The Great Depression and the Labor Movement: A 1930s Reading List
As intertwined health and economic crises continue to unfold, we face the most severe global economic downturn since the Great Depression. Even with private sector unionization in the US at a historic low, however, workers at companies like Amazon, Whole Foods, Target, and Instacart have responded to the unsafe working conditions and low pay to which they are subjected by organizing and, in some cases, going out on strike.
As Jamelle Bouie has recently written in the New York Times, “It’s true these actions have been limited in scope and scale. But if they continue, and if they increase, they may come to represent the first stirrings of something much larger. The consequential strike wave of 1934 — which paved the way for the National Labor Relations Act and created new political space for serious government action on behalf of labor — was presaged by a year of unrest in workplaces across the country, from factories and farms to newspaper offices and Hollywood sets.”
Here, we offer a reading list of books dealing with the history and context of the labor and radical organizing of the 1930s, hopeful that the self-activity of working-class people will once again succeed in shaping the response of governments and employers to a global economic crisis. All of these books are currently 30% Off.
Here, Irving Bernstein recaptures the social history of the decade leading up to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s inauguration, uncovers its widespread inequality, and sheds light on the long-forgotten struggles that form the prelude to the great labor victories of the 1930s. With an introduction by Frances Fox Piven.
In this groundbreaking work of labor history, Irving Bernstein uncovers a period when industrial trade unionism, working-class power, and socialism became the rallying cry for millions of workers in the fields, mills, mines, and factories of America. With an introduction by Frances Fox Piven.
The rise of the American labor movement was characterized by bloody and revolutionary battles. From the first famous martyrs, the Molly Maguires in the Pennsylvania coal fields in the nineteenth century, to the crucial workers’ victory of the 1930s in the sit-down strikes against General Motors, it has a history of pitched battles that frequently erupted into open warfare.
Woolworth's was the Walmart of the 1930s. The women were exploited and sexually harassed. This is the exciting story of how they fought back against corporate exploitation and oppression.
In this long-out-of-print oral history classic, Alice and Staughton Lynd chronicle the stories of more than two dozen working-class organizers who occupied factories, held sit-down strikes, walked out, picketed, and found other bold and innovative ways to fight for workers’ rights.
Collecting, for the first time, source materials from a diverse array of writers and organizers, this reader provides a new perspective on the complex history of revolutionary debates about fighting anti-Black racism. Contextual material from the editor places each contribution in its historical and political setting, making this volume ideal for both scholars and activists.
This rich history details the bitter, deep-rooted conflict between industrial behemoth International Harvester and the uniquely radical Farm Equipment Workers union. The Long Deep Grudge makes clear that class warfare has been, and remains, integral to the American experience, providing up-close-and-personal and long-view perspectives from both sides of the battle lines.
Radicals in the Barrio uncovers a long and rich history of political radicalism within the Mexican and Chicano working class in the United States. Chacón clearly and sympathetically documents the ways that migratory workers carried with them radical political ideologies, new organizational models, and shared class experience, as they crossed the border into southwestern barrios during the first three decades of the twentieth-century.
Engaging and well researched, Revolutionary Teamsters is the story of a strike that sparked the labor upsurge of the 1930s.
A classic, radical history of Black workers' contribution to the American labor movement.
During the first two decades of the twentieth century the ideas of revolutionary syndicalism developed into a major influence within the trade union movement. Committed to destroying capitalism through direct industrial action and revolutionary trade union struggle, the movement raised fundamental questions for activists across the world.
Spanning 1928 to 1940, this volume surveys the involvement of Trotskyists in important U.S. labor struggles in the 1930s, early efforts to comprehend the so-called "Negro Question," and substantial contributions to the study of history and the development of Marxist theory.
For further reading, continue to our Class War Reading List...
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