addition to Coxey¹s army, the working class launched two
organizations, the IWW (or Wobblies) and the Socialist
Party. Both the IWW and the Socialist Party believed in
the abolishment of the wage system, collective ownership
of the means of production, and the use of wealth to
promote the interests of the workers. However, the IWW
and the Socialist Party differed in their strategies to
replace capitalism with socialism, and they disagreed
about how a socialist system would operate. The IWW,
which was formed in 1904, encouraged all workers to join
their ³One Big Union,² regardless of skill, race, or
sex, in contrast to the American Federation of Labor
(AFL), which was organized by craft, and was racially
exclusive. The IWW¹s method of change was direct action.
They believed that the rank and file needed to be
engaged in continuous struggle.
The IWW did not want to be restricted regarding when to
strike, so they did not give much credence to making
contracts with individual employers since this limited
their ability to act. Strikes were seen as preparation
for a massive general strike that would bring all
economic activity to a halt. The general strike was seen
as labor¹s most effective weapon since capital needed
labor to do the work. The general strike was also seen
as the method of change that would replace capitalism
with the least amount of violence.
At the conclusion of the general strike, capitalism
would be overthrown, and a decentralized, democratic
worker-run organization would operate the mines and
factories. The industries (coal, lumber, railroad, etc.)
would govern the affairs of people. The IWW believed
that worker-controlled industries would be much more
democratic since they included the voices of women,
blacks, immigrants, and youth, all of which had been
shut out of democratic capitalism.
The Socialist Party, which was founded in 1901, worked
to bring about socialism through the ballot box as
opposed to the strike. With Eugene Debs as their leader,
the socialists set out to build a political party.
Although the Socialist Party initially embraced the
militant actions of the IWW and saw no inconsistency
between the language of class struggle and socialism
through voting, it changed course by 1912 and focused on
gradual reform as opposed to immediate class struggle.
The Socialist Party also articulated a more bureaucratic
and top-down model for controlling the means of
production in contrast to the IWW¹s decentralized model.
Myers-Lipton, p. 120-121
(Excerpted from “Social Solutions to Poverty”
© Paradigm Publishers