American Syndicalism: The I. W. W

By John Graham Brooks | Go to book overview
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VI

FORERUNNERS OF THE I. W. W.

No one has given us a deeper or truer perspective through which we may see labor's long struggle to organize than Beatrice and Sidney Webb. With exhaustive thoroughness, they show in the third chapter of their History of Trade Unionism a brief, throbbing period like that of our Knights of Labor. It is a passionate moment that fuses labor, so precisely in the spirit of our I. W. W., that we seem to be reading sentence by sentence the latest syndicalist utterance. There was breathless expectation that capitalism was doomed. It is an even eighty years since Owen and his followers proposed--almost to the last detail-- all that our I. W. W. now urge,--"eliminate politics, band labor together at the bottom with light dues or no dues at all, with power decentralized, the general strike, and the dream of the coὃperative commonwealth." The "means of production" were, of course, to be "taken over" but "were to become the property not of the whole community, but of the particular set of workers who used them. The trade unions were to be transformed into 'national companies' to carry on all the manufactures. The agricultural union was to take possession of the land, the miners' union of the mines, the textile unions of the factories. Each trade was to be carried on by its particular trade union, centralized into one 'grand lodge.'"

-61-

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