Suppose that some Minneapolis agent of a lecture bureau,
anxious to secure my invaluable services as a speaker for this
evening, had written to me in New York, asking for my terms; and
suppose I had answered that I would come for $500. He would have
written back wanting me to come down a peg or so. I would have
replied. Suppose that after considerable chaffering I had agreed upon
$400 and he had yielded, whereupon a document would have been drawn up
reading somewhat like this:
John Jones, party of the first part, and Daniel De Leon,
party of the second part, have mutually covenanted and
agreed that the party of the second part will deliver an
address in Minneapolis on the 10th day of July, and the
party of the first part will pay the party of the second
part for his services the sum of $400 in U.S. currency.
This document being signed would be a contract. If on the
appointed day I came, delivered the goods, and John Jones failed to
pay me, I would have a just cause of action against him for breach of
contract. If, on the other hand, I failed to put in an appearance, he
could sue and recover damages from me on the ground of my breach of
contract. Whatever people may think of the steepness of my price, the
contract would stand. It would stand - why? Because both he and I
were free to accept or reject; neither of us acted under compulsion;
we were both free agents.
But now suppose that, instead of writing, he came down to New
York, rushed into my office, whipped a Colt's horse pistol out of his
hip pocket, cocked and held it with the muzzle an inch from my head,
and said: "Sign this!" laying before me a sheet of paper containing
John Jones, party of the first part, and Daniel De Leon,
party of the second part, have mutually covenanted and
solemnly agreed and bound themselves as follows, to wit:
that the party of the second part will deliver an address
in Minneapolis on the 10th day of July, and the party of
the first part will pay the party of the second part for
his services the sum of five cents, which sum of five cents
the party of the second part hereby, acknowledges to be a
liberal payment for his services, the said sum being agreed
upon after a friendly and mutual understanding between the
said party of the first part and the said party of the
Would I sign? Why, of course, I would! I would sign above,
below, to the right, to the left. I would never stop signing. I
would keep on signing like a "moving picture," until that pistol was
removed from its close proximity to my temple.
That is the situation of labor when it signs "contracts."
Now, say that he, John Jones, returns to Minneapolis with the
"contract" in his pocket, and a glow of righteous, patriotic
contentment on his face. Say he hires a hall, prints and circulates
posters announcing the meeting and address, and inserts advertisements
in the papers; say he even pays the bills, and does not cheat in that
also. The day of the meeting, the hour arrives - but not I. The hall
fills - but not with me. Hour upon hour passes - whoever else may be
there, I am absent. The audience storms at him; calls him names;
insists upon and gets its admission moneys back. Say that, indignant
at my "breach of contract," John Jones were to institute a suit for
damages against me.
What would happen?
He would be thrown out of court for a swindler, he might even
be prosecuted for "assault with intent to kill." That "contract" is
null, void and of no effect; it is a badge of fraud of which he is
guilty; it is all that because I was not free, because he held me
Exactly so with the workingman who signs "contracts"; exactly
so with the capitalist who extorts them.
The workingman does not stand upon a footing of equality with
the capitalist; he is not of contracting mind and power with the
employer. The latter holds over him the whip of hunger that the
capitalist system places in the hands of the master, and with the aid
of which he can cow his wage slave into acquiescence.
Why, among themselves, and even in their public utterances,
when anger throws them off their guard, the apologists for capitalism
blurt out the fact that "only the lash of hunger" can keep the
workingman in the treadmill. At the bar of man and of justice the
"contracts" that labor signs are null, void and of no effect.
And yet what do we see? The spectacle is of such daily
occurrence that it has assumed the nature of a "system," of a
deliberate maneuver, indulged in by employers jointly with their labor
lieutenants to paralyze the labor movement; aye, worse yet, to give it
the aspect of a rat pit.
This is the way it works. Say I am a railroad magnate. I make
my "schedules" or contracts, not with all my employees together, but
with each craft separately - and there cannot be too many autonomous
crafts among them to suit me. Incidentally, let me call your
attention to the circumstance that the A. F. of L. is steadily
disintegrating its national and international unions into autonomous
crafts. Its candle holders endeavor to make much out of some few
exceptional instances, in order to make it appear that "the A. F. of
L. itself is steadily becoming industrialist." The increasing volume
of jurisdictional feuds tells the opposite tale. As I proceed you
will be able to appreciate the meaning of the absolute craft autonomy
tendency that manifests itself in the A. F. of L. But to return.
I make my separate contract with each of the separate crafts
engaged on my railroad line - and there cannot be too many of them to
suit me. My contract with my locomotive engineers is drawn up to
expire, we shall say, on April 15; my contract with my switchmen is
drawn up to expire on September 3; my contract with my firemen is
drawn up to expire, say, on January 21; my contract with my trainmen
is drawn up to expire, say, on November 30 - and so forth, down the
line of as many crafts as pure and simple unionism splits my
workingmen into, and it can't split them into too many for my comfort.
Each separate craft being tied up with a separate contract, expiring
on a separate date, I have the industry at my mercy.
Say that, "contract" or no "contract," obedient to that
underlying law of the capitalist endless screw, that economic law that
neither capitalist nor his class can rein in, that relentless economic
law which dictates their conduct in their wrestlings with one another
and that causes the capitalists to interpret these contracts to suit
themselves - say that my switchmen are driven to rebellion and strike.
What do I do? I telephone to my chief labor lieutenants - the
presidents, grand chiefs and superlative secretaries of the national
unions - and, simultaneously, I touch the button and set the press
agoing, both the capitalist newspapers and the labor papers, so
called, edited by the pupils of the Civic Federation. My labor
lieutenants hasten to respond to my call. Like blackbirds, they hie
themselves to the scene from the four quarters of the compass. And
then, to the orchestration of: "Infamous men, they have broken their
contracts! Scandalous men, they have violated their sacred
agreement!" and more to this effect from the press that I have set
agoing, and that causes every old woman of both sexes and of all ages
to look askance at my striking switchmen as so many serpents under the
grass - to the tune of that artificial concert my national labor
lieutenants fall to work. They do not turn their attention to the men
on strike; the contract-breaking miscreants are below the contempt of
my virtuous labor lieutenant. They call around them the men in the
other departments - engineers, firemen, conductors, etc.-and with the
aid of their understrappers, the local skates, address them in this
"Behold yonder sinks of iniquity! They have broken their
contracts! It is a wonder the lightning of heaven does not come down
and blast them. Surely the bones of the patriotic founders of this
Republic are rattling in their graves at the discovery that there can
be such lawless men encumbering this soil of freedom. Look at 'em!
They broke their contracts! Surely you will not do the same? Surely
you will not be so base! Surely you will be true!"
And the men thus addressed cross their arms over their manly
chests, and bowing low to the Goddess of Contract, that has been
conjured up before them for the occasion, make answer:
"Not we! We shall be loyal to our word. We shall respect our
agreements. We shall not break our sacred contracts!"
Which, translated into English, means - "We shall scab upon our
fellow wage slaves." And they do! And thus we have seen union
locomotive engineers scabbing it upon union firemen, and union firemen
scabbing it upon union brakemen, and union brakemen scabbing it upon
union switchmen, down the line; and we have seen all of these jointly
scabbing it upon union trolleymen and upon all manner of other union
men on strike by transporting either the militia and military to
dragoon the workers into submission, or the hungry unemployed to take
the places of the men who went out. Thus we have seen union molders
scabbing it upon machinists; union machinists scabbing it upon union
elevator men; union cigarmakers upon waiters; union waiters upon
brewers; union brewers upon glucose workers; union teamsters upon
carpenters; union bricklayers upon cement workers; union soft coal
miners upon hard coal miners - and so down to the very last and least
of the craft organizations, and all against each.
It is a fact, deep with significance, though it seems to escape
the observation of superficial observers, that it is not the
unorganized scab who breaks the strikes, but the organized craft that
really does the dirty work; and thus each craft when itself involved
in a strike fights heroically, when not involved demeans itself as
arrant scabs; betrays its class - all in fatuous reverence to
Only the other day we had a glaring illustration of this
disgraceful performance in the city of New York, when the men on the
Belmont Interborough struck for living conditions, and Gompers,
together with the other lackeys of the Belmont Civic Federation, ably
assisted by their local sub-lackeys, such as Mr. Morris Braun of the
Gompers International Cigarmakers' Union No. 144, howled down the men
on strike as contract breakers, revoked their charters as "unworthy of
unionism," proclaimed directly to Belmont that "the men had done
wrong," and meekly begged his pardon for the sinners.
Still another and even more pathetic instance was that of the
strike of the New York newsboys, to whom Hearst had raised the price
of his paper. These little tots, who by their very appearance herald
in the open the merciless cruelty of capitalism even against the
defenseless child; underclad, underfed, undershod; deprived of the
innocent joys of childhood that are so essential to the building up of
the future man; stunted in schooling; prematurely thrown into the
temptation of vice; walking, running, yelling monuments of capitalist
cannibalism - these waifs walked before Typographical Union No. 6 and
asked for support, for the support of men many of whom were fathers
themselves and who, had they struck with the boys, certainly would
have insured them victory. Did they?
"An oath, an oath, I have an oath in heaven,
Shall I lay perjury upon my soul?"
asks the scoundrel in Shakespeare.
"A contract! A contract! We have a contract in the pocket of
our master Hearst! Shall we lay breach of contract upon our
conscience?" asked the craft union compositors. Of course they
wouldn't! They slobbered over the boys their "sympathies"; they
bestowed upon them all the sweet words that butter no parsnips - and
the boys went down in defeat.
It should be here added, although a digression, that when a
year or so later the identical typographical union had its strike
against the Sun, those bearded men went down upon their knees before
the identical boys whom they had left ill the lurch, and implored
their support. Let the fact be recorded as all evidence of the
inherent nobility of the human heart, and in honor of childhood - the
ever-renewing promise that human feeling and human instinct shall not
perish from the earth - that when appealed to, the boys returned evil
with good, and helped the printers fight their strike. It was a pure
breath of industrialism.
And in Chicago, during recent months, what was the spectacle
presented there? We saw the garment workers valiantly, with drums
beating and colors flying, march to the fray. They fought bravely and
were beaten off the field. Thereupon the teamsters put on war paint
and fell to in support of the routed garment workers. They, too,
fought with the desperation of heroes, and went down. Possibly after
them some third division of labor may take the field to avenge the
cause of the teamsters, after these went down in the attempt to avenge
the garment workers after their fight was lost!
Do you know what would happen to the general who, in face of
the embattled foe, instead of concentrating his forces for the fray,
were to send first one small division into the field of battle; wait
until that was annihilated; then send a second small division; again
wait until that was routed; and then send a third, likewise to be
wiped out, until his whole powerful army was demoralized and took to
flight? Do you know what would happen to that general? He would be
grabbed by the neck, courtmartialed and shot in the back for treason.
Now I am no prophet, nor the son of a prophet; yet, concluding
from the facts that are thronging to the bar, I venture the statement
on this 10th day of July, 1905, that the day is nigh when the working
class of America will court-martial the Gomperses, the Mitchells, the
Stoneses whose generalship is sacrificing the army of labor -
court-martial them for treason to the working class.
Thus we trace, in direct line of descent from the ancestral
falsehood concerning the mutuality of relations between the employing
class and the working class, a long genealogy of fraudulent
principles, culminating in "contracting" the working class into
paralysis, and the crop of evils that flow therefrom. Falsehood can
only breed falsehood, and falsehood's spawn is evil; inversely, evil
can be sired and damed by falsehood only. In the framework of the
capitalist social system, the working class and the employing or
capitalist class have nothing in common. The principle is a beacon on
the track of labor's march to emancipation; the contrary principle is
a false light that lures to social wreck.
THE THIRD CLAUSE
The third clause of the three leading and typical clauses in
the preamble is the longest of the three; it is of special importance.
I must bespeak your continued and close attention:
Between these two classes a struggle must go on until
all the toilers come together on the political, as
well a on the industrial field, and take and hold
that which they produce by their labor through an
economic organization of the working class, without
affiliation with any political party.
This clause contains two distinct ideas joined in two separate
sentences. The two ideas are so distinct - the idea of the absolute
necessity of political unity, and the seemingly contrary idea of the
sufficiency of economic organization ultimately to strike the shackles
from the wage slave - that they must be treated separately.
1. POLITICAL UNITY
I cannot claim for the industrialist movement and its preamble,
or declaration of principles, the palm of originality over craft
unionism for the thought that is implied in the sentence that the
toilers must "come together on the political as well as on the
industrial field." The thought therein implied is that politics is a
concern of unionism. This is no new thought. Strange as it may seem
at first blush, it is a thought that pervades craft unionism as well;
stranger still, it is a thought that the labor lieutenants of the
capitalist class, in charge of craft or pure and simple unionism, have
made themselves the special guardians of. On this head, the merit of
industrialism does not lie in the utterance of a new thought. The
great merit lies in uttering loudly a fact. which, being kept secret
by the said labor lieutenants, enabled them to profit by it at the
expense of the membership. It is the case of a guardian concealing
from his wards the hidden riches of their estate and, on the sly,
trafficking upon those riches himself. Much lies in the thorough
apprehension of these facts.
Who of you has not witnessed the sight of a labor leader
jumping up at a craft union meeting, as if a torpedo had exploded
under his seat, every time the economics or sociology of labor was
expounded? The sight is common. Whatever the subject that presents
itself to a union, it cannot choose but be handled from one of two
viewpoints - either from the viewpoint of capitalism, or from the
viewpoint of labor, that is, Socialist economics. Impassive,
complacently smiling, perhaps even blissfully snoozing, the labor
faker will sit in his seat so long as the discussion is carried on
along capitalist lines. But let the first word be uttered that has
the ring of Socialist, that is, labor economics, and you will notice a
sudden transformation. Like a faithful watchdog of capitalism, the
faker will snarl, jump up and bark.
I have more than once deliberately tested the thing at the
meetings of craft unions with which I happened to be connected. I
would join a discussion that was in progress, peacefully in progress,
with the faker looking on unconcerriedly - discussions on immigration,
discussions on boycotts, discussions on wages, discussions on
tenements, discussions on the liquor traffic, etc., etc. I would
carefully avoid the word "politics"; deliberately would I avoid it.
Neither the word "politics," let alone the name "Socialist Labor
Party" would drop from my lips. They were as words tabooed, and alien
to me while I spoke. But lo, no sooner did I deploy my argument so as
to bring out the labor, which is the Socialist, viewpoint of the
subject, than up would jump the watchdog of capitalism with the
protest: "No politics in the union."
He was right; that is to say, labor or Socialist economics is
politics. By the same token capitalist economics likewise is
politics. Capitalist economics is at home, capitalist economics is
tolerated, capitalist economics is safeguarded, aye, capitalist
economics is fought for in craft unionism - who would dare gainsay
that politics is a palpitating fact in the union? Or who would dare
deny that the labor lieutenant of the capitalist class is the special
custodian of that treasure? It is proven.
Upon this particular head - the head that politics is the
concern of unionism - industrialism utters no new principle, leastwise
a principle that it would lie in the mouth of craft unionism to
dispute. Great, however, is the merit of industrialism in the
consequences that flow from its utterance. Through craft unionism the
watchdogs of the capitalist class keep the treasure a secret for their
private gain. By openly proclaiming the treasure, industrialism
renders it public property. The consequences that flow herefrom mark
the turning down of an old and the turning up of a new leaf. That
leaf is inscribed "political unity."
It is not a political organization - as the preamble indicates
and I shall prove - that can "take and hold" the land and the capital
and the fullness thereof. That - as the preamble proclaims and I
shall prove - is the function reserved for the economic organization
of the working class. Nevertheless, society moves from stage to
stage, not via a succession of shipwrecks, but via evolution. Each
succeeding social stage connects with the one preceding. Before the
new is established and its methods are in operation, the methods of
the old are perforce resorted to. They are the navel strings of the
The evolution from the capitalist system to Socialism marks a
revolution of first rank. The methods of the Socialist Republic will
be methods that flow from its own material framework. The latter is
so diametrically the opposite of the capitalist social framework that
the two methods will bear no comparison. Capitalist society requires
the political State; accordingly, its economics translate themselves
into political tenets; Socialist society, on the contrary, knows
nothing of the political State: in Socialist society the political
State is a thing of the past, either withered out of existence by
disuse or amputated - according as circumstances may dictate.
For all that, Socialism is the outgrowth of the higher
development from capitalism. As such, the methods of the Socialist
movement on its march toward Socialist society are perforce primarily
dictated by the capitalist shell from which Socialism is hatching.
Seeing that capitalist economics translate themselves into politics,
Socialist economics cannot wholly escape the process. A part, the
better, the constructive part of Socialist economics translates itself
into the industrial organization of the working class: it translates
itself into that formation that outlines the mold of the future social
system; another part of Socialist economics, however, inevitably
translates itself into politics: it inevitably takes that form that
matches capitalist methods.
Upon that plane the Socialist movement crosses swords with the
modern ruling class - these to uphold, it to dislodge them from and
dismantle their robber burg. This is the fact that lies at the bottom
of the Marxian tenet to the effect that the labor movement is
essentially political. In a country like ours, where, in keeping with
full-fledged capitalism, the suffrage is universal, the inevitable
political character of the labor movement is rendered all the more
The sentence of the preamble that we are now considering, and
which urges the necessity of political as well as industrial unity, is
planted upon these facts. Where, for instance, one set of workingmen
imagine that they should pool their votes with their free trade
employers, it is out of all question that they can be a unit on the
industrial field with another set of workingmen whose economic views
are that protection guarantees them work and better wages. Where, to
take another issue, one set of workingmen share the capitalist
economic notion that the gold standard means good wages, they cannot
possibly be united on the political field with those of their fellow
wage slaves whose political tenet on finance is that plentiful money
means plentiful wages. These two sets cannot be industrially united,
any more than politically, for the simple reason that they do not
stand upon the bedrock of the class struggle. Trace their economic
and their political views to their respective sources, and you will
find them to be identical - the fundamental error that the employee's
condition is dependent upon the condition of the employer.
The baneful result of the error is obvious: employers are
economically divided into warring, competing clans; consequently, if
the workingmen are appendages to their employers, they cannot choose
but be likewise divided. Class ignorance, accordingly, scatters the
ranks of the working class. The rupture produced upon the industrial
field is reflected upon the political field, and there we see the
labor vote likewise scattered - cast for all the scores of parties in
the field, from the soundest Socialist down even to utopian
prohibitionist; and, on the other hand, the rupture exhibited upon the
political reacts back upon and intensifies the division on the
industrial field where, thanks to the baneful policy of craft
unionism, we see labor's hand at labor's own throat.
In this connection the speculative question has sprung up in
some minds whether political unity is brought about by industrial
unity, or industrial unity by political unity. As a question of
speculative philosophy, it may be relegated to the realm of idle
discussion. In natural philosophy a similar question appears in the
conundrum: What was first, the hen or the egg? One man answers: "Of
course, the hen: without the hen, there is no fowl to lay the egg";
another declares: "Nonsense, the egg must have been first: without
the egg, there is nothing for the hen to be hatched out of." We know
that in material life the evolutionary process is so gradual that
result reacts back upon cause in such an endless chain that, in the
limited span of man's observation, the exact line of demarcation is
not always ascertainable. Cause and effect become relative matters,
frequently dependent upon the viewpoint of the moment. It is likewise
in social matters.
As an abstract question, it is idle speculation whether
political clearness causes economic clearness, or, inversely, economic
clearness brings about political clearness. We know that at certain
stages of the movement political clearness may be ahead of industrial
clearness, and will act upon and stimulate it; likewise do we know
that at certain other stages, there is no political unity,
consequently, no political clearness possible except as a result of
economic unity, and that presupposes clearness. He who is engaged in
raising poultry will get the eggs from which to hatch the hens; he who
wants eggs for the market will get the hens to lay them; and he who
wants both will cultivate both; he will not wear out his energies in
speculations regarding the "original cause."
That is the posture of the preamble of the Industrial Workers
of the World. It recognizes the necessity of both political and
industrial unity; it proclaims the fact; nor does it conceal its
opinion as to which of the two, at this stage of the movement, must
precede in order to make the other possible. The construction of the
sentence under consideration, proclaiming the necessity of unity "on
the political field, as well as on the industrial, field," amply
indicates which of the two unities industrialism considers to be the
necessary prerequisite at this stage of the labor movement in America.
The sentence proclaims the fact that, at the stage reached by the
labor movement in America, the political unity of the working class
can only be the reflex of economic unity; it also proclaims the
underlying, the pregnant fact that the political movement is
absolutely the reflex of economic organization.
A brilliant passage in Marx's "Eighteenth Brumaire" casts a
brilliant sidelight upon this particular subject. Referring to the
conduct of the feudal lords of England during the British Revolution,
Marx says they believed that the British Crown and the Church of
England were the subjects of their enthusiasm, until the hour of
danger wrung from them the admission that what they really enthused
for was ground rent.
And so we see the editors of the privately owned press of the
Socialist or Social Democratic Party in the land, called in this state
Public Ownership Party, conducting themselves today. They believed
that Socialism was the object of their enthusiasm, until the hour of
danger - the issuing of the Chicago industrialists' manifesto, and the
holding of the Chicago convention - has wrung from them the admission
that what they really enthused for was the fleshpots of the A.F. of
L. Political unity is a slogan of Industrial Unionism.
2. THE FUNCTION OF UNIONISM
I shall now proceed to the second, the closing sentence
of the third of the three clauses that we have been
considering-the sentence which sets up the theory that
the final, the consummating act of working-class emancipation
must be achieved by the toilers "taking and
holding" the product of their labor "through an economic
organization of the working class, without affiliation
with any political party."
In no country, outside of the United States, is this theory
applicable; in no country, outside of the United States, is the theory
rational. It is irrational and, therefore, inapplicable in all other
countries, with the possible exception of Great Britain and the rest
of the English-speaking world, because no country but the United
States has reached that stage of full-orbed capitalism - economic,
political and social - that the United States has attained. In other
words, no other country is ripe for the execution of Marxian
No wonder the theory has set all the owls, the pseudo-Marxists
included, afluttering; no wonder it has set all the podsnaps of the
A.F. of L., together with its kindred craft "brotherhoods,"
apondering and aconning the "contradiction" of demanding "political
unity," and in the same breath proposing to take and hold the
machinery of production through an economic organization "without
affiliation with any political party."
In this sentence of the preamble is condensed what may be
called the code of Marxian "tactics," as distinguished from the code
of Marxian "economics"; the code of "action," as distinguished from
the code of "theory." As a consequence, the sentence outlines the form
of the governmental administration of the Republic of Labor. It
involves the vital question of the function of unionism, a question
that is so widely misunderstood that, on the one hand, we see the
"intellectual" ever sneering at unionism and arguing, as is his wont,
from partly correct and mainly false premises, that "the union is a
passing institution," not worth bothering about; and, on the other
hand, the "unionist," so-called, with a practical instinct that tells
him the union is no "passing institution," but who blunders into the
superstition of revering as "unionism" that which is purely a
capitalist contrivance labeled "union" in order to deceive, and
calculated to block indeed the path of unionism. The preamble of the
Industrial Workers of the World is the first pronouncement on the
field of practice that clinches this many-sided issue. As becomes her
opportunities, therefore her duty, this fruit first ripened on the
soil of America.
It does not lie in a political organization, that is, a party,
to "take and hold" the machinery of production. Both the "reason" for
a political party and its "structure" unfit it for such work. I have
at considerable length dealt with some of the aspects of this question
in the address I delivered last year in Newark, N.J., "The Burning
Question of Trades Unionism." I shall now take it up somewhat more in
The "reason" for a political party unfits it to "take and hold"
the machinery of production. As shown when I dealt with the first
sentence of this clause - the sentence that urges the necessity of
political unity - the "reason" for a political movement is the
exigencies of the bourgeois shell in which the social revolution must
partly shape its course. The governmental administration of
capitalism is the State, the government proper (that institution is
purely political). Political power, in the language of Marx, is
merely the organized power of the capitalist class to oppress, to
curb, to keep the working class in subjection. The bourgeois shell in
which the social revolution must partly shape its course dictates the
setting up of a body that shall contest the possession of the
political robber burg by the capitalist class. The reason for such
initial tactics also dictates their ultimate goal - the razing to the
ground of the robber burg of capitalist tyranny. The shops, the
yards, the mills, in short, the mechanical establishments of
production, now in the hands of the capitalist class - they are all to
be "taken," not for the purpose of being destroyed, but for the
purpose of being "held"; for the purpose of improving and enlarging
all the good that is latent in them, and that capitalism dwarfs; in
short, they are to be "taken and held" in order to save them for
It is exactly the reverse with the "political power." That is
to be taken for the purpose of abolishing it. It follows herefrom
that the goal of the political movement of labor is purely
Suppose that, at some election, the classconscious political
arm of labor were to sweep the field; suppose the sweeping were done
in such a landslide fashion that the capitalist election officials are
themselves so completely swept off their base that they wouldn't, if
they could, and that they couldn't, if they would, count us out;
suppose that, from President down to Congress and the rest of the
political redoubts of the capitalist political robber burg, our
candidates were installed - suppose that, what would there be for them
to do? What should there be for them to do? Simply to adjourn
themselves, on the spot, sine die. Their work would be done by
The political movement of labor that, in the event of triumph,
would prolong its existence a second after triumph, would be a
It would be either a usurpation or the signal for a social
catastrophe. It would be the signal for a social catastrophe if the
political triumph did not find the working class of the land
industrially organized, that is, in full possession of the plants of
production and distribution, capable, accordingly, to assume the
integral conduct of the productive powers of the land. The
catastrophe would be instantaneous. The plants of production and
distribution having remained in capitalist hands, production would be
On the other hand, if the political triumph does find the
working class industrially organized, then for the political movement
to prolong its existence would be to attempt to usurp the powers which
its very triumph announces have devolved upon the central
administration of the industrial organization.
The "reason" for a political movement obviously unfits it to
"take and hold" the machinery of production. What the political
movement "moves into" is not the shops but the robber burg of
capitalism - for the purpose of dismantling it.
And now, as to the structure of a political party. Look
closely into that and the fact cannot escape you that its structure
also unfits the political movement to "take and hold" the machinery of
production. The disability flows inevitably from the "reason" for
politics. The "reason" for a political party, we have seen, is to
contend with capitalism upon its own special field - the field that
determines the fate of political power. It follows that the structure
of a political party must be determined by the capitalist governmental
system of territorial demarcations - a system that the socialist
republic casts off like a slough that society shall have outgrown.
Take Congress, for instance, whether Senate or House of
Representatives. The unity of the congressional representation is
purely politically geographic; it is arbitrary. The structure of the
congressional district reflects the purpose of the capitalist State
political, that is, class tyranny over class. The thought of
production is absent, wholly so from the congressional demarcations.
It cannot be otherwise. Congress - not being a central administration
of the productive forces of the land, but the organized power of the
capitalist class for oppression - its constituent bodies can have no
trace of a purpose to administer production. Shoemakers, bricklayers,
miners, railroadmen, together with the workers in all manner of other
fractions of industries, are, accordingly, jumbled together in each
separate congressional district. Accordingly, the political
organization of labor intended to capture a congressional district is
wholly unfit to "take and hold" the plants of industry. The only
organization fit for that is the organization of the several
industries themselves - and they are not subject to political lines of
demarcation; they mock all such arbitrary, imaginary lines.
The central administrative organ of the Socialist Republic -
exactly the opposite of the central power of capitalism, not being the
organized power of a ruling class for oppression, in short, not being
political, but exclusively administrative of the producing forces of
the land - its constituent bodies must be exclusively industrial.
The artillery may support the cavalry; the cavalry may support
the infantry of an army in the act of final triumph; in the act,
however, of "taking and holding" the nation's plants of production,
the political organization of the working class can give no help. Its
mission will have come to an end just before the consummation of that
consummating act of labor's emancipation.
The form of central authority, to which the political
organization had to adapt itself and consequently looked, will have
ceased to be. As the slough shed by the serpent that immediately
reappears in its new skin, the political State will have been shed,
and society will simultaneously appear in its new administrative garb.
The mining, the railroad, the textile, the building industries,
down or up the line, each of these, regardless of former political
boundaries, will be the constituencies of that new central authority
the rough scaffolding of which was raised last week in Chicago.
Where the General Executive Board of the Industrial Workers of
the World will sit there will be the nation's capital.
Like the flimsy card houses that children raise, the present
political governments of counties, of states, aye, of the city on the
Potomac herself, will tumble down, their places taken by the central
and the subordinate administrative organs of the nation's industrial
forces. Obviously, not the "structure" of the political movement, but
the structure of the economic movement is fit for the task, to "take
and hold" the industrial administration of the country's productive
activity - the only thing worth "taking and holding."
The preamble of the Industrial Workers of the World poses well
both the political and the economic movement of labor, and it places
them in their proper relation toward each other.
Inestimable is the value, dignified the posture of the
political movement. It affords the labor movement the opportunity to
ventilate its purposes, its aspirations and its methods, free, over
and above board, in the noonday light of the sun, whereas otherwise,
its agitation would be consigned to the circumscribed sphere of the
rat hole. The political movement renders the masses accessible to the
propaganda of labor; it raises the labor movement above the category
of a "conspiracy"; it places the movement in line with the spirit of
the age, which, on the one hand, denies the power of "conspiracy" in
matters that not only affect the masses, but in which the masses must
themselves be intelligent actors, and, on the other hand, demands the
freest of utterance. In short and in fine, the political movement
bows to the methods of civilized discussion: it gives a chance to the
peaceful solution of the great question at issue.
By proclaiming the urgency of political as well as of
industrial unity, the preamble amply and sufficiently proclaims the
affinity of the economic with the political movement. At the same
time, by expressly proclaiming that the "taking and holding" is an act
that falls wholly within the province of the economic organization,
the preamble locked a dangerous switch, a switch into which to run
there is grave danger, the danger of rendering the Socialist, which
means the labor movement, illusory, and a roosting place for the
"intellectual" riffraff of bourgeois society.
The ballot is a weapon of civilization; the ballot is a weapon
that no revolutionary movement of our times may ignore except at its
own peril; the Socialist ballot is the emblem of right. For that very
reason the Socialist ballot is -
Weaker than a woman's tears,
Tamer than sleep, fonder than ignorance,
Less valiant than the virgin in the night,
And skilless as unpracticed infancy,
- unless it is backed by the might to enforce it. That requisite
might might is summed up in the industrial organization of the working
Now, mind you, that might the labor movement needs, as much, I
would almost say, against the political movements which its own breath
heats into being as against the capitalist tyrant himself. It needs
that might against the capitalist tyrant to put the quietus upon him;
it also needs that might to prevent the evil consequences to which, in
this corrupt atmosphere of bourgeois society, the political movement
is inevitably exposed. The two points are vital. Much, infinitely
more than appears at first sight, hangs thereby.
Despite the sharply marked economic feature of the labor
movement, the principle that it is bound to take on a political form
also, is founded on no fine-spun theory. Even discounting the force
of the sociologic arguments that I have presented to you, and which
point to the inevitableness of the political manifestation of the
labor movement, there is a consideration that I have referred to only
incidentally so far, and which, when properly weighed, places the
matter beyond the peradventure of a doubt. That consideration is the
existence of universal suffrage in the land.
The institution is so bred in the bones of the people that,
notwithstanding it has become a gravel in the shoe of the capitalist,
he, powerful though he is, dare not abolish it outright. Among such a
people, chimerical is the idea of expecting to conduct a great
movement, whose palpable aim is a Socialist revolution, to the slogan
of "Abstinence from the ballot-box." The proposition cannot choose
but brand its supporters as freaks.
Whether the economic movement wills it or not, its political
phase will assert itself on the political field. Men from its own
ranks, and men from outside of its ranks, will raise the standard of
labor politics. Nor will the capitalist be slow in endeavoring, while
humoring the thing, to draw the sting from it. Watchfully though he
guards his political burg, he will, from time to time, carefully
select some "promising" candidate from the labor ticket and allow him
admission; or, maybe, he is sometimes taken napping, and some labor
candidate slips through the fingers of his outposts at the ballot-box.
Subjected to the lures and wiles at the disposal of the capitalist,
these successful labor candidates in the parliaments of capitalism,
ten to one, succumb. They succumb due either to their own inherently
corrupt souls, or to their muddle-headedness. In either case they
betray the working class; the effect is harmfully felt by the economic
Against this danger there is but one protection - the
industrial, that is, the classconscious economic organization to keep
that ballot straight. Nothing short of such an economic organization
will prevent the evil, because nothing short of such an economic
organization can keep sharp the edge of the special sword wielded by
the political movement of labor. What that special sword is I have
shown before. It is purely destructive. The economic movement may
take a little at a time. It may do so because its function is
ultimately to "take and hold" the full plants of production and save
them for the human race. The political movement, on the contrary, has
an entirely different function: its function is wholly to tear down
the political burg of capitalist tyranny.
It follows herefrom that the political movement of labor may
not even remotely partake even of the appearance of compromise. It
exemplifies the revolutionary aim of the labor movement; it must be
uncompromisingly revolutionary. This fact dictates the conduct of the
successful political candidates of labor in the parliaments of
The principle found expression in the celebrated maxim uttered
by William Liebknecht, when he still was in the full vigor of his
Socialist aspirations - "Parlamentiren ist paktiren" - to
parliamentarize is to compromise, to log-roll, to sell out. When, in
later years, experience brought home to him the unfortunate fact that
the bourgeoisie of Germany had not finished their own revolution; when
he discovered that that revolution had first to be completed and that
there was none to undertake the task but the Social Democratic
movement; when that hard reality faced him and his movement,
Liebknecht wisely adapted his course to the requirements. To
parliamentarize is legitimate tactics with the bourgeois revolution.
The parliamentarizing that the German Social Democracy thereupon, with
Liebknecht at its head, has been constrained to practice, demonstrates
that the movement in Germany has been constrained to adopt the tactics
of the bourgeois revolutionist - precisely the reason why such tactics
are wholly out of place, wholly inadmissible, aye, a badge of treason
to the working class when applied in America.
Without the might of the classconscious economic movement back
of the political, the political movements that the labor movement
inevitably promotes in America will not only be divided but, as a
further result, will promote that confusion of thought that runs into
corruption and that, reacting back upon the economic movement itself,
helps to scuttle its efficiency. It surely is no accident that,
without exception, all the labor candidates so far allowed by the
capitalist class to filter through their garrisons at their election
defiles, whenever the office to which they were allowed to be returned
elected was of any importance, have uniformly "parliamentaryized,"
that is, "logrolled," in short, sold out the revolution. We saw it
happen during the heyday of the K. of L.; we saw it happen more
recently in Haverhill, in Brockton, in the Massachusetts legislature,
in Paterson, in Sheboygan; we see it happening now in Milwaukee.
It is a matter of self-protection with the economic
organization to watch and control the political. Skilless as
unpracticed infancy, a danger to labor itself, is the sword of labor's
ballot without the might of the classconscious economic organization
to whet its edge, to keep it sharp and to insist upon its being plied
over the skull of the foe, to insist upon that at the peril of the
muddleheads, of the weakling, of the traitor.
There now only remains one point to consider, and I am through.
It is the point with regard to the necessity of the industrial
organization in order to supplement the right of the ballot with the
might requisite to put the quietus upon the capitalist class itself.
The point implies what is generally, but wrongly, meant by ...
THE GENERAL STRIKE
... a term that, through misuse by its own advocates, who have
hitherto placed the cart before the horse, is greatly misunderstood,
and should be substituted by the more appropriate term of the general
lockout of the capitalist class.
Political power is reached through the ballot box. But the
ballot box is not an open field; it is a veritable defile. That
defile is held by the agents of the capitalist class. The election
inspectors and returning boards are capitalist appointees; they are
veritable garrisons with which the capitalist class holds the defile.
To imagine that these capitalist garrisons of the election defiles
will complacently allow the candidates of the revolution, whose
program is the dismantling of the political burg of capitalism,
peacefully to file through, is to indulge in a mooncalf's vision. The
revolutionary ballot of labor is counted out now; it has been counted
out from the first day of its appearance; it will be counted out even
more extensively in the future.
This fact is taken by some as a sufficient ground from which to
conclude that the political movement is utterly useless. Those who
arrive at that conclusion fall into the error of failing to realize
that correct conclusions never flow from single premises. They can be
arrived at only by considering all the premises in the case. While
the Socialist ballot was, is and may continue to be counted out, the
political movement accomplishes that which all the counting out will
not be able to counteract.
A man may monkey with the thermometer, yet he is utterly unable
to monkey with the temperature. Place a lump of ice to the bulb of
the quicksilver in this room of suffocating heat, the column will sink
below zero, yet the temperature remains at fever heat. Place a piece
of burning coal to the quicksilver bulb in midwinter, the mercury will
rise to fever heat, yet the temperature remains cold, unaltered. So
with the election returns. They are the political thermometer. The
political pickets of the capitalist class may monkey therewith to
their heart's content - they will be unable to alter by the fraction
of a degree the political temperature that prevails all around.
Now, then, that political temperature, for reasons that I have
already explained, is preeminently the product of the political
movement of labor. Wait, I have not yet proven the point. It still
remains to be clinched. The question may still be asked, aye, it is
asked: What does the hottest of political temperatures avail, if the
capitalist class retains the power to nullify it by counting us out?
It may avail much; here, in America, it may mean the consummation of
that ideal so dearly pursued by the Socialist - the peaceful solution
of the social question.
Look across at Europe. The feudal spirit still prevails there
in an important respect, as a consequence of the continued prevalence
there of large chunks of feudal institutions. In Europe, even the
capitalist class is feudalized, let alone the surviving feudal heads.
Though guilty of all the crimes of the decalogue, there is one vice
that the feudal lord is substantially free from. That vice is
cowardice. Valor is the burthen of the songs that rock their cradle;
valor is the theme of the nursery tales to which they are raised;
deeds of valor are the ideals set up before them. Take as a type the
semi-crazy, semi-crippled Emperor of Germany. He will fight whatever
the odds. In Europe a peaceful solution of the social question is out
of all question.
But how is the lay of the land here, in America? Was it songs
of valor that rocked the cradles of our capitalist rulers? Was it
tales of noble daring that formed the themes of the nursery tales to
which they were brought up? Were the ideals that they gathered from
their home surroundings the ideals of manliness? In short, did they
reach their present position by deeds of valor? No! Daily
experience, confirmed by every investigation that one set of
capitalists institutes against another, tells us that they reached
their present status of rulers by putting sand into your sugar, by
watering their stocks, by putting shoddy into your clothes, by pouring
water into your molasses, by breaches of trust, by fraudulent failures
and fraudulent fires, in short by swindle.
Now, then, the swindler is a coward. Like a coward, he will
play the bully, as we see the capitalist class doing, toward the weak,
the weak because disorganized, working class. Before the strong, the
bully crawls. Let the political temperature rise to the point of
danger, then, all monkeying with the thermometer notwithstanding, your
capitalist will quake in his stolen boots; he will not dare to fight;
he will flee. At least I, for one, expect to see him flee. But,
indeed, he will not unless, back of that ballot that has raised the
political temperature to fever heat is the might of the industrial
organization, in full possession of the industrial establishments of
the land, organized integrally and, consequently, capable of assuming
the conduct of the nation's production. The complete industrial
organization of the working class will then have insured the peaceful
issue of the struggle.
But perhaps the capitalist may not flee. Perhaps, in a
delirium of rage, he may resist. So much the worse - for him. The
might, implied in the industrial organization of the working class of
the land, will be in position to mop the earth with the rebellious
usurper in short order and safeguard the right that the ballot
The futility of the ballot alone, however triumphant, was
strikingly illustrated nine years ago during the first Bryan campaign.
The political temperature against the plutocratic rulers of the land
had risen to a point that they, for a moment, considered the battle at
the ballot box lost in advance. That, however, did not disconcert
them. Through their national mouthpiece, Mark Hanna, they threatened
to stop production. In other words, they threatened to go on strike.
The threat was no idle bombast. They could. It was known that they
could. Craft unionism placed it in their power to do so. The threat
had its effect. But let the capitalist attempt, under the pressure of
the political temperature raised by the ballot of labor - let him
attempt to strike. In possession of the might conferred and implied
by the industrial organization of their class, the working class would
forthwith lock out the capitalist class.
Without political organization, the labor movement cannot
triumph; without economic organization, the day of its political
triumph would be the day of its defeat.
Industrialism means might. Craft unionism means impotence.
All the plants of production, aye, even the vast wealth for
consumption, is today in the keeping of the working class. It is
workingmen who are in charge of the factories, the railroads, the
mines, in short all the land and machinery of production, and it is
they also who sit as watchdogs before the pantries, the cellars and
the safe-deposit vaults of the capitalist class; aye, it is they who
carry the guns in the armies. But this place of vantage is of no
avail to them under craft unionism. Under craft unionism, only one
craft marches into the battlefield at a time. By their idly looking
on, the other crafts scab it upon the combatant. What with that and
the likewise idle onlooking of those divisions of the workers who man
the commissary department, so to speak, of the capitalist class, the
class struggle presents, under craft unionism, the aspect of petty
riots at which the empty stomachs and empty hands of the working class
are pitted against the full ones of the employing class. Was this
ignorance? Was this treason? Whether treason or ignorance, the
turning in the long lane has been reached.
Both the present conduct of craft unionism and the future
conduct of Industrial Unionism was well portrayed by one of the
delegates at the Chicago convention. Illustrating the point with the
five fingers of his right hand far apart, he showed that to be the
posture of the craft or autonomous unions - disconnected from one
another for all practical work, and good only to act as a fan, a fan
that had hitherto done nothing but scare the flies away from the face
of the capitalist class; and, proceeding thereupon to illustrate the
further point by drawing his five fingers tightly into a compact fist,
he showed that to be the posture of Industrial Unionism - a battering
ram, that would leave the face of the capitalist class looking
materially different from the way it looked when it was merely fanned.
The impotence wherewith the right of the working class has hitherto
been smitten, is now to be organized into a might without which that
right is but mockery. The signal for that organization was struck
last week at the conven- tion of the Industrial Workers of the World;
and the word has gone out, as it could go out from no other country
but America, in language that fits our fullgrown capitalist
"Unite! Unite on the economic field upon the only basis that
economic unity is possible - the basis of the solidarity of the
working class, the only solid fact from which political unity can be
reflected! Unite! Unite upon the only economic principle capable of
backing up the right of the labor ballot with the might to enforce it!
Unite for the general strike at the ballot box, to overthrow the
political robber burg of capitalism, backed by the general strike
against, or, rather, the general lockout of the capitalist class from
the industrial fields that it has usurped. Unite for the emancipation
of the working class, and to save civilization from a catastrophe!"
Q. -- Do you not believe that the capitalist class will seek to
prevent the growth of the Industrial Workers of the World by demanding
from each employee a sworn affidavit that he is not a member of that
A. -- They may try that, but it will fail of its purpose. I
showed you that the "contract" which I was made to sign by a pistol
being held to my head was null. It was null because it was not I but
the pistol that signed the contract. Likewise with such affidavits.
They would not be sworn to by the workingman, but by the whip of
hunger held over his head. The whip took the oath; let the whip keep
Q. -- If I were to join that new union, I would immediately be
thrown out of work by the officers of my organization. What is a man
A. -- Look across to Russia. Individual uprisings are speedily
crushed. The individual's safety lies in mass uprisings. The tyranny
of the grand dukes of the A.F. of L. and such kindred craft
organizations can be overcome only by mass uprisings against them.
Such a tidal wave of rebellion against the labor lieutenants of the
capitalist class is now shaping, soon to burst over their heads.