If the IWW were content merely to argue that within the framework of capitalism industrial unionism might be a more effective form of resistance to the encroachments of capital than the craft unions, there would not be any serious quarrels between the WSM and themselves. But for many in the IWW, industrial unionism is something far more than that. It constitutes a new contribution to proletarian politics. But, industrial unionism does not constitute any new addition to socialist science. In fact, it is erroneous, when examined scientifically in light of the workings of capitalism.
Let us examine industrial unionism in two aspects: (a) as the road to power and (b) as the germ of the new society.
The IWW maintains that the ballot is weak and ineffective. It is the economic might of the workers which counts. This concept presupposes that workers who are clear-thinking socialists politically will not be socialists economically. It is inconceivable that people who are socialists in the political field are not likewise socialists everywhere they may be, whether at work in the shop, going to the movies, or wherever they may be. People are not divided in half, one half of the body socialist and the other half not. Once they are socialists politically, they are by the same token socialists economically. Whoever gains control of the state machinery (and the gaining control of the state machinery is a political act) also, by the very same act, gains control of the economic resources. The capitalist class itself maintains its control and ownership of the economic resources through their control of the state machinery. The revolutionary act is the political victory of the workers, which puts them in a position of power, with the resulting control of the armed forces, the media and every organ of propaganda, the police, courts, etc. The objective of the socialist movement, i.e., a socialist working class majority, is accomplished, by the conquest of political power. This is the essence of understanding the nature of the state, the central organ of power. In the factories, co-ops, unions, we are fragmented, sectionalised and tied to our interests, but on the political field, we can make our numbers tell in a way win which they cannot use the state to strangle
Furthermore, to talk of the economic might of the workers in their industrial unionism is not correct when society itself is examined. On the economic field, the working class is impotent. What do they possess, aside from their muscles and brains? They are propertyless. All that the workers can do on the economic field is to attempt to slow down the worsening of their condition, so far as wages, hours, shop conditions are concerned; but they cannot stop the direction: downward. If they go out on a strike, who starves first, the workers or the owners? Just what strength has the worker got industrially? He has two alternatives: either starve or be driven back to work by the armed forces. What gives title and deed to ownership of the factory? It is the state, the central organ of power! The highest expression of the class struggle is the political phase. The first step in the socialist revolution is to capture the powers of the state for the sole purpose of transferring the control of the means of living from the hands of the ruling class to where it belongs, the hands of society .
The trouble is not that the workers are not organized into the proper kind of economic organisation, but that they are not socialists. Socialists know what to do and will utilize all the tools and weapons that are available. Actually, the essential thing is the realisation that in order to introduce socialism, the workers must first gain control of the state machinery in order to transfer the means of living from the hands of the capitalists to the hands of society — after which the state disappears and in its place we have an administration of affairs. It is the development of economic social relations that gives rise to the state, but it is state power that gives rise to economic power. In order to get economic power, the new rising social class must first get in possession of the state powers. Suffice it to say, that the workers do not have “economic power” as long as they are wage slaves. Economic power has no meaning when it is confined to just withholding your labor power from production, which still leaves economic power in the hands of the masters. Economic power flows from having political control of the state machinery. Remember: in spite of all their growing economic influence, prestige, and advantages, the rising bourgeoisie were choked by the control of the state by the feudal aristocracy. The success of the bourgeois revolution (capture of the state) transferred economic power into the hands of the new rising bourgeois class. For example, with all their economic influence the rising capitalist class in France and England were economically and politically shackled by feudalism and the absolute monarchy. It was necessary for them to achieve political supremacy in order to make secure and extend their economic power, as the French bourgeoisie did in the French Revolution. It is impossible for the working class to take and hold industry as long as the state is in the hands of the capitalist class. All the industrial unions in the world are powerless in face of the armed forces of the modern states with their machine guns, cannon and tanks. Moreover, this power is placed in the hands of the capitalist class by the workers themselves.
Before dealing with their IWW Industrial Republic, where everyone votes from where they work, let's make a preliminary observation. Whilst we cannot make a blueprint of socialism, we can realize its general process because of our knowledge of the laws of motion of society. It is fundamental and basic to recognize that socialism would be but a fantastic, utopian dream if it were not for the fact that man has solved the problem of production and has become potentially the master over nature. Mankind is not confronted with the problem of how to plan and organize production. If he were, he would not yet be ready for socialism. In other words, the conditions for socialism would not be ripe, if the problem was how to organise the productive forces and processes. This blueprint chart with the wheel of the various industries in socialism is merely the projection of capitalism into socialism. This IWW wheel demonstrates that they have no concept of even the outlines of a socialist society. Even a superficial view of the world today, under capitalism, already reveals that the world is an integrated, socialized, interrelated unit, economically, and is not divided industrially. Socialism means a classless society (not an industrial union society), where the very social interrelationships are so closely intertwined that production cannot be conceived as functioning industrially. History has passed the IWW by. The problems of a socialist society are everything but that of production, in spite of all those detailed charts of the clairvoyants. In socialist relationships the arrangements are for leisure, culture, refinements, sanity, each day being an adventure in living, square pegs in square holes, social behavior; in short, the identity of interests of every individual and of society as a whole. How ludicrous to those living in a socialist society will appear the IWW worries about industrial divisions and voting from where you work. The IWW doesn’t realise that when plenty and abundance become the order of the day, it completely changes people’s behavior and attitudes. But to show how far from having any grasp of socialism the IWW are, and how they are thinking in terms of capitalism, consider their notion that workers, under socialism, get the full product of their toil. In the first place, there are no “workers” under socialism. There is no working-class section of society, but all are equally members of a classless society. No problem of equal share with equal work could possibly exist in socialism; people in a sane society would not be that limited in vision or behavior. Just the reverse, the inspiration of socialism is that, being social animals, people give according to their abilities and receive according to their needs (without any thought of getting their “full” share — a meaningless concept in a sane society).
The outstanding historic factor that lays the groundwork for socialism is that socialism is based upon abundance made possible by the strides in the means of production: technology. This very technology is no longer industrial but overlapping and integrated into a cohesive whole; production is socialized, in almost a literal sense, today. Socialism is not confronted with problems of the organization of production, but rather with problems of leisure, full lives and conditions worthy of human beings.
Further, this misconception of socialism arises from their viewing Industrial Unionism as the revolutionary weapon. It can be conceded that the industrial union has advantages as economic organizations of resistance for workers within capitalism over craft and trade unions. But the some in the IWW go on to project the industrial union as a revolutionary weapon. The objectives of a union are confined to questions of hours, wages and conditions, problems within the
four walls of capitalism. A union, regardless of type, to be effective today must depend primarily on numbers rather than understanding. Ever changing productive methods as well as the continuous introduction of new industries, make unions powerless to cope with even their immediate problems. Their view that the industrial union is the only means of taking and holding industry, is but the pipe dream of the IWW.
The capitalists rule today because the workers sanction and uphold the existing form of property relationships.
“The possessing class rules directly through universal suffrage. For as long as the oppressed class, in this case the proletariat, is not ripe for its economic emancipation, just so long will its majority regard the existing order of society as the only one possible … On the day when the thermometer of universal suffrage reaches its boiling point among the laborers, they as well as the capitalists will know what to do.” (Engels, Origin of the Family)
Adapted from the writings of Rab late member of the WSPUS