History of the Labor Movement in the United States - Vol. 4

By Philip S. Foner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 17
The Socialist Party and the I.W.W., 1909-1914

"There are few men in the I.W.W. but what have at some time or other been connected with the Socialist party, either in Canada or the United States," noted the Industrial Worker on July 20, 1911. Three years later, there were few men in the I.W.W. who still maintained any connection with the Socialist Party. They had either been expelled from the party or quit in disgust.

What brought about the change?

In the first years of the I.W.W., the forces in the Socialist Party opposed to the new industrial union had taken some steps to discipline members of the party who were also active in the I.W.W. In the fall of 1906, Trautmann and A. S. Edwards -- both very active I.W.W.'ers and S.P. members -- were expelled from the Socialist Party by the Cook County Central Committee because "the action of these two men... showed them to be hostile to the principles of political action upon which the Socialist Party rests."1 But this policy soon ceased, mainly because very few S.P. leaders expected the I.W.W. to exist for long. When the second split in the I.W.W. occurred at the 1908 convention, most leaders of the Socialist Party, especially those of the Right-wing who had been bitterly hostile to the industrial union organization from its inception, were certain that this was the last they had heard from it. Yet in less than three years, the I.W.W. was still very much alive and a conflict over its "direct action" tactics was tearing the Socialist Party apart.

This clash, of course, was part of a more general split within the party over its attitude toward the trade unions and reform which had started before the I.W.W. was born and had been building up for years.* During this period the Right and Center elements of the party had con-

____________________
*
For a discussion of this conflict within the Socialist Party in the period 1900- 1905, see P. Foner, History of the Labor Movement in the United States, vol. III, New York, 1964, pp. 367-92.

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