Hellraisers Journal: General Defense Committee of Industrial Workers of the World Organizes Despite Persecution

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite
Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might?
Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight?
For the union makes us strong
-Ralph Chaplin


Hellraisers Journal, Sunday February 10, 1918
I. W. W. Prepares for Greatest Labor Trial in History

From the International Socialist Review of February 1918:

The General Defense Committee of the I. W. W.

IWW GDC Doree Chumley Wilson Farley, ISR Feb 1918

IWW GDC Law Payne Hardy, ISR Feb 1918


THE conspiracy of the Owners of American Industry to put the One Big Union out of business by legal procedure will come to a showdown during the coming I. W. W. trials in Chicago, about the 25th of February.

It may be the greatest labor trial in the history of these United States, resulting in the conviction of the 106 workers, or the trial itself may turn into an indictment of the profit system, which will shake the thrones of the fat copper and lumber profiteers. For as Prof. Roger W. Babson points out in the Magazine of Wall Street: “There are two wars in progress today. One is between nations and the other is between classes.”

At the present time, over one thousand members of the I. W. W. are in jails across country, but there are away over one hundred thousand members on the outside. The faster they jail them the faster they grow. Tomorrow there will be more of them than today. There will never be enough jails to go around!

The seven members of the General Defense Committee tackled a tough job when they took charge two months ago. All organizers and secretaries had been thrown into jail along with writers and editors; papers were suppressed and books, records and mailing lists seized; offices were closed after the confiscation of everything but the wall paper. Halls were raided; members mobbed. All in the name of the Law. They said the O. B. U. was crushed.

Confusion worse confounded! Could the I. W. W. come back? Within two weeks the organization was back on the job stronger than ever. Doree, as Secretary- treasurer; Chumley, in charge of Publicity; Wilson, as Secretary of Defense Committee; Farley, on local conditions; Law, rounding up formation of defense, Payne took on the work of the Bulletin, while Hardy handled the Recruiting Unions.

Workers in hundreds of lumber and mining camps spontaneously came together and organized local defense committees. In all the large cities working men and women were likewise organizing themselves. From these grew branch General Defense Committees covering whole states, which were connected up with the General Defense Committee in Chicago. The problem was to standardize the work of the Defense.

The General Defense Committee had a right to assume that the prosecution would not interfere with legitimate defense work as all fair minded men and women agree that the 106 men should be given a fair trial.

However, on December 17th, the Department of Justice again raided the general office and tied up all Defense work for eleven days. On the day following practically all literature was seized, including subscription lists.

On December 20th, Federal officers looted the Defense Committee Headquarters in Seattle. Several active Defense workers were arrested.

On December 22nd, the I. W. W. hall was closed in Sacramento and twenty-four members arrested, and on January 7th, word came from Frisco that $1,400 in the Defense treasury was being “held” by Federals.

These facts are clear proof that any means will be used to handicap the work of the Defense. The majesty of the Law has been used to intimidate printers and paper dealers who had formerly been glad to get I. W. W. business. In fact, the Defense Committee has been handicapped in a hundred spiteful, petty, vindictive ways.

The editor of the Public hit the bull’s eye when he wrote:

Professional detectives and the well-meaning assistant prosecutors of the Department of Justice should not be given a free hand in handling the I. W. W. situation. There is evidence that they are as ignorant of American sociology as were the advisers of Louis XVI of French sociology. And they are aided and abetted in their ignorance by an equally ignorant press, so that nothing but approving comment follows the most stupid and dangerous tactics. The situation in this country with respect to unskilled and unorganized labor is full of dynamite. Every trade union leader knows it. The president knows it. It is the dynamite engendered by the existence of a large class conscious of injustice, burning with resentment, and wholly without organization thru which to express itself. The I. W. W. does not represent it in any authorized way. But it comes nearer being its spokesman than any other organization.

Socialists Demand Fair Trial for, Indicted I. W. W.—In a declaration adopted by its National Executive Committee the Socialist Party calls for a fair and unprejudiced trial for the indicted members of the Industrial Workers of the World. The demand says:

The Socialist Party repeats its declaration of support of all economic organizations of the working class and declares the lynching, deportation, prosecution and persecution of the Industrial Workers of the World is an attack upon every toiler in America, and we now call attention to the fact that the charges of incendiarism, the burning of crops and forests and of vicious destruction of property, made by the public press against the I. W. W., have been proven pure fabrications when put to legal test.

The Socialist Party has always extended its aid, material and moral, to organized labor wherever and whenever it has been attacked by the capitalist class, and this without reference to form of organization or special policies; therefore we pledge our support to the Industrial Workers of the World now facing trial in Chicago and elsewhere, and demand for them a fair and unprejudiced trial and urge our members to use every effort to assist the Industrial Workers of the World by familiarizing the public with the real facts, to overcome the falsehoods and misinformation with which the capitalist press has poisoned and prejudiced the public mind and judgment against these workers, who are now singled out for destruction, just as other labor organizations and leaders have been singled out for destruction by the same capitalist forces in the past.


International Socialist Review Volume 18
(Chicago, Illinois)
Charles H. Kerr and Company
July 1917-June 1918
ISR Feb 1918
“The General Defense Committee of the I. W. W.”

See also:
Tag: World War I Repression


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