The Bury debate
The Executive Committee have received the following communication from Mr. Allan, who signs himself the General Secretary-Treasurer of the British Advocates of Industrial Unionism, with a request for publication. We have asked our comrade Fitzgerald for his remarks on the matter and append his reply.—ED.
After a debate between the S.P.G.B. and the S.L.P. in Bury on August 2nd, in which the S.P.G.B. representative was Mr. Fitzgerald and the S.L.P. representative was W. Davis, the former gentleman endeavoured to slander the I.W.W. by stating that while the Industrial Unionists made a point against the Trade Unions in that they created their own scabs by expelling members who were out of employment and who allowed their dues to lapse for a period of say one year or so, the I.W.W. did so still the more because it had a rule expelling members out of employment who were sixty days in arrears. In proof of this he read from Article VI., Section 10, of the Constitution :—
“All National Industrial Departments, National Industrial Unions, Local Unions and individual members of the Industrial Workers of the World that are in arrears for dues and assessments for sixty days, counting from the last day of the month for which reports and remittances are due, shall not be considered in good standing and shall not be entitled to any of the benefits or payments from any fund of this organisation.”
He claimed that the term “shall not be considered in good standing” was an Americanism which involved expulsion, and although the rule does not specifically state that members who are out of employment shall be dealt with likewise, he gratuitously assumed this in defiance of the well-known principle held by the I.W.W., that they shall be kept in the organisation by being excused payment of dues.
However, as I always like to be doubly sure, I wrote to W. E. Trautmann, General Secretary-Treasurer of the I.W.W., and this is a copy of his reply, which should effectually ram the lie back in Mr. Fitzgerald’s teeth if he intended purposely to slander the I.W.W., or gently correct him if he was only mistaken.
COPY OF W. E. TRAUTMANN’S LETTER.
Chicago Ill., U.S.A. Aug. 17, 1908.
Comrade and Fellow-Worker,
In reply to yours of August 3rd, I wish to state that there is no occasion for anybody to drop out of the I.W.W. when once a member, as those out of a job are exempt from paying any dues, etc; but if those who work and earn money so that they could pay their regular dues to the organisation, neglect their duty, they thereby suspend themselves, after three months lapse of time, from the organisation (Note, they suspend themselves.—W.G.A.).
The Constitution, of which I enclose a copy, does not state that members out of work are exempt from payment of dues, but that has been the rule since the inception of the organisation, and is especially now of great benefit to the organisation, as those without jobs are allowed to continue the agitation for the I.W.W. as members thereof, although they do not pay dues and are receiving exemption stamps to show it. (Signed) W. E. Trautmann.
Further comment is needless, and if Mr. Fitzgerald is honest he will tender his apology and admit he was wrong.
Yours for Industrial Freedom,
W. G. Allan. 20.9.08.
5th October, 1908.
Beyond a further point of explanation of the occurrence at Bury I can add no evidence to that so conclusively embodied in Mr. Allan’s own letter as to the truth of my statement.
I stated that the Constitution of the I.W.W. by excluding members for a shorter period of non-payment of dues than the ordinary trade union, helped to make its own blacklegs faster than those they (the I.W.W.) denounced, and pointed to unemployment as the chief cause of this non-payment. Mr. Allan first denied that such a rule existed, and when confronted with a copy of the Constitution, and the rule he quotes in his letter was pointed out to him, he tried to escape by saying that there was another rule exempting those unemployed from payment of dues. He was at once handed the Constitution and challenged to find such rule, and, of course, failed to do so. The letter purporting to come from W. E. Trautmann re-emphasises this fact by stating that “The Constitution does not state that members out of work are exempt”—the only point in dispute. What fancy, unwritten laws may prevail in Chicago—or in Trautmann’s mind—have no bearing on the point, seeing that the I.W.W. was formed in 1905, has had a convention each year since, and is still without such a rule in its Constitution.
Mr. Allan says that “although the rule does not specifically state that members out of employment shall be dealt with likewise, he (Fitzgerald) gratuitously assumes this in defiance of the well-known principle held by the I.W.W.” It is a pity Mr. Allan did not read the rule he himself quotes, as it there states ” ALL. . . . individual members,” etc. This admits of no exception, and therefore I assumed nothing in the matter. As to it being a “well-known principle,” so little is it either a “principle” or “well-known” that it, is embodied in neither the Preamble nor the Rules.
The only lie in the case is Mr. Allan’s assertion that the I.W.W. had a rule in its Constitution exempting unemployed members from payment of dues, the falsity of which is fully proved by his own letter. The only apology due is one owing to your readers for having to go over ground already fully dealt with in our debate with the Advocates published in the August and November, 1907, issues of this journal.