First Advisor

David A. Horowitz

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Social Science and University Honors


Social Science


Industrial Workers of the World, Labor unions -- United States -- History, Labor movement -- United States -- History




Growing out of the labor militancy and political radicalism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the revolutionary union Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) grew to be one of the most radical working-class movements in American history, containing 150,000 members during its peak in 1917. However, by its Congress in 1924, the union nearly collapsed beneath the weight of state repression, vigilante killings, organizational weaknesses, and political divisions, after which it remained on the fringes of labor politics. Many authors of varying backgrounds and decades have sought to explain the decline of the IWW, emphasizing either repression, internal organization, or political and programmatic questions as the fundamental cause. Through a historiographic review of scholarly and descriptive works, the author argue for a more critical approach to the popularized focus on state repression, while highlighting the underrated value of organizational and political arguments. In doing so, they seek to strengthen not only the historical understanding of the IWW, but offer a fresh perspective on working-class politics, social movement history, and the American history in which the IWW is a part.


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