Why Did My IWW Branch Collapse?
Historically, turnover of IWW Branches has been almost as high as turnover in dues paying members. There are many factors that can lead to the decline or collpase of IWW Branches. Some of these can be minimized, but others are a matter of bad luck or circumstances beyond our immediate control.
I. Internal factors that can cause IWW Branches to decline or collpase:
(1) Isolation or perceived isolation
(2) Burnout of key members
(3) Disputes between key members
(4) Dysfunctional behavior, including but not limited to:
- Hoarding of power
- Cults of personality
- Hidden agendas
- Cliques and factions
- Lack of discussion over contentious issues
- Inadequate or no process for growth
- Inadequate or no process for integrating new members
- Inadequate or no process for educating members
- Inadequate or no process for committee formation and/or subdivision when needed
(5) Lack of long term commitment from enough members
(6) Lack of long term planning or vision
(7) Inadequate or no organizational structure
(8) Debilitating frustration over setbacks
(9) You built it (your IWW Branch) but they (new members) didn’t come
(10) Inadequate or no focus
(11) Self marginalization
(12) Changing conditions in individual members’ lives
II. External factors that are much more difficult to address in the short term
(1) Competition from other organizations and/or activities
(2) Changing macroeconomic and/or geopolitical conditions
(3) Unforseen significant events
(4) Ruling class repression
(5) Infiltration by disruptive forces
III. How to minimize the effects of both internal and external pressures on your IWW Branch
(1) Don’t stop organizing and recruiting once you receive your IWW Branch charter – Establishing your IWW Branch is the first step among many further and potentially larger steps. Continue to recruit, educate, organize, network, and grow.
(2) Don’t let setbacks discourage you – setbacks are inevitable and how your IWW Branch weathers them makes all of the difference. No matter how well you plan in advance, tactics and strategies can fail or backfire; organizing drives can be lost; revolutionary moments can pass unfulfilled. Revolutionary change doesn’t happen overnight and it is almost always a matter of three steps forward, two steps back. It is better to be prepared to weather stebacks than it is to let setbacks demoralize you.
(3) Don’t allow dysfunctional behavior to go unchallenged – Dysfunctional behavior will almost always slowly (and sometimes rapidly) destroy IWW Branches. Serious, dedicated members will grow tired of it and quit, splits will occur, and personal disputes between individual members (often over non relevant matters) will be magnified into whole-blown faction fights. It’s better to address dysfunctional behavior tactfully and openly rather than to let it fester and cause more damage in the long term.
(4) Don’t wait for members and/or supporters to come to you – You must be proactive and assertive. You must seek out your potential supporters, members, and organizing leads. People will not join unless you ask them to. Here is a useful guide, though somewhat dated (it was written before widespread use of the Internet).
(5) Don’t sweep disputes and/or disagreements under the rug – To paraphrase an old saying, you can have ten IWW members in a room and hear eleven opinions. Even in a democractic union such as the IWW, heated debates and substantial disagreements arise from time-to-time. Deal with them openly, respectfully, and honestly. Do not reduce them to mere differences of personality or pretend they don’t exist. Sometimes the best that can be achieved is an agreement to disagree on a particular issue. Other times, a compromise or consensus can be reached. Don’t let grievances or complaints fester. Air them and deal with them, but also don’t let them become the dominant focus.
(6) Anticipate changes, challenges, and disruptive actions – This is serious business. The external conditions that occur in the world as a whole can and will have an effect on your IWW Branch. You could, for example, lose a sizable number of members due to a sudden downturn in the economy, because they cannot afford to continue to pay dues (for this reason and others it’s crucial that you forge stronger ties than just colllection of membership dues from each of your members). Likewise, anyone with any experience as a veteran of class struggle or a radical activist knows the potential for covert agents provocatuer’s, COINTELPRO, andthe like. There is a body of literature published by survivors of such disruption offering helpful advice on how to minimize such efforts. Study it and implement the suggestions offered by these veterans when and where appropriate.
(7) Emphasize the “active” in “activist”. Be proactive, don’t be passive or reactive – You and Your IWW Branch should generate productive and constructive organizing activity and seek it out; do not wait for it to come to you. Research potential organizing targets. Hold forums and organizer trainings. Seek out and recruit supporters. Raise funds, sell and distribute literature, and create more of your own. Network and build networks. Even if you do not immediately strike gold as far as organizing at the point of production goes, you will eventually and the chances of your doing so increase the more active are you and your branch.