Does the IWW Want to Criminalize the Receipt of Private Income? An IWW Leader Responds
I paid a visit to yesterday’s Industrial Workers of the World rally in North Providence, nominally a protest against the North Providence police department in response to the events of the August 11 confrontation between IWW protester Alex Svoboda and the North Providence Police. Mark Arsenault and Lynn Arditi describe the rally in today’s Projo. While there, I was able to offer IWW organizer Mark Bray an opportunity to respond to my description of the IWW as an organization whose ultimate goal is to criminalize private income…
Anchor Rising: I wrote a blog post last week, after reading the preamble of the IWW Constitution, characterizing the primary goal of your organization as the criminalization of all private income in re-organizing how work is done in the world. Is that accurate or not?
Mark Bray: Our goal is to have democracy in the workplace, so that people that work in a specific place, as a group, can decide how the product of their labor is distributed. We are not saying that everyone ought to be paid necessarily the exact same amount of money or anything like that, but rather as we have democracy in society and municipalities, we ought to have it in our workplaces too. That’s the long term message of the workers’ union.
AR: Would you call yourself a socialist?
MB: I wouldn’t call myself a socialist, no. If you read up on the history of the union, it was founded by some people that were socialists, such as Eugene Debs. There are overlapping features with the IWW and other political organizations, but it is not a political party and does not follow a specific “ism”. It has similarities with other political ideologies, philosophies, and groups. There are socialists who also want democracy in the workplace, but there are ways in which we differ.
For example, Eugene Debs and many other socialists broke away from the union in the early 1910s because they disagreed on issues. In the 1920s, a lot of union members broke away to form the Communist Party. You can see that communism and socialism, as political ideologies, headed in different directions. It would be incorrect to characterize the IWW as communist or socialist.
As the primary organizer of the rally, Mr. Bray had to move on before I could ask the follow-up that my second question was leading towards. I’ll throw it out here for discussion, for anyone who’d like to take it on.
Whether you want to call it socialism, communism, Marxism, Trotskyism, or something else, collectivization movements throughout history have failed to produce the combination of freedom and prosperity that capitalism has. I don’t doubt the idealism that’s driving the younger members of the IWW, but that kind of idealism was present also in earlier collectivization movements and did not prevent them from taking disastrous turns. So why do the members of the IWW, or anyone else at this point in history, think that their particular system of collectivization will succeed, when all of the others, across many times, places and cultures, have failed?