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Full text of "The bankruptcy of the American labor movement"

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LABOR HERALD LIBRARY 

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AMERICAN 

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MOVEriEMT 





BY njijm Z.T=b5r4s©n 



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PUBLISHED BY 

THE TRADE UNION EDUCATIONAL LEAGUE 
II© IN l-ASALLE ST Chicago III. 

PRICE 25 CENTS 



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Militants, Notice! 

Organize! Join the Trade Union Edncational 
League. This is a system of informal committees 
throughout the entire union movement, organized to 
infuse the mass with revolutionary understanding and 
spirit. It is working for the closer affiliation and solidi- 
fication of our existing craft unions until they have 
been developed into industrial unions. Believing that 
all workers should stand together regardless of their 
social or other opinions, it is opposed to the common 
policy of radical and progressive-minded workers quit- 
ting the trade unions and starting rival organizations 
based upon ideal principles. That policy is one of the 
chief reasons why the American labor movement is not 
further advanced. Its principal effects are to destroy 
all radical organization in the old unions and to leave 
the reactionaries in undisputed control. 

The Trade Union Educational League is in no 
sense a dual union, nor is it affiliated with any such 
organization. It is purely an educational body of 
militants within existing mass unions, who are seeking 
through the application of modern methods to bring 
the policies and structure of the labor movement into 
harmony with present day economic conditions. It 
bespeaks the active cooperation of all militant union 
workers. For further details apply to the 

Trade Union Educational 
League 

118 North La Salle Street, Chicago 



Labor Herald Library 
No. 4. 



The Bankruptcy of the American 
Labor Movement 

By Wm. Z. Foster 



CHAPTER I. 
A State of Bankruptcy 

A commonly accepted principle of practical economics is that 
in a given country the extent and ripeness of the labor movement 
depends directly upon and may be measured by the degree of in- 
dustrial development attained in that country. In non-industrial 
China, for instance, no one looks for important labor organizations, 
but all the world takes as a logical thing the powerful labor move- 
ments in highly industrialized Europe. Karl Marx stresses this prin- 
ciple, saying: "—combinations (of labor) have not ceased to grow 
with the development and growth of modern industry. It is at such 
a point now that the degree of development of combination in a 
country clearly marks the degree which that country occupies in the 
hierarchy of the world market." * 

This economic principle holds true quite generally. With almost 
unfailing regularity those nations with well developed industrial sys- 
tems also have well developed labor movements, and those that are 
backward industrially are also backward in working class organiza- 
tion. The one glaring exception to the rule is the United States. 
Here we have the extraordinary situation of the world's most highly 
developed industrial system on the one hand, and the most backward 
labor movement of any important country on the other. The United 
States stands first in the world market, but, in apparent contradic- 
tion to Marx, this could never be deduced by a study of its primitive 
working class organization. The whole situation is a great paradox. 

Before indicating the cause of this paradox and pointing the way 

'Poverty of Philosophy, P. 156. 



2 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

out of it, it will be well for us to demonstrate the extreme undevelop- 
ment of the American labor movement by considering a few of its 
principal phases: 

Intellectual Blindness 

A prime requisite for carrying on Labor's fight successfully 
against the exploiters is a clear understanding of just what that fight 
is about. Otherwise practical programs and effective tactics are out 
of the question. American Labor, aside from the weak revolutionary 
groups, is particularly lacking in this vital respect. It has not yet 
opened its eyes to the true meaning of the labor struggle, nor is it 
trying to do so. It is intellectually blind. 

In all other important countries, particularly in Europe, Organized 
Labor has awakened to the revolutionary character of the working 
class movement. It has come to acquire a revolutionary point of 
view regarding private property, the State, the wage system, the 
class struggle, and capitalist society generally. It knows that the 
wrestlings between the workers and the capitalists are but so many 
incidents of a revolutionary struggle in which either side seizes from 
the other all that it has the power and intelligence to take. With 
eyes that have been opened, Labor abroad is conscious of its revolu- 
tionary mission, and it is striving constantly, despite a thousand ti- 
midities and mistakes, towards the only way to solve the labor prob- 
lem, towards the abolition of the capitalist system and the establish- 
ment of a proletarian regime. 

But American Labor is still asleep, drugged into insensibility by 
bourgeois propaganda. It is the only important labor movement in 
the world not yet aware of the revolutionary character of the fight 
that it is carrying on; it is the only one which has not declared for 
some sort of a socialist society as its ultimate goal. And the worst 
of it is that it is making no effort toward such an awakening. 
European Labor studies present day society deeply and draws funda- 
mentally revolutionary conclusions therefrom, but American Labor 
takes capitalist economics and morals for granted. An earnest study 
of social institutions by a typical American labor leader would be a 
world curiosity. 

In this philosophical backwardness, in this positive refusal to 
see capitalism in its true light, originate most of the evils from which 
our labor movement is now suffering. American Labor has no social 
vision, no real understanding of what it is trying to accomplish. A 



BANKRUPTCY OF I 111'. LABOR MOVEMENT 3 

few years ago its leaders used to tell us they were striving for "a 
fair day's pay for a fair day's work," but since that nonsensical con- 
ception has been exploded they dodge the issue altogether. Conse- 
quently the movement just drifts along aimlessly and planlessly, 
fighting for petty immediate demands, most of which are founded 
upon false bourgeois premises, and which lead the workers into a 
swamp of defeat. American Labor, because of its ignorance of its 
true goal, is short-sighted and crassly materialistic. It knows nothing 
of that wonderful spirit of sacrifice and idealism which is always 
born of the workers' hope for a new day. Mr. Gompers and the others 
who justify this condition of ignorance and fight relentlessly against 
every attempt to enlighten the workers about capitalist society and 
to get them to formulate real working class intellectual conceptions, 
are as generals of an army who have neither a plan of strategy nor 
a knowledge of the enemy they have to contend with. It is our 
calamity and discredit that one has to come to America to find the 
sad spectacle of a great labor movement which has not yet freed it- 
self intellectually from the bonds of capitalism, and which is still per- 
sisting in the foolish and hopeless task of patching up the wage 
system. 

Our Political In fancy 

No less primitive is American Labor's conception of political 
action. In this respect also we stand in a class by ourselves, at the 
foot of the list. In all important foreign countries the labor move- 
ments have come to understand that they must carry on the class 
war in the political as well as the industrial field. With them it is 
no longer a debatable question as to whether or not the workers 
should organize politically on class lines. Such organization is so 
well understood as to be taken for granted as a self-evident neces- 
sity. The only matter at issue is whether their political parties 
should be Labor, Socialist, Syndicalist*, or Communist in make-up. 
Only in the United States is the labor movement so altogether raw 
and undeveloped that it still has this fundamental lesson to learn. 
This is the one modern country where the mass of organized workers 
have no political party of their own, and where they continue to tail 
along in the train of the capitalist parties, pursuing the program of 



•Although differing radically from the other groups in their political concq 
the Syndicalists nevertheless carry on working class political action. They use the 
unions as their party, and instead of electing re;- into the Ciovernments, 

they bring direct industrial pressure to beat on them. 



4 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

"rewarding their friends and punishing their enemies." Everywhere 
else the labor movements have outgrown this obsolete policy from 15 
to 50 years ago. 

By preserving in this primitive and outworn political method 
American Labor has been reduced to practically a political zero. 
Our labor movement has little or no real influence in the affairs of 
the State. One aspect of its powerlessness is its almost complete 
lack of representation in the various legislative bodies. Outside of 
a few nondescript "card men" here and there who are often even 
more corrupt and treacherous than the capitalist politicians them- 
selves, Labor has no spokesmen whatever in the local, state, and 
national legislative assemblies. The whole law making and law en- 
forcing mechanism is in the hands of the enemy, who do as they 
please with it. 

Compare this situation with that prevailing in Europe, for in- 
stance, where the workers have understood to build themselves class 
political organizations. There Organized Labor is a great political 
power, and one which must be reckoned with on all vital issues. In 
Germany the workers' parties control 42% of the members of the 
Reichstag, in Austria 387c, Checho-Slovakia 36%, Belgium 35%, Den- 
mark 34%, Italy and Bulgaria 25%, Norway, Holland and Switzerland 
22%, in their respective national parliaments. In Great Britain many 
experts look for the Labor Party to be the dominant one after the 
next general elections. Politically the workers of Europe are a real 
power. 

Another aspect of American Labor's political weakness is the 
reactionary course of labor legislation in the United States. In 1909, 
after his visit to Europe, Mr. Gompers had this to say: 

"We are, in the United States, not less than two decades be- 
hind many European countries in the protection of life, health, 
and limb of the workers . . . We are behind England 10 years. 
We are behind Germany 20 years." * 

In the 13 years that have elapsed since this comparison was 
made the situation has become much more unfavorable for the United 
States, because during that period, and especially since the war, 
nearly all the European countries have made great strides forward 
in labor legislation while this country has gone steadily backward. 
All over Europe the workers have been able to wring ©ne political 
concession after another from the capitalists, whereas here the cap- 



'Charges Against the National Association of Manufacturers, etc." P. 2532. 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVIMK.VI 

italists have stripped the workers of many of their most fundamental 
rights. Free speech and free press have been largely abolished by 
the multitude of anti-syndicalist laws, and hundreds of labor men, 
arrested merely for expressing their opinions, have been given prison 
sentences so severe as to shock the civilized world. The right of 
assembly has degenerated into little more than a privilege, dependent 
upon the whims of the American Legion, the Ku Klux Klan, or cor- 
rupt local officials. The right to strike has been abridged by Esch- 
Cummins laws, industrial courts, and the injunction abuse, which 
flourishes now as never before. Even the fundamental right of pop- 
ular representation has been invaded by the refusal to seat regularly 
elected workers' candidates, and by millionaires flagrantly buying 
their way into Congress. Hardly a month passes by but what some 
hard-won piece of legislation is destroyed. The Sherman Anti-Trust 
law, with its fancy Clayton Amendment, has become a laughing- 
stock by being used only against Labor, the very one it was supposed 
not to apply to. The Seamen's Act has been rendered inoperative, 
and the noble Supreme Court has declared the Federal Child Labor 
Law unconstitutional. Likewise, this august body, in the Coronado 
Case, has delivered itself of an American Taff-Vale decision against 
the unions. And now comes Judge Wilkerson with his injunction, 
denying the right to strike to 400,000 shopmen ,and making outlaws 
of them. Almost any one of the workers' political rights may go next. 
And in the face of all this disaster, the labor movement flounders 
around helpless to stop the rout. Mr. Gompers' pet policy of re- 
warding the workers' "friends" and punishing their "enemies" has 
made a political nobody of American Labor. 

Besides robbing the workers of representation in the legislative 
bodies and stripping them of all political power, Mr. Gompers' polit- 
ical policy directly corrupts and weakens the trade union movement 
itself. By opening the organizations to capitalist party representa- 
tives, posing as "friends" of Labor and seeking endorsement, it has 
made the workers' unions convenient nesting-places for all sorts of 
political crooks. These sharpers, in turn, have poisoned the selfish 
individuals in Labor's ranks to such an extent that in many localities 
selling out Labor politically for cold cash has become a regular pro- 
fession of alleged labor leaders. Much of the bribe-taking from em- 
ployers for industrial "favors" that curses our labor movement de- 
rives from the same source; for once labor officials become accustomed 
to betraying the workers politically it is an easy step further to 



6 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

betray them industrially. The shocking Mulhall exposures of a few 
years ago gave barely an indication of the extent to which capitalist 
politicians have poisoned the labor movement, because its doors are 
open to them. 

But, worst of all, American Labor's political policy directly checks 
the growth of class consciousness among the workers and retards 
the intellectual development of the labor movement. The acceptance 
of the capitalist parties as the political expression of the working 
class necessarily carries with it also the endorsement of their general 
capitalist point of view. Logically enough practically the whole bat- 
tery of our trade union officials and labor papers express almost 
identically the same social conceptions as the capitalists and join hands 
with the latter in suppressing all activity tending to give the work- 
ers a clear understanding of the class nature of present society. 
Only when the workers organize politically as a class do they break 
with capitalist concepts and develop class consciousness. 

For many years the British labor movement went along pretty 
much as we are doing now, a political cipher in the service of the 
capitalist parties. With most of its leaders preaching purely capital- 
istic economics, naturally class consciousness made slow headway. 
But when finally, as a result of the Taff-Vale Decision in 1901, the 
movement was driven to independent political action arid to organize 
the Labor Party, these very leaders, in the nature of things, were 
compelled to advocate, to a greater or lesser extent, class solidarity 
and class action. This broke the ice, and henceforth proletarian in- 
vestigation and education found a more congenial atmosphere. The 
supposedly unshakably conservative British workers began to be- 
come class conscious. From that time to this they have made won- 
derful strides towards acquiring a revolutionary point of view. Amer- 
ican workers will do the same once they break with the capitalist 
parties and set up a class party of their own. With its present policy 
of rewarding its "friends" and punishing its "enemies," the American 
labor movement is still in the political kindergarten. 

Weak and Primitive Unionism 
In harmony with its undeveloped social viewpoint and its in- 
fantile political organization, American Labor's trade unions also are 
in a very backward state. Whether considered from the standpoint 
of numerical strength, type of structure, or general spirit^ of prog- 
ress, they fall far behind the unions of many other countries. Even 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 7 

a casual glance over the world's labor movement confirms this state- 
ment. 

Regarding the question of numerical strength: At present there 
are, including all independent unions, not over 3,500,000 trade union- 
ists in this country, or about 1 unionist to each 31 of the general 
population of 110,000,000. Compare this, for example, with the situa- 
tion in the two other leading industrial countries, Germany and Eng- 
land. In Germany there are somewhat over 12,000,000 trade unionists 
out of a total of 55,0000,000 people, or about 1 to each 4%; while in 
England the trade unionists number approximately 6,000,000, or 1 to 
each 7M> of her population of 44,000,000. In other words, the German 
trade unions, considering the difference in the population of the two 
countries, are numerically about 6 times as strong as ours, and the 
English about 4 times. For our unions to be as large proportionally 
as those in Germany they would have to have no less than 24,000,000 
members. Compare this giant figure with the paltry 3,500,000 mem- 
bers that our unions now possess and a fair idea is had of how far 
behind the American labor movement is in this respect. In Germany 
and England (not to mention other countries) the great mass of the 
working class has been organized, but here in the United States 
barely a start has yet been made. 

Structurally our trade unions make an equally poor showing. 
Whereas in all other leading countries the main labor movement, 
accepting the logic of capitalist consolidation, have quite generally 
endorsed the principle of but one union for each industry and are 
making rapid strides towards its realization, the American labor move- 
ment still clings firmly to the antiquated principle of craft unionism. 
Throughout the rest of the world there are many single unions — such 
as building, metal, railroad, general transport, printing, etc. — that 
have been built up recently by amalgamating the original craft organ- 
izations. Others are being constantly created. In England the giant 
new Transport and General Workers' Union has just been formed; 
the Amalgamted Engineering Union is making steady headway to- 
wards its avowed goal of one union in the metal industry; likewise 
the National Union of Railwaymen, the Federation of Printing and 
Kindred Trades, the Federation of Building Trades Operatives, etc., 
in their respective fields. Strong amalgamation movements are afoot 
in every industry. In addition plans are now being discussed to lash 
all the national unions together and to develop the whole labor move- 
ment into one gigantic machine. In Germany a similar process of 



8 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

consolidation goes on constantly. Already many large industrial un- 
ions have been constructed from the old craft organizations. The 
best-known of them is the famous Metal Workers' Union, with 1,700,- 
000 members. Gradually the entire labor movement is being developed 
into one organization.* In Belgium the original welter of craft unions 
has been hammered together into about a dozen industrial organiza- 
tions, and plans are now being carried through to unite all these 
into one body. In Australia the largest unions in the country have 
declared for a complete amalgamation of all the workers' labor or- 
ganizations into a single departmentalized union to represent the 
whole working class. In Norway there is now a committee at work 
devising ways and means to reorganize the entire craft union move- 
ment into a series of industrial unions, all of which shall be locked 
together. 

So it goes all over the world except in the United States; every- 
where else the workers are making rapid progress in the necessary 
work of transforming their primitive craft unions into moden indus- 
trial organizations. But here we are still floundering in the mud of 
craft unionism, and progressing at only a snail's pace. Disregarding 
the rapid consolidation of the employers and their wonderful increase 
in strength, American Labor plods along with the 19th century con- 
dition of from 10 to 15 autonomous craft unions in each industry,** 
and considers such a primitive state of unorganization as the acme 
of trade union accomplishment. There is hardly a breath of progress 
anywhere. Though our movement is threatened with extinction be- 
cause of its lack of solidarity and centralization, the man who pro- 
poses a sensible plan of amalgamation is harassed and persecuted by 
the highest officials as a fanatic and a disruptor. At its Cincinnati, 
1922, Convention, the A. F. of L. repudiated the principle of amalga- 
mation and endorsed the Scranton declaration of 21 years ago, which 
was written before the great modern capitalist combinations were 

*In Germany the General Federation of German Trade Unions (Socialist), com- 
prising about two-thirds of the whole labor movement, has 8,000,000 members. These 
are combined into 49 national unions. On the other hand, the A. F. of L., with 
fewer than 3,000,000 members, is split up into no less than 117 national organiza- 
tions. The average membership of the unions in the German Federation is approxi- 
mately 163,000, while that of the A. F. of L. unions is less than 24,000. This 
illustrates the much greater consolidation and concentration of trade unions in 
Germany than in the United States. 

"The one exception is in the case of the United Mine Workers of America, 
which, at least so far as its structure is concerned, will compare favorably with any 
coal miners' union in the world. 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMEN1 

formed. On the other hand, the progressive German unions, which 
are much further advanced than the A. F. of L., and by no means 
as hard pressed by the employers, at their 1922 Leipzig Convention 
went on record for amalgamation generally and laid plans to re- 
organize the whole labor movement on an industrial basis. In the 
United States, where capitalist organization has reached the highest 
known type, the trade unions should lead the world in the matter of 
numbers and structure. In point of fact, however, they are not be- 
yond the point reached generally by European trade unions 15 
years ago. 

Invariably American labor leaders, when confronted with irre- 
futable facts demonstrating the numerical, structural, and intellectual 
inferiority of our labor movement as compared with that of Europe, 
attempt to wave aside the unfavorable comparison by making the 
broad assertion that trade unionists enjoy better conditions in this 
country than any where else in the world. So far as wages are con- 
cerned this is undeniably true. But it is idle to say that such is the 
case because American labor is better organized or more ably led 
than European labor. Without belittling the accomplishments of our 
unions, it is safe to say that the determining factor in the matter is 
that the United States, as compared with Europe, has long been a 
bonanza country. Enormously rich and getting from 2 to 20 times 
greater production from their employees, the capitalists in this coun- 
try are much more inclined to yield a bit on the wage scale of the 
workers, unorganized as well as organized, than are the employers 
in poorer and slower-going Europe. Unquestionably European work- 
ers have to fight much harder for wage increases than we do. 

Nevertheless, up to the outbreak of the war at least, the European 
unions were able to make a surprisingly creditable showing in wages. 
During a debate in 1909 between Karl Legien and Karl Kautsky this 
was strikingly illustrated. In his paper, Die Neue Zeit, Kautsk) 
sought to prove that trade union action had little value. To back 
up his assertions he cited official A. F. of L. statistics which showed 
that the wage increases secured by its affiliated unions from 1890, to 
1907, had barely beat the advancing cost of living. Legien took ex- 
ception to this argument, and refused to consider the accomplishments 
of the A. F. of L. organizations as exhausting the possibilities of 
trade unionism. In a pamphlet, Sisyphusarhcit oder positiv Erfolg, 
he demonstrated that the German unions had made a much better 



io BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

showing with regard to wages, compared with the rising cost of living, 
than had the American organizations. 

But in any event, even if our wage standards are somewhat higher 
than those in other countries, certainly we have little to brag about. 
In the March, 1922, wage hearing before the Railroad Labor Board, 
B. M. Jewell, President of the Railway Employees' Department of 
the A. F. of L., stated that in 1921, the full-time wages of railroad 
shop mechanics could purchase only 64% of the meat, fish, milk, and 
eggs; 77% of the cereal foods; 91% of the vegetables; and 71% of 
the butter, fats, and oils necessary to maintain their families at the 
lowest level of safety. The Department of Labor family budget calls 
for an expenditure of $2,303.99 per year; whereas the wages of the 
shop mechanics, counted at full-time basis and totally disregarding 
the terrific unemployment, amounted only to $1,884.90. And since 
then their wages have been slashed again about 10% on the average. 
With strategically situated mechanics in such a condition, the deplor- 
able state of the unskilled, who get hardly half as much wages, can 
better be imagined than described. 

"But a far better criterion than wages to judge the strength of a 
labor movement is the more vital matter of the shorter workday. In 
this respect American Labor is behind the rest of the modern indus- 
trial world. In Great Britain, Australia, Italy, and New Zealand, 
the 8-hour day has been quite generally established by trade union 
agreements, and in the following countries national 8-hour laws have 
been enacted for industrial workers : 

Austria Jugo-Slavia Poland 

Checho-Slovakia Luxembourg Portugal 

Denmark Mexico Russia 

Ecuador Netherlands Spain 

Finland Norway Sweden 

France Panama Switzerland 

Germany Peru Uruguay * 

Compare this wide-spread application of the 8-hour day with the 
situation in the United States. Many, if not most of our industries, 
still have- the 9 and 10-hour day, not to mention the barbaric 12-hour 
day of the steel mills. Despite the United States' great industrial ad- 
vantages over all its competitors, which should have greatly facili- 
tated the unions in winning shorter hours, this country remains pre- 

"For comparisons between these laws and the limitations of each, see U. S. 
Dep't of Labor Monthly Labor Review, P. 184. April, 1921. 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT n 

eminently the long hour work-day nation of the world. This is indeed 
a poor recommendation for the prowess of our labor movement. 

Another matter which is vital in determining the real strength 
of all labor movements, and in which ours is sadly lacking, is trade 
union control over industry. In many European countries the trade 
unions are so thoroughly established in almost every branch of in- 
dustry that the employers have come to accept them practically as 
permanent institutions. In such lands trade unionism has become 
recognized as an inevitable factor in industry. So well are the work- 
ers organized that scabs are almost a thing of the past. This is not- 
ably the case in England and Germany. In the latter country the 
trade unions have agreements covering every industry. No sane 
employer hopes to dislodge them, much less break them up. Conse- 
quent upon this firm grip on industry, which encourages them to 
look forward to the time when the mills and factories will be demo- 
cratically owned and operated, the European unions have worked 
out elaborate systems of factory councils, guilds, etc., to take over 
the management of industry, and they have made substantial progress 
in establishing these organizations. 

But things are profoundly different in the United State. Here the 
unions have such a slight grip upon industry that they hardly dream 
of such things as factory councils and guilds. Indeed, outside of the 
clothing industry, very few of our labor leaders would even know 
what such things are. The nearest approach we have had to such 
a movement was the one centering around the Plumb Plan, and 
Mr. Gompers neatly smothered that. As yet our trade unions have 
hardly won a semblance of recognition. Constantly they have to 
fight for their very existence. In not a single industry have they been 
able to force the type of recognition that is common in many Euro- 
pean countries. The closest there is to such recognition is in the 
case of the four railroad train service organizations, and even these 
are constantly threatened. America is peculiarly the land of the 
"open shop." The "American Plan" is the correct name. Nowhere 
else but here is such an abomination to be found. With the great 
industries almost totally unorganized, and with vast armies of scabs 
available, the employers of this country have contempt for the trade 
unions. They look upon them as a passing phase, as presumptuous 
organizations which must and will be eliminated at the first oppor- 
tunity. The present wholesale smashing of unions, which threatens 



12 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

the life of the entire labor movement, is the most eloquent testi- 
monial to the weakness of American Labor. 

International Relations, Journalism, Co-operative.- 
In no other phase does the unparalled conservatism and back- 
wardness of the American Labor movement come to light more 
strikingly than in the latter's relations to the labor organizations of 
other countries. At present there are two great world labor move- 
ments ; one, the International Federation of Trade Unions, with head- 
quarters in Amsterdam, and the other, the Red International of Labor 
Unions, with headquarters in Moscow. The former is passive and 
reformist, the latter is militant and revolutionary. All the impor- 
tant labor movements of the world are affiliated to one or the other 
of these two— that is all except ours. The American trade union move- 
ment stands aloof altogether, on the ground that both are too revo- 
lutionary. According to Mr. Gompers, who pulled the A. F. of L. out 
of the Amsterdam International a couple of years ago, even that yellow 
organization, whose leaders undoubtedly stopped the world revolution 
and saved capitalism during the big labor upheavals in Germany, 
France, Italy, etc., after the war, is much too radical for American 
workingmen to associate with. This withdrawal from Amsterdam 
has made us the laughing stock of the international labor world, 
reformist and revolutionary alike. To the militant unionists of other 
countries it is a profound mystery how, in this land of advanced and 
aggressive capitalistm, the labor movement can be so spineless intel- 
lectually as to fear affiliation with even the timid Amsterdam Inter- 
national. 

In the matter of a labor press the American working class is 
particularly weak. As for the A. F. of L. itself, its journalistic efforts 
are deplorable. On the one hand it gets out the hard-boiled American 
Federationist, with its news and editorial columns filled with reac- 
tionary attacks upon everything even mildly progressive, and its ad- 
vertising space littered up with scab advertisements; and on the 
other hand, the anaemic A. F. of L. News Letter, with its poor attempt 
at being a news service for the labor press generally. Likewise the 
international journals, with rare exceptions are dry as dust and reac- 
tionary. Rigidly censored by the controlling officials, there is no 
freedom of discussion in their columns. They sound no real proletar- 
ian note, nor do they carry on vital educational work. Their tech- 
nical trade education and constant repetition of stereotyped petty 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 13 

capitalist ideas might well be left for the employers to propagate. 
Nor are the local papers as a rule any better. Many of them are con- 
temptible grafting sheets, the like of which cannot be fcund in any 
other country. Such parasitic papers, almost always stout defenders 
of Gompersism, make their living by campaigning against everything 
healthy in the labor movement. Their favorite method is to print 
vicious attacks against all progressive movements in the trade unions 
and then, on the strength of these, "sandbag" the employers into 
giving them advertising and flat donations of money. There are scores 
of such "rat" sheets, some operating independently and some with 
the endorsement of local central labor councils, pouring a flood of 
poison into the trade union movement. Nearly all important industrial 
centers are infested with them. Pittsburgh, for instance, has three, 
viz.: National Labor Journal, Labor World, and National Labor Tribune. 
All of them joined hands with the employers to defeat the great steel 
strike of 1919. And the worst of this journalistic shame, which could 
exist in no other labor movement, is that the A. F. of L. officialdom 
makes no effort to obliterate it. But this officialdom spares no effort 
to crush the revolutionary press. Characteristically just now it is 
engaged in a war against the Federated Press, the best labor news 
gathering agency in the world and one of the few institutions of 
which our labor movement may be really proud. 

In the field of co-operative enterprise the American labor move- 
ment makes the same poor showing that it does in so many other 
phases of labor activity. All over Europe, in England, Germany, 
France, Italy, Scandinavia, "Belgium, Holland, etc., the co-operative 
movement is vast and vigorous and a real institution in the life of the 
people. It involves great armies of members and hundreds of mil- 
lions of capital. But in the United States the movement is just be- 
ginning. This country has long been the despair of earnest co-oper- 
ators. An apparently incurable blight, traceable to the ignorance, 
cupidity, and indifference of our labor leaders, has cursed and ruined 
their efforts. Only within the past few years, with the development 
of co-operative stores among the miners, the founding of the labor 
banks, and occasional other ventures here and there, has any real 
headway been made. Compared with that in Europe, the co-oper- 
ative movement in the United States is still in its swaddling clothes. 

Reactionary Leadership 

The prevailing type of American labor leadership is a sore afflic- 
tion upon the working class. Our higher officialdom swarms with 



i 4 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

standpatters and reactionaries such as would not be tolerated in any 
other country. Mr. Gompers himself personifies the breed. He is 
the arch-reactionary, the idol of all the holdbacks in the labor move- 
ment. Possibly, as some allege, he was a progressive at the time the 
A. F. of L. was formed, but now he is the undisputed world's prize 
labor reactionary. In many respects he is even more reactionary than 
the very capitalists themselves. A case in point is his present atti- 
tude towards Russia. In that distressed country millions of people, 
famine stricken, are dying of starvation. The labor movement and 
the liberals of the world, forgetting political differences, are rallying 
to their support by sending food and money. Even the cold-hearted 
capitalistic United States Government, not to speak of various other 
bourgeois organizations, was moved to make a substantial contribu- 
tion. But in the face of all this bitter need Mr. Gompers, a bound 
slave to his insane hatred for everything radical, stands unmoved. 
The cries of millions of starving women and children go unheard by 
him. Not a word has he spoken in their behalf, not a dollar has his 
organization raised to relieve their sufferings. Mr. Gompers would 
starve Soviet Russia into re-establishing capitalism. This brutal pro- 
gram, now frankly abandoned even by most capitalistic politicians, 
is on a par with that of Kolchak and Semenoff. American Labor's 
policy towards Russia, dictated by the blind hatred of Mr. Gompers, 
is a disgrace which should make every workingman bow his head in 
shame.* 

American Labor leadership has displayed crass incompetence in 
organizing the masses industrially. The relatively small number of 
trade unionists in the United States is ample proof of that. As a 
shining example of our movement's weakness in the organizing de- 
partment let us again cite Mr. Gompers. Considered as a labor organ- 
izer he is a first class failure. Because of his incompetency much of 
the blame for the unorganized state of the working class attaches to 
him personally. Never during the long tenure of his office, at least 
not since the "stormy '80's," has he developed, or allowed anyone else 



*On a par with Mr. Gompers' reactionary Russian policy was his attitude towards 
the infamous "red" raids engineered by Attorney-General Palmer. Never was a 
more dastardly crime committed against the rights of the workers. But Mr. 
Gompers made no protest. Quite evidently Mr. Palmer was a man after his own 
heart. Characteristic enough it is that on May 1st, 1922, with Mr. Palmer in political 
limbo and even the reactionary Republican politicians refusing to stoop to such con- 
temptible artifices, it was Mr. Gompers who issued the flaming warnings in the 
capitalist press against the impending red peril. 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LAHOR MOVEMENT 15 

to develop a comprehensive plan to organize the masses of the work- 
ers. Opportunity after opportunity he has allowed to slip by unused, 
to the sad detriment of the labor movement. 

Consider the war situation for example: That was a marvelous 
chance to organize the great body of the working class and to un- 
shakably intrench the trade unions. The workers were most stra- 
tegically situated and enjoyed wonderful political and industrial 
power. Had there been even a mediocre organizer, instead of a 
"labor statesman," at the head of our movement, great armies of toilers 
could have been drawn into the labor organizations. A general na- 
tional organization campaign should have been mapped out and in- 
tensive, systematic drives for members started in all the industries. 
Given even ordinarily competent direction, such a movement would 
have achieved tremendous success. But of course, nothing of the kind 
was done. The intellectually sterile Mr. Gompers failed utterly to 
perceive the needs and opportunities of the situation. He was too 
busy winning the war and making the world safe for democracy. Flat- 
tered by great capitalists and basking in the sunshine of a fickle pub- 
lic opinion, he completely neglected the vital business of organizing 
the workers and spent his time with such questionable affairs of state 
as putting across the Versailles Treaty. He worked out no general 
strategy, no unified campaign of organization for the labor movement. 
And no one else was in a position to do so. Consequently the various 
organizations had to go ahead as best they could. Everybody started 
whatever he pleased. While Mr. Gompers dallied with his capitalist 
friends, the Chicago Federation of Labor was compelled to launch 
the great drives in the packing and steel industries. To organize such 
movements was clearly the duty of Mr. Gompers' office, and if it 
failed to do so he alone was to blame. The situation, from an organ- 
izing standpoint, was chaotic. Little substantial was accomplished. 
With the general result that, because of Mr. Gompers' inefficiency, 
because he had no inkling of what should have been done, the great 
masses of the workers were not organized during the golden oppor- 
tunity presented by the war time. And now we are paying the pen- 
alty in the great "open shop" drive that is smashing the unions. Had 
the workers been organized during the war, and they easily could 
have been, the "open shop" drive would never have started agair.st 
the deeply rooted trade unions. Had Mr. Gompers been even a third 
rate organizer it would have changed the whole face of industrial 
America. 



16 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

All over the world the labor movement suffers grievously from 
unscrupulous, self-seeking leaders, but nowhere so much as in the 
United States. Here we are infested with breeds of them entirely 
without parallel anywhere else. Only in Amrica can be found known 
crooks and convicted criminals functioning as labor officials, many 
of whom have become enormously wealthy through robbing both 
employers and workers. This condition is a world scandal; the active 
unionists of other countries simply cannot comprehend it. They have 
their reactionaries a-plenty. But such open thievery is peculiar to 
the United States alone. It is a drastic proof of the low level of our 
labor leadership. 

But worse even than the plain grafters are the large body of 
leaders who, destitute of all idealism and real proletarian feeling, look 
upon the labor movement simply as a convenient means to well-paid 
jobs of power and influence. They kill all life and progress in the 
workers' organizations. Mr. Gompers is the undisputed king of this 
type. He is the champion office-holder of them all. The way he has 
hung on for forty years is a world marvel. And the labor movement 
has paid dearly enough for it. Mr. Gompers has never considered any 
movements of the workers from any other angle except what effect 
they will have upon his tenure of office. 

Like all other labor politicians, but much more pronouncedly, 
Mr. Gompers shirks responsibility. No matter how burning the need 
for vigorous action to save some critical situation, he will initiate 
nothing. The labor world may tumble about his ears, but to protect 
his own interests, he stands pat. With him everything is all right 
so long as he does not have to assume responsibility that may breed 
him enemies. His philosophy is, better to lose a thousand strikes and 
organizing opportunities through inaction than to risk one aggressive 
movement, the failure of which might enable someone to "get some- 
thing on him." He moves ahead only when pushed. This negative 
attitude, this habitual refusal to initiate anything or to assume any 
responsibility caused the failure to organize the workers generally 
during the war; this it was that made Mr. Gompers sabotage the steel 
campaign from beginning to end, when it got under way in spite of 
him. And this do-nothing policy it is which constantly paralyses the 
labor movement in its brain and heart and reduces its vitality to the 
vanishing point. It is a policy fatal to Organized Labor; but it is 
good for Mr. Gompers' own personal ends, and that to him, is of 
course supreme justification for it. 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 17 

More than simply failing to initiate progressive movements, Mr. 
Gompers is actually a valiant fighter for things as they are in the 
labor movement. A curious twist of this policy mak<'s him play the 
role of a sort of weak king among powerful nobles. The international 
union presidents are the nobles. Things have conspired to make them 
into petty despots in their respective spheres. They are little nabobs. 
With unlimited autonomy and points of view to correspond with their 
narrow craft interests, they naturally carry on a wrangling, unsoli- 
daric movement fatal to the interests of the working class as a 
whole. The great need of the labor movement is that the power of 
these nabobs be clipped, and that it be absorbed by the general organ- 
ization, the A. F. of L. The national movement, as such, must be 
strengthened. But it is exactly this that Mr. Gompers fails to do. 
On the contrary, he defends the vicious nabob system even more 
militantly than the nabobs themselves. He fights every attempt to 
strengthen the A. F. of L. or to make it function as an effective cen- 
tral organization. He battles to preserve all the privileges of the nabob 
international presidents, disastrous though these may be to class soli- 
darity and progress. This has given him wonderful prestige with the 
nabobs as a "safe" man. Thus, strangely enough, by keeping his own 
organization — the A. F. of L. proper — weak and functionless he per- 
sonally waxes great and powerful. And again, for his advancement, 
the labor movement pays a bitter price. The labor politician, of 
which Mr. Gompers is the shining example, is the old man of the sea 
of American Labor. 

Severe though many of the foregoing criticisms of American 
Labor may be, no truth-seeking worker, free from chauvinistic bias, 
can deny their correctness. Although the American labor movement 
has some admirable qualities (which will be indicated as this pamphlet 
progresses), nevertheless, in the main, it is miles and miles behind 
the labor movements of other important capitalist countries. Our 
labor movement's non-revolutionary outlook, its lack of social vision, 
is unique in the international labor world ; likewise its want of an or- 
ganized, mass working class political party. Our trade unions are 
primitive to a degree in their structure and they cling tenaciously to 
the antiquated craft form, discarded by workers in other countries; 
they are exceedingly weak in numbers, encompassing only a small 
body of workers, instead of the great mass, as in Germany, England 
and elsewhere; they have not succeeded, as compared with European 



18 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

unions, in winning the shorter workday and in establishing the foun- 
dations of democracy in industry; the breath of progress is not in 
them. The international policy of our movement is a joke, when not 
a tragedy. Our labor journalism is colorless, stupid, and often corrupt; 
our co-operative movement is in its infancy; our labor leadership is 
incomparably reactionary. While the labor movements abroad, keep- 
ing pace with a growing capitalism, have gone ahead developing new 
conceptions, consolidating their organizations, and winning new con- 
quests, we have practically stood still, stagnant, unresponsive, un- 
progressive. Finally we have arrived at the paradoxical situation 
where, apparently in contradiction to economic principles, the United 
States has at once the most highly developed industrial system and 
the weakest working class organization of the modern capitalist 
world. So decrepit and unfit is our labor movement that, unless ways 
are found to revive and re-invigorate it, it is actually threatened with 
extinction by the employers in the present great "open shop" drive, 
The American labor movement is bankrupt. 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 19 

CHAPTER II 

Cause of the Bankruptcy 

The weakness of the American labor movement, its lack of social 
vision and its general backwardness politically and industrially, as 
compared with the labor movements of other countries, has long been 
a matter of common knowledge. It cannot be denied or disputed, nor 
do real labor students try to do either. Their aim is to explain it, to 
find out the reasons for the paradoxical situation of the world's most 
advanced capitalistic country possessing such a primitive working 
class movement. Two explanations for this condition, widely accepted 
among labor men and students generally, are (1) that the influx of so 
many millions of immigrants, with their innumerable racial, language, 
national, and religious differences, has enormously complicated the 
problems confronting the labor movement and hindered the work of 
unionization and education by bringing together a practically unor- 
ganizable mass in the industries, and (2) that the workers of America, 
because of the existence of the free land for so long and the opportun- 
ities presented by the unexampled industrial expansion, have been 
better able to make a living, and consequently have not felt the need 
for organization and a revolutionary spirit to such an extent as the 
oppressed workers of Europe. Or, in other words, that too many im- 
migrants and too much prosperity are to blame for the extreme back- 
wardness of Organized Labor in the United States. 

Foreigners As M ilh wis 

Regarding the first of the explanations: Although, undoubtedly, 
the presence of so many nationalities in the industries makes the 
problem of organization more difficult, it is by no means an insur- 
montable obstacle. The situation is not nearly so bad as it has beei. 
painted. The "unorganizability" of the foreign-born workers is a very 
convenient cloak for labor leaders to cover up their inefficiency and 
the weaknesses of an unfit craft unionism. The fact is, the immigrant 
workers are distinctly organizable, often even more so than the native 
Americans. This has been demonstrated time and again in strikes 
during the past 10 years. In the big Lawrence strike of 1912 it was 
the immigrant workers, a score of different nationalities, who were 
the backbone of the great struggle. Likewise in the packing house 



20 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

movement of 1917-21, the whole thing centered around the foreigners, 
mostly Slavs. They organized the unions in the first place (the Amer- 
icans quite generally refusing to come in, until after a settlement had 
been secured), and they are the ones who made the final desperate 
fight. The same experience was had in the great 1918-19 organizing 
campaign and strike in the steel industry. Although in some mills 
there were as many as 54 nationalities, they joined hands readily and 
formed trade unions. There was much more difficulty in organizing 
the minority of Americans than the big majority of heterogenuous 
foreigners. And when the historic struggle with the steel trust came 
the foreign workers covered themselves with undying glory. They dis- 
played the very highest type of labor union qualities. 

The majority of the membership of the United Mine Workers of 
America are foreigners. Yet that is one of the very best labor organ- 
izations in this country. Indeed, one can search the world's labor 
movement in vain to find a union with a more valiant record. But the 
best illustration of the organizability of the foreigners is to be found 
in; the clothing trades. In that industry the unions are made up of a 
general conglomeration of nationalities, principally Jews, Poles, Ital- 
ians, and Lithuanians. The Americans form but a small minority of 
the membership and almost nothing of the administration. Yet the 
unions, all of them, are miles in advance of the ordinary American 
trade union. In fact, they will compare with the average European 
labor bodies. Most of the criticisms of the American labor movement, 
outlined in Chapter I, do not apply to these organizations, made up 
chiefly of immigrants. They are the one bright spot in a generally 
dismal movement. 

Again it must be said that, although somewhat complicating the 
problems of the labor movement, the immigrant workers cannot be 
seriously blamed for its present deplorable condition. Intellectually 
they are radical and receptive of the most advanced social programs 
If they, making up the bulk of the working forces in the great indus- 
tries, have not been organized industrially and politically before now 
it is immediately because of the utter sterility and incompetence of 
the Gompers regime. 

Prosperity Not a Deterrent 
To urge the comparative prosperity of the American working class 
as an' explanation of the backwardness of our labor movement is just 
as futile as to blame it upon the foreigners. The fact is that excep- 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMEN1 21 

tional prosperity, instead of being a deterrent, is a direct stimulus to 
labor organization and radicalism. The worker? progress best, intel- 
lectually and in point of organization, under two general conditions 
the antipodes of each other, (1) during periods of devastating hard- 
ship, (2) in eras of so-called prosperity. When suffering extreme pri- 
vation they are literally compelled to think and act, and when the 
pressure of the exploiter is light, during good times, they take courage 
and move forward of their own volition. The static periods, when 
very little is accomplished in either an educational or organizational 
way, are when times are neither very bad nor very good. Then both 
factors for progress, heavy pressure and stirred ambitions, operate at 
a minimum. 

Russia and Germany, in their revolutions, gave conclusive proofs 
of the tremendously rapid spread of labor organization and radicalism 
when the workers are under terrific pressure from the exploiters, and 
many years' experience all over the world has demonstrated that the 
labor movement also makes good progress under the very reverse 
conditions of "prosperity." Australia is a classical example. That has 
long been a land of "good times" and "opportunity." An abundance of 
cheap land has been constantly at hand, labor has always been scarce, 
and unemployment practically nonexistent. If there were anything to 
the theory that prosperity kills the militancy of the workers then 
certainly the Australian labor movement might be expected to be 
weak and insipid. But in reality it is one of the most advanced work- 
ing class organizations to be found anywhere in the world, and it has 
been such for many years past. This is no accident or contradiction. 
Australian Labor is strong, not in spite of the prevailing "prosperity." 
but because of it. It is exactly since opportunity is plentiful and 
labor scarce, which means that the employers are to some extent de- 
prived of their powerful ally unemployment, that the workers' fight 
is easier and they are encouraged to make greater and greater de- 
mands upon their exploiters. Germany, before the war, was another 
typical example of the working of this principle. It was by far the 
most prosperous country in Europe, and consequently it also had the 
best organized and most intelligently radical working class. 

Even in the United States can be traced the benefits conferred 
upon Organized Labor by "opportunity" and "prosperity." The West 
has always been the land of opportunity, the traditional place of labor 
shortage and high wages in this country; and likewise it has ever been 
the natural home of militant labor unionism and radicalism in general. 



22 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

It is in the East, where labor has been most plentiful, wages lowest, 
and opportunity scarcest for the worker of small means, that labor 
organization and revolutionary understanding have made slowest prog- 
ress. By the same token, when hard times prevail over the country 
the labor unions become weak, and the workers, defeated, grow pessi- 
mistic and lose all daring and imagination. But when the hard times 
are succeeded by a wave of "prosperity" the workers' cause picks up 
at once; the unions, victorious, grow rapidly and, having had a taste 
of power, they are ready for further conquests, no matter how rad- 
ical. This tendency was well illustrated during the war and the boom 
time following it. Never were the workers more prosperous, never 
were wages higher, job conditions better, and working hours shorter 
than in this period. But the prosperity, instead of injuring the labor 
movement, gave it the greatest stimulus, physically and intellectually, 
in its history. The workers, acting as they always do under such 
favorable circumstances, poured into the organizations by hundreds 
of thousands. Then the latter, tremendously invigorated by this 
enormous influx of new strength and finding the capitalists' fighting 
ability greatly handicapped because of the labor shortage, insisted 
upon concessions and conditions such as they hardly dared dream of 
in pre-war times. A basic radicalism developed throughout the work- 
ing class, not the classic Marxian revolutionary understanding, it is 
true, but a closely related deep yearning and striving for more power 
over industry and society generally. Naturally enough also it was in 
1919, when the railroad unions were at the very zenith of their power 
and influence, that they announced the Plumb Plan to take the rail- 
roads out of the hands of their present owners. 

The workers, particularly in a backward labor movement like ours, 
learn by doing. It is just when they enjoy greatest power and well- 
being, in times of prosperity, that they are most stimulated to desire 
and demand more. Because this is the case, because the workers 
habitually take advantage of every lessening of the pressure upon 
them by expanding their organizations and increasing their demands, 
periods of abounding prosperity are periods of danger to capitalism. 
They are eras of genuine progress to the working class, even as are 
the times of unbearable hardships. The explanation that the back- 
wardness of American Labor is due to too much prosperity will not 
stand up. The workers as a class do not become enervated by pros- 
perity, they are energized by it and developed into militancy. Be- 
cause American workers have been comparatively well off is a reason, 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 23 

not that they should have a weak labor movement, but that their 
organizations, political and industrial, should be powerful, and revolu- 
tionary. 

The Real Cause, Dual Unionism 

The American labor movement is in its present deplorable back- 
ward condition not because of the reactionary influence of the immi- 
grant workers, or because of the stultifying effect of the higher 
standard of living prevailing in this country. This is plain when a 
serious study is made of the matter. Under certain circumstances 
both of these forces, particularly the former, may exert a hindering 
influence on the development of labor organization, but at most they 
are only minor factors. The real cause of the extraordinary condition 
must be sought elsewhere. And it is to be found in the fatal policy 
of dual unionism which has been practiced religiously for a genera- 
tion by American radicals and progressives generally. Because of this 
policy thousands of the very best worker militants have been led to 
desert the mass labor organizations and to waste their efforts in vain 
efforts to construct ideally conceived unions designed to replace the 
old ones. In consequence the mass labor movement has been, for 
many years, systematically drained of its life-giving elements. The 
effect has been shatteringly destructive of every phase and manifest- 
ation of Organized Labor. Dual unionism has poisoned the very springs 
of progress in the American labor movement and is primarily respon- 
sible for its present sorry plight. 

In order to appreciate the destructive effects of dual unionism it 
is necessary to understand the importance to Labor of the militant 
elements that have been practically cancelled by the dual union policy: 
Every experienced labor man knows that the vital activities of the 
labor movement are carried on by a small minority of live individuals, 
so few in number as to be almost insignificant in comparison to the 
organization as a whole. The great mass of the membership are slug- 
gish and unprogressive. In an average local union of 1,000 members, 
for example, not more than 100, or 10% of the whole, will display 
enough interest and intelligence even to attend the regular meetings. 
And of this 100 usually not more than half a dozen will take an active 
part in the proceedings. In other words, the actual carrying on of the 
real work of the labor movement depends upon a minority, which in 
the present state of things, does not exceed 1% of the mass. 

This militant minority is of supreme importance to every branch 



24 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

of the labor movement. It is the thinking and acting part of the 
working class, the very soul of Labor. It works out the righting pro- 
grams and takes the lead in putting them into execution. It is the 
source of all real progress, intellectual, spiritual, and organizational, 
in the workers' ranks. It is "the little leaven that leaveneth the whole 
lump." The militant minority, made famous by the Russian revolu- 
tion as the "advance guard of the proletariat," is the heart and brain 
and nerves of the labor movement all over the world. 

The fate of all labor organization depends directly upon the effec- 
tive functioning of these militant, progressive spirits among the ig- 
norant and sluggish organized masses. In England, Germany, and 
other countries with strong labor movements the militants have so 
functioned. They have remained within the old trade unions and acted 
as the practical teachers, stimulators, and leaders of the masses there 
assembled. Consequently they have been able to communicate to these 
masses something of their own understanding and revolutionary fight- 
ing spirit, and to make their movements flourish and progress. But 
in the United States dual unionism for years destroyed this natural 
liason between the militants and the masses, which is indispensible 
to the health and vigor of Organized Labor. It withdrew the mili- 
tants from the basic trade unions, and left the masses there leaderless. 
This destroyed the very foundations of progress and condemned every 
branch of the labor movement, political, industrial, co-operative, to 
stagnation and impotency. Dual unionism, so to speak, severed the 
head from the body of American Labor. 

History of Dual Unionism 
Before indicating more directly the devastating effects of dual 
unionism it will be well for us to glance for a moment at the histor- 
ical development of that tendency in this country : Dual unionism is 
essentially a product of utopianism ; it is the result of a striving to 
reach the revolutionary goal by a shortcut of ready-made, perfec- 
tionist organizations. In the early days of our labor movement, 30 
to 40 years ago, it played little or no part. Then the militants, not 
yet having worked out the fine-spun union theories and cartwheel 
charts of our times, accepted the primitive mass unions of those days 
as their working organization. Consisting principally of Anarchists 
and Socialists, these early fighters took a very active part in the 
everyday struggles of the organized workers. They sought diligently, 
not to coax the workers to desert one set of supposedly unscientific 



BANKRUPTCY OF Till-: LABOR MOVEMENT 25 

unions and to join another set supposedly perfect, but to give vigor 
and intelligence to the fight of the primitive organizations. Without 
realizing it they acted in harmony with the most modern militant tac- 
tics. The result was that the workers responded to their efforts, and 
our trade union movement speedily took its place, as a progressive, 
fighting organization, right in the forefront of international Organized 
Labor. Though free land and opportunity were much more prevalent 
then than now, they were powerless to stem the radicalism of the 
working class. 

During the '80s, when the revolutionists were particularly active 
in the old unions, the American labor movement was an inspiration 
to the workers of the world. The Knights of Labor were radical and 
aggressive. Most of the leaders were Socialists. Even Gompers pa- 
raded as a revolutionary. In 1887 he said: "While keeping in view 
a lofty ideal, we must advance towards it through practical steps, 
taken with intelligent regard for pressing needs. I believe with the 
most advanced thinkers as to ultimate aims, including the abolition 
of the wage system.' * The trade unions were also radical. It was not 
the K. of L,. as many believe, but the Federation of Trades and Labor 
Unions (later the A. F. of L.) that called and engineered the great 
general strike of 1886. This historic movement entranced the work- 
ing class rebels all over Europe, not only because it was the first 
modern attempt to win the universal 8-hour workday, but especially 
because it marked the first successful application of their beloved 
weapon, the general strike of all trades in all localities. In after years 
they named as Labor's international holiday the day, May 1st, upon 
which the strike began. In those stirring times our labor unions stood 
alone in the world for militancy and fighting spirit. This the inter- 
national labor movement looked upon as perfectly natural. The pre- 
vailing conception was that inasmuch as the United States (even in 
those early days) had the most advanced type of capitalism it was 
bound to have also the most advanced labor unions. The common 
expectancy was that this country would be the first to have a work- 
ing class revolution. 

Even after the unsatisfactory outcome of the great 8-hour strike 
and the execution of the rebel leaders, Parsons, Spies, Fisher, Engel, 
and Lingg in connection with the Haymarket riot, the Socialists and 
other radicals enjoyed great power and influence in the trade unions 
for several years. They were on friendly terms with the leaders of 



*J. R. Commons, History of Labour in the United Stairs Vol. II. I'. 458. 



20 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

the Federation and constantly making headway with their program. 
Yet they had a steady fight to make with the reactionary elements. 
This was being carried on successfully until the appearance of Daniel 
DeLeon as a power among the radicals. DeLeon, with his dynamic 
personality and alluring program of separtism, was quickly able to 
put a stop to the work in the trade unions and to start the rebel 
movement definitely upon the road to dual unionism. 

DeLeon and Dual Unionism 

Few men have made a greater impression upon the American 
labor movement than Daniel DeLeon. His principal accomplishment 
was to work out the intellectual premises of dual unionism so effect- 
ively as to force its adoption and continuance as the industrial pro- 
gram of the whole revolutionary movement for a generation. He was 
an able writer, an eloquent speaker, a clever reasoner, and a domi- 
nant personality generally. But despite his brilliance he was essen- 
tially a sophist and a Utopian. He particularly lacked a grasp of the 
process of evolution. He made the fundamental mistake of consider- 
ing the old trade unions as static, unchangeably conservative bodies, 
and in concluding that the necessary Socialist unions had to be cre- 
ated as new organizations. He did not know that the labor movement 
is a growth, intellecually from conservatism to radicalism, and struc- 
turally from the craft to the industrial form. DeLeon's industrial 
program of dual unionism was merely the typical Utopian scheme of 
throwing aside the old, imperfect, evolving social organism and striv- 
ing to set up in its stead the new, perfect institutions. 

DeLeon came to acquire considerable prestige in the radical move- 
ment about 1888. Of a hasty, impulsive, and autocratic nature, he 
soon fell foul of the two great branches of the labor movement, the 
American Federation of Labor and the Knights of Labor. He broke 
with the A. F. of L. over a skirmish which occurred in 1890 between 
that organization and the New York Central Labor Federation. The 
latter body, controlled by the Socialists, accepted the affiliation of a 
local branch of the Socialist Labor Party. But when its delegate, 
Lucien Sanial, appeared at the following convention of the A. F. of L. 
he was denied a seat. Unquestionably Gompers was right in this con- 
troversy, for until this day labor organizations, no matter how radi- 
cal, do not permit the direct affiliation of political parties. But the 
affair embittered the hasty DeLeon, who repudiated the A. F. of L. 
and turned his attention to the then decadent Knights of Labor. In 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 27 

that organization, grace to his great activity and natural ability, he 
soon acquired substantial power. At the 1894 General Assembly of 
the K. of L. he joined forces with Sovereign against Grand Master 
Workman Powderly. Together they overthrew the latter, but the 
victorious Sovereign, disregarding his political bargain, refused to re- 
ward DeLeon for his assitance by appointing Lucian Sanial editor of 
the official national journal. This provoked DeLeon's bitter ire, and 
he broke with the K. of L. These experiences, first with the A. F. 
of L. and then with the K. of L., convinced him that neither of these 
organizations were fit material wherewith to build up the Socialist 
labor movement he had in mind. Therefore, in the following year, 
1895, he launched the Socialist Trades and Labor Alliance, a radical 
organization designed to supplant the whole conservative labor move- 
ment. In the past there had been dual unions organized in opposi- 
tion to the old trade unions (witness for example the American Rail- 
way Union founded by Eugene V. Debs), but the S. T. & L. A. was tht- 
first of a general character and a revolutionary makeup. Its founda- 
tion clearly marked the embarkation of the radical movement upon its 
long-continued and disastrous program of dual unionism. 

Of course, DeLeon did not draw his dual union program simply 
out of thin air. Naturally there were present many factors which 
made it seem the plausible, if not inevitable, method to follow. De- 
spite their militancy, the trade unions of the time (while not worse 
than those of England, where dual unionism got no footing) were 
comparatively weak in numbers, stupid in their philosophy, and in- 
fested with job-hunters and reactionaries. To the rebels of those days, 
impatient and inexperienced as they were, it looked an unpromising 
task to convert these primitive groupings into Socialist organizations. 
It seemed much simpler to start the labor movement all over again, 
this time upon "scientific" principles. At that early date, because of 
the youth of the movement, they knew nothing of the unworkability 
of dual unionism. In 1895 DeLeon's plan, new discarded as Utopian, 
seemed logical and practical, almost an inspiration, in fact. 

Scores of Dual Unions 

The Socialist Trades and Labor Alliance was still-born. It never 
amounted to more than a handful of militants, the masses refusing 
to rally to its standard. The same forces that ruin all such unions 
effectively checked its growth. But if the S. T. & L. A. failed as an 
organization the idea behind it, of revolutionary dual unionism, made 



28 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

steady headway. More and more the radical movement, from left to 
right, became convinced that the trade unions were hopeless, more 
and more it turned its attention to dual unionism. DeLeon himself 
was a powerful factor in this development. 

In 1899 the Socialist Labor Party split, largely because of the trade 
union question, and gave birth to the Socialist Party. For a time it 
looked as though the new body might declare definitely for the trade 
unions and aganist dual unionism. But it soon developed a powerful 
left wing, led by Debs, Haywood and others, who advocated dual 
unionism as militantly as DeLeon himself had done in the old party. 
In the meantime, the dualist concept had become enlarged from that 
of simply a separate Socialist labor movement to that of a separate 
Socialist labor movement with an industrial form. Revolutionary dual 
unionism became revolutionary dual industrial unionism. Sympa- 
thizers multiplied apace. 

Soon the whole revolutionary and progressive movements became 
impregnated with the dual union idea. Even the right wing elements, 
who had previously fought against DeLeon over the matter, largely 
adopted it. Dual unions in single industries sprang up here and there. 
But it was in 1905 that the movement came to a head. The S. T. & 
L. A. being hopelessly moribund, a new general dual union organiza- 
tion was deemed necessary, so, with a great fanfare of trumpets, the 
whole radical movement gathered in Chicago to launch it. There were 
Socialists, Socialist Laborites, Anarchists, Industrialists, and Pro- 
gressives. The result of their historic convention was the Industrial 
Workers of the World, an organization devised to supplant the whole 
trade union structure and to realign the labor movement upon a new 
revolutionary basis. 

The I. W. W. went forth the embodiment of great hopes and ab- 
sorbing the efforts of the best workers in the country. But, never- 
theless, it could not triumph over the obstacles ever confronting such 
dual organizations. The workers simply refused to quit the old trade 
unions that had cost them so much trouble and strife to build. After 
several years, therefore, the I. W. W. was quite generally recognized 
as a failure, and the rebel elements began to turn away from it. But 
the peculiar thing was its failure did not discourage the dual union 
idea, anymore than had the downfall of the S. T. & L. A. On the 
contrary, that idea grew and flourished better than ever. 

Strangely enough, the longer the dual union policy was followed, 
the more logical it seemed, notwithstanding its failure to build any 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

new unions of consequence. This was because of the fact that as the 
revolutionary elements continued their tactics of quitting the old 
unions the latter, suffering the loss of their 1 best life's blood, withered 
and stagnated. More and more they became the prey of standpat- 
ters and reactionaries; less and less they presented an aspect calcu- 
lated to appeal to revolutionaries. Dual unionism became almost a 
religion among rebels. No longer would they even tolerate discussion 
of the proposition of working within the old unions. The Workers' 
International Industrial Union, the One Big Union (both of which 
aimed at covering all industries) and scores of dual unions in single 
industries were launched later to put the beloved program into effect. 
Though all of them failed almost completely, still the separatist 
policy maintained its ground with wonderful vitality. The whole rad- 
ical and progressive movement, from the extreme left to the liberals, 
was shot through and through with it. 

This widespread devotion to dual unionism, which has never been 
equalled in any other country, lasted until about the middle of 1921. 
At that time a bright light broke upon the rebels. All of a sudden they 
became aware of the fallacy of withdrawing from the organized 
masses. The intellectual structure of dual unionism fell to the ground 
with a crash. With a profound change of tactics, which for swiftness 
has never been paralleled in world labor history, the bulk of them 
repudiated the separatist policy they had followed so loyally for a 
generation and turned their attention to developing the old trade 
unions into modern, aggressive labor organizations. But of this re- 
markable shift we will say more further along. 



30 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 



CHAPTER III. 

Ravages of Dual Unionism 

Dual unionism is a malignant disease that sickens and devitalizes 
the whole labor movement. The prime fault of it is that it wastes the 
efforts of those vigorous elements whose activities determine the fate 
of all working class organization. It does this by withdrawing these 
rare and precious militants from the mass trade unions, where they 
serve as the very mainspring of vitality and progress, and by mis- 
directing their attention to the barren and hopeless work of building 
up impossible, Utopian industrial organizations. This drain of the 
best blood of the trade unions begins by enormously weakening these 
bodies and ends by making impotent every branch of the labor move- 
ment as well ; for the welfare of all Organized Labor, political, indus- 
trial, co-operative, educational, depends upon the trade unions, the 
basic organizations of the working class, being in a flourishing condi- 
tion. Dual unionism saps the strength of the trade unions, and when 
it does that it undermines the structure of the entire working class 
organization. 

The Dual Union's Fail 

Since the dual union program was outlined almost thirty years 
ago by DeLeon it has wasted a prodigeous amount of invaluable 
rebel strength. Tens of thousands of the very best men ever pro- 
duced by the American labor movement have devoted themselves to 
it whole-heartedly and have expended oceans of energy in order to 
bring the longed-for new labor movement into realization. But they 
were pouring water upon sand. The parched Sahara of dual indus- 
trial unionism swallowed up their efforts and left hardly a trace be- 
hind. The numerically insignificant dual unions of today are a poor 
bargain indeed in return for the enormous price they have cost. 

Consider, for example, the Industrial Workers of the World: The 
amount of energy and unselfish devotion lavished upon that organiza- 
tion would have wrought miracles in developing and extending the 
trade unions; but it has been powerless to make anything substantial 
of the I. W. W. Today, 17 years after its foundation, that body has 
far fewer members (not to speak of much less influence) than it had 
at its beginning. The latest available official financial reports show a 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 31 

membership of not more than 15,000, whereas in 1905 it had 40,000. Even 
its former revolutionary spirit has degenerated until the organization 
has now become little more than assort of league to make war upon 
the trade unions and to revile and slander struggling Soviet Russia. 
The I. W, W. is a monument to the folly of dual unionism. 

The One Big Union of Canada is another example of rebel effort 
wasted in dual unionism. Four years ago it started out with a great 
blare of trumpets and about 40,000 members. Its advent threw dis- 
sension into the old trade unions and shattered their ranks. They lost 
heavily in membership, the militants pulling out the more active ele- 
ments on behalf of the O. B. U. Yet, today, this organization, de- 
spite the great effort put into it, has but an insignificant membership, 
not over 4,000 at most, and its constructive influence is about in pro- 
portion. It was a costly, ill-fated experiment, and in the main has 
worked havoc to Canadian labor. The Workers' International Indus- 
trial Union, another universal dual union, has occupied the attention 
of the Socialist Labor Party's active spirits for 14 years, but now it 
can muster only a few hundred actual members. Similar records of 
disastrous waste of rebel effort are shown by the dozens of dual unions 
started in the various single industries, all of which literally burned 
up the energies of the militants. Except for those in the textile, food, 
and shoe industries, which have secured some degree of success, these 
dual unions have all failed completely. They have absorbed untold 
labor of the best elements among the workers and have yielded next 
to nothing in return. Dual unionism is a useless and insupportable 
squandering of Labor's most precious life force. It is a bottomless 
pit into which the workers have vainly thrown their energy and 
idealism. 

Devitalizing the Trade Unions 

The waste of rebel strength, caused so long by dual unionism, 
has reacted directly and disastrously upon the trade unions. For 
many years practically all the radical papers and revolutionary 
leaders in this country were deeply tinged with dual unionism. In 
their program the ideas of secessionism and progressive unionism 
were welded into one. The consequence was that as fast as the 
active workers in the trade unions became acquainted with the 
principles of revolutionary unionism they also absorbed the idea of 
dualism. Thus they lost faith and interest in their old organiza- 
tions, either quitting them entirely for some dual union, or becoming 



32 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

so much dead timber within them. The general outcome of this whole- 
sale turning away of the progressive minority was to divorce the 
very idea of progress from the trade unions. It nipped in the bud 
the growing crop of militants, the only element through which virile 
life and development could come to the old organizations. Dual union- 
ism dried up the very spring of progress in the trade unions, it con- 
demned them to sterility and stagnation. It was a long-continued 
process of slow poisoning for the labor movement. 

A disastrous effect of this systematic demoralization and draining 
away of the militants is that it has thrown the trade unions almost 
entirely into the control of the organized reactionaries. In all labor 
movements the unions can prosper and grow only if the progressive 
elements within them organize closely and wage vigorous battle all 
along the line against the conservative bureaucracy. The militants 
must build machines to fight those of the reactionaries. But in the 
United States dual unionism has prevented the creation of such pro- 
gressive machines. By its incessant preaching that the trade unions 
were hopeless and that nothing could be done with them, it dis- 
couraged even those militants who did stay within the unions and 
prevented them from developing an organized opposition to the bur- 
eaucrats. Poisoned by dual union pessimism about the old organiza- 
tions and altogether without a constructive program to apply to them, 
the militants stood around idly for years in the trade unions while 
the reactionary forces intrenched themselves and ruled as they saw 
fit. Because of their dualistic notions the militants practically de- 
serted the field and left it to the uncontested sway of their enemies. 
If the American labor movement is now hard and fast in the grip 
of a stupid and corrupt bureaucracy, totally incapable of progress, 
dual unionism, through its demoralization of the trade union opposi- 
tion, is chiefly to blame. 

During the great movement of the packinghouse workers the in- 
difference of the radicals towards the old unions wrought particular 
havoc. A handful of rebels, free from dual union ideas, were pri- 
marily responsible for the historic movement. Soon they found them- 
selves in a finish fight with the conservatives for control of the newly 
formed unions. Occupying the strategic position in the organizations, 
especially in the Chicago stockyards, they begged the dualistic radi- 
cals, who worked in the industry, to come in and help them control 
the unions, offering to place them in secretaryships and other im- 
portant posts. Had this offer been accepted, it would have certainly 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

resulted in the big packinghouse unions, then numbering over 100,000 
members, coming entirely under progressive leadership. But so 
strong was the spirit of dualism at that time, in 1919, that the out- 
standing rebels, mostly extreme left-wingers, would not participate 
constructively in the trade unions even under such exceptionally 
favorable circumstances. They refused the invitation with insults 
and contempt. The consequence w?s that the few militants within 
the old unions were swamped by the reactionaries, who soon wrecked 
the whole organization by their incompetence and corruption. It 
was a splendid opportunity lost. Similar opportunities existed in 
other industries. It is safe to say that if the radicals had been free 
of dual unionist tendencies during the war period and had been active 
in the trade unions, the great bulk of the working class would have 
been organized, instead of the comparatively few that were gotten 
together by the reactionaries, who controlled the unions. 

Disruption Through Secession 

Dual unionism's steady drain upon the vitality of the trade unions 
by withdrawing and demoralizing the militants piecemeal has been 
ruinous enough, but the many great secession movements it has 
given birth to have made the situation much worse. It is the partic- 
ular misfortune of the American labor movement that just when 
some trade union is passing through a severe crisis, as a result of 
industrial depression, internal dissension, a lost strike, or some other 
weakening influence, the dual union tendency breaks out with unusual 
virulence and a secession movement develops that completes the 
havoc already wrought. Exactly at the time the militants are needed 
the most to hold the organization together is just when they are 
the busiest pulling it apart. In such crises those who should be the 
union's best friends become its worst enemies. This has happened 
time and again. During the past two years, for exemple, the long- 
shoremen and seamen have had bitter experience with such break- 
away movements. Both organizations had lost big strikes, and both 
were in critical need of rebuilding and rejuvenating by the progressive 
elements. But just at this critical juncture the latter failed, and, in- 
stead of strengthening the unions, set about tearing them to pieces 
with secession movements. Four or five dual unions appeared, and 
when they got done attacking the old organizations and fighting 
among themselves all traces of unionism were wiped out in many 



34 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

ports. Similar attacks are now being directed against the weakened 
railroad shopmen's unions. 

A great secession movement, typical for its disastrous effects, 
was the famous "outlaw" strike of the switchmen in 1920. That ill- 
fated movement began because of a widespread discontent among the 
rank and file at the neglect of their grievances by the higher union 
officials. It was a critical situation, but had there been a well-organ- 
ized militant minority on hand the foment could have been given a 
constructive turn and used as a means not only to satisfy the demands 
of the workers but also to defeat the reactionaries. But the long- 
continued dualistic propaganda in the railroad industry had effective- 
ly prevented the organization of such a minority. Hence, leaderless, 
the movement ran wild and culminated in the "outlaw" strike. Then, 
as usual, the secessionist tendency showed itself and a new organiza- 
tion was formed. The final result was disaster all around for the 
men. The strike was lost, many thousands of active workers were 
blacklisted, the unions were weakened by the loss of their best men, 
and the grip of the reactionaries on the organization was strength- 
ened by the complete breakup of the rebel opposition. The "outlaw" 
strike of 1920 was one of the heavy penalties American workers have 
paid for their long allegiance to Utopian dual unionism. 

Likewise typical of the ruin wrought by dual unionism was the 
movement that gave birth to the Canadian One Big Union in 1918. 
Freeing themselves for the moment from the dual union obsession, the 
rebels had raised the banner of industrial unionism in the old trade 
unions, and the workers, seeing at last an escape from reactionary 
policies and leadership, responded en masse. Union after union passed 
into revolutionary control, and the movement swept Western 
Canada like a storm. It seemed that finally an organization of mili- 
tants, without which there could be no progress, was about to be 
definitely established in the trade unions. But just when the move- 
ment was most promising the dualists got the upper hand and steered 
the whole business into the quagmire of secession by launching the 
O. B. U. as a new labor movement. Havoc resulted. The new union, 
of course, got nowhere, and the old ones were split and weakened by 
dissensions and the loss of many thousands of their very best work- 
ers. But, worst of all, the budding organized minority within the 
trade unions was wrecked, and the organizations passed completely 
into the control of the reactionaries. The O. B. U. secession set back 
the whole Canadian labor movement for years. 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 35 

Breaking ihh Western Federation of Miners 

One of the great tragedies caused by dual unionism was the 
smashing of the Western Federation of Miners. This body of metal 
miners, organized in 1893, was in its early days a splendid type of 
labor union. Industrial in form and frankly revolutionary, it carried 
on for many years a spectacular and successful struggle against the 
Mine Owners' Association. Brissenden says that its strikes in Coeur 
d'Alene, Cripple Creek, Leadville, Telluride, Idaho Springs, etc., were 
"the most strenuous and dramatic series of strike disturbances in the 
history of the American labor movement." Time after time the miners 
armed themselves and fought it out with the gunmen and thugs of 
the mining companies. Their valiant battles attracted world-wide 
attention. * 

But this great organization, unquestionably one of the best ever 
produced by the American labor movement, has long since been 
wrecked both in point of numbers and spirit. Insignificant in size, 
it has also become so conservative as to be ashamed of its splendid 
old name. It is now known as the International Union of Mine, Mill 
and Smelter Workers. This pitiful degeneration of the Western Fed- 
eration of Miners was caused directly by dual unionism. Some detail 
is necessary in order to show how it happened: 

To begin with we must understand that in its best days only a 
few of the W. F. of M. membership, not over 5% at most,** were 
active and revolutionary. This small minority, highly organized, oc- 
cupied all the strategic points of the union. Thus they were able 
to communicate something of their own revolutionary spirit to the 
mass as a whole. The organized rebels literally compelled the W. 
F. of M. to be a virile fighting organization. 

In 1905, the W. F. of M. was one of the unions that formed the 
I. W. W. It remained part of that organization for about two years, 
when it withdrew. The militant elements, the ones who had made 
the W. F. of M. what it was, were bitterly opposed to the with- 
drawal. For the most part they stayed in the I. W. W. and allowed 
the W. F. of M. to go its way without them. Hundreds of the best 
men, including such fighters as Haywood, St. John, etc., deserted the 

•The history of the W. F. of M. gives the lie direct to tin- argument thai pro* 
perity kills the militancy of the workers. That union was made up mostly of Amen 
can horn workers and operated in what was then the most prosperous section of the 
country, the Rocky Mountain district. 

••Estimated by Vincent St. John, former \V. 1". of M. militant. 



36 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

old organization, either by quitting it altogether or by becoming neg- 
ative factors in it. The passage of the W. F. of M. through the I. 
W. W. served to sift out the active workers, to rob the W. F. of M. 
of its very soul. The W. F. of M. went into the I. W. W. a revolu- 
tionary organization; it came out of it, if not actually conservative, 
then at least definitely condemned to that fate. 

After the W. F. of M.'s withdrawal from the I. W. W. its mili- 
tants, all become ardent dual unionists, declared war to the knife 
against it. The organization which had previously absorbed so much 
of their unselfish devotion was thereafter the object of their bitterest 
attacks. Once the very backbone of the W. F. of M., the militants 
now became its deadliest foes. Under these circumstances it was not 
long until the degeneration set in which has reduced the once splen- 
did Western Federation of Miners to its present lowly status. 

Among others, the writer was one who pointed out the folly of 
rebels destroying an industrial union like the W. F. of M., simply 
because it had withdrawn from the I. W. W., and who likewise urged 
that a campaign be started to take control of the union again. But 
the answer always given was that the Moyer machine, especially be- 
cause it controlled the big Butte local union, was unshakably in- 
trenched. And when it was proposed to capture the Butte local this 
was declared impossible. But the fallacy of this objection was made 
apparent in 1914 when, as a result of insupportable grievances, the 
rank and file of the Butte organization rose up, drove their officials 
from town and took charge of the situation. This put Butte, the cita- 
del of the reaction, squarely in thej hands of the militants. Had they 
but stayed in the W. F. of M. and carried on a campaign in the 
other locals the whole organization would have been theirs for the 
taking. But they were so obsessed with the dual unionism prevailing 
generally among rebels, and so blinded with hatred for everything 
connected with the A. F. of L., that they seceded at once and formed 
a new union. This went to smash, as such organizations almost al- 
ways do. The only practical effect of the whole affair was to deal a 
death blow to W. F. of M., already weakened and poisoned by the 
desertion of its former militants. 

It is one of the saddest facts of American labor history that the 
Western Federation of Miners was finally destroyed by the very men 
who originally built it and made it one of the joys of the working 
class. What the Mine Owners' Association, with all its money and 
power, was unable to accomplish, the militants, obsessed by dual 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMEN1 37 

unionism, brought about with little or no difficulty. Their allegiance 
to an impractical theory has broken up all organization among the 
metal miners. And the ravages that were made upon the W. F. of M. 
have been visited to a greater or lesser extent upon every other trade 
union in the United States, for all of them have had to suffer the 
loss of their most active workers and to confront as bitter enemies 
those very fighters who should be their main reliance. 

Downfall of tiik Socialist I'artv 

A striking example of the destructive influence of dual unionism 
upon other working class organizations besides trade unions, was the 
ruin it wrought to the Socialist Party. For many years the S. P. was 
the chief vehicle for revolutionary thought in this country. Gradually 
it grew and expanded until, in 1912, it reached a total of 118,000 mem- 
bers. It appeared to be flourishing and destined for a vigorous future. 
But all of a sudden it began to wither and disintegrate, a process 
which went on until now the S. P. has less than 10,000 members. 

This quick collapse of the Socialist Party was one of the most 
remarkable events in modern labor history. It seemed that the very 
bottom fell out of the movement. The first immediate cause was the 
passage, at the 1912 national convention, of the famous Art. 2, Sec. 6, 
of the party constitution, stringently prohibiting the advocacy of 
sabotage, and other forms of direct action. This measure, amounting 
in effect to an anti-syndicalist law, greatly antagonized the left-wing 
elements and drove many of them from the party. The next blow 
came when the United States entered the great war. The party 
adopted an anti-war resolution, only to find itself confronted with 
a labor movement and a working class generally stricken by war 
fever. Result, further great losses in membership and prestige. The 
final stroke came with the Communist split in 1919. This pulled 
away at least half of the remaining party membership, and the rest, 
demoralized, have been unable to recover and to rehabilitate the or- 
ganization. Since then the S. P. has diminished constantly in strength 
to its present low level. 

The three above-mentioned causes for the breakdown of the So- 
cialist Party, despite their importance, were only of a surface char- 
acter. The real reason lies deeper. It is to be found in the organ- 
ization's faulty economic policy, in the dual unionism which has af- 
flicted it ever since the party's foundation. All working class polit- 
ical parties, whether Labor, Socialist, Communist, or whatnot, must 



38 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

be organized with the trade unions as their foundation. This is be- 
cause the trade unions are the basic institutions of the working class. 
The fact that they carry on the everyday struggle of the workers 
for better conditions gives them enormous prestige and numerical 
and financial strength, all of which labor parties must utilize in their 
political work. It may be accepted as an axiom that whoever con- 
trols the trade unions is able to dictate the general policies, economic, 
political and otherwise, of the whole working class. All over the 
world the strength of the workers' political parties is in direct ratio 
to the amount of control they exercise over the mass trade unions. 
Such a thing as a powerful labor party, whether conservative or rad- 
ical, without strong trade union backing, is impossible. Therefore, 
one of the very first tasks of every working class political organiza- 
tion must be to establish its influence in the trade unions. 

The Socialist Party has never understood these cardinal facts. 
Its working principle, real enough even though unexpressed, has al- 
ways been a presumption that it could secure its membership and 
backing from the citizenry generally. It has not realized that all 
labor parties must have as their foundation not only the masses, but 
the masses organized in the trade unions. Because of the tendency 
of its predecessor, the Socialist Labor Party, to split away the rebels 
from the trade unions, the thing that the S. P. necessarily had to do 
in order to succeed was to carry on an intense campaign against dual- 
ism and to intrench its active workers in* the strategic positions of 
the labor organizations, where they could educate the masses and 
utilize their industrial, financial, and other strength to further the 
cause of the whole Socialist movement. But because it did not clearly 
understand the importance of the unions as such it failed to map 
out such a positive industrial program, indispensable to its life and 
progress. It allowed all its industrial work to be thwarted by a dual 
unionism which infected the party deeply from its inception. 

Although when the Socialist Party developed as a split-off from 
the old Socialist Labor Party one of the issues it dissented upon 
was the latter's policy of dual unionism, it was not long until it, too, 
was in the grip of the same disease. A powerful left-wing, bitter 
haters of the trade unions and ardent advocates of a dual labor move- 
ment, rapidly developed. The right-wing favored active participation 
in the trade unions, chiefly for vote-catching reasons, while the left- 
wing proposed the destruction of the trade unions. The party as a 
whole, seeking a false harmony, straddled this vital question. Its 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 39 

general attitude was to favor industrial unionism, but not to tell its 
members how to achieve this form of organization, whether through 
the development of the old unions or the establishment of new ones. * 
As an organization it carried out no serious work to build up the 
necessary .labor union foundation. Each wing of the party applied 
its own particular industrial policies. For some years the right-wing 
attempted to capture the old unions, and with considerable success 
in the Machinists', Bakers', Clothing Workers', Miners' and other 
unions, but on the whole, the left wing, by a bitter warfare against 
the trade unions, sabotaged such work most effectively. 

Because of this negative attitude the Socialist Party never won 
for itself the support of the labor organizations, without which it 
could not possibly succeed. Its members never were encouraged to 
occupy the tremendously important strategic posts, such as executive 
officers, editors, etc., in the trade unions, which could have been 
used to enormous advantage for the party. On the contrary, these 
posts remained uncontested in the hands of the conservatives, who 
used them most effectively to poison the masses against Socialism. 
When, for example, the party adopted the anti-war resolution it 
would have been comparatively simple to secure the support, or at 
least the toleration, of the working class for that measure, had the 
radicals been strategically intrenched in the unions. But with the 
Gompers crowd in complete control the latter were able to sway the 
whole trade union movement, and with it the working class in gen- 
eral, against the Socialist Party and its anti-war attitude. In this 
instance the party reaped the whirlwind that it had been sowing for 
so many years by its failure to conquer the trade unions, a task which 
it could have easily accomplished had it but freed itself from dualism. 
In Europe the Socialist Parties of the various countries have suf- 
fered many heavy blows since the beginning of the world war. But 
they have stood up under them far better than the American Social- 
ist Party. This is because, being deeply rooted in their respective 
trade unions, there is some structure and fiber to them. Consider 
the Social Democratic Party of Germany, for example. That organ- 
ization openly betrayed the workers all through the war and the rev- 



•A classic example of this negative policy was the famous industrial resolution 
adopted in the 1912 S. P. convention. This resolution, accepted unanimously by 
dual unionists and trade unionists alike, was nothing more than an agreement be- 
tween the two factions that the party in general should actively support neither the 
trade unions nor the dual unions, in other words, that it should have no industrial 
program at all. 



40 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

olutionary period. It forfeited its right to represent the working 
class. In consequence it was subjected to several great splits and 
innumerable desperate assaults from without by the left-wing ele- 
ments. But it has maintained itself with a vigor not even remotely 
shown by the Socialist Party in this country. The explanation for 
this was its firm control over the German trade union movement. 
Having in its hands practically all the executive positions of the 
unions, it was able to control the masses even under the most trying 
circumstances. Had the left-wingers been able to break this trade 
union control, the S. D. P. would have collapsed even as our Socialist 
Party did. The degree of success of the German Communist Party 
in its present struggle against the Social Democratic Party is in direct 
relation to its ability to win the trade unions away from S. D. P. 
domination. 

The Socialist Party in this country collapsed because it was built 
upon talk, instead of upon the solid foundation of the trade union 
movement. Because it did not have the labor unions behind it the 
organization had no real stability. Hence, when it was put to the 
test, as noted above, in 1912, 1917, and 1919, it went to pieces. Dual 
unionism kept the Socialist militants out of the organized masses and 
thus directly prevented the winning of the working class to the be- 
ginnings of a revolutionary program. Moreover, it made of the S. P. 
itself a formless, spineless movement, which was shattered at the first 
real shock. Dual unionism ruined the Socialist Party. 

Further illustrations might be cited almost indefinitely to show 
the baneful effects of dual unionism upon various working class or- 
ganizations. By pulling the militants out of the trade unions and 
wasting their energies on futile Utopian separatist organizations, dual 
unionism has robbed the whole working class of progressive leader- 
ship. It has thrown the great labor unions almost entirely into the 
hands of a corrupt and ignorant bureaucracy, which has choked out 
their every manifestation of real progress. And in stultifying and 
ruining the trade unions, dual unionism condemned to sterility every 
branch of the entire labor movement, industrial, political, and other- 
wise; for if the workers in general have not been educated to an 
understanding of capitalism and the class struggle, if they have not 
developed a revolutionary ideal, if they have not yet organized polit- 
ically on class lines, if they have not yet produced a powerful co- 
operative movement — in every instance the cause may be directly 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 41 

traced to the paralyzing influence of the reactionary trade union 
bureaucracy, which dual unionism intrenched in power. The persist- 
ence, for a generation, of the fatal dual union policy is the true ex- 
planation of the paradoxical and deplorable situation of the United 
States, the most advanced capitalist country in the world, having the 
most backward labor movement. 



42 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 



CHAPTER IV. 

New Realism vs. Old Utopianism 

But the American labor movement is at last freeing itself from the 
dual union tendency which has sucked away its life blood for so many 
years. During the past 18 months whole sections of the militants 
have undergone an intellectual revolution, repudiating their historic 
policy of building independent idealistic labor organizations, and turn- 
ing with remarkable rapidity and unanimity to the work of revamping 
and revolutionizing the old trade unions. Practically every branch 
of the radical and progressive movements has been effected by this 
unprecedented tactical about-face. The Communist groups, viz.: 
Communist Party, Workers' Party, and Proletarian Party, have been 
particularly influenced. Made up of elements to whom dual union- 
ism was almost a religion for many years, they have now turned 
entirely against that policy and are working diligently within the 
old unions to revive and re-invigorate them. Quite evidently those 
parties are determined not to make the fatal mistake, which ruined 
the Socialist Party, of failing to establish their militants in the stra- 
tegic positions in the organized masses. The Farmer-Labor Party 
militants, always active in the unions, have had their work clarified 
and intensified. The Socialist Party, the I. W. W., the O. B. U., and the 
various single industry dual unions have also been greatly touched by 
the new viewpoint. Large numbers of the latters' most active spirits 
have come out openly for consolidation with the trade unions. It is 
the most complete change of tactics that has ever taken place in any 
country in the world in so short a time. Dual unionism has been dealt 
a death blow. 

The Cause of the Rennaissance 

The new movement is crystallizing in the Trade Union Educa- 
tional League; but before describing this organization it will be well 
for us to consider the origin of the profound and remarkable tactical 
reversal and the differences between the old Utopian dual unionism 
and the new realistic industrial program: 

The repudiation of dual unionism in the United States and Can- 
ada was precipitated as a result of the Russian revolution. When the 
Communists of the world, shortly after the revolution, organized their 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 43 

political party, the Third International, one of the first great organ- 
izational problems to confront them was that of the trade unions. In 
order to succeed in its immense task of overthrowing capitalism gen- 
erally, the new International was compelled to have the backing of 
the masses. organized industrially. But the difficulty was how to se- 
cure this support. Everywhere the trade unions were in the hands 
of reactionary leaders, and the question was whether the Commun- 
ists should stay in the old unions and launch a bitter struggle to 
control them, or withdraw from them, smash them up, and start dual 
labor movements in the various countries. 

For a time the dualistic conception prevailed, particularly in the 
programs for Germany and the United States. But the keen Russian 
leaders at the head of the Third International were quick to perceive 
the folly of such a course. Zinoviev, Radek, and others began to 
combat the separatist tendency and to urge penetration of the trade 
unions. Lenin himself was especially militant in this respect. In his 
famous booklet. The Infantile Sickness of 'Leftism' in Communism, 
he says : 

But the German 'Left' Communists commit the same stupid- 
ity when, because of the reactionary and counter-revolutionary 
heads of the trades unions, they, through some inexplicable mental 
process, jump to the conclusion that it is necessary to quit these 
organizations altogether! To refuse to work in them! To in- 
vent new workingmen's unions ! This is an unpardonable blunder 
which results in the Communists rendering the greatest service to 
the bourgeoisie ... A greater lack of sense and more harm 
to the revolution than this attitude of the 'Left' Communists can- 
not be imagined . . . There is no doubt that Messrs. Gompers, 
Henderson, Jouhaux, Legien, etc., are very grateful to such 'Left' 
revolutionaries who, like the German opposition-in-principle ele- 
ments, or as so many among the American revolutionaries in the 
Industrial Workers of the World, preach the necessity of quit- 
ting reactionary trade unions and refusing to work in them. 

Losovsky, head of the Red International of Labor Unions and 
also of the General Council of the All-Russian Trade Unions, was 
another who inveighed heavily against dual unionism. In his pamphlet. 
The International Council of Trade and Industrial Unions, and speak- 
ing of the formation of that body, forerunner of the present Red 
International of Labor Unions, he says : 

All this evidence of the invincibility of the trade union bur- 
eaucracy (advanced by the I. W. W. dualists) created a curious 
impression. On the one hand these comrades were preparing to 



44 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

bring about a social revolution in their country — and on the other 
hand they speak of Gompers with such holy horror as if to drive 
Gompers and the other traitors out of the trade unions was a 
much more difficult task than overthrowing the mighty capitalist 
class of America ... To leave the trade unions and to set up 
small independent unions is an evidence of weakness, it is a policy 
of despair and, more than that, it shows lack of faith in the work- 
ing class . . . The motto put forth by the Communist Inter- 
national, and which is our motto also, is : 'Not the destruction, but 
the conquest of the trade unions.' 
At the 2nd congress of the Third International, held in Moscow 
in 1920, heavy blows were dealt the dual unionists by the realistic 
Russian leaders. Radek in particular waged war against them. He 
tried, but without much success, to have the American delegation 
adopt a trade union policy. The congress finally condemned dualism 
in principle. But a definite stand was not taken on the matter until 
the congress of 1921. In the year that had passed the problem of 
dual unionism had become a burning issue in many countries. It 
had to be settled, and the congress handled it without gloves. As a 
result the dualists were overwhelmingly defeated and the tactics of 
participation in the trade unions was endorsed and adopted. In the 
trade union theses outlining the general policy of the Third Inter- 
national it says : 

During the next epoch the principal task of all Communists 
will be to concentrate their energy and perseverance on winning 
over to their side the majority of workers in all labor unions. 
They must not be discouraged by the present reactionary ten- 
dency of the trade unions, but take active part in the struggles of 
the unions and win them over to the cause of Communism in 
spite of all resistance. 

Dealing directly with the industrial program to be applied in 
America, the theses say: 

Communists must on no account leave the ranks of the re- 
actionary American Federation of Labor. On the contrary, they 
should get into the old trade unions in order to revolutionize 
them. 

Following closely after the 3rd congress of the Third International 
came the 1st congress of the Red International of Labor Unions. In 
that body also the advocates of breaking up the old unions and 
starting the labor movement all over again were routed completely. 
The general theses on the subject say: 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 45 

The task of the revolutionary elements in the trade unions 
does not consist in wresting from the unions the best and most 
class conscious workers in order to create small independent or- 
ganizations. Their task should be to revolutionize the unions, to 
transform them into a weapon of social revolution by means of 
the everyday struggle in favor of all the revolutionary demands 
put forth by the workers within the old trade unions ... To 
conquer the unions means to conquer the masses, and these can 
only be conquered by a systematic campaign of work, setting 
against the policy of class collaboration that of our steady line 
of revolutionary action. The slogan, "Out of the Trade Unions" 
prevents us from conquering the masses for our cause and re- 
tards the advance of the social revolution. 

The R. I. L. U. program for America says : 
The question of creating revolutionary cells and groups within 
the American Federation of Labor and the independent unions is 
of vital importance. There is no other way by which one could 
gain the working mass in America, than to lead a systematic 
struggle in the trade unions. 
This categoric condemnation of dual unionism by both branches 
of the Communist International, political and industrial, produced a 
profound effect in America. The left-wing elements who for so many 
years had accepted industrial dualism as a self-evident necessity, in 
fact, almost as a religion, were literally shocked into a re-valuation 
of it. Their eyes were opened all of a sudden to its disastrous conse- 
quences. Then they repudiated it and began their present great drive 
back to the old trade unions. To the Third International, and partic- 
ularly to the Russians at the head of it, is due the credit for breaking 
the deadly grip of dual unionism in the American labor movement. 

Old Viewpoints Discarded 

With the repudiation of dual unionism, the militants have also 
cast aside many of the theories they once held regarding the unions 
and have adopted new and different conceptions. In the past, blinded 
by the glittering dual union Utopia and embittered by organization 
chauvinism, they developed many bizarre notions about the trade 
unions in order to justify the dualist policy. In the iight of recent 
events these theories seem ridiculous. The real meaning of the labor 
movement escaped the dual unionists altogether. Besides ascribing 
the most extravagant virtues to their Utopian dual organizations, they 
lashed the old trade unions with criticisms which, for wildness and 
vitriolic sharpness, have never been equalled in any other country. 



46 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

They looked upon the trade unions as a sort of conspiracy carried 
out by the employers against the working class,* as capitalistic or- 
ganizations which, yielding no benefits to the workers now and utterly 
incapable of evolving into genuine labor unions, had to be ruthlessly 
destroyed. The following list of miscellaneous quotations from well- 
known militants illustrates typically the long prevailing intense hatred 
and contempt for the trade unions: 

The American Federation of Labor is not now and never can 
become a labor movement. ** 

The United Mine Workers is a capitalist organization just as 
much as the standing army of the United States, t 

The 28,000 local unions of the A. F. of L. are 28,000 agencies 
of the capitalist class, tt 

When it comes to strikebreaking the A. F. of L. has Farley 
beaten 1,000 ways. X 



'Dual unionists commonly make the charge that the A. F. of L., backed by capi- 
talist money, was organized to destroy the Knights of Labor, and then, with charac- 
teristic inconsistency, they claim the success of the A. F. of L. as proving the 
feasibility of the dual union program. But the fact is the A. F. of L. was not or- 
ganized as a rival organization to the K. of L. When the A. F. of L. was founded 
in 1881 it had 40,000 members (out of a total of 200,000 trade unionists in the 
whole country) whereas the K. of L. at that period had only 20,000 members. Only 
for a couple of years, when it was at its peak, did the K. of L. exceed the trade 
unions in numerical strength. Generally speaking the trade unions represented the 
skilled workers, and the K. of L. the semi-skilled and, unskilled. At first no rivalry 
existed between the two movements. They maintained friendly relations until 1884, 
when the K. of L. began its rapid growth and hectic career. Needing the skilled 
workers in its bitter battles against the employers, the K. of L. embarked upon a 
militant campaign to absorb the trade unions. This started the fight. John R. Com- 
mons, iri his History of Labor in the United States, P. 386-411, says: "The conflict 
was held in abeyance during the early eighties. The trade unions were by far the 
strongest organisations in the field (Italics ours) and they scented no particular 
danger when here and there the Knights formed an assembly either contiguous to 
the sphere of a trade union or even encroaching upon it." But with the great 
expansion of the Knights, beginning about 1884, the jurisdictional war began in 
earnest. "In nearly every instance the Knights were the aggressors." Finally, at 
their General Assembly in 1886, the Knights declared war against the trade unions. 
This aroused the latter to self-defense. They opened peace negotiations with the 
K. of L., but as these failed, "Thereupon the Federation declared war upon the 
Knights and announced the decision to carry hostilities into the enemy's territory." 
In view of these, facts it is idle to assert that the A. F. of L. was a capitalist con- 
spiracy, or even a dual union, against the Knights of Labor. 

**Vincent St. John, in speeches. 

tjames P. Thompson, Everett, Wash, 1911 convention of International Union 
of shingle Weavers. 

ttWm. D. Haywood, in speeches. 

t James P. Thompson, Everett, Wash., 1911. 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 47 

The American Federation of Labor is neither American, nor a 
federation, nor of labor. * 

There is no case in the history of bygone organization in the 
labor movement where existing organizations have changed to 
meet new conditions. •• 

The first duty of every revolutionist is to destroy the A. F. 
of L. There can be no revolutionary organization so long as it 
exists.t 

We simply have to go at them (the trade unions) and smash 
them from top to bottom, tt 
I would cut off my right arm rather than join the A. F. of L. t 

We don't want to save the Federation any more than to save 
the nation ; we aim at destroying it.tt 

The A. F. of L. never won a strike, the I. W. W. never lost 
one. § 

If any officer of a pure and simple trade or labor organization 
applies for membership in the Socialist Labor Party he shall be 
rejected. §§ 

It has been said that this convention was to form an organiza- 
tion rival to the A. F. of L. This is a mistake. We are here for 
the purpose of forming a labor organization. IF 

This wornout system (trade unionism) offers no promise of 
improvement and adaptation. There is no silver lining to the 
clouds of darkness and despair settling down upon the world of 
labor. IH 

It might as well be said if the fine energy exhibited by the 
I. W. W. were put into the Catholic Church (instead of the trade 
unions) that the result would* be the workers' control of in- 
dustry, fl 
Through the foregoing intensely hostile criticisms, which truly 
reflect the viewpoint held generally by rebels for many years regard- 



*Danitl DeLeon, 1905 I. VV. W. convention. 

••Vincent St. John, Why the A. F. of L. Cannot Become an Industrial Union. 

tjoseph J. Ettor, Samuel Gompers Smascherato. 

ttTom Hickey, cited by Brissenden, History of the I. W. W., P. 49. 

JYVm. D. Haywood. 

ttjoseph J. Ettor, cited by Brissenden, History of the I. W. W., P. 303. 

SJames P. Thompson, in speeches. 

|§Socialist Labor Party convention, 1900. 

HWm. D. Haywood, 1905 I. W. W. convention. 

^Manifesto °f conference forming I. W. W., 1905. 

ifVVm. D. Haywood, International Socialist Rcziew, March, 1914. 



48 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

ing the trade unions, run the conceptions that the trade unions are 
essentially capitalistic in nature, and that they cannot develop into 
bona fide revolutionary organizations. But the militants of today, 
since their great change in opinion and tactics, no longer accept these 
far-fetched and unjustifiable conclusions. They see the trade unions 
for what they really are, primitive but genuine attempts of an ignor- 
ant working class to organize and fight the exploiters that are harass- 
ing it. If the organizations are afflicted by all sorts of capitalist ideas 
and notions it is because the workers as a whole suffer from them 
also. Timid and muddled trade unions are a logical throwoff of a 
timid and muddled working class. But as the workers gradually be- 
come educated, and especially as a more militant and intelligent ele- 
ment achieves leadership among them, the trade unions will constantly 
take on higher forms and a more advanced psychology, until finally 
they develop into scientifically constructed, class conscious weapons 
in the revolutionary struggle. 

In the era just past the militants made much of the fact that the 
trade unions demanded only "a fair day's pay for a fair day's work," 
claiming this slogan showed conclusively that they were wedded to 
the perpetuation of the capitalist system. It was one of the prime 
reasons why the Socialists did not invade the A. F. of L., depose the 
Gompers regime, and change the whole face of the labor movement 
twenty years ago. But the militants are no longer deceived by this 
and similar slogans. They see that little or no attention is paid to 
such doctrines in real practice. The unions know no such thing as 
"a fair day's pay for a fair day's work." Consciously or unconsciously, 
they have used that device as camouflage to conceal from the capital- 
ist enemy the aggressive character of their movement. In reality there 
is no set limit to their demands. Notwithstanding the hamstringing 
effects of their conservative bureaucracy, and of their own ignorance 
and weak organization, the unions constantly improve working con- 
ditions and screw up wages as much as they can. Their unwavering 
method is to sieze from the exploiter all they have the understanding 
and power to take. This is a distinctly revolutionary proceeding. And 
the modern militant knows that, so far as the industrial part of the 
class struggle is concerned, his task is to broaden, deepen, clarify, and 
hasten this natural revolutionary trade union tendency until it culmi- 
nates in the final abolition of capitalism. 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 49 

Industrial Unionism a Growth 

Especially the new movement, as represented by the Trade Union 
Educational League, repudiates the conception, long a dogma of the 
dual unionists, that the trade unions are anchored to the principle 
of craft unionism and cannot develop into industrial organizations. As 
against the old idea that the inevitable industrial unions have to be 
created out of the whole cloth, by fiat as it were, the new movement 
holds that they are coming as a result of an evolutionary process, by 
a constant building-up, re-organization, and consolidation of the prim- 
itive craft unions. This conception is borne out by world-wide labor 
history. 

In the development of industrial unionism out of the original un- 
organized condition of the working class the labor movement passes 
through three distinct phases, which may be roughly designated as 
isolation, federation, and amalgamation. In the beginning the workers 
almost always organize by crafts. These primitive unions, knowing 
little or nothing of broad class interests, fight along in a desultory 
battle, each one for itself. This is the period of isolation, or pure and 
simple craft unionism. But after a greater or lesser period it finally 
ends: the crafts in the various industries, seeing that the employers 
play their organizations against each other and thus defeat all of 
them, learn something of their common interests and set up alliances 
among themselves along the lines of their respective industries. This 
brings them into the second, or federation, stage of development. 
Their evolution goes right on : for the same forces that necessitated 
the craft unions federating eventually compel them to consolidate 
these federations into actual industrial unions. Thus they arrive at 
the final stage of amalgamation. The resultant industrial unions then 
pass through a similar process of integration. First they fight alone, 
then they strike up federations with allied industries, and finally they 
amalgamate with them. Industrial unionism comes, not as a new 
system suddenly applied to the labor movement, but as the culmina- 
tion of a long and elaborate evolution from the simple craft unions 
to the complex organizations necessary for the modern struggle. 

Practically all the great industrial unions in the world have been 
built by this evolutionary process. In England, the National Union 
of Railwaymen, the Amalgamated Engineering Union, the Miners' 
Federation, and the Transport and General Workers' Union are 
amalgamations of many craft and district unions. In Germany, the 



50 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

Metal Workers' Union, the Building Workers' Federation, etc., etc., 
were built up the same way from original craft unions. These big 
organizations, and dozens more in other countries, have all passed 
through the three stages of isolation, federation, and amalgamation. 
That is the normal mode of labor union progress. And despite the 
efforts of the dualists to prove them static and unchangeable, Amer- 
ican trade unions are travelling the same evolutionary route that the 
foreign unions have taken, although very much slower and more la- 
boriously. At present they are quite generally in the federation stage 
of development. That is the meaning of the many alliances among 
them — the railroad federations, the printing, metal, building, and other 
trades councils — that exist in the various industries. The task of the 
militants is to develop the trade unions into the next stage, amalgama- 
tion ; to speed on the present natural evolution until these bodies cul- 
minate in industrial unions. 

The Militants in the Masses 

The new movement now crystallizing in the Trade Union Educa- 
tional League also differs widely in tactical conceptions from those 
of the dualists. The essence of the program of the latter was to set 
up labor unions upon the basis of their several political and industrial 
theories and then to try to educate a backward working class into 
joining them. This was a violation of the first principle of labor 
unionism. The workers organize in the industrial field not because 
they hold certain elaborate social beliefs jointly, but because through 
united action they can protect their common economic interests. La- 
bor unions are built upon the solid rock of the material welfare cf 
the workers, not upon their acceptance of stated political opinions. 
In the very nature of things labor unions at present must consist of 
the many sects and factions that go to make up the working class, 
Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, Communists, Anarchists, Syndical- 
ists, Catholics, Protestants, etc., etc. The natural result of the dual- 
ists' attempt to organize labor unions around their theories was a 
whole crop of new labor movements. As fast as new conceptions, 
political and industrial, developed, their proponents organized separate 
labor unions to give expression to them. In some industries there 
were as many as five of these dual movements, each representing a 
different tendency and each engaged in the hopeless task of con- 
verting the masses to its particular point of view. Dual union- 
ism, with is program of labor organization along the lines of 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 51 

fine-spun theory, not only devitalized the trade unions by robbing 
them of their best blood, but it also degenerated the revolutionary 
and progressive movement into a series of detached sects, out of touch 
with the masses and the real struggle and running off to all sorts of 
wild theories and impractical programs. 

But the militants in the Trade Union Educational League rigidly 
eschew this sectarian policy. Their program is the very reverse, to 
keep the militants in the organized masses at all costs. Instead of 
setting up intellectual and organizational barriers and then coaxing 
the worker to break through them, they carry their propaganda right 
into the very heart of the workers' organizations and struggles. The 
Russian revolution has taught them that the great masses will prob- 
ably never become clear-headedly revolutionary, but that they will 
follow the lead of an organized conscious minority that does know the 
way. The League militants conceive the question of labor organiza- 
tion to be largely one of leadership, and they aim to secure the back- 
ing of the mass of organized workers by taking the lead in all their 
battles, by showing in the crucible of the class struggle that their 
theories, tactics, and organization forms are the best for the labor 
movement. Thus will be broken the grip of the revolutionary bur- 
eaucracy who now stultify and paralyse the labor unions, and the con- 
trol of these organizations thereby gradually pass into the hands of 
the militants who will stimulate and develop them. 

In the past the militants have voluntarily isolated themselves 
from the organized masses, which was very convenient indeed for the 
labor bureaucrats. But now these active spirits fight desperately 
against such isolation. They realize fully that their place is in the 
big trade unions. And when the controlling reactionaries, who in- 
stinctively know that the rebels are dangerous to them only if in the 
unions, expel individuals and local unions, the latter must fight their 
way back in again. Such a policy however, does not mein that the old 
organizations must be maintained at any price. In extreme cases se- 
cession movements may be unavoidable through the reactionaries' re- 
fusing to obey the mandates of the rank and file. But when such splits 
occur the militants must have so maneuvrcd as to keep the mass of 
the membership on their side. Otherwise disaster will come upon 
them and the labor movement. The winning combination for the 
rebel movement, the typical situation that the Trade Union Educa- 
tional League is trying to create everywhere, is for the militants to 
function aggressively as a highly-organized minority in the midst of 



52 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

the great unconscious trade union mass. The heart of the League's 
tactical program is that under no circumstances shall the militants 
allow themselves to become detached from the unionized section of 
the working class. "Keep the militants in the organized mass," is the 
slogan of the new revolutionary movement. 

The Amalgamated Clothing Workers 

An excellent illustration of the effectiveness of the "keep the mil- 
itants in the organized mass" method advocated by the Trade Union 
Educational League was the birth of the Amalgamated Clothing 
"Workers of America. Characteristic of their general misinterpreta- 
tion of labor history in favor of their policy, the dual unionists have 
cited this powerful independent union time and again as the one con- 
vincing proof of the correctness of the dual union program, and few 
indeed have contradicted them. All of which qualifies the Amalga- 
mated so much the better to show the difference in principle and re- 
sults between the old and the new methods of the militants. 

The Amalgamated Clothing Workers was not built by dual union 
methods. It developed out of the work of an organized minority 
within the old United Garment Workers. The traditional way of dual 
unionism and the very essence of its program, is for the handful of 
militants to devise ideal unions, set them up in competition with the 
old trade unions, and to engage with the latter in an open struggle 
for control of the industry, a process which almost always results in 
simply stripping the old unions of their militants and leaving those 
organizations in the hands of the reactionaries. But nothing like that 
occurred in the case of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers. The 
militants in the men's ready-made clothing industry had no dual un- 
ion. * They accepted as their organization the United Garment Work- 
ers of America, and they planned to make it into a virile fighting 
union capable of playing a worthy part in the class struggle. To this 
end they organized themselves, in harmony with League principles, to 
defeat the controlling reactionaries and to make their own policies 
prevail. 

The struggle between the progressives and the reactionaries in 
the United Garment Workers went on for a number of years. The 
rebel elements, utilizing every mistake or crime of the officialdom, 



*The needle trades generally have been unusually free from dual unionism, a fact 
which no doubt has had a great deal to do with the advanced types of organization 
prevailing in that industry. 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 53 

gradually extended their organization and influence with the rank and 
file. The sell-out by Rickert in the great Chicago strike of 1910 
strengthened their grip. Then came the bitter New York strike of 
1913, with its record of treason by the old officials. This was the final 
blow. On the basis of the resultant discontent the militants, now or- 
ganized nationally through a rank and file committee (exactly the 
same as the League is at present setting up in the various industries) 
elected an overwhelming majority of delegates to the approaching 
1914 convention in Nashville. 

This brought the situation to a crisis. The militants had the rank 
and file behind them, but Rickert, in a desperate attempt to save 
himself, ruled out enough of their delegates to leave him in control. 
At this all the rebel delegates withdrew and re-organized themselves 
into another convention. Then they gave an eloquent proof that they 
were not dual unionists. Even after Rickert's outrage they refused 
to secede, but claimed to be the genuine United Garment Workers. 
It was only when the A. F. of L. convention, shortly afterward, denied 
this claim and recognized Rickert that they launched out as an inde- 
pendent union. 

To call such a proceeding dual unionism is nonsense. It had ab- 
solutely nothing in common with the customary dual union policy of 
sucking the militants out of the old unions. The very heart of the 
campaign cited, and the reason it succeeded, was that it kept the mili- 
tants in the organized mass and united them there so that they could 
beat the old machine. The split at Nashville was a minor phase. No 
matter whether it took place or not, the militants had won the rank 
and file. Regardless of Rickert's antics, the organized men's clothing 
workers had definitely accepted the leadership of the men who later 
made their organization such a brilliant success. Instead of being an 
endorsement of dual unionism, the rise, of the Amalgamated Clothing 
Workers is a striking justification of the "stay with the organized 
masses" policy advocated by the Trade Union Educational League. 



54 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 



* 



CHAPTER V. 

The Trade Union Educational League 

The new movement of militants working within the trade unions 
is centering around the Trade Union Educational League. This body 
is the descendant of two forerunners, the Syndicalist League of North 
America and the International Trade Union Educational League. The 
first of these was organized in 1912. As its name indicates it was Syn- 
dicalist in tendency, and it was largely influenced by the French la- 
bor movement, then in its glory. The S. L. of N. A, had the same 
general working principles as the present T. U. E. L. It flatly op- 
posed dual organization and advocated the organization of revolu- 
tionary nuclei in the mass unions. For a time it made quite a stir, 
securing a grip in the labor movements of many cities. In Kansas 
City in particular the Central Labor Council fell into the hands of the 
rebel elements, who actually drove the leading labor fakers out of 
the city. The organization had four journals : The Syndicalist of Chi- 
cago, The Unionist of St. Louis, The 1 oiler of Kansas City, and The 
International of San Diego. A feature of the movement was an ex- 
tended trip through the United States by Tom Mann, who endorsed 
its program wholeheartedly. Another was an attempt of the Emma 
Goldman Anarchist group of New York to steal the thunder of the 
movement by launching a national Syndicalist league of their own. 
But the Syndicalist League of North America was born before its 
time. The rebel elements generally were still too much infatuated 
with dual unionism to accept its program. Particularly was this true 
because just about that time the I. W. W. made a great show of vital- 
ity, carrying on big strikes in Lawrence, Akron, Paterson, Little Falls, 
etc., etc. After about two years' existence the S. L. of N. A. died. 

The next effort to organize the radicals within the mass unions 
took place in 1916, when the International Trade Union Educational 
League was founded. This body set up a few groups here and there, 
but it found a poor soil to work in. The war situation was at hand 
and the rebels, still badly afflicted with dualism, would have nothing 
to do with the ultra-patriotic trade unions. Hence it never acquired 
even as much vigor and influence as the earlier Syndicalist League of 
North America. It expired in 1917. 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE 1 \li()K MOVEMENT 55 

The present Trade Union Educational League was organized in 
Chicago in November, 1920. For about a year it lingered along more 
dead than alive, due as usual to the dualistic attitude of the militants 
generally. But in the latter part of 1921, after the Third International 
and the Red International of Labor Unions had condemned dual un- 
ionism so categorically and advocated the organization of nuclei with- 
in the mass unions, it took on sudden vigor and importance. With 
the hard shell of dualism broken, the militants, particularly those in 
the extreme left wing, came with a surprising change of front to see 
in it exactly the type of organization they needed. One after another, 
the Communist Party, the Workers' Party, the Proletarian Party, and 
the United Toilers went on record officially in favor of its general 
policy. Hence the League rapidly extended its organization and sphere 
of influence. In the early part of 1922 it put on a drive, sending out 
an elaborate series of circular letters to hundreds of militants (later 
blasted by Mr. Gompers as the "1,000 secret agents" seeking to de- 
stroy American civilization) in that many towns, calling upon them 
to organize groups of rebel unionists in their respective localities. As 
a result branches of the League were set up in all the principal un- 
ions and industrial centers of the United States and Canada. In March, 
1922, The Labor Herald, monthly official organ of the League, was 
launched. 

Program ok thk League 

The working theory of the Trade Union Educational League is 
the establishment of a left block of all the revolutionary and pro- 
gressive elements in the trade unions, as against the autocratic ma- 
chine of the reactionary bureaucracy. Thus, so that these various 
elements of the different political persuasions can co-operate together, 
the policy of the organization must be essentially industrial in char- 
acter. Except for condemning the fatal Gompers political policy and 
advocating the general proposition of independent working class 
political action, the League leaves political questions to the several 
parties. Its work is primarily in the industrial field. 

At its first National Conference, held in Chicago, August 26-27, 
1922, the League laid out a broad revolutionary industrial policy, upon 
the basis of which it is uniting the militants and carrying on its edu- 
cational work in the unions. Of this program the principal planks 
are: (1) abolition of capitalism and establishment of a workers' re- 
public, (2) repudiation of the policy of class collaboration and adop- 



56 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

tion of the principle of class struggle, (3) affiliation of the American 
labor movement to the Red International of Labor Unions, (4) whole- 
hearted support of the Russian revolution as "the supreme achieve- 
ment of the world's working class," (5) industrial unionism, (6) com- 
bating of dual unionism, (7) shop delegate system in the unions, (8) 
independent working class political action. 

In a statement of its program and principles issued in February, 
1922, the aims of the League are stated as follows : 

The Trade Union Educational League proposes to develop the 
trade unions from their present antiquated and stagnant condition 
into modern, powerful labor organizations, capable of waging suc- 
cessful warfare against Capital. To this end it is working to re- 
vamp and remodel from top to bottom their theories, tactics, 
structure, and leadership. Instead of advocating the prevailing 
shameful and demoralizing nonsense about harmonizing the in- 
terests of Capital and Labor, it is firing the workers' imagination 
and releasing their wonderful idealism and energy by propagating 
the inspiring goal of the abolition of capitalism and the establish- 
ment of a workers' republic. The League aggressively favors or- 
ganization by industry instead of by craft. Although the craft 
form of union served a useful purpose in the early days of capital- 
ism, it is now entirely out of date. In the face of the great con- 
solidations of the employers the workers must also close up their 
ranks or be crushed. The multitude of craft unions must be amal- 
gamated into a series of industrial unions — one each for the metal 
trades, railroad trades, clothing trades, building trades, etc. — even 
as they have been in other countries The League also aims to put 
the workers of America in co-operation with the fighting trade 
unionists of the rest of the world. It is flatly opposed to our pres- 
ent pitiful policy of isolation, and it advocates affiliation to the 
militant international trade union movement, known as the Red 
International of Labor Unions. The League is campaigning against 
the reactionaries, incompetents, and crooks who occupy strategic 
positions in many of our organizations. It is striving to replace 
them with militants, with men and women unionists who look 
upon the labor movement not as a means for making an easy liv- 
ing, but as an instrument for the achievement of working class 
emancipation. In other words, the League is working in every di- 
rection necessary to put life and spirit and power into the trade 
union movement. 

Organization of the League 
The Trade Union Educational League is what its name implies, 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 57 

purely an educational organization. It carries on an aggressive cam- 
paign of instruction and stimulation in every stage and phase of the 
labor movement. It is in no sense a dual union. It is an auxiliary of 
the labor unions proper, not a substitute for them. It collects no dues 
or per capita tax, nor does it accept the affiliation of any labor or- 
ganization whatsoever. It issues no membership cards or charters. 
Those wishing to become members must fulfill the following condi- 
tions: (1) belong to a recognized trade union,* (2) subscribe to 
The Laror Herald, official organ of the League, (3) satisfy a local 
membership committee that they accept the general program of the 
League. The revenues of the organization are derived from the sale 
of The Labor Herald and pamphlets, collections at meetings, and dona- 
tions of members and sympathizers to the Sustaining Fund. The 
League proposes to hold national conferences yearly. Between these 
conferences the organization is directed by the National Committee, 
at present consisting of five members, but which will finally be ex- 
tended to fifteen, including a Secretary-Treasurer, and fourteen sec- 
retaries of the National Industrial Sections of the League, as follows : 
Amusement Trades, Building Trades, Clothing Trades, Food Trades, 
General Transport Trades, Lumber Trades, Metal Trades, Mining 
Trades, Miscellaneous Trades, Printing Trades, Public Service Trades, 
Railroad Trades, Textile Trades, and Local General Groups. 

The organization plan of the Trade Union Educational League is 
to follow with its militant groupings all the ramifications of the labor 
union movement. To this end it sets up its educational organizations 
in all localities, crafts, and industries. The local General Groups are 
made up of militants from all trades. Their function is to carry on 
the local work generally. They are sub-divided into Local Industrial 
Sections, one for each broad industry. Then there are state organiza- 
tions to correspond to the State Federations of Labor. These local 
and state groups are in turn being combined into four districts, Can- 
ada, Eastern States, Central States, and Western States. 

A most important part of the League are the National Industrial 
Sections. These are being organized in all the big industries, as spec- 
ified above. They are each headed by a National Committee, selected 
either by correspondense or at national conferences, and representing 



# By "recognized" unions are meant those organizations, independent and A. 1 . 
of L. alike, which in the judgment of the League can be adapted to amalgamation. 
Some, particularly the universal dual unions claiming rights over all industries, will 
have to be openly opposed as impossible to link up with the general labor movement. 



58 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

all crafts, A. F. of L. and independent, in their respective spheres. 
These National Committees map out educational programs for their 
whole industries and create Local Industrial Sections to carry them 
into the local unions everywhere. The effect is that even in an in- 
dustry with 20 or 30 craft unions the militants function on an indus- 
trial basis. No matter whether it is a rebel section hand in San 
Diego, California, or a militant engineer in Portland, Maine, all rail- 
road members of the League are working upon a common industrial 
program and seeking in their many organizations to make it prevail. 
In the amalgamation movement, for example, with the militants in 
the several craft unions of a given industry definitely agreed upon 
creating an industrial union and working in unity to break down the 
walls between their respective organizations so that all may be com- 
bined into one body, the get-together effect is irresistable. Gompers 
and all his reactionary henchmen will never be able to withstand it. 

The League at Work 

Although the League has been active but a few months and has 
hardly made a start at creating its machinery, and notwithstanding 
the fact that the militants, because of their long connection with dual 
unionism, have but slight prestige in the trade unions and know very 
little about how to work effectively in them, nevertheless the organ- 
ization has made wonderful headway. The workers are responding 
to its efforts in a manner which is a delight to the militants and the 
despair of the reactionaries. Already the League has demonstrated 
beyond question that the rank and file of Labor are ready for a rad- 
ical program of action. 

In advocating the various planks of its platform the League has 
developed a series of movements within the trade unions, all of which 
have shown a surprising vitality. An important one was the demand 
for a general strike of all workers throughout the country as a pro- 
test against the Daugherty injunction and other tyrannies of the em- 
ployers. This movement was initiated in Omaha when League mili- 
tants introduced the general strike resolution into the Central Labor 
Council. The resolution was adopted and ordered sent to all central 
bodies, with the result that hundreds of organizations endorsed it. 
Mr. Gompers himself stated publicly that he had 200 demands for 
nation-wide action and that never in the history of the labor move- 
ment had there been such a wide-spread sentiment for a general 
strike. The educational effect of the movement was great. 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 59 

A large body of sentiment has also been created in favor of affili- 
ation to the Red International of Labor Unions. Handreds of local 
unions and dozens of central labor councils have endorsed the propo- 
sition. The Detroit and Seattle central bodies have sent delegates to 
Moscow, and District No. 26, United Mine Workers, has voted to 
affiliate. In the prevailing strike of railroad shopmen and miners the 
League has also taken an active part, its speakers encouraging and 
assisting the workers everywhere. In the Miners' Union the League 
is particularly effective. At present it is putting up progressive tick- 
ets, with excellent chances for victory, in many districts and sub- 
districts which have been used for years as pawns by the corrupt in- 
ternational administrations. A great service was the League's check- 
ing of the outburst of dual union sentiment that developed through 
the brutal expulsion of Alexander Howat and the Kansas District. 
A year before such an outrage would have surely split the Miners' 
Union. But as it was, the League, through its constant hammering 
against secessionist^ had been able to drive home to the rebels some 
understanding of the disaster of dualism, and aided by the splendid, 
common-sense attitude of Howat, was able to prevent them from 
organizing breakaway movements. At least two districts were held 
in the U. M. W. A. directly through the League's efforts and serious 
splits were avoided in many more. This work of solidarity was a 
great achievement for the League and the labor movement at large. 
It probably saved the whole coal miners' organization; for had a bad 
break occurred over the Howat case, and it would have done so with- 
out the League's influence, the union never could have weathered the 
great storm then about to descend upon it, the national general strike 
of 1922. 

But the issue with which the League has scored its greatest suc- 
cess is that of industrial unionism through amalgamation. This move- 
ment to combine all the craft unions into a series of industrial organ- 
izations it as present sweeping the country like a prairie fire. The 
workers realize that the death knell of craft unionism has sounded 
and that the way to a higher form of organization lies through amal- 
gamation. Men and organizations, who a year ago were entirely 
untouched by industrial union ideas, are now lining up for the project 
enthusiastically and in wholesale fashion. The "old guard'' of the trade 
union bureaucracy are alarmed as never before in their experience. 
The amalgamation movement proper got under way in the latter 
part of March, 1922, when the Chicago Federation of Labor adopted 



60 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

its now famous resolution calling for the consolidation of all the craft 
unions into industrial unions. Led by Mr. Gompers himself, the re- 
actionaries declared war against the movement. But to no avail, 
amalgamation sentiment ran on like a flood everywhere. Since then 
(this is being written in October, 1922) thousands of local unions, 
scores of central labor councils, and five international unions, * Rail- 
way Clerks, Maintenance of Way, Butcher Workmen, Fire Fighters, 
and Amalgamated Food Workers, have adopted and endorsed general 
amalgamation projects. The State Federations of labor have been par- 
ticularly responsive. During the past four months thirteen of them 
have acted upon the proposition and in eleven instances, viz. : Minne- 
sota, Washington, Utah, Colorado, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan, 
Indiana, Oregon, South Dakota, and Ohio, the amalgamationists won 
out overwhelmingly in spite of desperate resistance from the reaction- 
aries. And in the two failures, California and Illinois, the craft union- 
ists secured the victory only by narrow margins. The movement for 
solidarity is irresistible. 

A high point in the campaign was the Detroit convention of the 
Maintenance of Way, when the 1,500 delegates not only endorsed 
amalgamation on five separate occasions, but they also cleaned out 
19 of 21 of their general officials, including the President, Grable. 
Even the independent unions have been deeply affected by the amal- 
gamation movement. A year ago the whole tendency was for them 
to split and split again, but now they are exhibiting strong get- 
together movements. In the boot and shoe and textile industries 
amalgamations of the independents are now under way, and further 
consolidations may be looked for in the near future. The amalgama- 
tion campaign, now sweeping victoriously onward, will culminate in- 
evitably in a profound re-organization of the labor movement. It is 
a veritable triumph for industrial unionism, and the Trade Union 
Educational League is the heart of it all. 

In Conclusion 

The American labor movement is bankrupt. With its reactionary 
bureaucracy and antiquated political and industrial policies and organ- 
izatien, it is altogether unfit to cope with the alert, highly-organized 
capitalist class. Politically it has long been a cipher, and now it is in 

*At its May, 1922, convention the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America 
also reiterated more strongly than ever its demand for amalgamation of all the 
unions in the clothing industry. 



BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 61 

grave danger of extinction industrially also. During the recent past 
the capitalist class has discovered a new aggressiveness and developed 
a powerful organization. It is no longer the same class which, before 
the war, was semi-tolerant of trade unionism. Now it is determined 
to root out every vestige of Organized Labor. The "open shop" em- 
ployers have dealt the unions shattering blows in practically every 
industry, including printing, building, meat packing, steel, railroad, 
general transport, coal and mining, etc. Consequently the entire trade 
union movement has suffered disastrously. During the last three 
years it has lost fully 50% of its entire membership. The whole fabric 
of Organized Labor is bleeding. The labor movement is in a most 
critical state. So critical, in fact, that it will never be able to recover 
unless it quickly and radically changes its policies. The American 
working class is now imminently confronted with the tragic menace 
of having its trade union movement obliterated. 

There are still some revolutionaries, unfortunately, who would 
welcome the elimination of the old craft unions, believing that with 
them out of the way a new and better movement would speedily 
take their place. But this is a fatal delusion. We may absolutely 
depend upon it that should the capitalists, in their great "open shop" 
drive, succeed in breaking the backbone of the trade union movement 
they would make all labor organization illegal and repress it with an 
iron hand. American labor would be reduced to the status of Russian 
Labor in Czarist days; it would be forced to the expedient of setting 
up revolutionary nuclei in the industries in preparation for some 
favorable opportunity when the masses could be stirred to action. In- 
deed, even as it is, this system will doubtless have to be applied in 
some of our industries if they are ever to be organized. The mass 
trade unions are the only protection for the workers' right to organ- 
ize; the only bulwark against a general flood of capitalist tyranny. 
They must be defended and strengthened at all costs. 

In this grave crisis of the labor movement no relief may be ex- 
pected from the trade union bureaucrats in high official place. With 
the rarest of exceptions, they are dominated entirely by the intellectu- 
ally dead Gompers. Apparently they would slavishly follow him over 
the precipice to destruction. They are hopelessly self-lashed to the 
chariot of conservatism. Even now, in this hour of need, they resist 
with desperation the mildest reforms in the movement's policies and 
structure. The further the capitalists push them back the more timid 
and reactionary they become. They are mentally frozen over solid. 



62 BANKRUPTCY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT 

If the labor movement is to be saved the regenerating force must come 
from the organized rank and file militants. They must surge up from 
the bottom and compel the static leadership into vigorous, intelligent 
action, or remove it drastically. 

It is fortunate, indeed, that just in this critical situation, when 
their services are so badly needed, the militants are at last freeing 
themselves from the dual unionism which has cursed them and the 
whole labor movement for a generation by keeping the reactionary 
elements in power. They are organizing for action in the Trade Union 
Educational League, and they are finding the American working class, 
naturally militant and aggressive, more than eager to accept their 
program. Now the key to the situation is for the revolutionaries and 
progressives generally to rally around the League and to carry on a 
vigorous campaign for its policies of industrial unionism through 
amalgamation, independent workers' political action, affiliation with 
the Red International of Labor Unions, and all the rest. If this is 
done it will not be long until the death clutch of the Gompers bur- 
eaucracy is broken and the American labor movement, undergoing a 
profound renaissance, takes its place where it properly belongs, in the 
vanguard of the world's workers. 



THE END 



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Be our representative in your town. 

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