1. We are IWW fundamentalists. The organization of the IWW comes from the concrete experiences of workers. To simply write off experiences inside or outside the IWW is to ignore vital lessons. Failures and successes need to be soberly and collectively accounted for, not dismissed as the result of ‘exogenous variables’. Our failures are our own, but so too, are our successes.
2. We are here to do the IWW’s Work; no more, no less. This doesn’t mean that other work is unimportant. But a tool is most effective when it is tailored to a particular use. We’re in the I.W.W. because we know that politics in our society is a reflection of the battle between workers and capitalists; and if we want to organize and educate workers, there is no better place to start than the workplace.
3. We stand for industrial organizing. Alone, workers have no power, but together, we have all the power in the world. Industrial organizing links all the workers under one employer and across multiple employers in the same industry. This provides the maximum ability to disrupt production and distribution, and therefore maximizes our power. This also pushes for the radical integration of the working class across lines of race or gender. Finally, industrial organizing puts us on a more advantageous terrain than many other unions who undercut the bargaining power of their own members by splitting organizing along arbitrary lines.
4. The General Membership Branch (GMB) and Brand organizing models are dead ends and need to be scrapped for industrial models. General Membership Branches (GMBs) disperse both union resources and responsibility. GMB’s are not formally accountable to the broader organization, and neither are their failures or the resources they waste. We argue that the industrial model ought to gather the resources of members and democratically identify weak points in an industry to build our forces. A hammer and a nail function well because they concentrate a high amount of force on one very small point, maximizing the impact of that force. It is through the methodical driving of nails that the frames of buildings are built. The same is true for building an effective union. The purpose of organization is to amplify and concentrate the resources of the members so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
5. Localism and activism in the IWW is a detriment to building working class power. General Membership Branches also encourage activism. When the isolated campaigns which GMB’s take on inevitably fail, members look for some short cut to revitalization – Earth First!, Food Not Bombs, Pacifism, Anti-Globalisation, Antifa, etc. These might bring in some new members for a while, but ultimately they are no substitute for a winning model of union organization. Without organization at work, political problems facing workers cannot be adequately addressed; and if we can’t adequately address these political problems, inviting workers to join on that basis is dishonest.
6. The abolition of wage labor means the abolition of the existing order. We don’t want to manage a ‘better’ capitalism. We want to collectively plan production and distribution for all. Cooperatives provide glimpses of a better world, but without the working class taking over society, they only treat the symptoms, not the whole disease.
7. We are radical integrationists. The aim of the I.W.W. is to unite the working class in open cooperation against the capitalist class. That means that we must defy the ruling myths of the capitalist class; whether religious, ethnic, racial, or gendered, which seek to endear workers to their exploiters. We see the union as the first place to build the type of integrated working class community we want to see advance against capitalism.
8. Strategy is as vital as tactics. The I.W.W. has a recent habit of making tactics a matter of principle. For example; the general strike is the only way to stop capitalism; face-to-face dues collection is the only principled way to collect dues; volunteer labor is the only principled way to conduct union organizing. Each of these is not a principle, but a tactic. Principles are fundamental truths about the world based on observation. Tactics are methods deployed to accomplish relatively discrete aims. Tactics aim to confront the problems we face in accordance with our principles. Finally, strategy is how we fit together a series of tactics and maneuvers to accomplish a given goal. The I.W.W. has developed effective tactics for building workplace committees over the past 10 years or so. But it has failed to fit these tactics into an overarching strategy resulting in quantifiable and consistent results. Strategy is the ‘what we want’ question while tactics (in their combinations as suggested by the strategy chosen) are ‘how we will get what we want’. If we want stable industrial unions of thousands of workers committed to I.W.W. principles, then we must begin to put together tactics of organizing which will accomplish that strategic end.
Below are aims which our caucus seeks to accomplish. Put simply, these are tasks that we would like to see completed as quickly as possible. A core part of the work of this caucus will be gathering and mobilizing member support for these efforts, either as resolutions and amendments, or coordinating members to volunteer the labor. We’re aware that many of these are under way, and so our purpose is to call attention to these efforts in the hopes of convincing our fellow workers help out and vote “yes” when the time comes.
1. Streamline Administrative work
a) Make dues collection and signup online-subscription-based. Reform the delegate system as front-line volunteer organizers and stewards based in the workplace and industries.
b) Implement an online reporting database for officers, committees, locals and unions.
c) Pay competent, professional service providers for these ends. The need for consistent and competent administration is too important to be based on outdated methods.
2. Pay the GEB Chair and establish a timeline to begin stipending and then paying GEB members:
a) Outline a growth model that factors in costs, for example once we hit x number of members we can afford to pay a wage to the GEB member.
b) GEB members should rep I.U.s, not general membership. They receive funding as their respective I.U.s get organized enough to pay their representatives on the board. Convention represents the general membership.
3. Create an Education Department:
a) Administration Training(s) to help the union develop administrative capabilities for organizing campaigns. All officers must attend these administrative training(s).
b) Convert the organizer training into two separate training(s): one a program for member-organizers (like the OT 101) and another for a core of paid, outside organizer-trainers, recruited from the shop floor.
c) Implement a New Member Orientation.
4. Establish the Industrial Worker magazine as a website publication:
a) Outline a business plan to take the publication to self-sufficiency. This includes identifying revenue streams and tailoring costs so that the paper becomes a source of union income and pride.
b) Outline an editorial line, for example: The I.W. ought to be a publication dealing with all things U.S. Labor related and socialist politics related; it should not ignore the work of other unions or groups; it should open its doors to debate from outsiders and encourage our members to hone their skills in argument against people with different viewpoints. This will make it vital reading beyond the membership, and encourage non-member subscriptions.
c) Hiring a full-time editor and designer as the crucial priority upon the publication becoming financially stable.
5. Put the Organizing Department to Work: Hire a General Organizer:
a) Develop Industrial Steering Committees which must put forward actionable organizing proposals which leverage collective resources to target winnable organizing drives.
b) Establish timeline to hire a General Organizer on the basis of successful Industrial Organizing Proposals.
c) Set the Department to work by creating policy where Industrial Union Steering Committees must research, plan, and propose industrial campaigns in areas of the country. The General Organizer is hired by the elected board and must execute any organizing drive in conjunction with the respective Industrial Union to which the Board and GO assign the GO.
6. Outline a vision for Industrial Unionism in the 21st Century:
The Board ought to advise and help the development of above proposals by establishing clear guidelines for Organizing Proposals. This must be done in conjunction with Industrial Steering Committees. Immediate tasks include:
a) Developing an organizing model which spells out a clear path to building stable industrial unions on I.W.W. principles. This includes key strategic concepts employing tactics like Wobbly agreements and leverage which help us establish beachheads in industries as a means for further growth.
b) Developing a model contract based on Wobbly principles. This includes rejecting the following; management rights’ clauses, no-strike clauses, and work-now-grieve later provisions. This should eventually be drafted into an ‘I.W.W. Platform’ which distills our principles and our approach to organizing in the workplace serves both public agitation and education purposes as well as concrete guidelines for I.U.s
7. Integrate Defense Work
a) Make defense work the exclusive purview of a members-only-committee of the union, eliminate separate locals, and grandfather in eligible members at their current GDC dues rates for one-year. The I.W.W. needs to focus on organizing workers at work. It is on the basis of workers organized into effective class struggle unions that fascists and the right wing has been beaten back in any effective way historically, and that is how they will be defeated today. The best defense is a good offense.
2 thoughts on “Aims and Principles”
So my initial thoughts – focus on industrial unionism as primary, transitioning GMBs/brand organzing model is right on, as is the critique of activism, and automatic dues collection. These should be IWW common sense and I think could be quickly, and beneficially (they are in many ways already).
I feel however that in a lot of ways this is shifting us to paid organizer model which experiments with have not been particularly promising, and also, without other structural changes is very likely to continue the shift of power in the organization away from the membership and to a small number of national officers. Right now 50 people run the national union – and everyone misses out of a whole realm and range of communication and ideas that they should be in on if there were better structures in place.
Failing to do so is a big problem in that it fails to truly activate and align our people power – which is our true power, not our number of paid staffers. I also think our culture of overwork/overcommitment can be better addressed through cultural change and a shift to IU approaches that transform GMBs, ODB, Convention, etc. Will post a set of ideas below as well – in a way of combining regional frameworks and IU focus, but not completely formed. That said, I think we are not far from creating a true vision for the future of the IWW’s industrial unionism!
A – Having regions elect ODB officers and have them be Industry specific (as well as electing a general organizer), connecting nationally on that basis to create IU support networks
B – Requiring branches to identify or choose industrial focuses as part of Regional Gatherings.
C – Having Industrial Groupings receive delegates from Branches regionally or to national convention as per the size groupings mentioned: such that instead of having four delegates to the Midwest Region Twin Cities would have one education delegate, one IWOC delegate, one transport delegate, and one general delegate (or whatever!).
D – Creating proto-IUBs as delegates from sufficiently large groupings (10+ members) in every location, as IWOC is doing (any IWOC group with 10 members gets a delegate on the Steering Committee of our proto-Industrial Union’s Steering Committee). Combine with regional ODB supports to create even stronger and more grounded industrial skeletons, and another layer of overlapping support for successful organizing work.
E – Allowing at large members to affiliate with Industrial groupings regionally and to have a dues split into the proto-IUs to focus more resources into IU building, as Starbucks Campaign had and as IWOC is requesting this Convention – building regionally and industrially at once!
F – Mandating Industrial Breakouts at Regional Assemblies and Conventions, and making organizing a crucial part of any regional meet ups that happen regarding the business so far discussed in this proposal
Thanks for putting this together and look forward to continuing the conversation. db – dboehnke – gmail
ps – I also think you should reconsider the use of the term “integrationist” – as for many people it stinks of assimilationism into the system or a left group rather than what you intend. Also, more clarity on your position around defense work – which in its GDC form is actually increasingly tied to workplaces, could be helpful.
“a) Make defense work the exclusive purview of a members-only-committee of the union, eliminate separate locals, and grandfather in eligible members at their current GDC dues rates for one-year. The I.W.W. needs to focus on organizing workers at work. It is on the basis of workers organized into effective class struggle unions that fascists and the right wing has been beaten back in any effective way historically, and that is how they will be defeated today. The best defence is a good offense.”
I strongly disagree with this, The GDC model has it has currently evolved has created strong, well organized groups that do important community organizing. Making the GDC the security-defense agency of the IWW is a mistake.