Workers' International Industrial Union

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The Workers' International Industrial Union (WIIU) was a Revolutionary Industrial Union active in the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia. A revived version of the original WIIU was launched in the United States in 2009.

The Socialist Labor Party of America (SLP), which had helped to found the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in Chicago, also formed the first IWW branches in Australia.[1] The SLP withdrew from the IWW in 1908, primarily over the IWW's rejection of political action as a means, when coupled with economic organization, to emancipate the working class from wage slavery.[2][3]

The WIIU was founded in Detroit in 1908 by unions who broke with the original IWW over the question of political action. This group also adopted the name Industrial Workers of the World, but it changed its name to Workers' International Industrial Union in 1915.[4]

History[edit]

Daniel DeLeon — published in Revolutionary Radicalism (a government publication)

Unions that broke with the IWW over the question of political action formed their own industrial union organization, calling it by the same name, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). The original, Chicago IWW began to refer to itself as the Red IWW, and to the group advocating political action coupled with economic organization (the Detroit IWW) as the Yellow IWW.[5] The Detroit IWW renamed itself the Workers' International Industrial Union (WIIU) in 1915, a year after De Leon's death.[6]

The Detroit IWW (which became the WIIU) created an industrial union structure that was similar to that of the IWW.[7] The split between the Chicago IWW and the Detroit IWW was replicated in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Britain.[8]

Unlike the IWW, which from 1908 onwards constitutionally restricted itself from political alliances, the WIIU advocated political associations, and maintained a close association with the SLP, although (as of 1922) it declined to openly affirm this association.[9] Robert Hoxie, author of Trade Unionism in the United States, referred to the Detroit IWW as socialistic, and the Chicago IWW as quasi anarchistic.[10]

WIIU called for a general lockout of the capitalist class. Instead of leaving means of production to the capitalists and their scabs, the WIIU calls for workers to take possession of the means of production and begin operating them in the interests of society.[11]

The WIIU was criticized for focusing more on propaganda than on organizing workers.[7] From 1908 to 1922, the relationship between the IWW and the WIIU was characterized as "bitter".[7]

The WIIU gained the affiliation of DeLeon's Socialist Labor Party (SLP) and the British Advocates of Industrial Unionism - although a small group remaining aligned to the original IWW left to form the Industrialist League - and a small section of former Wobblies in Australia which included James Arthur Dawson.[12]

The WIIU shared much of its membership with the SLP, and struggled after DeLeon's death in 1914. It was invited to attend the first conference of the Comintern in 1919, but did not affiliate. The WIIU never did conduct a strike of any importance.[13] In 1916, the WIIU claimed a membership of 2,500, while its rival, the Industrial Workers of the World, claimed a total membership of 70,000.[14] By the 1920s the WIIU was practically - and kindly - overlooked; where it was noticed it was criticized sharply, a ghost from a much more hazy past. The organization was finally disbanded in 1925.[4]

Publications[edit]

The WIIU produced a periodical called the Daily People, which in January, 1912, was replaced by the Industrial Union News.[15][16]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Verity Burgmann, Revolutionary industrial unionism, 1995, pages 12–15.
  2. ^ Fred W. Thompson, Patrick Murfin, The IWW: Its First Seventy Years, 1905-1975, 1976, pages 37–40.
  3. ^ Verity Burgmann, Revolutionary industrial unionism, 1995, page 14.
  4. ^ a b Fred W. Thompson, Patrick Murfin, The IWW: Its First Seventy Years, 1905-1975, 1976, pages 38–40.
  5. ^ An Alphabet Soup - the IWW Union Dictionary, IWW website, http://www.iww.org/culture/official/dictionary retrieved March 20, 2009.
  6. ^ Verity Burgmann, Revolutionary industrial unionism, 1995, page 256.
  7. ^ a b c Marion Dutton Savage, Industrial Unionism in America, 1922, page 173.
  8. ^ Verity Burgmann, The IWW in International Perspective: comparing the North American and Australasian Wobblies, Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, 2007, http://www.historycooperative.org/proceedings/asslh2/burgmann.html retrieved March 22, 2009.
  9. ^ Marion Dutton Savage, Industrial Unionism in America, 1922, page 175.
  10. ^ Robert Franklin Hoxie, Lucy Bennett Hoxie, Nathan Fine, Trade Unionism in the United States, D. Appleton and Co., 1921, page 49.
  11. ^ Revolutionary Radicalism, New York (State) Legislature, Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities, Clayton Riley, page 908.
  12. ^ Steven Wright, (1980), Left communism in Australia. Left-dis.nl. Retrieved on 2013-08-23.
  13. ^ Philip Sheldon Foner, History of the labor movement in the United States, 1980, 4th edition, page 110.
  14. ^ The American labor year book, Volume 1, Rand School of Social Science, Dept. of Labor Research, New York City, 1916, pages 36–38
  15. ^ Marion Dutton Savage, Industrial Unionism in America, 1922, page 190.
  16. ^ Paul Frederick Brissenden, The I.W.W. A Study of American Syndicalism, Columbia University, 1919, page 230