Against the Current, No. 48, January/
Those Giant Sucking Sounds
— The Editors
Voucher Mania: Will It Spread?
— Joel Jordan
The Unmaking of Mayor Dinkins
— Andy Pollack
The Illusion of Middle East Peace
— Nabeel Abraham
An Information Center for the Russian Workers' Movement
— Alex Chis and Susan Weissman
- Defend Human Rights in Russia!
On Mythology and Genocide
— Branka Magas
Behind the Turmoil in Italy
— Jack Ceder
The Rebel Girl: Having A Bobbitt Sort of Day?
— Catherine Sameh
Random Shots: The Spirits of the Season
— R.F. Kampfer
- Chronic Fatigue Demonstration
Working-Class Vanguards in U.S. History
— Paul Le Blanc
Puerto Rico's Plebiscite
— Rafael Bernabe
Section 936: A Corporate License to Steal
— Working Group on Section 936
Confronting Anti-Choice Forces in Puerto Rico
— Ruth Arroyo, Rafael Bernabe and Nancy Herzig
— Ruben Auger
Latinos: One Group or Many?
— Samuel Farber
Latina Writers Defying Borders
— Norine Gutekanst
Socialism as Self-Emancipation
— Justin Schwartz
- Remembering E.P. Thompson
E.P. Thompson: 1924-1973
— Michael Löwy
E.P. Thompson as Historian, Teacher and Political Activist
— Barbara Winslow
“VANGUARDISM” AND LENIN’s conception of a revolutionary party are not popular on the left today, being identified in the minds of many with Stalinism, sterile sectarianism and manipulative power-tripping. Often “the self-activity of the masses” is offered as the alternative. A careful examination of the actual upsurges of workers and other oppressed groups suggests, however, that the realities are more complex.
Labor’s Giant Step in the Turbulent Years
In James R. Green’s valuable history The World of the Worker, Labor in Twentieth Century America, we are provided with an image of a powerful working-class insurgency during the Great Depression:
“the gains [U.S.] workers made in the 1930s were enormous. During the decade, when powerful workers’ organizations fell before the Fascist threat in Germany and Spain and foundered in democratic countries like Britain, workers in the United States made historic advances despite the effects of the Depression and the cumulative effects of corporate oppression. In organizational terms alone, the growth of the CIO [Congress of Industrial Organizations] and the revival of the AFL [American Federation of Labor] were impressive. The number of unionized employees tripled from 2,805,000 in 1933 to 8,410,000 in 1941. During the strife-ridden decade, the proportion of workers enjoying union rights jumped from 9 to 34 percent in manufacturing, 21 to 72 percent in mining, 23 to 48 percent in transportation, and 54 to 65 percent in construction. A new kind of workers’ power had been mobilized in countless factories and communities. For the lust time, millions of industrial workers asserted rights that had to be respected, and created organizations that finally gave them some control over their world.”(1)
In the title of his classic second volume on the history of workers during the Great Depression, Irving Bernstein calls the 1930s the Turbulent Years. Noting the expansion of union membership, he observes that this resulted in material payoffs for the working class as a whole. Bernstein points to “a direct relationship between the per cent in unionization and the per cent in increase in earnings,” but goes on to write that “unions also raised the wages of unorganized workers by setting standards of equity for them and their employers and by prodding the latter into granting higher wages in order to keep the union out.” He also emphasizes the importance of at least a certain amount of job security and on-the-job dignity provided by the seniority system, union-imposed work rules, and grievance procedures.(2)
More than this, as political scientist Michael Goldfield has recently demonstrated, “labor influence was central to the structure of the political situation in 1934 and 1935, both because of its insurgent and disruptive activities and because of the growing strength of highly organized radicalism.”
Pushing President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Dealpolicies in a leftward direction, these battles brought about what Bernstein terms a transformation of “the distribution of power in American society” through “unemployment relief, a variety of attacks on joblessness, unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, welfare programs, wage, hour, and child labor standards, and protection of the right of workers to organize [unions] and bargain collectively.”
The very structure of American politics was transformed with Roosevelt’s second electoral victory, Bernstein tells us. “In all probability,” he comments, “no national election in American history was so class-based as that of 1936. The Republicans gained solid backing from the bankers, the industrialists, and the newspaper publishers; the Democrats received the votes of the urban working class.”(3) This liberal-labor alignment—especially in Northern industrial centers—continued to be amajor feature of U.S. politics for many years to come.
At the same time, another respected labor historian, Melvyn Dubofsky, combing through statistics on union organizing drives and strikes in the 1930s, observed that the overwhelming majority of working people during this period were not involved in these union struggles. He focuses attention on two years of the most intense struggles-1934 and 1937.
The year 1934 saw general strikes in three cities: Toledo, Ohio; San Francisco, California; and Minneapolis, Minnesota. In Toledo workers at the Auto-Lite Company, and their allies in the militant Unemployed League, battled the company and the National Guard, with the support of the city’s central labor council and under the leadership of A.J. Muste’s left-wing American Workers Party. In San Francisco Longshoremen and other workers, following Harry Bridges and a left-wing leadership—especially militants of the Communist Party—were also backed by the city’s central labor council, fought company goons and local police, and here too confronted the National Guard.
In Minneapolis and neighboring St. Paul, the radicals providing leadership to the workers’ battles were members of the Communist League of America, followers of Leon Trotsky, such as Carl Skoglund, Vincent Raymond Dunne, his brothers Miles and Grant and Farrell Dobbs. Here the city’s teamsters, supported by the central labor council and masses of unorganized and unemployed workers, and nearby small family farmers, faced down the city’s powerful employers, fought police, and—here too—their struggles brought in the National Guard. The stunning union victories in these three cities generated the mass organizing drives of industrial workers and launched the CIO.(4)
Dubofsky described 1937 as beginning with the famous Flint sit-down strike, through which the United Auto Workers conquered General Motors. By Memorial Day the police massacred peaceful protesters in the Little Steel conifict. In between Flint and Little Steel, Dubofsky summarized, there were more than 400,000 workers participating in 477 sit-down strikes.(5)
The Riddle of “Non-Turbulence”
While there were only 840 strikes in 1932, in 1933 there were 1,700, in 1934 there were 1,856, in 1936 there were 2,200, and in the peak year of 1937 there were 4,740, and these strikes affected every major mass-production industry—steel, auto, rubber, coal, electrical goods, and more. Often these dramatic figures, clearly showing a class-struggle upsurge, have given the impression that all workers, or most workers, or at least a bare majority of workers were engaged in strikes and union organizing drives. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In July 1934, for example—the month of the San Francisco and Minneapolis general strikes—only seven-tenths of one percent (only one in a thousand) of all U.S. workers were involved in strikes. In 1937, only 7.2 percent of employed workers were involved in strikes, and their absence from work represented only 0.043 percent of all time worked—which means that less than five workdays in a thousand were lost due to strikes in that year. Asking “what the other 93 percent of the labor force” was doing during the great strike waves of 1934 and 1937, Dubofsky notes that
“the continental size of the United States … could, and did, easily dilute the impact of industrial conflict nationally … When teamsters tied up Minneapolis and longshoremen closed down San Francisco in July 1934, truckers continued to deliver goods in Chicago and Los Angeles, and waterfront workers remained on the job in New York, Baltimore, and San Pedro. For trade unionists and radicals it was exceedingly difficult … to transform well-structured local and regional organizations into equally effective national bodies.”(6)
There are also explanations that go beyond simple geography. Writing in the late 1930s, the perceptive radical journalist Louis Adamic wrote of the dead fatalism” of many workers. He denied that capitalist oppression would naturally breed militant class consciousness. “When unionization is suggested, they oppose it: it might lose them their jobs! Yet they hate their jobs. That hate expresses itself in subversive tallc sabotage, defeatism.”(7)
This corresponds to the findings of other contemporary observers. In their studies of Muncie, Indiana in the 1920s and ’30s, which they called “Middletown,” Robert and Helen Lynd found labor organization weaker, and the business class apparently more united than ever and determined to keep Muncie a predominantly non-union town. They noted the stirrings of discontent among workers but they added that “fear, resentment, insecurity,and disillusionment has been to Middletown’s workers largely an individual experience for each worker, and not such a thing generalized by him onto a ‘class’ experience.”
They added that “such militancy as it generates tends to be sporadic, personal, flaccid; an expression primarily of personal resentment rather than an act of self-identification with the continuities of a movement or of rebellion against an economic status regarded as permanently fixed.” The authors concluded that “the militancy of Middletown labor tends, therefore, to be easily manipulated, and to be diverted into all manner of incidental issues.”(8)
To gain greater insights into the so-called “average worker” who may (or may not) have been involved in union struggles, social historian John Bodnar has directed our attention to “the masses of rank-and-file toilers who were reared in strong, family-based enclaves” of largely immigrant working-class communities. Particularly as mass production techniques were being developed by employers in the early decades of the twentieth century, recently-arrived unskilled immigrant laborers were absorbed as mass-production workers. Often they found jobs in their workplaces for needy friends and relatives as well.
Family and ethnic ties became intertwined with occupational patterns, creating what Bodnar calls “kinship-occupational clusters” in which “familial concerns were strongly reinforced.” This cut across the competing ideologies of capitalist-oriented upward mobility through “rugged individualism” on the one hand and a revolutionary proletarian class-conscious on the other. “Clearly,” Bodnar writes, “family obligations dominated working-class predilections and may have exerted a moderating influence on individual expectations and the formulation of social and economic goals.”(9)
In fact, he concludes (largely on the basis of in-depth interviews with working-class participants in 1930s union activity in Pennsylvania) that “immigrants, blacks, and native-born toilers entered the mines and mills of Pennsylvania prior to 1940 not on their own behalf but because of the needs of their kin …. Personal satisfaction, the control of production, equality and mobility were usually secondary concerns.” A “family-oriented culture continued to serve necessary functions and define the framework of individual lives” of most workers, leading to a preoccupation with survival strategies that focused on family welfare: “Families generally searched for ways to make ends meet, achieved little savings, sent their children to work early in life and valued steady employment,” and this orientation “muted individual inclinations and idealism in favor of group survival.”
At times this would be compatible with support for the new industrial unionism, of course—but even when it was, there was a conservative brake which was intro duced. “If workers agitated for job security more than social equality and demonstrated a realism which disappointed those who would have preferred a greater groundswell of soda! idealism,” Bodnar writes, “it was because equality and even mobility were largely personal goals while job security was the key to family sustenance.”(10)
It is interesting to note that the interviews gathered by Bodnar are qualitatively different from those that were gathered by Staughton and Alice Lynd of working-class organizers, mostly from the 1930s, in their excellent book Rank and File. The Lynds write: “The rank and filers in this book felt … that there had to be basic social changes. They were both militant, in demanding changes within their unions and workplaces, and radical, in the sense that they tried to democratize the larger society. They imagined both a union and a society which were more just, more humane, more of a community.”(11) In fact, most of the veteran working-class activists they interviewed had been members of Socialist, Communist or Trotskyist organizations.
Bodnar’s comments on all of this are interesting. “Our interviews with Pennsylvania workers do not specifically refute the assertion by Lynd and others that a tradition of working-class democracy aimed at humanizing society at large was operative or that strains of mobility and self-improvement pervaded the industrial working class,” he writes. “It should be emphasized, however, that such conclusions followed from analyses that concentrated largely on articulate, working-class leaders and intellectuals and stopped short of penetrating the temper of rank-and-file objectives.”
Bodnar writes that “brief flirtations with larger social visions emerged, but they were seldom sustained among the rank and file.” He argues that “the limits to the ground swell of union activity in the 1930s … may have been determined by family priorities, which continued to direct the objectives of most workers.”(12)
The Multi-Faceted Vanguard
To the extent that the picture of the American working class presented by Louis Adamic, Robert and Helen Lynd, and John Bodnar is accurate, how did it come to pass that hundreds of thousands of workers did throw themselves into the struggles of the 1930s which transformed U.S. society and politics?
Dubofsky brings our attention to the dialectic between conscious working-class militants (the focus of Staughton and Alice Lynd’s interviews) and the larger rank and file. He writes: “more often than not, action by militant minorities (what some scholars have characterized as ‘sparkplug Unionism’) precipitated a subsequent collective response.” His portrait of a multi-layered working class is worth presenting in full:
“Even the most strike-tom cities and regions had a significantly internally differentiated working class. At the top were the local cadres, the sparkplug unionists, the men and women fully conscious of their roles in a marketplace society that extolled individualism and rewarded collective strength These individuals, ranging the political spectrum from Social Democrats to Communists, provided the leadership, militancy, and ideology that fostered industrial conflict and the emergence of mass-production unionism. Beneath them lay substantial proportion of workers who could be transformed, by example, into militant strikers and unionists, and, in turn, themselves act as militant minorities. Below them were many first- and second-generation immigrant workers, as well as recent migrants from the American countryside, who remained embedded in a culture defined by traditional ties to family, kinship, church, and neighborhood club or tavern. Accustomed to following the rituals of the past, heeding the advice of community leaders, and slow to act, such men and women rarely joined unions prior to a successful strike, once moved to act behaved with singular solidarity, yet rarely served as union or political activists and radicals. And below this mass were the teenage workers caught halfway between liberation from their parental families and formation of their own new households, more attracted to the life and rituals of street gangs and candy-store cronies than to the customs and culture of persistent trade unionists and political activists.”(13)
The reality of the working class was even more complex than this, though Dubofsky’s rough categories are useful as an approximation. The piece of the analysis that I want to focus on is the militant minority that he seems to subdivide, at one point, into political radicals and militant trade union activists, who together played an indispensable “vanguard” role.
The ex-radical Eugene Lyons, in his 1941 polemic The Red Decade, was sharply critical of the decision made by CIO President John L Lewis, who was relatively conservative politically, to utilize organizers with Communist Party backgrounds; Lyons commented that “the communist cancer in the C.I.O. grew in malignancy with every passing month.” There is, of course, Lewis’s comeback that implied his own mastery of the situation: “Who gets the bird, the hunter or the dog?”(14)
The conclusion of such seasoned commentators as Saul Alinsky and Bert Cochran—who themselves had considerable trade union and political experience—was that, given their decision to lead the newly-formed CIO in building the new unions, Lewis and those non-radical union leaders grouped around him “had no choice but to accept the support of the Communists,” as Alinsky put it, since “every place where new industrial unions were being formed, young and middle-aged Communists were working tirelessly,” and that “it was the left-wingers who kept fighting against the disillusionment and cynicism that swept the workers [in the face of bureaucratic ineptness by the American Federation of Labor]. It was they who kept organizing and organizing and organizing.”
Cochran agrees that Lewis “could not do without the support of the radicals—and in the 1930s, radicals meant primarily the Communists. It was not that manfor-man Communists were necessarily superior organizers or agitators than non-Communist radicals. The contrary was demonstrated in the Minneapolis and Toledo strikes. But whatever their qualities, non-Communist radicals were few in number.”
This is illustrated by a look at left-wing membership figures in the mid-1930s. The Trotskyists—even after they merged with Muste’s American Workers Party—had about 700 members. The rightward leaning Communist dissidents following Jay Lovestone had perhaps 1000. Even the Socialist Party, fluctuating around 10,000, had only 1300 trade union members—including in the garment and auto industries, some of whom were in the process of defecting from the organization. The Communist Party, on the other hand, had about 30,000 members, of whom 15,000 were union members.(15)
For the moment, however, we can set aside the question of specifically which left-wing organization played what role in the class struggles and union organizing drives of the Depression decade. The dynamic between the two components of the “militant minority” or “working-class vanguard”—the political radical and the non-radical trade union activist—is worth giving attention to, because it may reveal something about the more general process of working-class organization.
To explore this question further, I want to draw from another contemporary source, a 1938 study by journalist Ben Stolberg, who had extensive left-wing and trade union contacts. His book The Story of the CIO stands as a problematical source which is—in some ways—at odds with itself, blending brilliant insight with bitter cynicism. But aspects of his analysis can be helpful.
Stolberg begins with a generalization based on the experience of the U.S. labor movement up to the 1930s. The old AFL under Samuel Gompers, before the First World War, had a strong left wing—led by members of the Socialist Party of America, at that time a mass working-class organization led by Eugene V. Debs. The wartime and post-war repression (combined with internal splits) shattered this left wing—thereby doing serious damage to the AFL as a whole, in Stolberg’s opinion.(16)
The AFL was handicapped because it was, for the most part, based on unions of skilled workers organized along craft lines—yet American industry had become restructured on the model of mass-production, utilizing unskilled and semi-skilled labor in a manner that interconnected into a single enterprise different “crafts.”
In addition, the narrowly conservative “pure and simple” trade unionism of the Gompers variety—assuming that businessmen would take care of business and trade unionists would simply bargain for “more”—was overwhelmed by problems generated by the devastating economic depression. Stolberg explained that “the CIO is an effort on the part of American labor to revitalize itself and to modernize its outdated structure. This it cannot do without the stimulus of political and social radicalism. Mere trade unionism as such, without left agitation, cannot recast its point of view or remodel itself functionally.” He pointed out that:
“The average trade union leader the world over, not only in the A.F. of L., is essentially a business unionist He is the representative and the broker of labor power in the labor market, who is guided primarily by the daily pressures of that market.”(17)
Stolberg notes that in periods of economic catastrophe (“not at the depth of the depression, but when the business cycle begins to crawl up from the bottom”), “the workers begin to realize that their conservative trade unions were unable to protect them from the ravages of the catastrophe. They begin to gauge the lag between the stationary character of business unionism and the ever-advancing industrial process. That lag has meant to them unemployment and hunger.” The old ideology of the AFL exposes itself as utterly inadequate. Stolberg makes a generalization about the masses of workers: “Their restlessness becomes social awareness. And this class consciousness, no matter how vague and simple, turns to social radicalism for leadership.(18)
This leads to shifts among some of the non-radical trade unionists, according to Stolberg: “Then the progressive and alert union leader breaks away from the conservative union hierarchy, and puts himself at the head of the forward movement And he necessarily opens the doors to the radicals, whom he needs as agitators and organizers.” Stolberg writes that “… once the CIO was on its way, its leaders found it necessary to battle every reactionary force in American life. If the CIO had used only the old-fashioned trade union organizers, it could not possibly have organized over 3,000,000 workers in two years.”(19)
The Triumph of Reformism
The meaning of the term vanguard, which we have been employing in a manner that approximates the Leninist usage, can be summarized as: a minority with a higher level of political commitments, knowledge and organizational skills than the majority. Lenin believed that as much of this vanguard as possible should be organized into a revolutionary party. “The party was to lead and inspire the mass of workers; its own membership was to remain small and select,” E.H. Carr has written, adding: “It would, however, be an error to suppose that Lenin regarded the revolution as the work of a minority. The task of leading the masses was not, properly understood, a task of indoctrination, of creating a consciousness that was not there, but of evoking a latent consciousness, and this latent consciousness of the masses was an essential condition of revolution.”
Antonio Gramsci stressed that this vanguard had the goal of creating the conditions that would eliminate its own elite status (by educating, mobilizing and empowering the majority, and C.R. James once pointed to the essential interactive aspect involved here: “The proletariat as a whole, at all critical moments, followed the Bolsheviks. More important, however, is the fact that the Russian proletariat taught and disciplined Lenin and the Bolsheviks not only indirectly but directly.”(20)
There are three important distinctions to be noted. First, there is a distinction between vanguards which are consciously revolutionary and those which are consciously non-revolutionary, each of which will draw out different elements that are latent in the consciousness of workers. Second, there is a distinction between different revolutionary vanguard formations competing with each other to provide revolutionary leadership. Third, there is a question of whether a self-proclaimed revolutionary vanguard does (or can) in fact provide revolu tionary leadership, whether it will be capable of “being taught and disciplined” by the working class in a manner that allows it, in turn, to provide leadership—that is, to relate to certain latent consciousness and possibilities in the working class in a manner that leads the struggle in a revolutionary direction.
It is worth giving attention to the perceptions of another revolutionary who believed in the need to build, as she put it, “a proletarian vanguard conscious of its class interests and capable of self-direction in political activity.” Surveying the great democratic upheavals of the 19th and early 20th centuries, Rosa Luxemburg commented that “for the first time in the history of civilization, the people are expressing theirwill consciously and in opposition to all ruling classes. But this can only be satisfied beyond the limits of the existing system.”
Luxemburg pointed out that “the mass [of workers] can only acquire and strengthen this will in the course of the day-to-day struggle against the existing social order—that is, within the limits of capitalist society.” This created a framework fraught with difficulties for the proletarian vanguard: “On the one hand, we have the day-to-day struggle; on the other, the social revolution. Such are the terms of the dialectical contradiction through which the socialist movement makes its way.”
It follows that this movement can best advance by tacking between the two dangers by which it is constantly being threatened, the loss of its mass character or the abandonment of its goal. One is the danger of sinking back to the condition of a sect; the other, the danger of becoming a movement of bourgeois social reform.(21)
Marxists termed the one danger sectarianism and the other danger opportunism. And Luxemburg added another important thought—that working-class activists can overcome such dangers not solely by absorbing Marxist theory, but that it was only possible to overcome them “after the dangers in question have taken tangible form in practice.” She concluded: “Looked at from this angle, opportunism appears to be a product and an inevitable phase of the historic development of the labor movement.”(22)
What happened in the 1930s and ’40s was that the bulk of the working-class vanguard succumbed to this “opportunist” dynamic that Luxemburg refers to. They became opportunist not in the sense of outright material corruption, although there was certainly some of that But the essential problem involved pragmatically compromising revolutionary principles (and, what amounts to the same thing, long-range working-class interests) in order to adapt to the pressures of capitalist reality. This should not be surprising among the consciously non-revolutionary elements—but what happened with those committed to socialism?
Here we can offer only the barest outline of what happened. First of all, it was not possible to make a working-class socialist revolution in the United States during the 1930s. For all of the dramatic transformations that it experienced, the working class did not have sufficient time to become a self-consciously revolutionary force and the various socialist vanguard organizations did not have sufficient time to develop the necessary experience and authority to provide leadership in such a revolution. Moreover, a fragment of the capitalist class was able to forge a popular coalition for social reform which cut across working-class political independence and hegemony. This created a dilemma for the competing socialist vanguard organizations.
Among the socialist vanguard organizations, those which were more sectarian and unrealistic in their expectations simply disintegrated, while others (particularly the Socialist Party, the Social-Democratic Federation, and the Lovestoneites) eventually adapted to policies of non-revolutionary trade unionists and forces of bourgeois social reform to such an extent that they were absorbed. The Trotskyist fragment of the Communist movement demonstrated some effectiveness in blending political realism with revolutionary perspectives, but its forces were so small that it was incapable of competing for working-class leadership on a national scale, and finally it was forcibly suppressed in the one area where it was able to provide such leadership.(23)
The Stalinist wing of the Communist movement, on the other hand, was substantial enough to become the major left-wing force in the labor movement, but it was fatally undermined by internal deficiencies, resulting in what was to become a self-destructive policy. The key to this was the fact that it was Stalinist—subordinating itself to Joseph Stalin’s leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. By 1935 Stalin was committed to a policy of forming far-reaching alliances with the “progressive capitalists” against Hitler and Mussolini.
From 1936 to the Cold War, the line of the Communist Party and the unionists who were close to it involved a fundamental subordination to the Democratic Party. ‘Today we are emphasizing that Roosevelt’s programmatic utterances of 1937, when combined with the legislative program of the C.I.O. (his main labor support), provides a People’s Front program of an advanced type, that the organization of the majority of the people for the struggle to realize this program is the main road today to the creation of the People’s Front,” in the words of Earl Browder.
Years later, Browder explained that “the New Deal put American on the road to the welfare state and thereby had cut the ground from under both the Socialist and Communist parties.” But he added that the Communist Party enthusiastically cooperated: “It relegated its revolutionary socialist goals to the ritual of chapel and Sundays on the pattern followed by the Christian Church. On weekdays it became the most single-minded practical reformist party that America ever produced.”(24)
One of the foremost historians of American Communism, Theodore Draper, agrees: “The Popular Front did not serve as an example of ‘socialist tactics’; it used non-Socialist tactics in deference to a strongly capitalist society” (Far from reflecting a break from Stalinism, however, this represented loyal adherence to the line that the Soviet leader himself was helping to impose on the Communist International.)(25)
While not becoming totally absorbed into its non-socialist milieu, the Communist Party adapted to the forces of pro-capitalist social reform to such an extent that it failed to build a conscious popular base significantly to their left. This made it vulnerable to eventual isolation and destruction by an alliance of non-revolutionary trade unionists, the powerful business community, both liberal and conservative pro-capitalist politicians and the state apparatus, as soon as World War II made way for the Cold War.(26)
And yet, there are grounds for believing that a stronger and durable socialist-minded base in the working class might have cohered if Stalinism had not disoriented the Communists. The influential publicity director of the CIO, Len De Caux, who maintained close ties with the Communist Party, has described the expansive radicalism associated with the early CIO, which was not simply a new labor federation but “amass movement with a message, revivalistic in fervor, militant in mood, joined together by class solidarity” He elaborated:
“As it gained momentum, this movement brought with it new political attitudes—toward the corporations, toward police and troops, toward local, state, national government. Now we’re a movement, many workers asked, why can’t we move on to more and more? Today we’ve forced almighty General Motors to terms by sitting down and defying all the powers at its command, why can’t we go on tomorrow, with our numbers, our solidarity, our determination, to transform city and state, the Washington government itself? Why can’t we go on to create a new society with the workers on top, to end age-old injustices, to banish poverty and war?”(27)
This would seem to have provided the basis for something better than simply the enrollment of millions of workers into a Democratic Party that would end up betraying them.
- James R. Green, The World of the Worker: Labor in Twentieth-Century America (New York: Hill and Wang, 1980), 172-73.
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- Irving Bernstein, Turbulent Years: A History of the American Worker, 1933-1941 (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2010), 775.
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- Bernstein, 275, 285, 286, 298.
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- Art Preis, Labor’s Giant Step: Twenty Years of the CIO (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1972), 19-33; Bernstein, 217-317.
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- Melvyn Dubofsky, “Not So ‘Turbulent Years’: A New Look at the 1930s,” in Charles Stephenson and Robert Asher, eds., American Working-Class History (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986), 209.
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- Dubofsky, 213-115.
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- Louis Adamic, My America, 1928-1938 (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1938), 446-7.
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- Robert S. and Helen Merrell Lynd, Middletown in Transition: A Study in Cultural Conflicts (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1965), 41.
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- John Bodnar, Workers’ World: Kinship, Community and Protest in Industrial Society, 1900-1940 (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1982), 166, 180, 182, 183; John Bodnar, “Immigration, Kinship, and the Rise of Working-Class Realism in Industrial America,” Journal of Social History 14, no. 1 (Fall 1980), 47, 48, 50, 53, 55.
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- Bodnar, “Immigration, Kinship, and the Rise of Working-Class Realism in Industrial America,” 56, 57, 58-59.
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- Alice and Staughton Lynd, eds., Rank and File: Personal Histories by Working-Class Organizers (Boston: Beacon Press, 1973), 4-5.
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- Bodnar, Workers’ World, 183.
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- Dubofsky, 218, 219.
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- Eugene Lyons, The Red Decade: The Stalinist Penetration of America (Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merill Co., 1941), 223; Bert Cochran, Labor and Communism, The Conflict that Shaped American Unions (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977), 97.
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- George Breitman, Paul Le Blanc, Alan Wald, Trotskyism in the United States: Historical Essays and Reconsiderations (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 1996), 72; Robert J. Alexander, The Right Opposition: The Lovestoneites and the International Communist Opposition of the 1930s (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981), 29-30; Harvey Klehr, The Heyday of American Communism: The Depression Decade (New York: Basic Books, 1984), 153, 225.
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- Benjamin Stolberg, The Story of the CIO (New York: New York: Viking Press, 1938), 124.
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- Stolberg, 124-125.
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- Stolberg, 127.
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- Stolberg, 127-128.
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- E.H. Carr, “A Historical Turning Point: Marx, Lenin, Stalin,” in Richard Pipes, ed., Revolutionary Russia: A Symposium (New York: Anchor Books, 1967), 371-72, 374; C.L.R. James [writing as A.A.B.]. “Philosophy of History and Necessity: A Few Words With Professor Hook,” New International, October 1943, 276; Antonio Gramsci, “The Modern Prince,” in Selections from the Prison Notebooks (New York: International Publishers, 1971), 133-36, 144-47, 152-53, 204-205. Also see Paul Le Blanc, Lenin and the Revolutionary Party (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1990).
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- Rosa Luxemburg, “Organizational Questions of Russian Social Democracy,” in Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, ed. by Mary-Alice Waters (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970), 119, 128-29.
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- Luxemburg, 129.
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- Aspects of the moderate Socialist trajectory are traced in Harvey Fleischman, Norman Thomas, A Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1969), Benjamin Stolberg, Tailor’s Progress: The Story of a Famous Union and the Men Who Made It (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Doran, 1944), and Irving Howe and B. J. Widick, The UAW and Walter Reuther (New York: Random House, 1949). On the evolution of the Lovestoneites see Alexander, The Right Opposition.
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- Earl Browder, The People’s Front (New York: International Publishers, 1938), 13; Earl Browder, “The American Communist Party in the Thirties,” in How We Saw the Thirties, ed. by Rita James Simon (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1967), 236, 237.
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- Theodore Draper, “American Communism Revisited,” in A Present of Things Past: Selected Essays (New York: Hill and Wang, 1990), 141; E.H. Carr, Twilight of the Comintern, 1930-1935 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1982), 152-55, 403-27.
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- David Caute, The Great Fear: The Anti-Communist Purge under Truman and Eisenhower (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978), 349-400; Cochran, 248-331.
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- Len De Caux, Labor Radical: From the Wobblies to CIO, A Personal History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1970), 242-43.
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January-February 1994, ATC 48