Some questions on the… that needs looking at….

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The Emma Goldman Papers
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Oct. 21, 2010, 10:56 a.m. (view history)

Some questions on the Industrial Workers of the World

What exactly did Elizabeth Gurley Flynn do to make sure she,Tresca etc were not put in the dock with all the other 150+defendants? More especially what was her relationship with President Wilson?

I am beginning to think that we make a mistake seeing the IWW as a a functioning organisation.I know that ,with the creation of the General Executive Board, Bill Haywood and others wished to see the IWW develop as a "democratic centralist'? organisation , but I am not sure that it did.All this is important when we come to look at the IWW and its response to American involvement in World War One.After all it was the IWW who took the brunt of  government repression.

At their Tenth Convention in Chicago November 20th -December 1st 1916 the convention agreed that " We condemn all wars, and for the prevention of such,we proclaim the anti-militarist propaganda in time of peace, thus promoting Class Solidarity among the workers of the entire world, and, in times of war, the General Strike in all industries." Interestingly, this was a declaration-NOT a motion.

From early 1917, though, there is little evidence,in written form,that the IWW,nationally,launched a campaign to challenge the growing threat of American involvement in World War 1.Other organizations did.Certainly a few IWW members were arrested for protesting America's growing ,possible involvement but these were very localized incidents as far as we can tell.

There were two papers published by the IWW at this time."Solidarity" and "Industrial Worker". How far they represented IWW policy(if there was such a thing )we will have to determine.Solidarity certainly contains anti war statements and articles between January and May 1917.That said they are a small part of the news in the paper and anti war articles are a minor part of the papers content.Articles arguing war appear on February 17, 1917, February 24 1917,March 31 1917 (the article criticizes those members of the SPA who have come out as supporters of the war-Russell, Walling etc),two articles on May 12th where the paper states that the IWW is "unalterably opposed to war and conscription".There is also a pseudo advertisement "Soldiers Wanted" in the issue of  May 26th.

It is the whole question of the IWW and conscription that needs looking at....Was it a matter of individual conscience? Were IWW members instructed not to join  the forces....