Founding of the IWW


Founding of IWW



In January 1905, a group of 26 men and one woman met "secretly" at the American Labor Union's headquarters in Chicago to draw up a manifesto and issue a call inviting trade unionists from across the country to gather at a larger meeting to be held in the same city the following June.

The stated aim of those who attended the Chicago Conference was to reorganize the American labor movement on industrial and revolutionary lines and to challenge the reactionary "pure and simple" trades unionism of the American Federation of Labor.

The Chicago, or Industrial Union, Manifesto that came out of the January conference led to the first, or constitutional, convention of the Industrial Workers of the World, held in Chicago from June 27 to July 8, 1905.

The January meeting that produced the Chicago Manifesto followed an earlier but smaller gathering held late in 1904 in the same location. It was that earlier meeting that issued the invitation to the January conference. Among other things, that invitation, dated Nov. 29, 1904, expressed the belief that "the working class political expression, through the Socialist ballot, in order to be sound, must have its economic counterpart in a labor organization builded as the structure of Socialist society, embracing within itself the working class in approximately the same groups and departments and industries that the workers would assume in the working class administration of the Co-Operative Commonwealth...."

This principle eventually would be embodied in the Preamble to the IWW's Constitution, which declared that the class struggle would continue "until all the toilers come together on the political, as well as on the industrial field...."

It is not our purpose here to review the controversy and struggle that grew out this provision of the IWW's original Constitution. We intend to return to that controversy, along with other questions pertinent to the class struggle and the state of the "labor movement" today, in future issues. For now, however, our purpose simply is to mark the 100th anniversary of the Chicago Manifesto by reprinting it, together with the report that Frank Bohn, the Socialist Labor Party's representative at the January 1905 conference, sent to the DAILY PEOPLE.

Both documents appear here exactly as originally printed, with only the most obvious typographical errors corrected. The "volcanic rumblings" mentioned by Bohn refers to several articles, some reprinted from other publications, reporting on the growing discontent among rank-and-file workers with the AFL's brand of "unionism" and on some of the early forebodings within the AFL bureaucracy, and among its Socialist Party friends, that a revolt was brewing. Two SP men who Bohn mentioned as being invited but refusing to attend the Chicago Conference were Max Hayes, editor of the CLEVELAND CITIZEN, and Victor Berger, editor of the Milwaukee-based SOCIAL-DEMOCRATIC HERALD.

The text of the manifesto as printed in the DAILY PEOPLE differs slightly from the text printed in the published proceedings of the first IWW convention. The differences are incidental, however, and it appears here just as it appeared in the DAILY PEOPLE on "Bloody Sunday," Jan. 22, 1905.