There wasn’t just one, of course, as the IWW was a heterogeneous group. Here’s one which is identifiable, though, or at least reconstructible.

Some people in the early IWW described their goal as the creation of a cooperative commonwealth, defined as a condition where production is managed entirely by freely associated production. The term cooperative commonwealth appears in a book of the same name by Laurence Gronlund, and in the novel Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy, who I believe got the term from Gronlund. (I’ve got both out the library but haven’t read them yet.) Achieving the cooperative commonwealth meant the elimination of surplus value, such that there would be no appropriation or imposition of surplus by anyone above the working class.

The immediate practice of the economic organization was to begin to implement this goal in three ways. One was the raising of costs to the capitalists and the wages and conditions of workers – raising socially necessary labor time by raising the cost of variable capital, thereby reducing surplus value which could be appropriated by the capitalists. The second was the form of organization. Industrial unions were to be organized as closely as possible to the way that production would be organized and managed in the cooperative commonwealth. Everyone in healthcare, for instance, would be part of the same industrial union in order to increase their efficacy in struggle and to increase their experience in and organization for self-management after the elimination of capitalism. This was the third implementation of the goal, the struggle itself. Struggle with the enemy class was a form of training. Rather than the vanguardist conception of the class ‘disciplined by production’ this conception is of the class organizing itself, training itself for and via class struggle in order increase its own capacities. Transition as training. This fits under Negri’s description of the attempt to take up a position between spontaneism and voluntarism – the position starts with encounters with and among the class where it is at in its variety, which in turn change people and create new potentials, which then are themselves in turn the ground for new changes etc.

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