Monday, 30 September 2013

The IWW in Canada- G.Jewell

 Consider this a spiritual sequel to this, only moving from the sunny warmth of New Zealand for the cold tundra of Canada.

The IWW in Canada- G. Jewell

Leaflet on the birth and history of the Canadian section of Industrial Workers of the World.

Established in 1886, the American Federation of Labor had by the
turn of the century secured its domination over North American
organized labour. True, the federation was still a shaky affair;
the AFL - interested primarily in "respectable" craft unions --
refused to organize the great bulk of industrial workers. But
with the Knights of Labor (the first genuine, albeit mystical
attempt to bring all workers together under one all-embracing
organization) everything but buried, and industrial unions like
the American Railway Union destroyed and the Western Federation of
Miners under increasing attack by the mine owners, the AFL managed
to establish hegemony and either batter down or absorb all

This craft union hegemony existed in Canada as well as the United
States. The original Canadian unions -- insular and indecisive --
failed. The same fate met the first mass- industrial union from
the U.S., the Knights. In 1902, the Trades and Labour Congress,
already the leading force in Canadian labour and controlled by the
AFL union branches in Canada, expelled from its ranks all Canadian
national unions, British internationals, and the Knights of Labor.
The opposition formed a Canadian Federation of Labour (CFL) but it
never amounted to much. Prospects seemed clear for the TLC and,
behind it, Samuel Gompers, U.S. president of the AFL.
Yet only three years were to pass before the IWW emerged as a
revolutionary challenge.


The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was founded in 1905 in
Chicago. The driving force behind the new union was the Western
Federation of Miners, which had been fighting a bloody but losing
battle throughout the western US and Canada. Joining were the
WFM's parent, the American Labor Union (which included several
hundred members in B.C) the United Brotherhood of Railway
Employees, and Daniel DeLeon's Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance.
Observers were sent from the United Metal Workers (US and Canada),
the North American branch of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers
of Great Britain, the International Musicians Union, the Bakers
Union, and others.

Keynote speeches were delivered by Big Bill Haywood of the WFM,
Eugene Debs of the Socialist Party, Mother Jones of the United
Mine Workers, DeLeon, Lucy Parsons, anarchist and widow of a
Haymarket martyr, Father Hagerty, who drew up the One Big Union
industrial structure, and William Trautmann from German Brewery
Workers of Milwaukee (who was expelled from that union for his
participation in the IWW convention). Trautmann's and Hagerty's
views were influenced by European anarcho-syndicalism, as were
Haywood's by the revolutionary syndicalism of the French CGT. A
claimed membership of 50,827 was pledged to the IWW. The
professed aim was nothing less than the overthrow of the
capitalist system by and for the working class.

Two months later, after the United Metal Workers brought in 700 of
their claimed 3,000 members, the actual total of union members was
a mere 4,247. There was a magnificent $817.59 in the treasury.
The new union had begun to march on the wrong foot and the AFL
crowed with delight. Within a few years all the founding
organizations had either quit the IWW or had been expelled. By
1910, a low year with only 9,100 dues-paid members, the IWW was
the unruly bastard of the labor movement, ridiculously challenging
the AFL and the Capitalist Class to a battle to the death.
However, the IWW then suddenly burst out with an amazing explosive
force, becoming a mass movement in the US, Canada, Australia, and
Chile, and leaving a fiery mark on labour in South Africa,
Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Great Britain and the world maritime

The reasons for this sudden expansion lay at the very root of the
economic crisis underlying capitalist society in the years
immediately prior to the First World War. To begin with,
organized labour, divided as it was into squabbling craft unions,
was in a pitiful state, unable to effect even the most innocuous
reforms. The larger mass of unorganized and chronically
under-employed workers lived in appalling misery as it reeled from
a capitalist "boom and bust" cycle of high speculation followed by
crushing depression every five or ten years.
Yet despite this seemingly tremendous weakness of the working
class, many unionists had already recognized the great power
inherent in the vast industrial monopolies which the
ever-shrinking number of super-industrialists themselves scarcely
knew how to handle. That a working class already trained in the
operating of these industries might continue to do so in the
enforced absence of the capitalist owners was a matter of
new-found faith and high expectations. At this particular moment,
it was precisely the IWW which gave not only voice to these hopes
and desires, but also offered the first INDUSTRIAL strategy to
effect that transference of power.
The IWW, cutting across all craft lines, organized workers into
industrial unions -- so that no matter the task, all workers in
one industry belonged to one industrial union. These industrial
unions formed the component parts of six industrial departments:
1-Agriculture, Land, Fisheries and Water Products, 2-Mining,
3-Construction, 4-Manufacturing and General Production,
5-Transportation and Communication, and 6-Public Service. The
industrial departments made up the IWW as a whole; yet although
functioning independently, they were bridged by the rank and file
power of the total general membership to vote on all union general
policy and the election of all officers of the General
Administration coordinating the industrial departments.
The IWW was characterized by a syndicalist reliance on the job
branch at the shop floor level; a strong distrust of labour
bureaucrats and leftist politicians; an emphasis on direct action
and the propaganda of the deed. Above all, Wobblies believed in
the invincibility of the General Strike, which to them meant
nothing less than the ultimate lock-out of the capitalist class.
They wrapped their theory and practise with a loose blanket of
Marxist economic analysis and called for the abolition of the wage

The IWW pioneered the on the job strike, mass sit-downs, and the
organization of unemployed, migrant, and immigrant working people.
It captured the public imagination with free speech fights,
gigantic labour pageants, and the most suicidal bluster
imaginable. Its permanent features were an army of roving
agitator-organizers on land and sea, little red song books, boxcar
delegates, singing recruiters.

In Australia IWW members were involved in a plan to forge
banknotes and bankrupt the state. During the Mexican revolution
of 1911, Wobblies joined with Mexican anarchists in a military
effort that set up a six-month red flag commune in Baja
California. In the Don Basin they faced Cossacks; at Kronstadt
they died under Trotsky's treacherous guns; in the German ports
they were silenced only by the Gestapo; in the CNT anarchist
militias and the International Brigades they battled Franco.

CANADA 1906 - 1918
The IWW immediately began organizing in Canada, and experienced
erratic growth from 1906 to 1914, especially in B.C. and Alberta.
The first Canadian IWW union charter was issued May 5, 1906 to the
Vancouver Industrial Mixed Union No.322.
Five locals were formed in BC in 1906, including a Lumber Handlers
Job Branch on the Vancouver docks composed mainly of North
Vancouver Indians, known as the "Bows and Arrows."
By 1911, the IWW claimed 10,000 members in Canada, notably in
mining, logging, Alberta agriculture, longshoring and the textile
industry. That year a local of IWW street labourers in Prince
Rupert struck, initially bringing out 250 but swelling to 1,000
assorted strikers. 56 arrests resulted from several riots, and a
special stockade was built to house them (reportedly by TLC union
carpenters). A number of strikers were injured and wounded; the
HMS Rainbow was called in to suppress the strike.
In 1912 the IWW fought a fierce free speech fight in Vancouver,
forcing the city to rescind a ban on public street meetings.
Organizing began in 1911 among construction workers building the
Canadian Northern Railway in BC. In September a quick strike of
900 workers halted 100 miles of construction. IWW organizer
Biscay was kidnapped by the authorities and charged as a
"dangerous character and a menace to public safety." A threatened
walkout by the entire Canadian Northern workforce prompted a
not-guilty verdict in a speedy trial. In December, a 50-cents a
day pay raise was won by on-the-job action.

By February 1912, IWW membership on the CN stood at 8,000. A
demand for adequate sanitation and an end to piece-rate or "gypo"
wages was ignored by the government. On March 27, unable to
further tolerate the unbearable living conditions in the work
camps, the 8,000 "dynos and dirthands" walked out. The strike
extended over 400 miles of territory, but the IWW established a
"1,000-mile picket line" as Wobs picketed employment offices in
Vancouver, Seattle, Tacoma, San Francisco, and Minneapolis to halt
recruitment of scabs.

Meanwhile the strike camps were so well run and disciplined that
the press began calling the Yale camp in particular a "miniature
socialist republic." While not going that far, the west coast IWW
weekly, Industrial Worker, proudly pointed to this example of
working class solidarity in which Canadians, Americans, Italians,
Austrians, Swedes, Norwegians, French and other countrymen --- one
huge melting pot into which creed, colour, flag, religion,
language and all other differences had been flung -- were welded
together in common effort. Even "demon rum" was proscribed,
which alone indicates the seriousness of the strikers.
Authorities arrested the strikers by the thousands for "unlawful
assemblage" and vagrancy. Many were forcibly deported at
gunpoint. But the picket lines held. In August they were joined
by 3,000 construction workers on the Grand Trunk Pacific in BC and
Alberta. The entire action, better known as the Fraser River or
Fraser Canyon Strike, was popularized in song by Joe Hill's
"Where the Fraser River Flows." The strike also spawned the
nickname Wobbly. A Chinese restaurant keeper who fed strikers
reputedly mispronounced "IWW" in asking customers "Are you eye
wobble wobble?" and the name stuck.

The CN strike lasted until the fall of 1912, when exhausted
strikers settled for a few minor improvements: better sanitary
conditions and a temporary end to the gypo system. The BC Grand
Trunk strike was called off in January 1913 after the Dominion
government promised to enforce sanitation laws. A greater gain
was development of the "camp delegate" system in which the IWW
secretary in town delegated a worker to represent him in the field
-- a method later refined into the permanent "Job Delegate" system
of the roving Agricultural Workers.

Other unique features of the strike are worth mentioning. One,
used again in the 20's on the Northern Railway strike in
Washington, was to "scab on the job" by sending convert Wobs into
scab camps to bring the workers out on strike. Another came in
response to the "free" transportation offered scabs by the
Railways on condition a man's luggage was impounded until such
time as his strike breaking wages repaid the fare. Large Wob
contingents signed on, leaving the Railways with cheap suitcases
stuffed with bricks and gunny sacks, and then deserted en route.
Edmonton, Alberta was then a major railroad construction center
and in the winter of 1913- 14, thousands of workers from all over
Canada and the US were stranded there without jobs or funds. The
city fathers refused to alleviate their plight. The IWW
established an Edmonton Unemployed League, demanding that the city
furnish work to everybody regardless of race, colour or
nationality, at a rate of 30 cents an hour, and further, that in
the meantime the city distribute three 25-cent meal tickets to
each man daily, tickets redeemable at any restaurant in town.
These demands were backed by mass parades which police clubs and
arrests could not stop.

On January 28, 1914 the Edmonton Journal headlined the news: IWW
Triumphant! The city council provided a large hall for the
homeless, passed out three 25-cent meal tickets to each man daily,
and employed 400 people on a public project.
That summer the IWW began organizing a campaign in the Alberta
wheat fields, but the guns of August were drawing near.


With the outbreak of World War one and Canada's subservient entry
as British cannon fodder, the federal government effected a number
of articles in the War Measures legislation embodied in the
British North America Act. IWW members were hit by a wave of
harassment and arrests that presaged that which swept most of the
American IWW leadership into jail in 1917-18 (by 1920 there were
2,000 Wobblies behind bars in the USA). In late 1914 the union
could claim only 465 members in Canada and in 1915 its last three
remaining branches dissolved. Agitation continued, however,
especially among Finnish lumber workers in Northern Ontario.
The Russian Revolution of 1917 caused severe jitters in the ruling
classes around the world and with the unilateral withdrawal of
Russian forces from the war effort against Germany, the conflict
in Europe reached a critical stage. This was coupled with a
number of mutinies in the Allied forces and weary dissension on
the homefronts. Repression was intensified and Canada a number of
Wobblies were jailed in 1918. The "Vancouver World" of August
5, 1918 outlined the "facts" in the case of Ernest Lindberg and
George Thompson:

**Two IWW Prospects Caught in Police Trap-- Couple Declared Active
at Logging Camps Arrested and German Literature is Seized... "Lot
of Good Rebels Quitting, stated letter...Message in German to
Tenant of House is postmarked Glissen.**
Lindberg, accused of delivering speeches in a logging
bunkhouse, after which a number of workers quit their jobs and
returned into the city, was held under the Idlers Act. Thompson,
**who is alleged to be a firebrand and whose connection with the
pro-German element is said to be close**, was charged with having
banned literature in his possession, including copies of the Week,
LaFollette's Magazine (LaFollette: anti-war Progressive US
Senator), and of the Lumber Worker, as well as letters written in

The World went on to editorialize:
** For some time past the Dominion authorities have been alive to
the situation existing in the camps, and have been desirous that
the ringleaders of the movement which is responsible for draining
of the logging centres, should be found... By the arrest of
Lindberg and Thompson, the authorities believe they have succeeded
in locating two main workers in the IWW cause, although there are
others who will be carefully watched and apprehended in due
course... The IWW is the short term used for the Industrial
Workers of the World, an American organization with very extreme
policies, Bolsheviki principles, and far reaching aims for the
betterment of the conditions of the masses. Like other large
organizations, it has two factions, the red flagging element
generally regarded as dangerous as inciters against the observance
of law and order. The organization is disowned by all but the
lowest type of union labour men, as well as by Socialists.***
On September 24, 1918, a federal order in council declared that
while Canada was engaged in war, 14 organizations were to be
considered unlawful, including the IWW and the Workers
International Industrial Union (DeLeons' expelled Detroit faction
of the IWW).. Penalty for membership was set at 5 years in

The same order banned meetings conducted in the language of any
enemy country (German, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Turkish etc) or in
Russian, Ukrainian or Finnish (except for religious services.)
IWW organizer Dick Higgins was tried under the War Measures Act in
Vancouver, but a defense by the Socialist Party of Canada kept him
out of jail. In the USA, two of those receiving minor sentences
were well known British Columbia unionists who had been
temporarily organizing in the USA, as headlined in the B.C.
Federationist September 1918:
**IWW Members Given Long Terms: G. Hardy and A.E.Sloper are among
those who received year terms.**

1918 witnessed a major change in Canadian Labour. The drive for
industrial unionism resumed and stiffened resistance against the
AFL affiliated TLC and the latter's support for conscription and
the suspension of civil liberties.
This groundswell culminated in the founding of the One Big Union
at the Western Labour Conference in Calgary in March 1919.
Directly affiliated to the OBU were a number of independent mining
and lumber industrial unions, but its influence reached into a
majority of TLC locals west of Port Arthur, Ontario. This
explosive mix of militant independent unionists and rebellious TLC
units resulted in the Winnipeg General Strike that summer. It
began with the building trades striking for recognition, followed
by the metal trades, and on until 30,000 workers were out directly
or in sympathy and a Central Strike Committee was running the
city. Fred Tipping, a member of the Strike Committee, explains
the situation:

**First of all, you should remember that there were a series of
unsuccessful strikes through 1918. In a sense the 1919 strike was
a climax to many months of labour unrest due to a great deal of
unemployment after the War, big increases in prices and no job
security. Bear in mind too that Winnipeg and Vancouver were
centres of advanced radical thought at the time. The Socialist
Party of Canada/Marxist had been strong for a number of years and
had gained support among industrial workers and even farmers. In
the Winnipeg Trades and labour Council you would find men who were
Marxists and others who supported the IWW. There was also the
Social Democratic Party, many of these people were strong
enthusiasts for the Russian revolution and were commonly called
Bolsheviki. When the Social Democrats split during the War some
of these later joined the Communist parties. Others of us became
members of the Labour Party -- later to become the Independent
Labour Party and then the CCF. The idea of the general strike
seemed to have been in the air. Don't forget that not too many
months before, some key people on the Strike Committee had
attended the OBU conference in Calgary and the general strike was
a weapon much favoured by the OBU. Then there was the attitude of
business. They were first generation businessmen. I call them
Ontario bushmen. Most of them had been farmers. They felt
paternalistic to the workers. "I don't want a bunch of workers
telling me how to run my plant," was a remark commonly heard. On
the other hand the union leaders had come from industrial England.
They had years of bitter strike experience. They were not
novices**---- Canadian Dimension/Winnipeg----
The strike was smashed by a combination of government troops and a
"Citizens committee." Many strike leaders were arrested and tried
for subversion. A number of immigrants were deported. The OBU
was shattered as an all-industry federation as court after court
ruled that the TLC "internationals" owned the contracts in the
majority of organized locals, though the OBU continued to hold the
Lumber Workers Industrial Union, some mine unions, the Winnipeg
streetcar workers, and Saskatoon telephone operators.
After a series of disastrous strikes by its 23,000 members, the
LWIU collapsed in 1921. Stepping into the breach, the newly
founded Workers Party -- later the Communist Party-- declared war
on the OBU's industrial unionism and succeeded in directing it
into "geographical unionism," following the dictate of Lenin's 3rd
International union strategy, which was to break up dual or
independent unions and bring them into locals affiliated with the
AFL, which the Communists hoped to capture from within. By the
mid-twenties, the Communist TUEL had captured about a third of the
important union positions in the AFL, but were purged overnight by
a counter-coup of the Gompers faction.

The Communists were aided in the move for geographical unionism by
some syndicalists, especially in Edmonton, who had moved toward
that defensive concept in the period of the OBU"s decline. In BC,
the Communists managed to get many of the lumberworkers "east of
the hump' into the AFL Carpenters union.

AT the same time, however, the IWW was reorganizing in Canada. In
1916, virtually extinct in the rest of the country, the IWW had
moved from the Minnesota iron fields in the Mesaba Range northward
into Ontario and had gained a large following in the northern
woods, especially among Finnish Lumber workers. After the orders
in council outlawing the IWW in 1918, organizers went underground.
In 1919 the Ontario lumber workers joined the OBU, but Wobbly
delegates continued to bootleg union supplies to the minority who
wanted to keep their IWW membership books as well, as well as did
OBU-IWW delegates in B.C. On April 2, 1919 the ban on the IWW was
lifted. Two branches were formed in Toronto and Kitchener.


An exchange of union cards was arranged between the IWW and the
OBU locals still functioning in the lumber fields, seaports and
Great Lakes. This exchange was a system in which separate unions
recognized as valid the union cards of workers transferring into
their own jurisdiction from that of the other union and required
no initiation fee. an OBU an d IWW delegate travelled together
to the 1921 Red International of Labour Unions conference in
Moscow. The obu delegate, Gordon Cascaden, was denied a vote
because he represented the "anarchist wing "of the OBU.
The IWW delegate, who originally supported ties the RILU, argued
against affiliation on his return.... Among the ultimatums RILU
attempted to impose... was that the IWW affiliate the virtually
defunct Lumber Workers Industrial Union/OBU in Western Canada,
already permeated by Communists.

Following the collapse that year of the LWIU, the IWW, OBU and the
Communists all made bids for the former members. Some sections
joined the Communist Red International (a way station to the AFL
Carpenters) others made an abortive attempt to revive the LWIU,
which still had support in the east. The remainder joined IWW.
largest section being the Vancouver LWIU branch, which had
revolted when LWIU joined the Communists. By 1923 IWW had three
branches with job control in Canada: Lumberworkers IU 120 and
Marine Transport Workers IU 510 in Vancouver and an LWIU branch in
Cranbrook BC for a total of 5,600 members.

Organizing in the 20's was extremely difficult. The defeat of the
Winnipeg General Strike and the depression of the early part of
the decade weakened unions everywhere. During 1921 and 1922 the
usual cause of strikes was resistance to wage reductions. Most
such disputes were won by the employers. A large number of
strikes were smashed by scabs drawn from a vast pool of new
workers migrating from the farms to the cities.
Nonetheless, 1924 marked a peak year for the IWW in Canada. This
was in direct contra distinction to the US IWW, which underwent a
disastrous split over the questions of decentralization and
amnesty for IWW prisoners in federal prisons (the decentralists
demanded total autonomy of all industrial unions, with no central
clearing house or headquarters dues. The anti-amnesty faction
called for a boycott on any federal amnesty., instead relying on
class struggle to win the release of imprisoned Wobblies).
The split in the US IWW puzzled the Canadian membership, who
decided to support the Constitutional IWW in Chicago instead of
the decentralist Emergency Program IWW in the West -- the latter
lasted for ten years; the resulting raids and counter-raids
destroyed IWW power in the western lumber fields and caused a
temporary membership drop nationwide.
In Northern Ontario the Canadian Lumber Workers (the OBU remnant
of the LWIU) voted in 1924 to bolt the geographically based OBU
and join the IWW. The same referendum elected a Finnish
lumberworker, Nick Vita, as secretary. Vita had joined the IWW in
1917 and secretly carried an IWW red card through the War Measures
Act and his years in the OBU. In 1919 he had attended the IWW
Work People's College and then Ferris Institute, a business
college in Michigan, after a meagre three months of school before

Vita's first chore as secretary was to issue 8,000 IWW union
cards. Branches were set up in Sudbury -- Ontario head office -
and Port Arthur. Vita began organizing railroad workers and
miners in Timmins and Sudbury districts, but a brief success of
3,000 recruits soon faded. That same year an Agricultural Workers
Organization IU 110, was formed in Calgary. Four IWW organizers
were arrested on charges of vagrancy. IWW headquarters in Chicago
provided legal fees and three of the cases the charges were
quashed. On January 1, 1924, after the firing of an IWW member of
the Cranbrook BC branch IWW Lumber Workers IU120 struck the lumber
owners, calling for an 8 hour day with blankets supplied, minimum
wage of $4 per day, release of all class war prisoners, no
discrimination against IWW members and no censuring of IWW
literature. After three weeks the camp operators tried to bring
in scabs from Alberta and Saskatchewan. Pickets severely
curtailed the scabbing and on February 26 the operators served an
injunction on the officers and members of the IWW to restrain the
strikers from picketing. The seven companies asked for
$105,340.41 in damages. At a mass meeting March 2, strikers voted
to "take the strike back on the job." As the injunction came up
for review on June 24, the Mountain Lumbermen's Association paid
to the IWW $2,450 to settle out of court.

In 1925 the LWIU branch disappeared from Cranbrook -- a not
unfamiliar event in the IWW, which still refused to sign binding
contracts with employers, and often dwindled away as an
organization after specific demands had been won. A new
Agricultural Workers branch was formed in Winnipeg, bringing the
IWW a total of 6 branches in Canada for a membership of 10,000 --
the same as in 1910.

Included was a coal miners branch in Wayne Alberta which fought
that year the IWW's first large strike in coal -- a bitter and
losing affair. Fighting a mandatory dues check off to the United
Mine Workers, which did not represent them, the miners originally
joined the OBU, but along with the Ontario lumberworkers switched
to the IWW in 1924. The mine company offered a 10% wage increase
if they agreed to accept the UMWA. Considering it a bribe, the
miners refused and struck, unsuccessfully.

The Winnipeg AWO folded in 1926, as did the Alberta Coal Miners IU
branch, but a new General Recruiting Union branch was formed in
Port Arthur, in addition to the lumberworkers for a total of 4,600
members in Canada. Seven branches carried 4,400 members through
1927-28 -- the IWW General Convention in Chicago urged a joint
IWW/OBU convention, which did not materialize -- in 1929 the
Calgary GRU disappeared, bringing membership down to 3,975.
The IWW Lumber Workers Industrial Union 120, came under
competition in 1928 from the refurbished Lumber Workers Industrial
Union of Canada, organized by the Communists following the failure
of their AFL take-over bid, and in tune with Stalin's new 1928-34
"left turn" period which demanded independent Communist unions.
Communist organizers who had left for BC in the early 20's to
bring carpenters and lumberworkers there into the AFL now returned
home to build dual unions under the aegis of Workers Unity League.
A number of meagre contracts were obtained from small operators in
the northern Ontario woods, for whom the largely Finnish
lumberjacks worked. IWW branches asked that union policy be
changed to allow them to sign contracts as well, but the 1932
General Convention again voted against allowing binding contracts,
and a majority of Ontario lumber workers ended in communist
controlled unions. Ironically, it was only a few years later that
the US IWW was signing contracts and running in federal NLRB


The early 30s were a watershed era in the history of North
American labor. Initially stunned by the vicious poverty and
unemployment caused by the Capitalist breakdown in 1929-31, the
working class by 1933-34 had gained the offensive in a massive
wildcat strike wave that swept the continent. The period saw an
upsurge in IWW activity in Canada, a phenomenon applicable also to
the OBU, which even expanded organizing into the New England and
opened a hall in San Francisco, and the Canadian Communist Workers
Unity League, which was especially strong among textile workers,
needle trades, mine and mill workers, and seamen's unions.
Radical influence was also strong in the US mass strike period,
represented by the IWW: longshore, maritime, lumber,
construction, mining, metal trades, early auto organizing, and
unemployed -- the Socialist Party: needle trades, unemployed,
later auto -- the Communist Trade Union Unity League: mine and
steel, textile, furriers, longshore and seamen, teachers,
unemployed, veterans, Blacks ---- Trotskyists: Minneapolis
Teamsters -- and the Musteite CPLA/American Workers Party: Toledo
Auto-Lite strike, unemployed.

By 1930, the Sudbury IWW LWIU folded, but a new Lumber workers
branch formed in Sault Ste. Marie, giving the union 3,741 members
in Canada. Canadian delegates met in Port Arthur September 20,
1931, and voted to form a Canadian administration, primarily to
overcome customs problems over supplies sent from Chicago and to
coordinate specifically Canadian industrial activity. The move
was submitted for consideration at the IWW Convention in Chicago
November 8-19, 1931, where it was referred to a general membership
referendum and ratified. The Canadian administration was to be
autonomous but ultimately responsible to the General
Administration and paying a monthly 1/2 cent per capita for
international organizing costs.

IWW unemployment agitation generated a number of arrests,
especially one big crackdown by Royal Mounted Police at Sioux
Lookout, Ontario. Ritchie's Dairy in Toronto was unionized IWW
for a time, and a fisher's branch formed in McDiarmid, Ontario.
Organizing was undertaken in the Maritimes but did not sustain
itself. In 1935 the IWW had 12 branches in Canada with 4,200
members: 2 branches in Vancouver-- Lumber workers and General
Recruiting Union -- General Membership Branches in Sointula, BC,
Calgary, Toronto, Sudbury; lumber workers in Fort Francis,
Nipigon, Sault Ste. Marie, and Port Arthur Ontario; a General
Recruiting Union in Port Arthur; and a Metal Mine Workers branch
in Timmins, Ontario.

The working class rebellion of the mid thirties culminated in a
series of sit down strikes -- using the tactics developed a few
years earlier in the auto plants by the IWW, including the little
cards passed hand to hand, reading: "Sit down and watch your pay
go up." -- which established the Congress of Industrial
Organizations/CIO. The CIO was a reformist semi- industrial
movement launched by the United Mine Workers which succeeded where
the revolutionary industrial unions had failed. Its success was
due primarily to its willingness to collectively bargain with
employers for modest wage and conditions changes and then to
enforce submission to the contract on any subsequent rank and file
rebellion. Both the Roosevelt administration and a sector of
"far-seeing" Capitalists saw in this an opportunity to corral the
strike wave into the bounds of a lightly reformed capitalist
system. (Slower to move, the Canadian ruling class followed suit
only toward the end of the Second World War.)

Hundreds of unauthorized work stoppages were suppressed by CIO
chieftains. At one point CIO head and leader of the United Mine
Workers, John L. Lewis, threatened to dispatch "flying squads of
strong-arm men" to bring auto wildcatters into line.

The CIO drive coincided with a far reaching right turn by Stalin
(and by iron-fisted extension, the then monolithic world communist
movement, sans Trotskyites of course). The Workers Unity League
was jettisoned by the Canadian Communists; its independent unions
were brought into the AFL or CIO or sabotaged. Communist
militants flocked into the CIO organizing committees and
assiduously worked themselves into key positions, ranging from
stewards to actual union presidents. The CIO ventures were highly
successful, initially in the US and after WWII in Canada.

The Communists captured the leadership of ten industrial unions,
including the United Electrical Workers, the Mine Mill & Smelter
Unions, the Fur and Leather Workers, the Canadian Seamens Union
and United Fishermen, and the B.C. Ship builders Union. They also
become strong in the International Woodworkers, especially in BC,
the AFL International Longshoremen, and others.

In the broader Canadian union movement, a number of things were
happening. In 1921 TLC expelled the Cdn. Brotherhood of Railway
Employees in favour of the Brotherhood of Railway and Steamship
Clerks from the USA. In 1927, the CBRE, the OBU remnant, and the
old CFL joined together to form the All Canadian Congress of
Labour. The CFL had been the stillborn result of the merger of
the Knights of Labour and some national unions in 1903, after
their expulsion from AFL-dominated TLC.

First called the National Trades and Labour Council, in 1908 it
became the Cdn. Federation of Labour, a big name for so little,
and now in 1927 it dissolved into the ACC of L. The All-Canadian
Congress grew, in its own reactionary way; in the early 30s the
OBU supported the red-baiting bureaucracy, only to find itself
later ousted. In 1937 the ACCL chiefs aided the anti-union
Ontario Premier Hepburn in his attack on the AFL, CIO, and
Communists -- all seen as "American."

In 1938, however, the TLC under AFL pressure expelled the CIO
unions in Canada and, in a complete flip-flop, the CIO units
joined the ACCL in 1940 to form the Canadian Congress of Labour.
Considering that many of the CIO organizers were Communists, and
all the CIO unions internationals from the USA, it was quite a
marriage of convenience. In 1943 the CCL came out in support of
the social-democratic Cooperative Commonwealth (now the New
Democratic Party)-- although the Communists were supporting the
Liberal Party.

After WWII the CCL grew closer to the TLC, especially as both were
expelling communists en masse. Finally in 1956 the CCL and TLC
merged to form the Canadian Labour Congress. Another independent
union body organizing during this period was the Canadian and
Catholic Confederation of Labour in Quebec, established in 1921,
now the syndicalist

The success of a moderate semi-industrial unionism, temporarily
fringed with a radical hue, greatly hampered the revolutionary
industrial unionism of the IWW. Another factor was the extremely
conservatizing influence of the Second World War -- ostensibly an
anti-fascist crusade -- with its no-strike pledges, for which the
Communists were the strongest backers in the interests of the
Soviet Fatherland -- even to the point of denouncing all strikers,
such as the United Mine Workers, as "fascist agents."
Even so, the IWW in the USA was able to stabilize a number of
solid job units, particularly metal shops in Cleveland area, and
by fighting the no-strike pledge expanded general membership on
the docks and construction camps. In 1946 the IWW numbered 20,000

IWW agitation continued strong in Canada until 1939, especially in
northern Ontario, but Canada's entry as British ally into the war
and the resulting mass conscription and War Measures Act, caught
the union without a job-control base. Moreover, in-fighting with
the Communists had become particularly vicious. Sudbury was being
organized by the Communist controlled Mine Mill & Smelters to the
point that J. Edgar Hoover later called it the "red base of North

Wobbly units in Sudbury and Port Arthur were mixed membership
branches of scattered lumbermen, miners and labourers. During the
Spanish Civil War 1936-39, the IWW in Ontario actively recruited
for the anarcho-syndicalist CNT union militia in Spain, in direct
challenge to the Communist sponsored Mac-Pap International
Brigade. A number of Canadian Wobs were killed in Spain -- some
possibly shot by Stalinist NKVD agents. Not only weapons and
ammunition but even medical supplies were denied the CNT by the
Communist-controlled government of Madrid. Violent altercations
erupted at northern Ontario rallies for the communist doctor
Norman Bethune, soon to quit Spain for Mao's partisans in China,
when Wobblies openly denounced Communist perfidy.

In Toronto where the IWW Canadian Administration headquarters was
temporarily moved, Wobblies gave physical support to the soap
boxing efforts of anarchists from the Italian, Jewish and Russian
communities. Pitched street battles often occurred at Spanish CNT
support rallies, and IWW secretaries McPhee and Godin, both former
lumberjacks, were noted for their quick despatch of Young
Communist goon squads.

But the War halted IWW organizing. A number of young Wobs were
immediately inducted into the Armed Forces. At war's end
re-growth was too slow. In 1949 membership in Canada stood at
2,100 grouped in six branches; two in Port Arthur and one each in
Vancouver, Sault Ste. Marie, Calgary and Toronto.

Meanwhile the government in the USA was attempting to destroy the
IWW once and for all. After refusing to sign the Taft-Hartley
anti-red clause, the IWW was denied the certification services of
the National Labor Relations Board. In 1949 the IWW was placed on
the Attorney General's list, which came replete with mailing
curtailments, refusal to members of government jobs, loans or
housing, and FBI harassment of individual members, especially at
their place of employment. To cap it off, the IWW was slapped
with a "corporate income tax", the only union in North America to
be so taxed. As a culminative consequence the IWW lost its last
shops, including all the IU440 Metal shops in Cleveland.
During the same period the AFL and CIO began a mass purge of
Communists in its ranks, an easy task, so riddled was the
Communist party with opportunism and cowardice. Completed quickly
in the US, the expulsions were slower and less thorough in Canada,
lasting beyond 1955. Those unions the reactionaries could not
purge they expelled and then raided. The Communists in Canada
managed to hold only the United Electrical Workers, the remnant of
Mine & Mill, and the United Fishermen in BC.

The Canadian IWW retained branches in only Vancouver, Port Arthur
and Calgary by 1950- 51. The following year the Canadian
Administration in Port Arthur folded and membership reverted to
the services of the Chicago office. By comparison, the OBU-- by
now a mild trade grouping in Winnipeg - continued until 1955-56
with 34 locals and 12,280 members at which time it merged with the

The Cold War snuffed out the Canadian, British and Australian
administrations of the IWW. It remained for the General and
Scandinavian administrations to hold together scattered Wobs in
Canada, USA, Britain, Sweden, and Australia. Through the 1950s
the IWW still exerted some power on the docks and ships with IU510
branches in San Francisco, Houston and Stockholm. But with the
early sixties, the IWW was near extinction.

Yet, the IWW survived. One, in the courage and dedication of
old-timers who kept the structure going. Two, with the slow
influx of young workers of a casual labour hue. In the mid-60s,
the IWW organized a restaurant job branch in San Francisco, only
to be raided by the Waiters & Waitresses Union. In 1964 the IWW
led a blueberry harvest strike in Minnesota. With the Vietnam War
the IWW began taking in young workers with ties to the campuses.
IN 1968 it was decided to sign up students alongside teachers and
campus workers into Education Workers IU620. There followed a
wild and erratic campus upsurge, two notables being Waterloo U in
Ontario and New Westminster BC. The results were nil in
themselves, but it got the IWW over the hump and left a fine
residue of militants who left campus to find jobs.

The next 5 years spawned some 20-odd industrial drives, including
one among construction workers in Vancouver, another among
shipbuilders in Malmo, Sweden, and two tough factory strikes in
the USA. For the most part unsuccessful, a number had interesting

In a Vancouver drive, a construction crew in Gastown was signed
IWW -- but certification before the Socred-appointed BC Labour
Board was denied, the IWW declared not a "trade union under the
meaning of the Act." A subsequent strike fizzled.
Industrial organizing efforts continue. The IWW has picked up a
number of newspapers, print shops and print co-ops over the years,
a few highly viable and long lived.
The new IWW has its own list of labour martyrs: the San Diego Wobs
shot, bombed and arrested during the 1969-71 Free Speech Fight and
Criminal Syndicalism frame up trial. Robert Ed Stover, knifed to
death in San Quentin Prison, where he was framed on an arms cache
charge; and Frank Terraguti, shot to death by Chilean fascists in
Santiago during the 1973 coup.
In 1975, the IWW is organizing in Canada, USA, Sweden, Britain,
Guam, New Zealand and Australia.
*see also WHERE THE FRASER RIVER FLOWS, New Star (Canada) 1991*
PDF Version
IWW Website

Saturday, 28 September 2013

A Country Considered to Be Free - New Zealand and the IWW

 Much as I admire the IWW I have to admit that it remains a small Union both on global terms and in its national branches. But despite this it has been able to pull off some impressive feats, and punch above its weight. There are many examples of the old IWW managing to build links and have an effect on a much wider audience. This history of the New Zealand IWW is just one of them.

A Country Considered to Be Free - New Zealand and the IWW

"Towards a Transnational Study of New Zealand Links with the Wobblies", an essay by Mark Derby which looks at New Zealand's relationship with the IWW.

In the 1890s a New Zealand watersiders’ leader announced to his members, “We have no flag, we have no country.”[1] He was declaring the internationalism of labor at a time when patriotism and imperialism then characterized the population. It was some years before his views became widespread, even within the militant end of the New Zealand union movement, and none promulgated them more strongly and sincerely than the Industrial Workers of the World, the Wobblies, whose name is itself a declaration of internationalism. The early Wobblies were internationalists in practice as well as in spirit – they belonged to transitory occupations, they crossed and re-crossed the Tasman, the Pacific and much further afield, were often in danger of deportation or on the run, and in general they regarded their nationality as an accident of birth and a supreme irrelevance.

For those reasons a study of the Wobblies in New Zealand, which has been barely attempted on practical grounds, is also inappropriate to its subject. It is imposing a nationalist frame on an internationalist movement. Instead, I am addressing the wider issue of New Zealand’s many links with the IWW, links which run both into and out of this country and include some of the organization’s most influential figures worldwide. My research suggests that the influence and extent of Wobbly ideas in New Zealand have been seriously understated, and New Zealand’s links with Wobbly movements elsewhere entirely overlooked. The Wobblies themselves left only scanty traces of their actions as they passed in and out of this country, and the partisan rewriting of history by the political parties which regarded themselves as natural successors to the IWW both co-opted and eliminated traces of their Wobbly roots. This essay is, therefore, an initial attempt at tracing the Wobbly strain in New Zealand’s political development.

The title, “A Country Considered to be Free,” comes from a speech made by William Trautmann at the IWW’s inaugural convention in Chicago in 1905. In accepting the post of general secretary, Trautmann informed the other delegates that he had been born in New Zealand, the son of a transient German miner who followed the gold rush to Coromandel in 1868 and was killed six years later in an industrial accident in the mine.[2] His widow and five children, including five-year-old William, returned to Germany, and as a young man William Trautmann made his way to the US and joined the fast-growing industrial unionism movement. In 1904 he wrote to labor bodies worldwide to seek support for a planned new organization to oppose the reformist American Federation of Labor (AFL) and was encouraged to found the IWW with a small group of fellow rebels the following year.[3]
In his speech to the first IWW convention, Trautmann referred in heavily qualified terms to New Zealand’s political freedom, since that country was then regarded internationally as the exemplar of moderate, state-sponsored socialism based on compulsory arbitration of industrial disputes. This system had quelled union radicalism for almost two decades, but by 1905 it was coming under growing attack from the more radical end of the labor movement, especially larger semi-skilled unions such as the miners, wharfies and seamen, and from the small, combative NZ Socialist Party, which aligned itself with De Leonite revolutionary industrial unionism. IWW ideas first reached New Zealand through the radical literature imported and sold by the Socialist Party. The industrial unionism message was also spread firsthand by transient individuals like the New Zealand-born miner Pat Hickey, who had earlier worked in Montana with the Western Federation of Miners, an IWW-affiliated union. When he returned home, in 1906, Hickey began to organize miners on the West Coast, together with other radicals from Australia. Less than a year after the IWW was formed in the US, the first strikes in 15 years took place in New Zealand mines, and by 1908 the miners’ unions broke away from the compulsory arbitration system to negotiate directly with employers using the strike weapon.[4]

Meanwhile, a militant Wellington watersider named John Dowdall, a keen reader and inveterate public orator, was spreading IWW ideas from his soapbox down on the wharves. In January 1908 he formed an IWW Club, which confirmed Wellington’s waterfront, then the busiest in the country, as a hotbed of activism. Two years later, another IWW Club was formed in Christchurch by militants from the anti-conscription movement. They applied to join the Federation of Labor, the new national body of industrial unions, as a New Zealand branch of the IWW and were admitted in June 1911.[5] Radical orators from abroad were an important impetus for this movement, although Emma Goldman’s keenly anticipated tour in 1909 was cancelled at the last minute after her US citizenship was revoked.6 In the same year the 36-year-old anarcha-feminist Lola Ridge contributed a poem, “The Martyrs of Hell,” to Goldman’s journal Mother Earth, and later became a sensation among New York’s modernist avant-garde. Ridge was formerly married to a New Zealand mine manager and had spent much of her preceding years in small South Island mining towns.[7]

In just a few fiery years the left wing of New Zealand’s labor movement had been reshaped from a timid collection of mainly craft unions working within the state-run arbitration system to a powerful federation of openly radical industrial unions winning their own terms of employment and confidently propagating a worker-run future for the country. The Wobblies were at the hard edge of this movement, especially in Auckland, the country’s biggest city, its first port of call for overseas ships, and a town thronged with young, single men raring for excitement and confrontation. Here the Socialist Party’s radical rhetoric drew huge crowds, but young militants found themselves more attracted to the anti-political Wobblies. Even the Party’s Auckland secretary, a young tram conductor named Tom Barker, defected to the IWW.[8]

This loose-knit band of Auckland Wobblies received a giant boost the day an overseas ship docked in late 1911. Down the gangplank walked three hardened revolutionaries from Canada, including Jack King, who had fled his own country after a strike in Vancouver. They were accompanied by two Englishmen, including twenty-six-year-old Alec Holdsworth, who had both been strongly influenced by the three Canadians during their long voyage. This small and utterly dedicated group made an explosive impact on the fertile Auckland scene. “In a very short time,” says Holdsworth, “Jack was on the street expounding Industrialism (One Big Union) and Marxism in the vernacular.”[9] He was backed up by at least twenty-five local Wobblies, including such striking figures as the openly gay fishmonger, Charlie Reeve, tattooed to the tips of his fingers.10 Every Sunday they drew thousands to their platform down by the wharves. “We had little or no objections around the soapbox,” according to Holdsworth. “Attention was good, collections were good – and we had no other source of income.”11 In early 1912, King left Auckland to spread the Wobbly message around North Island mining towns, eventually settling in Waihi, a company town entirely dependent economically on Australasia’s largest gold mine. There he led a Marxist economics class, enrolled about 30 miners in an IWW local, and played a leading part in a huge strike which soon shut down the mine. Shortly afterwards, King represented the miners at the Federation of Labor’s annual conference and convinced the Federation to adopt the first part of the IWW’s Preamble, “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common,” in its own constitution. His motion for a general strike in support of the Waihi miners was lost, but he won the backing of other delegates including future Prime Minister Peter Fraser who said, “With such propagandists I have no quarrel, whose work must undoubtedly advance the revolutionary working class movement.”[12]

By August 1912, with the Waihi mine still closed by strike action, King’s activities had become so notorious that he left for Australia just ahead of the police and immediately resurrected the Sydney local of the IWW. The mine strike was finally broken after nine bitter months. Many of the strikers and their families were driven out of town by vigilante mobs, and the Auckland Wobblies scoured the countryside to provide food and shelter for them. The IWW marched as a group in the massive funeral demonstration held for a murdered Waihi striker, Fred Evans. Holdsworth says, “We were industrialists, rebels on the job where we happened to be being exploited, and saboteurs if need be, and, instead of parliament, we stood for the One Big Union of the Workers of the World. We never led a strike but were always there.”[13]

He and his fellow Wobblies often travelled to other towns for work, always carrying with them imported IWW literature to help in “sowing the seed” of rebellion. While draining swamps in the farming district of the Waikato, Holdsworth wrote the Kiplingesque “Ballad of the Agitator”, which ends:
There’s never a place where the slave must sweat,
Not a town of soot or sun,
But we dared our worst and we gave our best,
And the work was freely done –
Though no tear be shed o’er our martyr’d dead,
We are ever marching on

Although New Zealand’s Wobblies were regularly accused by the popular press of sabotage, Holdsworth knew “of no occasion when it was carried out. We propounded it as a means of preventing scabbery, or dealing with it should it occur – it was a warning to both scab and employer. In America it was a different story, and we who had experience of real class war in America liked to tell of the various tricks, to those about us, never from the soapbox; and so the idea was spread.”[15] In place of the saboteur’s matches and dynamite, New Zealand Wobblies relied on the impact of IWW literature such as the Little Red Songbook and pamphlets like Marx’s Value, Price and Profit (translated from German by the bilingual William Trautmann).[16] “All boats from America were met by one or more of us wearing our IWW badge,” says Holdsworth, “in case there should be a Wobbly on board with the appropriate swag. But it was a precarious source of supply, so we set to and got out our own newspaper, the Industrial Unionist.”[17] This, the first IWW periodical in the Southern Hemisphere, was launched as a monthly in February 1913. It supplied industrial news from around the country, reported on JB King’s organizing efforts in Broken Hill, Australia, and printed letters from Hawaii by the somewhat isolated U.S. Wobbly, Albert Roe.[18]

One remarkable feature of the New Zealand Industrial Unionist may make it unique among Wobbly newspapers worldwide and has certainly never been matched in any other labor publication in New Zealand. From its July issue the paper ran regular articles in Maori, the language of New Zealand’s indigenous people. At that time many Maori spoke little or no English, although most were literate in their own language. The New Zealand IWW appears to have had no paid-up Maori members, so these articles were a means of reaching out to the most exploited section of the population. They were written by Percy Short, a member of the paper’s five-man editorial collective who worked as a house painter and licensed interpreter of Maori.19 His articles skillfully combined traditional Maori expressions with translations of IWW propaganda. One acknowledged the devastating loss of land and resources by Maori and said that all New Zealand workers were now placed in a similar condition by the boss class. Just as Maori had violently resisted the loss of their land in the past, now all workers should form a single tribe to recover and retain their possessions.[20] Collectively, these articles amount to an embryonic Marxist economic analysis in the Maori language, using authentically Maori metaphors and cultural values.

By mid-1913 the vigorous Auckland local of the IWW was holding four or five large public meetings a week. In September the English-born Tom Barker, who had taken over from JB King as the group’s guiding spirit, took the message to the rest of the country, riding with the tramps on railway goods wagons.[21] Holdsworth says, “He went without money and was without price. But he had a bundle of potential rebels in his bag – a pile of Industrial Unionists – each one more for the Revolution”.[22] Barker’s first stop was Wellington, where he reported, “I had 11 propaganda meetings in 14 days.” With the help of the stalwart John Dowdall, he was smuggled onto the wharves under the noses of the hostile waterfront police. “I finished on the piles down below, and talked Direct Action to the wharfies….Wellington will be a militant place for an IWW Local in the near future.”[23]
In Christchurch, the “storm centre of anti-militarism,” he found enough active IWW members to form a local immediately, reporting via the Industrial Unionist that “They have a nice room and nicely furnished, and all rebels peregrinating are requested to call in and introduce themselves…We will have half a dozen locals by Christmas, the tendency is all in our direction. The politicians are losing their grip, and the feeling is towards the repudiation entirely of nose counting, and the advocacy of Direct Action, Sabotage and Revolutionary Unionism.”[24] Finally Barker undertook a month-long tour of mining towns along the South Island’s West Coast, “the home of the fighters,” where he sold out the last of his stock of radical literature.[25]

His return journey was interrupted at Wellington by the outbreak of a long-awaited waterfront strike. Barker promptly organized a nonstop program of speakers and music in the public square opposite the wharves and led guerrilla attacks on large parties of mounted strikebreakers recruited from the rural districts. The strike soon spread to other industries and other cities and became the greatest industrial conflagration in New Zealand’s history. The Industrial Unionist now appeared every two or three days, urging workers throughout the country to make this a general strike which would bring down the ferociously anti-union government. Short’s articles told Maori workers, “This is the same government which confiscated your lands and killed your ancestors,” and urged them to join the strike.[26] Perhaps in consequence, very few Maori joined the thousands of strikebreakers, although they had been prominent in helping to break the Waihi strike the previous year.

As the strike grew more violent and widespread, the Industrial Unionist claimed a print-run of 5000 an issue. Barker himself sold 700 copies in a single morning, before being arrested along with other strike leaders and charged with sedition (which carried the death penalty). These arrests and the government’s recruitment of more than ten thousand strikebreakers and “special constables” finally broke the strike and forced the Wobblies to scatter far and wide to avoid retribution. Many left for Australia, including Barker, who jumped bail, and Reeve, who was badly beaten as he boarded his ship. There they both reunited with JB King and reinvigorated the Sydney IWW. Others headed for remote New Zealand communities where they were not known, often becoming active in the shearers’ and other rural unions.

The outbreak a few months later of World War I legitimized continuing persecution of the Wobblies. Some served long jail sentences for opposing conscription; others set up an escape route for conscientious objectors, smuggling them in the coal bunkers of ships to Australia, where conscription was not imposed.[27] However, a nationwide outburst of patriotism, and harsh emergency powers which outlawed strikes in essential industries and banned the importation of “seditious publications” (including the entire output of the IWW) shattered the strong movement which Barker and others had built up.[28]

Slowly, from about 1920, the remnants of New Zealand’s Wobblies began to reassert themselves. A One Big Union (OBU) Council, opposed to the parliamentary ambitions of the newly formed New Zealand Labour Party, began meeting above the shop of a sympathetic Auckland tailor. Its literature secretary, Leo Woods, said, “our activities were modeled along the lines of the IWW and consisted of public speaking and the dissemination of literature.”[29] Much of this printed matter was still banned and smuggled in on ships from Sydney; however, the OBU did not long survive the formation in 1921 of the New Zealand Communist Party, which assumed the leadership of the extreme left and opposed syndicalist views almost as strongly as the Labour Party.

Since then, founding Wobblies like Tom Barker and JB King reappeared occasionally in New Zealand, but their organization was never rebuilt, and the Wobbly strain in the labor movement was confined to determined individuals. One of these, Tom Gale, was a seaman from the Isle of Man who joined the IWW after witnessing police attacks on young female strikers in the silk-weaving plants of Paterson, New Jersey. He arrived in New Zealand in 1922 and had a long career as a rigger in the state railways. Railway workers were then represented by four different unions, and Gale’s attempts to form One Big Union on the railways failed when the four sets of paid officials could not agree on which of them would lose their jobs. In 1932, a period of massive unemployment and spreading fascist influence, he joined the New Zealand Communist Party and was elected to the executive of its Auckland branch, but left after refusing to sign correspondence with slogans such as “All Hail to Comrade Stalin.”[30] Another veteran of the 1913 Paterson silk-weavers’ strike was Alex Scott, the editor of a local newspaper who was convicted of “aiding and abetting hostility to the government.” Although not an IWW member, he was regarded as a valued ally by the U.S. Wobbly paper Solidarity. Arriving in New Zealand in 1922, Scott worked as a crusading journalist and helped establish large cooperatives in the working-class Hutt Valley into the 1940s.[31]

One of the more improbable New Zealand links with the worldwide Wobbly movement was Len de Caux, born in 1899 to a minister of religion serving a wealthy rural congregation in Hawkes Bay. He studied at elite private schools in New Zealand and England and entered Oxford University on a scholarship in 1919. This scion of privilege was radicalized during summer holidays in Europe. One of those, to Turin in 1920, coincided with a workers’ takeover of the auto factories. De Caux read of this in the newspaper L’Ordine Nuovo, in articles by the young Antonio Gramsci. Immediately after graduating, he “brushed from me the cobwebs of Oxford and emigrated to the United States…I’d come to join the working class in a country where class struggle was more brazenly brutal than in England or New Zealand.”[32] Soon de Caux was writing on-the-job articles for the IWW paper Industrial Solidarity, on Great Lakes shipping, Chicago packinghouses and Detroit steel mills, and dodging shotgun-wielding guards in order to ride freight trains to the Midwestern grain harvest. He became one of the leading labor journalists in the US and publicity director of the CIO until he was purged as a communist and blacklisted by the House on Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC). De Caux did not return to New Zealand until 1959, when he saw an old photograph from the turn of the century of the small West Coast mining town where he was born. “It was so startlingly similar to Western American towns around the same period, where the IWW had its start that I realized for the first time that the Wobblies might have had roots in like pioneering conditions in both countries.”[33]
It is this recognition of the universality of labor and its travails that has given the IWW its greatest strength and influence. Resisting all appeals to national pride or ethnic division, the Wobblies worked wherever they could be most effective, and I am persuaded by my research that their impact on New Zealand politics was much wider than has been acknowledged to date. For example, the IWW was greatly admired by those further to the center of the labor movement, who sympathized with the repression the Wobblies faced. In the early 20s a moderate laborite wrote a song called The Popular Scapegoat:
If a boiler blows up or a steamer goes down
Or somebody curses the Cross or the Crown
To find out the culprit, no, don’t let it trouble you
Put it all down to the Eye Double Double -You

A small number of the original Wobblies resisted joining either New Zealand’s Labour or Communist Parties and never departed from their IWW views. Bill Potter was an activist in the Wellington IWW and a militant in the 1913 strike, who later escaped to Australia where he took part in anti-conscription campaigns and the 1917 Brisbane tram strike. After returning to New Zealand he had a long career as a rank and file unionist, maintaining his IWW philosophy to the end.[35] That’s all I know about Potter, and I know even less about most of the others who have espoused and enacted the Wobbly strain of far-left politics in New Zealand, those spectral, semi-mythical figures whose humor, iconoclasm, commitment to working-class culture and dedication to democratic principle can still provide inspiration for actions in the present and hopes for the future.

Mark Derby is a writer and researcher in Wellington, NZ. He is currently editing a history of the New Zealanders who took part in the Spanish Civil War.

1. H Roth, Trade Unions in New Zealand, AH and AW Reed, 1973, p. 31
2. Proceedings of the First Convention of the IWW, 1905
3. William Trautmann, Fifty Years War, Book #2 1905-1920: The Rise and Fall of the Industrial Workers of the World, Trautmann collection, Walter Reuther Library, Detroit. I am indebted to Dr Jay Miller for drawing this important source to my attention, and permitting use of his PhD dissertation Soldier of the Class War - the life and writing of William E Trautmann, Wayne State University, Detroit, 2000.
4. For the formation of the NZ Federation of Labor, see Erik Olssen, The Red Feds – revolutionary industrial unionism and the NZ Federation of Labour 1908-1913, Auckland 1988. For an important contemporary account, see, Pat Hickey, Red Fed Memoirs – being a brief survey of the birth and growth of the Federation of Labour from 1908 to 1915 and the days immediately preceding it, reprinted Wellington Media Collective, 1980, f.p. 1925
5. Olssen, The Red Feds, p. 34 et passim
6. Emma Goldman, Living My Life vol. 1, Alfred A. Knopf Inc. 1931, Ch. 34
7 Michelle Leggott, The First Life: A Chronology of Lola Ridge’s Australasian Years, 22 April 2006,
8. Erik Olssen, ‘Tom Barker’, NZ Dictionary of Biography, online edition,
9. A. Holdsworth to H. Roth, ‘Biographical notes – Tom Barker’, MS-Papers – 6164-007, Turnbull Library, Wellington
10. Verity Burgmann, Revolutionary Industrial Unionism – the Industrial Workers of the World in Australia, Melbourne 1995, p. 39, 95
11. Holdsworth, ibid.
12. H Roth, ‘New Zealand ‘Wobblies’ – the story of the Industrial Workers of the World’, Here and Now, March 1952, p 6-7
13. Holdsworth, ibid.
14. Ibid.
15. Ibid.
16. William Trautmann, Fifty Years War, p. 158
17. Holdsworth, ibid.
18. ‘Sandwich Islands’, Industrial Unionist, 1 May 1913
19. H. Roth, ‘Biographical notes – Percy Short’, MS-Papers-6164-092, Turnbull Library, Wellington
20. ‘Ki nga kaimahi Maori’, Industrial Unionist, 1 July 1913
21. ‘New Zealand notes’, Industrial Unionist, 1 August 1913
22. Holdsworth, ibid.
23. T. Barker, ‘Around NZ – Organiser’s Notes’, Industrial Unionist, 1 October 1913
24. Ibid.
25. T. Barker, ‘NZ organiser’, Industrial Unionist, 1 November 1913
26. ‘Ki te Iwi Maori Katoa’, Industrial Unionist, 13 November 1913
27. See, eg. Maoriland Worker, 21 September 1921, re departure of former Auckland IWW member Bob Heffron to Australia (where he later became Labor Premier of NSW).
28. H Roth, Trade Unions in New Zealand, AH and AW Reed, 1973, p. 42
29. Leo Woods to H. Roth, ‘Biographical notes – Woods, Leo John,’ MS-Copy-Micro-0714-26, Turnbull Library, Wellington
30. Len Gale, personal communications with author, 2006-7
31. Scott, Alexander, MS-Papers-0209, Turnbull Library, Wellington
32. Len De Caux, Labor Radical – from the Wobblies to the CIO, Beacon Press, Boston, 1970, p. 27
33. L. De Caux to B. Turner, 24 August 1979, MS-Paper-1981, Turnbull Library, Wellington
34. JB Hulbert, ‘The Popular Scapegoat,’ in My Garden and Other Verses, Wellington, 1922
35. Nadine LaHatte (nee Potter), to Mark Derby, email 1 June 2007

PDF Version

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Preamble to the Constitution of the Industrial Workers of the World

The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.

Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.

We find that the centering of the management of industries into fewer and fewer hands makes the trade unions unable to cope with the ever growing power of the employing class. The trade unions foster a state of affairs which allows one set of workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same industry, thereby helping defeat one another in wage wars. Moreover, the trade unions aid the employing class to mislead the workers into the belief that the working class have interests in common with their employers.

These conditions can be changed and the interest of the working class upheld only by an organization formed in such a way that all its members in any one industry, or in all industries if necessary, cease work whenever a strike or lockout is on in any department thereof, thus making an injury to one an injury to all.

Instead of the conservative motto, "A fair day's wage for a fair day's work," we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, "Abolition of the wage system."

It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. The army of production must be organized, not only for everyday struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.

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Monday, 23 September 2013

Chile: Anatomy of an economic miracle, 1970-1986

Human cost: Political prisoner executed after the coup

You know thinking about September 11th reminded me of that rather unpleasant feature of discussing historical criminals. That annoying defender who pipes up to blather on about economic positives and industrial development. For some reason this seems to be general defence of every Dictator and Warlord, from Stalin's Five year plans to Mussolini supposedly getting trains to run on time. When Saddam and Ghadaffi were going to ground plenty of self described lefties were plastering statistics about living standards on every open space on the web. Pinochet is no different, with the exception that it is the self described right wing that spends its time making excuses for murder and torture.

Since Pinochet was an advocate for deregulated capitalism and more then willing to get his hands dirty removing all those annoying protesters and Labour Organisers he's a darling of the Neoliberals the world over. Unfortunately for the Pinochet fan club he's well documented brutality makes it impossible for them to air these views publicly. So instead they do their best to ignore it and talk about the Chilean economy. Understandable really, nothing like boring talk about share prices and interest rate trends to keep you from exploring further. However even on their chosen battlefield the good General fails to deliver.

Though this poor performance is mainly due to the Neoliberals advertising department really, if they'd been more honest and admit their economic reforms were for the benefit of the minority who control economic production and infrastructure then they could easily pin Pinochet's economic record to the wall to marvel at. But since that would kill any popular support they have they have no choice but to keep peddling this myth that Capitalism is good for everyone. Here's an examination of Pinochet's economic miracle.

Article debunking myths about Chilean dictator General Pinochet's supposed "economic miracle."
From Black Flag 216, published in 1999.

Anatomy of an Economic Miracle
With the arrest of General Pinochet, the usual slime of the right pronounced that his dictatorship created an economic "miracle." We will ignore the "ends justify the means" argument along with the question of why these defenders of "liberty" desire to protect a dictator and praise his regime. Here we concentrate on the facts of the "miracle" imposed on the Chilean people.
The actual results of the free market policies introduced by the dictatorship were far less than the "miracle" claimed by the right. The initial effects of introducing free market policies in 1975 was a shock-induced depression which resulted in national output falling buy 15 percent, wages sliding to one-third below their 1970 level and unemployment rising to 20 percent. This meant that, in per capita terms, Chile's GDP only increased by 1.5% per year between 1974-80. This was considerably less than the 2.3% achieved in the 1960's.

Supporters of the "miracle" pointed to the period 1978 to 1981, when the economy grew at 6.6 percent a year. However, this is a case of "lies, damn lies, and statistics" as it does not take into account the catching up an economy goes through as it leaves a recession. If we look at whole business cycle, rather than for the upturn, we find that Chile had the second worse rate of growth in Latin America between 1975 and 1980. The average growth in GDP was 1.5% per year between 1974 and 1982, which was lower than the average Latin American growth rate of 4.3% and lower than the 4.5% of Chile in the 1960's. Between 1970 and 1980, per capita GDP grew by only 8%, while for Latin America as a whole, it increased by 40% and for the years 1980 and 1982 per capita GDP fell by 12.9 percent, compared to a fall of 4.3 percent for Latin America as a whole. In 1982, after 7 years of free market capitalism, Chile faced yet another economic crisis which, in terms of unemployment and falling GDP was even greater than that experienced during the terrible shock treatment of 1975. Real wages dropped sharply, falling in 1983 to 14 percent below what they had been in 1970. Bankruptcies skyrocketed, as did foreign debt. By the end of 1986 Gross Domestic Product per capita barely equalled that of 1970. Between 1970 and 1989, Chile total GDP grew by a lackluster 1.8 to 2.0% a year, slower than most Latin American countries. The high growth, in other words, was a product of the deep recessions that the regime created and, overall, 20 years of free market miracle had .

The working class
By far the hardest group affected by the Pinochet "reforms" was the working class, particularly the urban working class. By 1976, the third year of Junta rule, real wages had fallen to 35% below their 1970 level. It was only by 1981 that they has risen to 97.3% of the 1970 level, only to fall again to 86.7% by 1983. Unemployment, excluding those on state make-work programmes, was 14.8% in 1976, falling to 11.8% by 1980 (this is still double the average 1960's level) only to rise to 20.3% by 1982. By 1986, per capita consumption was actually 11% lower than the 1970 level. Between 1980 and 1988, the real value of wages grew only 1.2 percent while the real value of the minimum wage declined by 28.5 percent. During this period, urban unemployment averaged 15.3 percent per year. In other words, after nearly 15 years of free market capitalism, real wages had still not exceeded their 1970 levels. Moreover, labour's share in the national income fell from 52.3% to 30.7% between 1970 and 1989. In 1995, real wages were still 10% lower than in 1986 and 18% lower than during the Allende period!

The real "Miracle"
However, the other main effect of the Pinochet years was the increased wealth of the elite, and for this that it has been claimed as a "miracle." Between 1970, the richest 10% of the population saw their share in the national income rise from 36.5% in 1980 to 46.8% by 1989 (the bottom 50% saw their share fall from 20.4 to 16.8%). In the words of one of the best known opposition economists, "the Chilean system is easy to understand. Over the past twenty years $60 billion has been transferred from salaries to profits."
Thus the wealth created by the economic growth Chile experienced did not "trickle down" to the working class (as claimed would happen by "free market" capitalist dogma) but instead accumulated in the hands of the rich. Just as it did not in the UK and the USA.
The proportion of the population below the poverty line (the minimum income required for basic food and housing) increased from 20% to 44.4%. On the other hand, while consumption for 80% of Chilean households dropped between 1970 and 1989, it rose from 44.5% to 54.6% for the richest 20% (the poorest 20% suffered the worse drop, from 7.6% to 4.4%, followed by the next 20%, from 11.8% to 8.2%, then the next 20%, 15.6% to 12.7%).

State Aid
The Pincohet's regime support for "free market" capitalism did not prevent it organising a massive bail-out of the economy during the 1982 recession -- yet another example of market discipline for the working class, welfare for the rich. As was the case in the USA and the UK.
The ready police repression (and "unofficial" death squads) made strikes and other forms of protest both impractical and dangerous. The law was also changed to reflect the power property owners have over their wage slaves and the total overhaul of the labour law system which took place between 1979 and 1981 aimed at creating a perfect labour market, eliminating collective bargaining, allowing massive dismissal of workers, increasing the daily working hours up to twelve hours and eliminating the labour courts. Little wonder, then, that this favourable climate for business operations resulted in generous lending by international finance institutions.

Of course, the supporters of the Chilean "Miracle" and its "economic liberty" did not bother to question how the suppression of political liberty effected the economy or how people acted within it. They maintained that the repression of labour, the death squads, the fear installed in rebel workers would be ignored when looking at the economy. But in the real world, people will put up with a lot more if they face the barrel of a gun than if they do not. And this fact explains much of the Chilean "miracle." According to Sergio de Castro, the architect of the economic programme Pinochet imposed, dictatorship was required to introduce "economic liberty" because:
"it provided a lasting regime; it gave the authorities a degree of efficiency that it was not possible to obtain in a democratic regime; and it made possible the application of a model developed by experts and that did not depend upon the social reactions produced by its implementation."
In other words, "economic liberty" required rule by technocrats and the military. The regime's pet "experts" used the Chilean people like laboratory rats in an experiment to make the rich richer. This is the system held up by the right as a "miracle" and an example of "economic liberty." Like the "economic miracle" created by Thatcher, we discover a sharp difference between the facts and the rhetoric. And like Thatcher's regime, it made the rich richer and the poor poorer, a true "miracle."

So, for all but the tiny elite at the top, the Pinochet regime of "economic liberty" was a nightmare. Economic "liberty" only seemed to benefit one group in society, an obvious "miracle." For the vast majority, the "miracle" of economic "liberty" resulted, as it usually does, in increased poverty, unemployment, pollution, crime and social alienation. The irony is that many on the right point to it as a model of the benefits of the free market.

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Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Strange defeat: The Chilean revolution, 1973 - Pointblank!

Well its that time of year again, a time of reflection and remembrance for a dark chapter in the history of the America's. Today is the 11th of September or 9/11 in the American calender, and forty years ago today in Chile the military led by General Augusto Pinochet overthrew their civilian leadership and imposed what the Greeks called a Stratocracy or military Dictatorship. Hardly unique in South America at the time, but what made Pinochets Chile stand out even in such a crowd was his naked brutality.

Workers of my country, I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will overcome this dark and bitter moment when treason seeks to prevail. Keep in mind that, much sooner than later, the great avenues will again be opened through which will pass free men to construct a better society. Long live Chile! Long live the people! Long live the workers
Much of the narrative surrounding 1973 states that the Chilean wealthy frightened by Allende's socialism turned to the Officers of the armed forces for salvation. These officers received support and assistance from the CIA as the US Government were worried about Allende's links to Castro and American companies were worried about losing property to Allende's nationalisation programs.

This is fairly accurate, Allende did resetablish diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1971 and host Fidel Castro for a month that year, and he definitely enjoyed the support of the Chilean Communist Party and a friend of the Soviet Union, he received the Lenin Peace Prize and had meetings with the Soviet government and intelligence service. Though as with Cuba direct Soviet investment came after the United States cut its previous commitments. American companies would have lost some property under his nationalization project, in particular Copper mining companies and the ITT corporation.

But it's leaving out a big piece of the puzzle, at the same time Allende became president the Chilean Labour movement was very close to establishing a social revolution. Workers organisations including armed militia's were springing up throughout the country. Allende despite being a member of the Socialist Party of Chile and working within an electoral alliance of most of the left wing parties wasn't exactly thrilled about the writhing masses and actively moved against them. In one especially poor move he disarmed the workers militia's whom would have been useful in September 73.

As a result the army was free to take the streets and launch an offensive on the entire Chilean working class in the cities and countryside. Below is a contemporary article by the Situationists (French ultra-communists who inspired the stereotype of the Communist intellectual/artist) detailing the political context of the Coup.
Text on Chile 1973: Strange Defeat by Point Blank
An article by Situationist group Pointblank! written in October 1973 about the coup in Chile which deposed elected left-wing leader Salvador Allende.
Instead of blaming the right and the CIA for the coup like most commentators on the left, Pointblank! point out the role that Allende and the parties of the left played in demobilising the powerful working class, undermining their strength and eventually signing their own death warrants by refusing to arm them

In the spectacular arena of current events recognised as "news," the funeral of social democracy in Chile has been orchestrated as high drama by those who understand the rise and fall of governments most intuitively: other specialists of power. The last scenes in the Chilean script have been written in various political camps in accordance with the requirements of particular ideologies. Some have come to bury Allende, some to praise him. Still others claim an ex post facto knowledge of his errors. Whatever the sentiments expressed, these obituaries have been written long in advance. The organisers of "public opinion" can only react reflexively and with a characteristic distortion of the events themselves.

As the respective blocs of world opinion "choose sides," the Chilean tragedy is reproduced as farce on an international scale; the class struggles in Chile are dissimulated as a pseudo-conflict between rival ideologies. In the discussions of ideology nothing will be heard from those for whom the "socialism" of the Allende regime was supposedly intended: the Chilean workers and peasants. Their silence has been ensured not only by those who machine-gunned them in their factories, fields, and houses, but by those who claimed (and continue to claim) to represent their "interests." In spite of a thousand misrepresentations, however, the forces that were involved in the "Chilean experiment" have not yet played themselves out. Their real content will be established only when the forms of their interpretation have been demystified.

Above all else, Chile has fascinated the so-called Left in every country. And in documenting the atrocities of the current junta, each party and sect attempts to conceal the stupidities of its previous analyses. From the bureaucrats-in-power in Moscow, Peking, and Havana to the bureaucrats-in-exile of the Trotskyist movements, a liturgical chorus of leftist pretenders offer their post-mortem assessments of Chile, with conclusions as predictable as their rhetoric. The differences between them are only ones of hierarchical nuance; they share a Leninist terminology which expresses 50 years of counterrevolution throughout the world.

The Stalinist parties of the West and the "socialist" states quite rightly view the defeat of Allende as their defeat: he was one of their own - a man of State. With the false logic which is an essential mechanism of their power, those who know so much about State and (the defeat of) Revolution decry the overthrow of a constitutional, bourgeois regime. For their part, the "left" importers of Trotskyism and Maoism can only lament the absence of a 'vanguard party' - the deus ex machina of senile Bolshevism - in Chile. Those who have inherited the defeat of revolutionary Kronstadt and Shanghai know whereof they speak: the Leninist project requires the absolute imposition of a deformed "class consciousness" (the consciousness of a bureaucratic ruling class) upon those who in their designs are only "the masses."

The dimensions of the "Chilean Revolution" lie outside the constraints of any particular doctrine. While the "anti-imperialists" of the world denounce - from a safe distance - the all-too-convenient bogeyman of the CIA, the real reasons for the defeat of the Chilean proletariat must be sought elsewhere. Allende the martyr was the same Allende who disarmed the workers' militias of Santiago and Valparaiso in the weeks before the coup and left them defenceless before the military whose officers were already in his cabinet. These actions cannot simply be explained as "class-collaboration" or as a "sellout." The conditions for the strange defeat of the Unidad Popular were prepared long in advance. The social contradictions that emerged in the streets and fields of Chile during August and September were not simply divisions between "Left" and "Right" but involved a contradiction between the Chilean proletariat and the politicians of all parties, including those that posed as the most "revolutionary." In an "underdeveloped" country, a highly developed class struggle had arisen which threatened the positions of all those who wished to maintain underdevelopment, whether economically through continued imperialist domination, or politically through the retardation of an authentic proletarian power in Chile.

Everywhere, the expansion of capital creates its apparent opposite in the form of nationalist movements which seek to appropriate the means of production "on behalf" of the exploited and thereby appropriate social and political power for themselves. Imperialism's extraction of surplus has its political and social consequences, not only in enforced poverty of those who must become its workers, but in the secondary role allotted to the local bourgeoisie, which is incapable of establishing its complete hegemony over society. It is precisely this vacuum which the "national liberation" movements seek to occupy, thereby assuming the managerial role unfulfilled by the dependent bourgeoisie. This process has taken many forms - from the religious xenophobia of Khadafi to the bureaucratic religion of Mao - but in each instance, the marching orders of "anti-imperialism" are the same, and those who give them are in identical positions of command.

The imperialist distortion of the Chilean economy provided an opening for a popular movement which aimed at establishing a national capital base. However, Chile's relatively advanced economic status precluded the kind of bureaucratic development which has come to power by force of arms in other areas of the "Third World" (a term which has been used to conceal the real class divisions in those countries). The fact that the "progressive" Unidad Popular was able to achieve an electoral victory as a reformist coalition was a reflection of the peculiar social structure in Chile, which was in many respects similar to those in advanced capitalist countries. At the same time, capitalist industrialisation created the conditions for the possible supersession of this bureaucratic alternative in the form of a rural and urban proletariat which emerged as the most important class and one with revolutionary aspirations. In Chile, both Christian and Social Democrats were to prove to be the opponents of any radical solution to existing problems.

Until the advent of the UP coalition, the contradictions on the Chilean Left between a radical base of workers and peasants and its so-called political "representatives" remained to a large extent latent antagonisms. The leftist parties were able to organise a popular movement solely on the basis of the foreign threat posed by American capital. The Communists and Socialists were able to sustain their image as authentic nationalists under Christian Democratic rule because Frei's "Chileanisation" program (which included a policy of agrarian reform that Allende was later to consciously emulate) was explicitly connected to the American-sponsored "Alliance for Progress." The official Left was able to construct its own alliance within Chile in opposing, not reformism itself, but a reformism with external ties. Even given its moderate nature, the opposition program of the Chilean Left was only adopted after the militant strike activity of the 1960s - organised independently of the parties - threatened the existence of the Frei regime.

The succeeding UP was to move into a space opened up by the radical actions of the Chilean workers and peasants; it imposed itself as an institutionalised representation of proletarian causes to the extent that it was able to recuperate them. In spite of the extremely radical nature of many of the earlier strike actions (which included factory occupations and the workers' administration of several industrial plants, most notably at COOTRALACO), the practice of the Chilean proletariat lacked a corresponding theoretical or organisational expression, and this failure to affirm its autonomy left it open to the manipulations of the politicians. Despite this, the battle between reform and revolution was far from having been decided.

The election of the freemason Allende, although it in no way meant that the workers and peasants had established their own power, nonetheless intensified the class struggle occurring throughout Chile. Contrary to the UP's assertions that the working class had won a major "victory," both the proletariat and its enemies were to continue their battle outside conventional parliamentary channels. Although Allende constantly assured the workers that they were both engaged in a "common struggle," he revealed the true nature of his socialism-by-decree at the beginning of his tenure when he signed the Estatuto, which formally guaranteed that he would faithfully respect the bourgeois constitution. Having come to power on the basis of a "radical" program, the UP was to come into conflict with a growing revolutionary current at its base. When the Chilean proletariat showed that it was prepared to take the slogans of the UP program literally - slogans that amounted only to empty rhetoric and unfulfilled promises on the part of the bureaucratic coalition - and put them into practice, the contradictions between the content and form of the Chilean revolution became apparent. The workers and peasants of Chile were beginning to speak and act for themselves.

For all his "Marxism," Allende was never more than an administrator of state intervention in a capitalist economy. Allende's etatisme - a form of state capitalism that has accompanied the rise of all administrators of underdevelopment - was itself not more than a quantitative extension of Christian Democratic policies. In nationalising the copper mines and other industrial sectors, Allende continued the centralisation initiated under the control of the Chilean state apparatus - a centralisation initiated by the Left's "archenemy" Frei. Allende, in fact, was forced into nationalising certain concerns because they had been spontaneously occupied by their workers. In forestalling the workers' self-management of industry by defusing these occupations, Allende actively opposed the establishment of socialist relations of production. As a result of his actions, the Chilean workers only exchanged one set of bosses for another: the government bureaucracy, instead of Kennecott or Anaconda, directed their alienated labour. This change in appearances could not conceal the fact that Chilean capitalism was perpetuating itself. From the profits extracted by multinational corporations to the "five-year plans" of international Stalinism, the accumulation of capital is an accumulation always made at the expense of the proletariat.

That governments and social revolutions have nothing in common was demonstrated in rural areas as well. In contrast to the bureaucratic administration of "agrarian reform" which was inherited and continued by the Allende regime, the spontaneous armed seizures of large estates offered a revolutionary answer to the "land question." For all the efforts of the CORA (the central agrarian reform agency) to prevent these expropriations through the mediation of "peasant cooperatives" (asentamientos), the peasants' direct action went beyond such illusory forms of "participation." Many of the fundo takeovers were legitimised by the government only after pressure from the campesinos made it impossible to do otherwise. Recognising that such actions called into question its own authority as well as that of the landowners, the UP never missed an opportunity to denounce "indiscriminate" expropriations and to call for a "slow-down."

The autonomous actions of the rural and urban proletariat formed the basis for the development of a movement significantly to the left of the Allende government. At the same time, this movement provided yet another occasion for a political representation to impose itself on the realities of the Chilean class struggle. This role was assumed by the Guevarist militants of the MIR [Left Revolutionary Movement] and its rural counterpart, the MCR, both of which succeeded in recuperating many of the radical achievements of the workers and peasants. The Miristas slogan of "armed struggle" and their obligatory refusal of electoral politics were merely pro forma gestures: shortly after the 1970 election, an elite corps of the ex-urban guerrillas of MIR became Allende's personally selected palace guard. The ties that bound the MIR-MCR to the UP went beyond purely tactical considerations - both had common interests to defend. Despite MIR's revolutionary posturing, it acted according to the UP's bureaucratic exigencies: whenever the government was in trouble, the adjutants of MIR would rally its militants around the UP banner. If the MIR failed to be the "vanguard" of the Chilean proletariat, it was not because it wasn't enough of a vanguard, but because its strategy was resisted by those whom it tried to manipulate.

Right-wing activity in Chile increased, not in response to any governmental decrees, but because of the direct threat posed by the independence of the proletariat. In the face of mounting economic difficulties, the UP could only talk of "rightist sabotage" and the obstinacy of a "workers' aristocracy." For all the impotent denunciations of the government, these "difficulties" were social problems that could only be solved in a radical way through the establishment of a revolutionary power in Chile. In spite of its claim to "defend the rights of the workers," the Allende government proved to be an impotent bystander in the class struggle unfolding outside of formal political structures. It was the workers and peasants themselves who took the initiative against the reaction and in so doing created new and radical forms of social organisation, forms which expressed a highly-developed class consciousness. After the bosses' strike in October 1972, the workers did not wait for the UP to intervene, but actively occupied the factories and started up production on their own, without state or trade union "assistance." Cordones industriales, which controlled and coordinated the distribution of products and organised armed defence against the employers, were formed in the factory complexes. Unlike the "popular assemblies" promised by the UP, which only existed on paper, the cordones were set up by the workers themselves. In their structure and functioning, these committees - along with the rural consejos -were the first manifestations of a councilist tendency and as such constituted the most important contribution to the development of a revolutionary situation in Chile.

A similar situation existed in the neighbourhoods, where the inefficient, government-controlled "supply boards" (JAPs) were bypassed in the proclamations of "self-governing neighbourhoods" and the organisation of commandos comunales by the residents. Despite their infiltration by the fidelistas of MIR, these armed expropriations of social space formed the point of departure for an authentic proletarian power. For the first time, people who had previously been excluded from participation in social life were able to make decisions concerning the most basic realities of their daily lives. The men, women, and youth of the poblaciones discovered that revolution was not a matter for the ballot box; whatever the quarters were called--New Havana, Heroic Vietnam--what went on inside them had nothing to do with the alienated landscapes of their namesakes.

Although the achievements that were realised by popular initiative were considerable, a third force capable of posing a revolutionary alternative to the government and the reactionaries never fully emerged. The workers and peasants failed to extend their conquests to the point of replacing the Allende regime with their own power. Their supposed "ally," the MIR, used its talk of opposing burocratismo with the "armed masses" as a mask for its own intrigues. In its Leninist scheme, the cordones were seen as "forms of struggle" that would prepare the way for future, less "restricted" organisational models, whose leadership would be supplied by the MIR, no doubt.

For all its concern over the right-wing plots that menaced its existence, the government restrained the workers from taking positive action to resolve the class struggle in Chile. In so doing, the initiative passed from the workers' hands into the government's, and in allowing itself to be out-manoeuvred, the Chilean proletariat paved the way for its future defeat. In response to Allende's pleas after the abortive coup of June 29, the workers occupied additional factories, only to close ranks behind the forces that would disarm them a month later. These occupations remained defined by the UP and its intermediaries in the national trade union, the CUT, who kept the workers isolated from each other by barricading them inside the factories. In such a situation, the proletariat was powerless to carry on any independent struggle, and once the Weapons Act had been signed, its fate was sealed. Like the Spanish Republicans who denied arms to the anarchist militias on the Aragon front, Allende was not prepared to tolerate the existence of an armed proletarian force outside his own regime. All the conspiracies of the Right would not have lasted a day if the Chilean workers and peasants had been armed and had organised their own militias. Although the MIR protested against the entry of the military into the government, they, like their predecessors in Uruguay, the Tupamaros, only talked of arming the workers and had little to do with the resistance that took place. The workers' slogan, "A disarmed people is a defeated people" was to find its bitter truth in the slaughter of workers and peasants that followed the military coup.

Allende was overthrown, not because of his reforms, but because he was unable to control the revolutionary movement which spontaneously developed at the base of the UP. The junta which installed itself in his position clearly perceived the threat of revolution and set about eliminating it with all the means at its disposal. It was no accident that the strongest resistance to the dictatorship occurred in those areas where the power of the workers had advanced the furthest. In the Sumar Textile Plant and in Concepcion, for instance, the junta was forced to liquidate this power by means of air strikes. As a result of Allende's policies, the military was able to have a free hand in finishing what it had begun under the UP government: Allende was as responsible as Pinochet for the mass murders of workers and peasants in Santiago, Valparaiso, Antofogasta and the provinces. Perhaps the most revealing of all the ironies inherent in the UP's downfall is that while many of Allende's supporters did not survive the coup, many of his reforms did. So little meaning was left to political categories that the junta's new Foreign Minister could describe himself as a "socialist."

Radical movements are underdeveloped to the extent that they respect alienation and surrender their power to external forces instead of creating it for themselves. In Chile, the revolutionaries hastened the day of their own Thermidor by letting "representatives" speak and act on their behalf: although parliamentary authority had been effectively replaced by the cordones, the workers did not go beyond these conditions of dual power and abolish the bourgeois State and the parties that maintained it. If the future struggles in Chile are to advance, the enemies within the workers' movement must be overcome practically; the councilist tendencies in the factories, neighbourhoods, and fields will be everything or nothing. All the vanguard parties that will continue to pass themselves off as the "workers' leadership" - whether they be the MIR, a clandestine CP, or any other underground splinter groups - can only repeat the betrayals of the past. Ideological imperialism must be confronted as radically as economic imperialism has been expropriated; the workers and peasants can depend only on themselves to advance beyond what the cordones industriales have already accomplished.
Comparisons between the Chilean experience and the 1936 Spanish Revolution are already being made, and not only here - one finds strange words coming from Trotskyists in praise of workers' militias which fought against all forms of hierarchy. While it is true that a radical third force did emerge in Chile, it did so only tentatively. Unlike the Spanish proletariat, the Chilean revolutionaries never created an entirely new kind of society on the basis of councilist organisation, and the Chilean Revolution will only succeed if these forms (cordones, comandos) are capable of establishing their social hegemony. The obstacles to their development are similar to those that were confronted in Spain: the Spanish councils and militias faced two enemies in the form of Fascism and the Republican government, while the Chilean workers face international capitalism and the manipulators of social-democracy and Leninism.

From the favelas of Brazil to the labour camps of Cuba, the proletariat of the Caribbean, the proletariat of Latin America has maintained a continual offensive against all those who seek to maintain present conditions.

In its struggle, the proletariat is faced with various caricatures of revolution which masquerade as its allies. These travesties have in turn encountered a false movement of so-called "ultra-left" opposition. Thus, the ex-fascist Peron prepares to construct a corporate state in Argentina, this time in a leftist guise, while the Trotskyist commandos of the ERP denounce him for not being "revolutionary" enough, and the ex-guerrillero Castro berates all those who fail to meet the standards of "communist" discipline. History will not fail to dissolve the power of these idiots.

A conspiracy of tradition - with agents on both the Left and the Right - ensures that existing reality is always presented in terms of false alternatives. The only choices acceptable to Power are those between competing hierarchies: the colonels of Peru or the generals of Brazil, the armies of the Arab states or those of Israel. These antagonisms only express divisions within global capitalism, and any genuinely revolutionary alternative will have to be established since it is nowhere in power in Latin America or anywhere else, and this powerlessness constantly impels it to new actions. The Chilean workers are not alone in their opposition to the forces of counter-revolution; the revolutionary movement that began in Mexico with Villa's guerrilla bands has not yet come to an end. In the armed workers' militias that fought in the streets of Santo Domingo in 1965, the urban insurrection in Cordoba, Argentina in 1969, and the recent strikes and occupations in Bolivia and Uruguay, the spontaneous revolt of workers and students in Trinidad in 1970, and the continuing revolutionary crisis is itself over the ruins of these spectacular conflicts. The combined lies of bourgeois and bureaucratic power must be confronted by a revolutionary truth in arms, all over the world as in Chile. There can be no "socialism in one country," or in one factory or district. Revolution is an international task which can only be solved on an international level - it does not recognise continental frontiers. Like any revolution, the Chilean Revolution requires the success of similar movements in other areas. Everywhere, in the wildcat strikes in the United States and West Germany, the factory occupations in France, and in civil insurrections in the USSR, the foundations for a new world are being laid. Those who recognise themselves in this global movement must seize the opportunity to extend it with all the subversive weapons at their disposal.
By Situationist group Pointblank! in October 1973

Text taken and edited for UK spelling by
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