The Fire Never Dies: Labor's Star Ascendant

1. Explosion at the Saratoga Hotel

Caldwell, Idaho, December 30, 1905

At 10:05 this morning, an explosion rocked the Saratoga Hotel. The source was soon identified as coming from room #19. Upon entering the room, sheriff’s deputies identified the sole casualty: the room’s resident, one Tom Hogan[1]. It is possible that Mr. Hogan was experimenting with dangerous chemicals and accidentally blew himself up, although the blast was sufficiently powerful that the reason for this disturbing incident will likely never be known…

- Caldwell Times

[1] Tom Hogan is better known to history as Harry Orchard (born Albert Horsley). IOTL, that evening he would successfully plant his bomb on the gate of the house of former Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg, killing Steunenberg when he tried to open the gate. Orchard (a paid informant for the Cripple Creek Mine Owners’ Association) would later confess to the crime, claiming to have committed it under orders from William “Big Bill” Haywood, Charles Moyer, and George Pettibone, leaders of the Western Federation of Miners. Haywood, Moyer, and Pettibone would ultimately be found innocent, but the trial led to a schism between the WFM and the Industrial Workers of the World.

ITTL, Orchard accidentally blows himself up while preparing the bomb. The assassination of Steunenberg, the trial, and the WFM-IWW schism are all averted.
I've been plotting out this timeline for a while now. There's a lot still to figure out, but I've decided to get it started. Updates will likely be infrequent, particularly as I also need to continue The Northwest Country and The Emerald Years.
2. All Fronts
“…the 1906 IWW convention is best remembered for Eugene Debs’s ‘All Fronts’ speech. Among the issues facing the IWW at the convention was whether or not the IWW should engage in political activity or focus all its efforts on direct labor action (i.e. strikes). A significant faction believed that any engagement with the bourgeois political system would simply strengthen it[1]. In his speech, Debsargued that all avenues of action should be pursued simultaneously, that the IWW should be active ‘on all fronts’. Following this, Daniel DeLeon, leader of the Socialist Labor Party, proposed an amendment to the IWW constitution, whereby the union as a whole would not endorse candidates, but local branches would be free to do so. Militant branches could simply abstain from engaging with local politics at their discretion, while moderates could endorse local candidates without seeking approval from the union as a whole, nor would there be any requirement to endorse a particular party…[2]

- From One Big Idea: The Industrial Workers of the World Before the Revolution by Condoleeza Rice

[1] IOTL, this militant faction won out, which also contributed to the WFM-IWW schism.

[2] IOTL, DeLeon advocated for the IWW to be formally tied to the Socialist Labor Party. His refusal to back down led to him attempting to form a splinter group in 1908. Here, he accepts a compromise, knowing that the IWW will usually endorse SLP candidates anyway.
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3. The Goldfield Commune
“…the IWW had come to dominate the boomtown of Goldfield, Nevada. Most of the town’s businesses were organized through the IWW, save only the typesetters at the Goldfield Sun and the carpenters, both of whom were still affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and resisted joining the IWW…

…Many radicals wanted to force them to do so through a strike, but moderates in the WFM balked. Instead, IWW members circulated a petition to incorporate Goldfield and establish a proper municipal government with an elected mayor and a town council[1]. This was soon approved by the Esmeralda County Board of Commissioners, but then IWW organizer Vincent St. John[2] ran for mayor, winning in a landslide despite fierce opposition from the local mine owners. The town council was similarly dominated by the IWW. With the town itself now under IWW control, and with assurances that they would be allowed to run their own locals, the typesetters and carpenters joined the IWW[3]. Goldfield subsequently became the first American municipality to formally title itself as a commune instead of a town or city, reflecting its radical socialist character. This began a trend of IWW organizers seeking local political office, particularly mayorships of small towns, and then instituting revolutionary policies…”

- From One Big Idea: The Industrial Workers of the World Before the Revolution by Condoleeza Rice

[1] IOTL, this never happened. Thanks to the Goldfield Historical Society for their assistance!

[2] IOTL, he pushed for more radical action. ITTL, he opts for the political approach.

[3] The Goldfield typesetters and carpenters never joined the IWW ITTL, and this eventually led to the IWW losing their dominance in the town.
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4. The Chicago Conference of 1907
“…under pressure from the IWW, particularly Eugene Debs, Daniel DeLeon and other leaders of the SLP agreed to a conference with the SPA to discuss mending the schism between them. The Chicago Conference, held in June of 1907, was a tense affair, in no small part due to DeLeon’s stubbornness. Debs, however, won him over by suggesting that the ‘One Big Union’ concept of the IWW could apply in the political sphere…

…Much debate was over which party should absorb the other. Eventually, given the SLP being the older party and having more electoral success of late[1], the Socialist Party of America agreed to rejoin the Socialist Labor Party in return for leadership positions, including Victor L. Berger being named General Secretary. DeLeon did retain his position as editor of The Weekly People and was placed on the list of potential candidates for elected office. At the top of the list, of course, was Eugene Debs, who would be nominated for the Presidency again in 1908…”

- From Socialists of America Unite! A History of the Socialist Labor Party by Aaron Sorkin

[1] IOTL, the SPA had been slightly more successful, having won more votes in the last presidential elections.
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5. 1908 Election
“…while none would ever say so publicly, no one in the SLP had any serious hopes that Eugene Debs might win the Presidency in 1908. A few had even argued against spending any serious effort on a presidential campaign, and that instead the SLP should focus on winning local and congressional elections, or even offer its endorsement to another candidate. But to not run a Presidential candidate would be tantamount to admitting that the American people would never accept socialism. Instead, the Debs campaign worked to support local candidates and socialist causes across the country…

…at times, Debs seemed to be campaigning for the IWW as much as the SLP. His first stop after winning the nomination was not Chicago or New York, but Pensacola, Florida, where streetcar workers were protesting a company rule that suspended workers had to report to the company’s car barn thrice daily for a roll call[1]. Debs toured the picket lines and promised IWW support for the workers. While Debs was in Pensacola, strikebreakers arrived, but were driven off by IWW members and SLP supporters, many of whom had traveled for days to see Debs. With many of their other workers threatening to go on strike, the Pensacola Electric Company gave in to the strikers’ demands[2]

…Despite Democratic hopes of “third time’s a charm”, William Jennings Bryan would go down to defeat at the hands of William Howard Taft[3]. Despite not coming close to winning the Presidency, the mood of the SLP on Election Night was triumphant. Debs had secured over a million votes[4], beating every other minor party combined. Furthermore, the SLP had made other wins. Several SLP candidates had won seats on city councils and state legislatures. They had even pushed their way into Congress, as Meyer London and Victor Berger had been elected to the House of Representatives, representing districts in Manhattan and Milwaukee, respectively[5]…"

- From Socialists of America Unite! A History of the Socialist Labor Party by Aaron Sorkin

[1] The strike occurred IOTL, but ended on May 13, literally the day before Debs won the nomination. Here, butterflies (and a bit of IWW support) extend the strike long enough for Debs to show up.

[2] IOTL, the strikebreakers were eventually supported by state militia, and the strike failed.

[3] Yes, the two leading candidates in the 1908 election were both named William. For that matter, the next two (both IOTL and ITTL) were named Eugene, the other being Eugene Chafin of the Prohibition Party.

[4] IOTL, Debs (as the SPA candidate) failed to achieve a million votes, only reaching 420,852. Here, a more cohesive socialist movement draws in much greater support.

[5] IOTL, Berger was elected to Congress in 1910 and London in 1914.
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6. A Diverse Organization
“…the IWW stood out among other unions of the time in its commitment to racial equality and social justice. Where other unions had viewed immigrants and nonwhites (and especially nonwhite immigrants) as potential scabs and a threat to the white working class, the IWW sought to reach out to them. A high proportion of the IWW membership were immigrants, after all. The IWW’s first published newspaper was not in English, but the Finnish-language Sosialisti[1] in Duluth, Minnesota. Joining the IWW provided immigrants with a support network and made it easy for them to find jobs. Many IWW branches organized regular social functions…

…In Seattle, labor leaders like Harry Ault worked to maintain ties with the Asian-American community and even recruit them. In 1909, Seattle staff of the Amerika Shinpo newspaper founded the Taihoku Nippo (Great Northern Daily News). By 1912, it had absorbed the pro-socialist The Doho, become completely independent and, under the influence of editor Katsunari Sasaki, became a potent radical voice in the Seattle Japanese community[2]

…These attitudes naturally fed into the SLP. While the two organizations were not officially linked (despite DeLeon’s efforts), they shared a great deal of their membership. The SLP advocated for civil rights, women’s suffrage, and open immigration, often drawing the ire of conservative organizations. However, both organizations remained dominated by white men, although usually of recent immigrant and/or Jewish stock. As such, many anti-socialist figures increasingly adopted what can be best described as “Anglo-Saxon Supremacism with Antisemitic Characteristics”. The IWW and SLP were radical organizations composed of mongrels and Negroes led by the castoffs of Europe who wanted to destroy everything that was good and decent in American society…

- From One Big Idea: The Industrial Workers of the World Before the Revolution by Condoleeza Rice

[1] Better-known IOTL as Industrialisti.

[2] IOTL, the Taihoku Nippo became independent in 1913 under Kojiro Takeuchi, and never became a radical publication (although it did support strikes and discourage its readers from becoming strikebreakers). The Doho folded in 1909 IOTL, but survives long enough to merge with (and radicalize) the Taihoku Nippo, with Sasaki (founder of The Doho) becoming editor instead of Takeuchi.
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7. Leon Bronstein
…In the fall of 1908, I had become the editor of Pravda[1], which I had hoped would become a potent tool for bringing the revolution to Russia. However, the realities of running a revolutionary paper in exile made it clear to me how difficult it would be. The simple truth is that the Russian peasants remained trapped in ignorance and illiteracy. Even if we managed to smuggle copies of Pravda into Russia (which we did) most Russians could not read them…

…It was my friend Adolph Joffe[2] who helped explain to me the true significance of the 1908 elections in America. I had assumed that with such a small total of votes, and a mere two seats in Congress, the American socialists must be a tiny sliver of the population. Joffe was more knowledgeable about the American political system, and he pointed out how the system was designed to ensure the dominance of the two major parties. That the Socialist Labor Party had broken through this to win representation at the national level, particularly after they had successfully mended their schism with the SPA, was a sign of the strength of the American socialist movement…

…I decided that I should travel to America. Perhaps I could learn from the American socialists, or at least determine the full level of their success. In the spring of 1909, I took ship from Trieste, arriving a few weeks later in New York. At the time, I was still going by Trotsky, but I considered that my name might be on some proscribed list, so I used my birth name of Bronstein, presenting myself as just another Jew fleeing Russia. It was not long before I found myself at an IWW hall in Manhattan. Having spent the time aboard ship and on Ellis Island using Bronstein, I unwittingly introduced myself by that name. Another Jewish comrade, learning that I edited a socialist magazine in Europe, said he could get me a job at a print shop…

…At the end of my first day as an American worker, I made two decisions. First, being perceived as Jewish was actually an advantage. I would continue to use Trotsky as a pen name when writing for Pravda, but when I dealt with my American comrades, I would go by Bronstein. Second, it was clear that America was more fertile ground for socialism than Russia. Far more Americans were literate and worked at industrial jobs. Americans were also not so bound by tradition as Russians, especially as so many Americans were immigrants. I continued to write for Pravda, but I would not return to Vienna. Instead, the next day, I joined the Industrial Workers of the World…

- From My Life by General Leon Bronstein

[1] IOTL.

[2] A fellow Russian-Jewish émigré and close friend of Trotsky, who later became a Soviet diplomat.
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Well, that's a loss for for the Bolsheviks and the broader RSDLP. Trotsky, despite his flaws, was a hell of a public speaker and propagandist. Interesting to see what he accomplishes in the US.
Imagine that might pose some difficulties later - Trotsky was an important figure for kinda mediating between Lenin and other figures, and he had the legitimacy of 1905 in a way no comparable figure did. On the other hand, here's Trotsky in America now with an eye on alternate socialist models and traditions to the ones evolving in Russia - even if he's not there, this might still be a powerful source of information and examples for the Russia left that probably still respects Trotsky as a figure. Russia, assuming Trotsky doesn't go back anyways, is gonna go differently.
8. The Pressed Steel Car Strike
…The history of organized labor in Pennsylvania is a particularly bloody one. Over 100 workers in Pennsylvania had died in labor disputes in the 19th century, more than any other state[1]. The SLP had made a strong showing there in 1908, electing James H. Maurer to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives[2]. In some cases, bosses at firms with strong IWW membership tried to prevent their employees from voting at all, which only served to radicalize them…

…In July 1909, workers at the Pressed Steel Car Company in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania went on strike. At the center of their grievances was the “Baldwin contract”, under which jobs were parceled out to foreman, who were contracted to get the work done for a lump sum. The money would be divided among the men who did the job, leading to highly irregular rates of pay. On top of that, many foremen demanded kickbacks so workers could keep their jobs[3]

…Rather than negotiate, the Pressed Steel Car Company brought in strikebreakers, mostly black, Italian, and Jewish, organized by notorious strikebreaker Pearl Bergoff. Unfortunately for them, the strikebreakers themselves had been infiltrated by the IWW, who engaged in various methods of sabotage to ensure that productivity was minimal[4]. Violence broke out on July 12 when deputy sheriffs began evicting striking workers from company housing. They were partially stopped by a hastily-organized IWW militia that formed a cordon around a section of housing. Several IWW members, including one of its founders, William Trautmann, were arrested, and five strikers were killed[5]. Photos of families being evicted stirred up public sentiment against the company. In September, the Pressed Steel Car Company agreed to a wage increase and the abolition of the Baldwin contract, ending the strike in a victory for the workers[6]

…The Pressed Steel Car Strike was a noteworthy victory for the socialist cause, demonstrating that they could indeed win against the bosses. It strengthened the positions of those who championed direct action. Those who favored political efforts noted how later that year, James Maurer shot down a bill to create a state constabulary in Pennsylvania[7]. Leon Bronstein, then writing for the Russian-language journal Pravda, noted the success of forceful resistance against law enforcement…

- From One Big Idea: The Industrial Workers of the World Before the Revolution by Condoleeza Rice

[1] Sadly OTL.

[2] Two years before he did so IOTL.

[3] Both the strike and the Baldwin contract are OTL.

[4] This tactic wasn’t employed at the IOTL Pressed Steel Car Strike, but has been attempted elsewhere.

[5] The militia is a new element, but Trautmann was arrested IOTL, and somewhere between 4 and 8 strikers were killed.

[6] Same outcome as IOTL.

[7] IOTL the bill was introduced in 1912, and it succeeded despite Maurer’s opposition. ITTL, the bill’s advocates introduce it as a response to the Pressed Steel Car Strike, only to run into public support for the strike.
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9. Prohibition Falters
…The temperance movement reached its peak in the first decade of the 1900s. The Prohibition Party had been a consistent player in the Third Party System, drawing in support from groups as diverse as suffragettes, religious leaders, and labor organizers. In 1892, John Bidwell won 2.24% of the national vote on the Prohibition ticket[1]

…One group that had never been in favor of Prohibition were immigrants, particularly Irish and German immigrants. Indeed, one of the motivations behind the temperance movement was anti-immigrant sentiment. This brought the temperance movement into direct conflict with the immigrant-backed socialist movement. A few socialists did support temperance, calling alcohol a tool of the bourgeoisie to keep the proletariat numb to the reality of capitalism, but that stance was firmly rejected by the majority, and both Eugene Debs and Daniel DeLeon made sure that nothing that even smacked of Prohibition made it into the SLP platform. SLP elected officials fought anti-saloon bills where they could, and IWW organizers used the specter of Prohibition to organize in breweries, distilleries, vineyards, hops farms, and saloons…

…In addition to winning over organized labor, the SLP also threatened one of the pillars of the temperance movement: women. Suffragists had long championed temperance as a means to reduce male violence against women. However, while many older unions remained patriarchal, the IWW was committed to full gender equality. The divide increasingly fell along class lines, with educated women supporting Prohibition, while working-class women aligned with the IWW. Occasionally, this led to the two groups cooperating, such as in Washington State, where State Representative William Z. Foster mobilized the IWW in support of the 1910 amendment to the state constitution granting women the right to vote[2]. But in 1914, when the Anti-Saloon League lobbied for a voter initiative banning the manufacture and sale of alcohol, it failed in the face of fierce IWW opposition[3]

…The temperance movement persisted, but its grassroots support had been sapped. Those who remained drifted into anti-socialist rhetoric, although labeling them as proto-falangists is a gross exaggeration. In 1916, the Prohibition Party opted not to field a candidate but instead endorse Woodrow Wilson. After the Revolution, the party was disbanded, and temperance condemned to the fringe of American politics…

- From The Rise and Fall of the Prohibition Party by Aviva Chomsky

[1] IOTL.

[2] The amendment passed IOTL, but ITTL the SLP takes a lot of the credit, drawing more women in Washington towards socialism.

[3] IOTL, the initiative passed.
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Uh oh, that sounds like trouble is coming.

Also, are you going to touch on happenings in the south? It'd probably be a bit grim compared to the successes the union has been having elsewhere, but i imagine that they'd at least try to agitate in the region
Uh oh, that sounds like trouble is coming.
Also ask yourself why a text written in this universe would describe an American movement as "proto-falangist".
Also, are you going to touch on happenings in the south? It'd probably be a bit grim compared to the successes the union has been having elsewhere, but i imagine that they'd at least try to agitate in the region
I will do so, but the South was never fertile ground for the IWW. That said, we will be getting a POV from a certain Southerner some time in the future.