Cartoon art

Item no. 28181
February 1913
Collection: Other

'Direct Action Makes Capitalism See Stars' by I. Svenson, Industrial Worker, February 6, 1913.

In this cartoon labor delivers a knock out blow to the system by means of direct action and society's long-hoarded wealth is shaken loose from the grip of the capitalist. Above two birds engage in a humorous dialogue which is representative of the Wobbly conviction that "The working class and the employing class have nothing in common." Firm believers in the idea of irreconcilable class struggle, the IWW never concealed its disdain for contracted negotiation with employers. Since the power to produce all wealth lay in the hands of labor, talk was indeed cheap and action, directly by and for the workers, spoke louder than words. In this case direct action explicitly takes the form of sabotage (symbolized by the sabot being kicked in the face of capitalism).

As an IWW tactic, sabotage encompassed a number of forms of direct action that did not necessarily include the violent destruction of property. Sabotage referred to any and all actions which interfered with company profits and included disabling machinery, spoiling the product, soldiering, and even publicizing information about a product in a way that may hurt sales. The strike was ideally the working class' most powerful weapon against the capitalists. However, the superior resources of the employers, both economically and militarily speaking, made long strikes difficult to sustain. In the eyes of Wobblies, sabotage simply meant striking on the job. Through sabotage workers could wage war on their capitalist masters without sacrificing their much-needed pay or losing their jobs to scabs.

Illustration by I. Svenson from the IWW publication the Industrial Worker, February 6, 1913. 

See this image in the Solidarity Forever: A Look at Wobbly Culture exhibit.

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