Rebel Rank and File « The Socjournal

The incendiary 1960s and 1970s are remembered as the time of social upheavals, civil rights, and anti-war activism. Less
attention is paid to the workplace militancy of the US working class, often stigmatized as racist, conservative, and apathetic.

During this time, corporate union-busting, anti-labor legislation and the decline of traditional labor all competed to make its position increasingly precarious. Institutional band-aids, such as the National Labor Relations Board, channeled yet more power away from the workers and into union leadership hands.

[amazonify]1844671747:right[/amazonify]And so the working class responded, with heightened levels of insurgency not seen since the militant heyday of the 1930s. Contract rejections, organized slowdowns, sabotage and insubordination, and wildcat strikes supplemented one of the largest strike waves in US history, which twice shattered records for the number of strikes in a single year. Much of this collective anger was aimed squarely at the bureaucratic indifference of the official labor movement, which did little to ameliorate conditions for workers.

Rebel Rank and File uncovers this hidden history with thirteen cogent essays from labor historians, activists and writers. Topics range from the political economy of rank-and-file-rebellion to workplace feminism, in industries as disparate as agriculture, education, and mining. Aaron Brenner’s preface provides an introductory outline, while a forward by DRUM founder Mike Hamlin illuminates the specific conditions of revolutionary black workers. The rebellions of the 1970s won valuable concessions for workers, but today, with the most serious economic slowdown since the Great Depression and a labor movement that is torpid at best, these wins are once again under threat. Rebel Rank and File offers an understanding of the political shifts that got us to this point, and provides an invaluable history of US class struggle. With its comprehensive examination of the successes and failures of the insurgency, this volume answers the need for an urgent intervention.

“These extraordinary reflections by activist-scholars and veteran organizers challenge the reigning stereotypes of the trajectories of the 1960s New Left and Black Liberation movements. Even more importantly, this collection dramatically reasserts the role of rank-and-file revolt in shaping American labor history and offers rich lessons to contemporary rebels.” —Mike Davis, author of Prisoners of the American Dream

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Posted by Dr. Michael Sosteric on December 6, 2010.

Categories: Announcements, The Lightning Strike