Migratory Farm Workers: The Wheatland Affair
In the initial number of The Lumberjack ( January 1, 1913), the militant though short-lived organ of the Southern lumber workers, a leading article stressed the need for the I.W.W. to launch an active campaign to organize the Southern tenant farmers who, it predicted, would prove to be "our best fighting material." The article, reprinted in the Industrial Worker, provoked wide discussion in I.W.W. circles as to whether or not farmers, small farmers and tenant farmers, should be allowed to join the organization. The editor of the Industrial Worker, noting that he had received "an increasing number of letters from farmers...who bemoan their inability to join us," suggested that the I.W.W. should begin to think of organizing the small farmers and tenant farmers.1
The editorial swamped the office with mail -- so much so in fact that the editor claimed he could print only a few of the letters. Some came from farmers, several of whom insisted that the I.W.W. ought to accept all those who were exploited, and that the family farmer, forced to buy and sell in a "trustified" market represented "about the worst exploited class in the whole country." A number of Wobblies agreed that the I.W.W. should attempt to arrive at a working arrangement with some farmers, perhaps the small farmer, at the very least the tenant farmer. Others suggested that the small and tenant farmers ought to organize a union of their own and become attached to the I.W.W. as a sort of fraternal organization, along the lines of the I.W.W. Propaganda Leagues.
But the majority sentiment expressed was opposed to any association between the I.W.W. and farmers. The economic interests of farmers, large, small, and tenant, most Wobblies argued, were not identical with