[To the editor.]
Sir,—In perusing the December No. of the “S.S.” I noticed with some surprise a statement appearing over the initials of “F.F.” in his review of the life of Parnell. I take exception to the following statement :
“The Industrial Unionist copies the lawlessness of the Fenian with sabbotage, but has never yet—even in United States—scored any success worth mentioning.”
Now my information regarding the rights of Free Speech, etc. has been that the I.W.W. has done vigorous, useful, and necessary work in that direction. If my information has been wrong I shall be grateful to be corrected.
The Battersea local of the I.W.W. are having an address from two fellow workers who have just arrived in this country, Dec. 14th, the theme to be : “The Work of the I.W.W. in America.” My object in writing is that you (if possible) depute someone to attend that meeting and support the contentions in “F.F.’s” article.
In the article our friend quotes from the reference is not, as he would seem to imply, to the I.W.W. of America only, but to Industrial Unionists all over the world. Sabbotage is one of their chief planks, much advocated, but, of course, practised little. The meanirg of the passage quoted, especially when taken with the rest of the paragraph, should be clear. The Industrial Unionists, even in the United States, where they are strongest, have gained by Sabbotage nothing worth mentioning. It must also be clear that the writer of the above, although he takes exception to the passage, yet raises nothing that even questions its accuracy. For if the I.W.W. have, as he claims, “done vigorous, useful, and necessary work” for the right of free speech, he neglects to tell us if they won any of these “rights,” and how sabbotage was instrumental in that direction. The I.W.W. no more fights for free speech with sabbotage than the Fenians did with outrages.
Mr. Savage is evidently mixed as to his terms. Sabbotage, in theory, looms so big in his mind that it stands for Industrial Unionism, of which—according to its apostles—it is merely a part. But even had I said that Industrial Unionism has gained nothing worth mentioning for the workers, my critic still gives no reason for taking exception even to that. Every party fights for free speech, i.e. , they contend with the obstacles that hinder the dissemination of their ideas. The Suffragettes contended against hooligans ; so did the Welsh Christ ; so also did the Liberal Party during the South African War. But what have the workers gained by their efforts ? Have they gained any rights, knowledge, or material improvement ?
It is not so much free speech that the workers require as speech embcdying that which is, from their viewpoint, essential, logical, and correct. The Industrial Unionist might advocate Sabbotage and the General Strike until the workers believed in them as pathetically as they to-day believe in the “directive ability” of the capitalist or the “brotherhood of Capital and Labour”—and what then ? They would only have learned how to destroy wealth, or to hinder its production. The problem waiting their solution would still be the same that confronts them to-day—how to produce fer their own use instead of for the profit, of the capitalist.
For this problem the Industrial Unionists have no practicable solution ; and until they have we can only class them with all the other freak organisations that “claim the right to babble.”
One of the “friends” mentioned in Mr. Savage’s letter, at a previous meeting of the I.W.W. asked the speaker (who had favoured political action by the workers): “Of what possible value is the vote to the worker, seeing that when he has given it is no longer under his control, is, in fact, lost ?” If this is a sample of their “free speech” we do not regret our inability to respond to their invitation, which, by the way, arrived a day after the meeting announced.