…Apparently heading toward the graveyard that seems to await all clique ridden American radical bodies. But the death notices were premature. The brawls were among and between trade unionists and Socialists, and the IWW’s future, it turned out, linked to neither group. It belonged to a rank-and-file membership that was already formulating surprise tactics and showing plenty of vigor.
In Schenectady, New York, for example, IWW led strikers in a General Electric plant protested the firing of three draftsmen by staying at their machines for sixty-five hours, a use of the sit-down strike thirty years before it was introduced by the auto workers as a radical measure during the Great Depression.
A turning point came in the fourth convention of 1908, where the “direct action group” , a second split that importantly gave the organization over to what were called soapbox singers and bums, brothers in idealism who were poor in all things save “long experience in the struggle with the employer.” They were to break from past labor practices and give the IWW its true inwardness and dynamism; to fit in with its unique costume and role in history.
…No greater contrast in the history of labor could be drawn than the one between the inclusive, democratic, revolutionary IWW and the AFL-CIO. By 1995, Kirkland and his closest confidants, notably American Federation of Teachers’ president Albert Shanker, had essentially given up on enrolling the unorganized, thus completing the misleadership of Kirkland’s predecessor, George Meany, in reducing organized labor from bold social movement to conservative special interest. The minuscule resources devoted to organizing reflected not only other priorities, but a deep logic. An important regional official once told me with considerable pride that his son, in business school, was preparing a thesis on union membership as the wisest investment a worker could make. The well-intended official had long since come to see unionism as labor’s share in the “ownership society.” The idea that it could once again embody a radical crusade for justice and the redistribution of wealth was far more likely to induce fear than hope. Read More:http://monthlyreview.org/2005/06/01/the-legacy-of-the-iwwa
Joyce Kornbluh: Lawrence was a new kind of strike, the first time such large numbers of unskilled, unorganized foreign-born workers had followed the radical leadership of the I.W.W. John Golden, president of the A.F.L. United Textile Workers denounced it as “revolutionary” and “anarchistic” and attempted unsuccessfully to wrest the leadership of the strike away from the I.W.W. A.F.L. President Samuel Gompers defined the strike as a “class conscious industrial revolution … a passing event that is not intended to be an organization for the protection of the immediate rights or promotion of the near future interests of the workers.” However, Gompers defended the lawful rights of the I.W.W. members to, “express themselves as their conscience dictates.”…
…”It was the spirit of the workers that was dangerous,” wrote labor reporter Mary Heaton Vorse. “They are always marching and singing. The tired, gray crowds ebbing and flowing perpetually into the mills had waked and optheir months to sing.” And in the American Magazine, Ray Stannard Baker reported:
It is not short of amazing, the power of a great idea to weld men together. . . . There was in it a peculiar, intense, vital spirit, a religious spirit if you will, that I have never felt before in any strike. . . . At first everyone predicted that it would be impossible to bold these divergent people together, but aside from the skilled men, some of whom belonged to craft unions comparatively few went back to the mills. And as a whole, the strike was conducted with little violence. Read More:http://www.lucyparsonsproject.org/iww/kornbluh_bread_roses.html
Following the Salem trial, literary critic Kenneth McGowan wrote in Forum Magazine:
Whatever its future, the I.W.W. has accomplished one tremendously big thing, a thing that sweeps away all twaddle over red flags and violence and sabotage, and that is the individual awakening of “illiterates” and “scum” to an original, personal conception of society and the realization of the dignity and rights of their part in it. They have learned more than class consciousness; they have learned consciousness of Self . . . .
This was a fitting interpretation of the spirit of the striking mill girls who carried picket signs which read:
WE WANT BREAD AND ROSES TOO. Read More:http://www.lucyparsonsproject.org/iww/kornbluh_bread_roses.html