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obsolete. It does not belong to the twentieth
century. There is much significance in the
fact that the only constructive program for
maintaining our system of railway transporta-
tion, which had reached a condition of near
bankruptcy and administrative and functional
chaos under capitalist management, comes
from the most conservative section of the
trades union movement in this country and is
based upon the co-partnership of the State
and organized labor in this important branch
of economic administration. Of course, the
defenders of the old order of things, with
characteristically futile indignation, invoke



the red specter of Bolshevism to frighten us.
They learn nothing from experience; other-
wise they would know that they are more ef-
fective promoters of Bolshevism than any of
the Bolsheviki. The Bourbons of industry
are the most powerful propagandists of Bol-

The psychology of the demand for indus-
trial democracy is not difficult to understand :
Human beings in civilized States find them-
selves associated in three great forms of asso-
ciation. First, they are associated in their
political relations. Governments are de-
veloped and laws enacted for the purpose of
regulating these relations. Independent of
these political relations, which are largely in-
voluntary, there are numerous voluntary
groupings, into churches, clubs, societies,
lodges, and the like. Finally, there are the
economic relations, which concern them as
consumers and producers. In the main, these
relations are involuntary and arbitrarily im-
posed. They are far more important than
all other relations combined and far more ex-
tensive. The average man makes fewer con-
tacts with the laws and machinery of the State
than with the economic factors of his life.
More than half the time he is awake is spent



in labor of some kind and that .covers only
one side of his economic interest. As a con-
sumer, the whole period of his life, including
his leisure and his sleep, is profoundly af-
fected by the operations of economic laws and
by the economic status in which he is placed.

Now, experience has taught mankind that
democracy is the best principle upon which
to base the government of human relations.
For these relations which are voluntary in
their nature, and which are always amenable
to freely chosen direction, democracy is the
form of control almost universally chosen. In
the modern world men rarely base clubs,
lodges, churches or similar voluntary organ-
izations upon anything but democratic self-
government. In the political domain men
have everywhere consistently moved away
from autocratic forms of government towards
democratic forms. Nowhere do we find an
exception to this rule: however imperfect
democracy may be, it brings about a far
greater degree of satisfaction than any auto-
cratic, oligarchic, or hierarchical form of gov-
ernment has ever done. That is the pragmatic
test. No other is of any value.

With the lessons of experience so uniformly
emphatic in favor of democracy, it would be



extremely absurd to suppose that the greatest
and most vital sphere of human activity could
permanently remain under forms of control
which experience in every other sphere of life
has led men to abandon. The hours and con-
ditions of labor, the methods and rates of re-
muneration, the degree of personal freedom
during labor, the things to be made and the
terms and conditions upon which they may
be had these and a host of matters of vital
concern to every normally useful life cannot
safely be left to any direction less repre-
sentative than the collective whole. In what-
ever form it may be embodied, the principle
of democracy must inevitably be applied to
the economic life of the world.


The old school of Socialists was char-
acterized by a very simple and direct psychol-
ogy. It idealized the political state and re-
lied upon it as the logical agency for the
socialization of industry. This view is now
as antiquated and obsolete as the laissez faire
individualism against which it was directed.
Not only by Syndicalists and Bolshevists, but
by the most moderate and constructive advo-



cates of social democracy, the political State
is now held to be unfitted for the complex
technical work of industrial organization and
management. Government industrial enter-
prise as we know it has succeeded on the
whole even less well than capitalist industrial
enterprise. It has been extravagant and un-
economical; it has developed a formidable
bureaucracy; it has been marked by favor-
itism and other evils attendant upon political

In proportion as government becomes in-
creasingly concerned with economic func-
tions the inefficiency of the present method of
government by representation of groups in
geographical areas becomes increasingly ev-
ident. There is a growing consciousness of
the necessity of securing representation of
technical knowledge and experience, of func-
tional representation, in short. If govern-
ments are to own and operate railroads, mines,
and factories, then governments must be com-
posed of men who possess the training and the
technical skill necessary to operate railroads,
mines, and factories. This technical equip-
ment is necessary in the legislative depart-
ment of government almost as much as in the
administrative. Men who are ignorant of



the practical side of railroading are not com-
petent to make laws governing the organiza-
tion and administration of railways. The
fact that a man lives in a particular geograph-
ical area, and is highly popular among
his neighbors, is no sort of reason for giving
him power to determine by his vote how
mines shall be operated, what railroad rates
shall be, or what wages shall be paid to ma-
chinists. Still less does it justify his eleva-
tion to a position of ultimate authority over
the real technical directors, with power to
impose upon these policies which they know
to be impracticable and even disastrous.

When we found ourselves in a state of war,
and in need of the highest efficiency in the or-
ganization of our economic resources of
which we were capable, we did not attempt
to rely upon individuals representing groups
ranged in geographical areas merely. In-
stead, we pressed into the service men who
represented technical knowledge and func-
tional ability. As a result we gained im-
mensely in efficiency. The men of technical
knowledge and skill brought to our govern-
ment a degree of practical ability never be-
fore witnessed. Temporarily, we linked to-
gether geographical and functional repre-



sentation. Normally, however, we go on
leaving the making of laws for a complex in-
dustrial system in the hands of men who know
little or nothing of industry; men whose train-
ing often peculiarly unfits them for the task
of legislating for an industrial society. We
have in the present House of Representatives,
for example, two hundred and sixty lawyers,
more than a majority of the entire member-
ship. No one is likely to claim that this in
any manner represents the economic life of
the country, or that these lawyers owe their
place in Congress to any special knowledge
of our industrial problems. The least useful
and important of professions, economically
considered, dominates our House of Repre-
sentatives because so many lawyers are "good
mixers" and glib talkers, and because the prac-
tice of law and activity in politics can be
united in a way that is not possible in the case
of any other profession.

It is not difficult to imagine a system of
government much more efficient and repre-
sentative of the life and needs of the nation.
Such a system, instead of being based upon
the representation of geographically defined
units, would be based upon units composed of
occupational groups. Those engaged in a



given professional group would be directly
represented by some member of that group;
those in an industrial group would be sim-
ilarly represented from within their own
group. This would in practice amount to
the inclusion in the electorate of every useful
member of society, only the parasitically idle
being excluded. This assumes, of course, the
inclusion of those who are idle only as the re-
sult of old age or physical disability. The dif-
ficulties in the way of instituting so great a
reform would be very great, but it is im-
probable that they would be as formidable as
now appears. It is the universal experience
that the difficulties of instituting new reforms
are greatly exaggerated. Theoretically, at
any rate, such a system as suggested makes
possible a much more competent, as well as
more representative, type of government.
Now, is there any good reason for believing
that it would be lacking in the flexibility
necessary to give opportunity for the expres-
sion of conflicting ideals and theories of gov-
ernment, such as collectivism versus indi-
vidualism, conservatism versus radicalism,
and so on?

The demand for such a change in the form
of government as will give direct representa-



tion to the workers, and the technical profes-
sions, upon all legislative and administrative
bodies having anything to do in connection
with the economic system, is not based upon
Bolshevism and has nothing in common with
the dogmatic hatred of the State of the old
Anarchism. It arises from the widespread
recognition of the fact that the political State
based upon geographical considerations can-
not be an efficient agent for the management
of industry on democratic lines. But because
Bolshevism appeared as a political force in
conjunction with, or as an incident of, Soviet
government, and because Anarchism, Syn-
dicalism, and Bolshevism all aim at substi-
tuting government by labor and professional
councils for the existing form of government,
there is great confusion here. On the one
hand, the reactionaries, the Bourbons, de-
nounce as Bolshevism every expression of the
new view. On the other hand, the Bolsheviki
themselves, naturally desirous of appearing to
be much stronger than they are, aim to create
the impression that belief in government by
occupational groups and Bolshevism are
synonymous and identical. Doubtless there
are many well-meaning persons who regard
themselves as Bolsheviki when in fact they



are not, but simply believers in an industrial
form of government for an industrial society.

What is now termed Soviet government was
clearly foreshadowed in 1869, by the fol-
lowers of Proudhon, as can be seen from the
resolutions discussed by the Internationale.
It was far more clearly and comprehensively
promulgated, however, in 1905, in the City
of Minneapolis, in an address by an Amer-
ican Socialist, the late Daniel De Leon, one
of the founders of the I. W. W. Lenine him-
self has placed upon record his appreciation
of the manner in which De Leon anticipated
the conception of Soviet government, and the
justice of this is made manifest by the follow-
ing paragraph from De Leon's speech:

"As the slough shed by the serpent that im-
mediately appears in its new skin, the political
state will have been shed, and society will
simultaneously appear in its new adminis-
trative garb. The mining, the railroad, the
textile industries, down or up the line, each
of these, regardless of former political bound-
aries, will be the constituencies of the new cen-
tral authority Where the General Exec-
utive Board of the Industrial Workers of the
World will sit there will be the nation's
capital. Like the flimsy card houses that



children raise, the present political govern-
ments of countries, of states, aye, of the City
on the Potomac herself, will tumble down,
their places taken by the central and sub-
ordinate administrative organs of the Na-
tion's industrial forces." 1

The social ideal of the I. W. W. which De
Leon thus expounded, is very clear and
precise. We perceive the outline of a new
social order, an industrial State, in which the
union of the workers, closely federated, will
manage all industries, regulate wages, work-
ing conditions, prices, production, consump-
tion, and all other economic interests. They
are also to administer the general affairs of
society, making and executing all necessary
laws and regulations. There will be no other
government than this. What is here described
is Soviet government pure and simple, for
Soviet government is simply the Russian
term for government by councils of labor
unions. Equally, the I. W. W. ideal is the
ideal of Syndicalism as prescribed by the lead-
ers of the Syndicalist movement in France
and Italy.

'Daniel De Leon, The Preamble of the Industrial Workers of
the World, pp. 38-39.



There is a very striking likeness between
our I. W. W. and Bolshevism, distinguishing
sharply between the latter and mere belief in
Soviet government. The psychological char-
acteristics are identical. There is the same
contempt for the rule of the majority; the
same dependence upon energetic and daring
minorities; the same reliance upon the coup
de force to set up a proletarian dictatorship.
In the American movement as in the Russian
there is a glorification of the proletariat. In
the one movement as in the other emphasis is
laid upon the glaring and obvious antago-
nisms of interest separating the extremes of
society, while the numerous common in-
terests, the social bonds already developed, are
ignored as of no consequence. Common to
both is a narrow interpretation of the word
"labor," which results in the basing of their
policies upon the interests and energies of
manual workers only. In the jargon of Bol-
shevism the petty farmer who cultivates his
own land and owns his own tools, and per-
haps employs a boy or man to assist him, be-
longs not to the "working-class" but to the
"bourgeoisie." In the literature of the I. W.
W. the same distinction appears. Mr. Austin
Lewis has even insisted that skill is property,



that the skilled workman does not therefore
belong to that proletariat which is destined to
rule the world. Finally, in both the Bolshe-
vist movement of Russia and the I. W. W.
movement of this country there is a reckless
and brutal spirit of hatred which is directed
not against capitalism merely, but against in-
dividual capitalists. There are differences in
minor details, due to the differences in eco-
nomic development of the two countries, but
these are relatively insignificant. A common
purpose, a common method and a common
psychology unites the two movements.

Nothing is more remarkable than the thor-
oughness with which we have failed to under-
stand the rise and growth of the I. W. W. in
this country. Because some of the leaders of
the movement have been obviously influenced
by the theoretical and tactical teachings of cer-
tain French and Italian Syndicalists, and be-
cause of a very clearly defined identity of
aim and method, it has become a common
habit to regard the I. W. W. as of foreign in-
spiration and origin. Now, it is true that
there are many foreigners in the I. W. W.,
many aliens who are wholly unassimilated,
but it is not less true that the origins of the
movement were notably American, quite as



much so as the origins of either the Repub-
lican Party or the National Security League,
for example.

The I. W. W. grew out of the Western
Federation of Miners and the experience of
that most militant labor organization is the
most bitter and brutal industrial struggles in
our history. In the great series of strikes in
Colorado and Idaho there was much inhuman
savagery on both sides. Much has been said
and written of the crimes committed on the
side of the strikers, but little indeed of those
crimes, both more terrible and more nu-
merous, committed on the other side. In the
mining districts of Colorado especially, there
was set up a lawless, brutal, oppressive dic-
tatorship of the capitalists as infamous as it
was foolish and shortsighted. It respected no
law and no lawful rights, which stood in the
way of its rapacious ambitions. By its op-
pressive and terroristic policies it developed
the desperate recklessness and unreasoning
hate from which the I. W. W. was destined to


To understand the spread of Bolshevist
agitation and sympathy among a very con-

6 69


siderable part of the working-class in this
country, we must take into account the fact
that its logical and natural nucleus is the I.
W. W. It is necessary also to emancipate our
minds from the obsession that only "ignorant
foreigners" are affected. This is not a true
estimate of either the I. W. W. or the Bolshe-
vist propaganda as a whole. There are in-
deed many of this class in both, but there are
also very many native Americans, sturdy, self-
reliant, enterprising, and courageous men.
The peculiar group psychology which we are
compelled to study is less the result of those
subtle and complex factors which are com-
prehended in the vague term "race," than of
the political and economic conditions by
which the group concerned is environed.

Naturally, our greatest interest lies in
understanding why Americans who appear to
be entirely typical in all other respects, de-
velop such a passionate hatred for and dis-
trust of the laws, institutions, and customs
which are so highly regarded by their fellows
of all classes. Why should native-born Amer-
icans, taught in our schools, nurtured under
our traditions, be so hostile to the juridical
system we have regarded as nearly ideal, the
bulwark of personal freedom and the guar-



antee of equality before the law? Why
should men of our soil and our speech, the
soil and speech of Lincoln, be so contemp-
tuous of those ideals, usages, and traditions
we seek to summarize in the term "Amer-
icanism?" The alien worker whose intel-
lectual and moral experience is rooted else-
where, in lands where autocratic rule has
made government synonymous with des-
potism, belongs to a separate category and
must be separately studied. His impulses and
his mental processes are different.

The typical native born I. W. W. member,
the "Wobbly" one frequently encounters in
our mid-Western and Western cities, is very
unlike the hideous and repulsive figure con-
jured up by sensational cartoonists. He is
much more likely to be a very attractive sort
of man. Here are some characteristics of the
type: Figure robust, sturdy and virile; dress
rough but not unclean ; speech forthright, de-
liberate and bold; features intelligent, frank
and free from signs of alcoholic dissipation;
movements slow and leisurely as of one averse
to over-exertion. There are thousands of
"Wobblies" to whom the specifications of this
description will apply. Conversation with
these men reveals that, as a general rule, they



are above rather than below the average in
sobriety. They are generally free from family
ties, being either unmarried or, as often hap-
pens, wife-deserters. They are not highly ed-
ucated, few having attended any school be-
yond the grammar school grade. Many of
them have, however, read a great deal more
than the average man, though their reading
has been curiously miscellaneous in selection
and nearly always badly balanced. Theology,
philosophy, sociology, and economics seem to
attract most attention. In discussion and
every "Wobbly" seems to possess a passion for
disputation men of this type will manifest a
surprising familiarity with the broad outlines
of certain theological problems, as well as with
the scriptural texts bearing upon them. It is
very likely to be the case, however, that they
have only read a few popular classics of what
used to be called Rationalism Paine's Age
of Reason, Ingersoll's lectures in pamphlet
form, and Haeckel's Riddle of the Universe,
are typical. A surprisingly large number can
quote extensively from Buckle's History of
Civilization and from the writings of Marx.
They quote statistics freely statistics of
wages, poverty, crime, vice, and so on gen-
erally derived from the radical press and im-



plicitly believed because so published with
what they accept as adequate authority.

So far, we see in the physical, mental, and
moral characteristics of this type only whole-
some, normal American workingmen of morf
than average intelligence and force of char-
acter. Their most marked peculiarity is the
migratory nature of their lives. Whether this
is self-determined, a matter of temperament
and habit, or due to uncontrollable factors, it
is largely responsible for the contempt in
which they are popularly held. It naturally
brings upon them the reproach and resent-
ment everywhere visited upon "tramps" and
"vagabonds." They rarely remain long
enough in any one place to form local attach-
ments and ties or anything like civic pride.
They move from job to job, city to city, state
to state, sometimes tramping afoot, begging
as they go; sometimes stealing rides on rail-
way trains, in freight cars "side door Pull-
mans" or on the rods underneath the cars.
Frequently arrested for begging, trespassing
or stealing rides, they are often the victims of
injustice at the hands of local judges and jus-
tices. The absence of friends, combined with
the prejudice against vagrants which every-
where exists, subjects them to arbitrary and



high-handed injustice such as no other body
of American citizens have to endure. More-
over, through the conditions of their existence
they are readily suspected of crimes they do
not commit: it is all too easy for the hard-
pushed police officer or sheriff to impute a
crime to the lone and defenseless "Wobbly,"
who frequently can produce no testimony to
prove his innocence, simply because he has no
friends in the neighborhood and has been at
pains to conceal his movements. In this man-
ner the "Wobbly" becomes a veritable son of
Ishmael, his hand against the hand of nearly
every man in conventional society. In par-
ticular he becomes a rebel by habit, hating the
police and the courts as his constant enemies.
Nor are these the only evil fruits of the life
of the migratory workers. Even more ter-
rible and disastrous in its consequences is the
fact that they are virtually excluded from cit-
izenship, not because of any crime committed
but simply because they are doing what is,
for society as now organized, absolutely neces-
sary. Doubtless the great majority of these
men are temperamentally predisposed to
the unanchored, adventurous, migratory
existence which they lead. Boys so con-
stituted run away to sea, take jobs with



traveling circuses, or enlist as soldiers. The
type is familiar and not uncommon. Such in-
dividuals cannot be content with the prosaic,
hum-drum, monotonous life of regular em-
ployment. As a rule we do not look upon this
trait in boy or man as criminal.

The nature of our industrial life and the
manner of its development are such that
masses of such workers are imperatively re-
quired. England has needed, and still needs,
her army of "navvies," the laborers employed
in making railways, docks, canals, and so
forth; men who move from job to job, in-
habit cheap lodging houses, and know no
permanent abode. We need, and shall con-
tinue to need, until we radically change our
ways, great masses of "floating labor." Har-
vesting of the wheat crop in the Northwest
calls for an army of men who can only be
temporarily employed. The same is true of
the harvesting of the fruit crop in California
and elsewhere. The army finds its way in-
to the wheat belt, self-mobilized as it were,
and later finds its way into the fruit-belt. The
lumber industry moves from place to place
like an immense, ravaging monster-locust.
It enters a well-timbered district, remains a
little while and leaves a ragged, dreary, for-



lorn waste. It builds camps instead of cities.
It does not want citizens, men with civic
ideals and responsibilities. On the contrary,
it wants men content to be camp-dwellers,
content to live under abnormal conditions,
without home and family life.

Some future day may bring about such a re-
organization of our industrial life, such a de-
gree of standardization, as will make such
"floating labor," with its abnormal living con-

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Online LibraryJohn SpargoThe psychology of bolshevism → online text (page 4 of 8)