Industrial workers of the world, iww, communist party, comintern


Recognized as one of the most revolutionary labor unions in America during the early twentieth-century by the general public and the federal government, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) separated themselves from the rest of the labor unions because of their success in executing general strikes and their brash appeal. The group advocated tactics which, the organization believed, would strengthen the country's labor movement, which included “dual unionism” and a stance against politically affiliated groups. During a period of poor labor conditions and inadequate income with long working hours the United States experienced a swell of labor unions that looked to change the status quo. The IWW fought for industrial workers as opposed to craft workers, which meant the organization consisted of those who were rejected from craft union groups such as immigrant as well as ethnic workers. The creation of the IWW was a response to the monopoly the American Federation of Labor (AFL) held over the rest of the labor unions. As one of its primary qualities, the IWW separated itself from the AFL and other labor groups by enforcing its “dual unionist” stance, which prohibited any IWW member from infiltrating said labor unions. Towards the end of World War I the Bolshevik Party inside Russia overthrew the Tsar and the provisional government during the Russian Revolution. The Bolsheviks then created a state in which the workers held control of the country. While the Communist ideology and the syndicalist beliefs of the IWW were not identical, leaders of the IWW saw the advantages of supporting Communism. However, the General Executive Board (GEB) of the IWW prohibited affiliation with the Communist Party, as the organization felt threatened by the party's attraction. Remaining firm in its stance as a “dual unionist” organization the IWW disassociated itself from the Communist Party. The inability for the GEB to compromise on tactics that could have potentially amalgamate the two groups shrank the organization. Former IWW members, such as Bill Haywood, William Z. Foster, and James P. Cannon left the IWW and joined the Communist Party with hopes of furthering America's labor movement. To better understand what life was like for labor activists in the early twentieth-century one has to see the progressions workers took to achieve their goals. In this case, “history from above,” represented by the three former IWW members already mentioned, (Haywood, Foster, and Cannon) shows how change was accomplished by the transition from one organization to another. The IWW was a change from previous labor groups in the 1900s and 1910s, but became stagnate as the organization refused to alternate the tactics it implemented. In order to establish a successful labor movement, collaboration was paramount, which, in turn, rejected the concept of “dual unionism.”


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Graduation Date





Crepeau, Richard


Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities



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Release Date

December 2015

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Masters Thesis (Open Access)


Arts and Humanities -- Dissertations, Academic; Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Humanities

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