What is the role of unions in a future free society? How does the structure of capitalism and unions today reflect that? The difficulty of the end of the 1920s (fascism and repression, changes in demographics and industries) gave an opportunity for reflection on strategy and vision of the revolutionary movement. This happened mainly within the International Workers Association (IWA-AIT) which at the time likely involved millions of workers across the world, but also within the IWW. The subject is poorly studied with minimal resources in English, most of what is publicly available about the IWA can be reduced to a few articles. The debate was wide ranging covering union structure, future society, revolutionary methods, amongst other subjects. Part of the discussion focused on whether revolutionary unions should adopt craft or industrial unions as their primary structure.
What follows is a translation of Medios de Lucha, Means of Struggle, by Emilio Lopez Arango, a working class autodidact and baker; the main thinker of Argentina’s powerful Federacion Obrera Regional Argentina (FORA). The FORA dominated the Argentine labor movement for decades in the turn of the century and its model spread across Latin America, in some cases like Chile and Mexico displacing the IWW affiliates. In the piece Arango grapples with the question of industrial organization and industrial unionism and critiques the IWW’s idea that unions within capitalism should form the basis for a future society especially centered on using capitalist industries as the model. He was not alone in this as some IWWs also critiqued it. We also recommend reading the recent piece by S Nicholas Nappalos that looks at the debate more in depth.
The piece today is also part 5 of our Against the IWW series, which, to be clear we’re not anti-IWW, we’re very pro-IWW and we’re running this series because we think IWW members should read criticisms of the IWW, discuss them with each other, and be able to respond to those criticisms. In our organizing we inoculate our co-workers to the criticisms employers make of the IWW. Similarly IWW members should be inoculated against political criticisms of the IWW. We invite people to write full rebuttals to this and all of the other criticisms of the IWW and submit them to us and to other web sites and publications.