Excerpt from the IWW’s Founding Convention

This post reproduces a short speech from the convention floor at the founding convention of the IWW. The IWW was formed in the middle of a several decade long cycle of struggle and organization. The revolutionaries involved with the creation and operation of the IWW are often underemphasized in accounts of the history of the left. The proceedings of the IWW founding convention as well as other early IWW publications contain a wealth of material which is not just relevant for understanding the past but for engaging with the problems of our day. The experiences that preceded the IWW, and writings from those efforts, such as the creation of the American Labor Union and before that the efforts to the build the Western Federation of Miners, are probably another untapped body of resources for revolutionaries today.

DEL. SIMONS: (…) We are all practically agreed on the fact that every possible effort should be made to make clear and plain to the entire membership of this organization its purposes, aims and methods and that it should be not simply a class struggle organization, but a class conscious struggling organization. (…) we ought to understand that men are coming into this organization, if it grows, who are not
going to understand, when they come in, why they come. They are going to come from class antagonism. They are going to come in because the class struggle is a fact born of industrial conditions, not an idea hatched in the brain of theorists; and when those men come into this body I believe we ought to stand there and welcome them into it; not stand there with an examination question; not stand there with some intellectual would-be what-not ready to deliver to that man who is fighting at the front a fine-spun lecture on the theories that are to lead to his ultimate emancipation; but we ought to stand there at the door of this organization with open hands, and say to that man whose hand is against the master, “Our hearts are with you in your fight.” I have more faith in the rank and file of the working class of America, blind as they may be, mistakes though they have made, than I have in all the intellectuals and all, the lecturers and all the soap box orators—and I have been one of them for years and expect to be—I have more faith in the rank and file and the spirit of revolt that springs
out of the work shop than I have, I say, in all the theorists and would-be teachers of the working class of America. And I think that sometimes we who pride ourselves on our ability to teach, should go back to the masses and learn.