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Series X. Labor

Scope and Content Notes:

The SPUSA and the CPUSA, like virtually all left-wing organizations that considered themselves Marxist, described themselves as parties of the working class although significant portions of their membership were intellectuals, professionals, small business owners and farmers. Indeed, Trotsky, during his brief sojourn in NYC before the Bolshevik Revolution, is alleged to have described the American Socialist Party as a party of dentists and lawyers.

Since their theory told them that the working class was the agent of historical change, both parties considered participation in the daily workplace struggles of industrial workers as one of their highest political priorities. However, neither party reached consensus on how to relate to the labor movement. Both parties recruited nationally prominent labor organizers and trade union officials (e.g. Eugene Debs, William Z. Foster) as well as significant cohorts of local union officials and labor activists. But the majority of AFL (American Federation of Labor) unions subscribed to Samuel Gompers’ strategy of “pure and simple unionism” emphasizing short range limited goals such as wages, hours and working conditions and eschewing advocacy of utopian societal reconstruction such as socialism. Socialists and other radicals critical of the AFL organized the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in 1905 as a revolutionary alternative, but many Socialists considered the IWW a sectarian and schismatic division of working class solidarity. Debates over how the Socialist Party should relate to the AFL or the IWW became one of the most important sources of the factional conflict that undermined the SPUSA.

Similar debates bedeviled the CPUSA. The Party shifted back and forth from a policy of “boring from within” the AFL to a policy of attacking the AFL and sponsoring rival revolutionary unions. Generally these shifts in CP trade union policies corresponded with shifts to the left or right in the Comintern line. In the years immediately after the Bolshevik Revolution, American Communists devoted considerable energy to recruiting the IWW to the Communist movement. As the worldwide revolutionary wave crested without successful revolutions anywhere but the Soviet Union, Soviet leaders sought to consolidate their power and to convince their followers around the world to settle in for a long period of inconclusive political struggle. They urged American Communists to abandon notions of pure revolutionary unions and seek to garner influence within the AFL instead. William Z. Foster, by far the most prominent labor leader in the CPUSA, had organized the Trade Union Education League (TUEL) for labor radicals in the AFL in 1920, and in 1922 the CPUSA and the Comintern adopted and subsidized the TUEL.

However, during the Third Period (1928-1935) as the Comintern dictated labor policies of pure revolutionary unionism, the CPUSA disbanded the TUEL and organized instead the Trade Union Unity League (TUUL) as a federation of revolutionary Communist unions organized as rivals to AFL unions. With the shift to the Popular Front in 1935, the CPUSA shifted back to engagement with the mainstream labor movement. Fortuitously, this shift corresponded with the appearance of the CIO in 1935. Communists devoted themselves to the CIO and played critical roles in organizing many of the CIO’s most important unions. Their dedication to the CIO earned them the regard of many trade unionists who did not necessarily agree with Communist ideology. The political capital Communists earned within the CIO was probably the most important source of the Party’s influence in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

The New Left also had difficulty deciding how to relate to the labor movement. As a middle class movement and as a movement that arose out of disappointment with the Old Left, many early New Leftists doubted Marxist formulations about the historic mission of the working class and tended to view labor union officials as part of the Establishment, e.g. part of the problem more than the solution. On the other hand, as New Leftists moved off campus to engage in civil rights campaigns or community organizing, many began to appreciate both the skills and dedication of veteran labor union activists. This shift in point of view was encouraged by small schismatic Old Left parties such as the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and the Maoist Progressive Labor Party (PL), both of which had surprisingly large influence within the leading New Left student organization, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) during SDS’s final years. Also, as increasing numbers of student activists graduated from universities they looked for meaningful strategies to continue radical political activity. A variety of New left offshoots, as well as such Old Left parties as the SWP and PL, encouraged them to take jobs in factories, coal mines, and trucking companies. Several thousand former SDS’s did so.


Box 6
Folder 24 Textile Strike Bulletin, July 22, 1931
Folder 25 Automation and Labor, By William Kashtan, October, 1964
Folder 26 Guaranteed Annual Wage, By Wyndham Mortimer, November 20, 1953
Folder 27 U.S. Labor Looks at Europe, 1951
Folder 28 The History of the Shorter Workday, 1942
Folder 29 A Manual of Industrial Unionism, Organizational Structure and Policies, By William Z. Foster, August, 1937
Folder 30 The Steel Workers and The Fight for Labor's Rights, By William Z. Foster, June, 1952
Folder 31 Organized Labor and the Fascist Danger, By William Z. Foster, August, 1947
Folder 32 Organized Labor Faces the New World, By William Z. Foster, May, 1945
Folder 33 The Strike Situation and Organized Labor's Wage and Job Strategy, By William Z. Foster, November, 1945
Folder 34 The Railroaders' Next Step- Amalgamation, By William Z. Foster
Folder 35 Organizing Methods in the Steel Industry, By William Z. Foster, October, 1936
Folder 36 Halt the Railroad Wage Cut, By William Z. Foster, October, 1938
Folder 37 What Means a Strike in Steel, By William Z. Foster, February, 1937
Folder 38 Stop Wage-Cuts & Layoffs on the Railroads, A Reply to President T.C. Cashen of the Switchmen's Union of North America, By William Z. Foster, April, 1938
Folder 39 Organize the Unorganized, By William Z. Foster
Folder 40 The C.I.O. Convention and National Unity, By Roy Hudson, December, 1941
Folder 41 Labor Unity, What AFL-CIO Merger Means for Workers, By George Morris, March, 1955
Folder 42 Miners Unite!, For One Class Struggle Union, By B. Frank
Folder 43 Little Brothers of the Big Labor Fakers, By William Z. Foster
Folder 44 Wrecking the Labor Banks, By William Z. Foster
Folder 45 "Do You Know Your Neighbor"
Folder 46 The Trade Union Unity League Today, Its Structure, Policy, Program and Growth, By Nathaniel Honig, June, 1934
Folder 47 The Trade Unions Since the N.R.A., By Nathaniel Honig, April, 1934
Folder 48 Kentucky Miners Fight, By Harry Gannes, 1932
Folder 49 Company Unions, By Robert W. Dunn
Folder 50 The White Collar Clarion, January, 1936
Folder 51 The Trade Union Unity League, Its Program, Structure, Methods and History
Folder 52 "Program of The Trade Union Educational League"
Folder 53 Photograph of a scene at the New Bedford Strike
Folder 54 Strike Strategy, By William Z. Foster, 1926
Folder 55 The Hearst Worker, January, 1935
Folder 56 Gastonia Citadel of the Class Struggle in the New South, By William F. Dunne, 1929
Folder 57 Solidarity, June, 1929
Folder 58 Industrial Worker, September 30, 1944
Folder 59 Industrial Worker, November 13, 1948
Folder 60 "General Organization Bulletin", May, 1936
Folder 61 Agricultural Workers Industrial Union Financial Statements (4), 1936
Folder 62 Industrial Worker, Official Newspaper of the Industrial Workers of the World, October, 2007
Folder 63 Showdown in Coal: The Struggle for Rank-And-File Unionism, By Linda and Pual Nyden, January, 1978
Folder 64 Issues of Labor Today (2), 1980
Folder 65 Workers' Education, A Quarterly Journal, February, 1924
Folder 66 Punchin' Out with the Mill Hunk Herald, February 1979
Folder 67 Punchin' Out with the Mill Hunk Herald, May 1979
Folder 68 Punchin' Out with the Mill Hunk Herald, August-September 1979
Folder 69 Punchin' Out with the Mill Hunk Herald, January-March 1980
Folder 70 Punchin' Out with the Mill Hunk Herald, April-June 1980
Folder 71 Punchin' Out with the Mill Hunk Herald, July-September 1980
Folder 72 Punchin' Out with the Mill Hunk Herald, October-December 1980
Folder 73 Punchin' Out with the Mill Hunk Herald, Spring 1981
Folder 74 Punchin' Out with the Mill Hunk Herald, Fall 1981
Folder 75 Punchin' Out with the Mill Hunk Herald, Winter 1981-1982
Folder 76 Punchin' Out with the Mill Hunk Herald, Spring 1982
Folder 77 Punchin' Out with the Mill Hunk Herald, Fall 1982
Folder 78 Punchin' Out with the Mill Hunk Herald, Spring 1983
Folder 79 Punchin' Out with the Mill Hunk Herald, Winter 1983-1984
Folder 80 Punchin' Out with the Mill Hunk Herald, Fall 1984
Folder 81 Punchin' Out with the Mill Hunk Herald, Spring 1985
Folder 82 Punchin' Out with the Mill Hunk Herald, Winter 1985-1986
Folder 83 Punchin' Out with the Mill Hunk Herald, Fall 1986
Folder 84 Punchin' Out with the Mill Hunk Herald, Summer 1987
Folder 85 Punchin' Out with the Mill Hunk Herald, Summer 1988

Box 14
Folder 11 "Community Council in Support of Labor Petitions"
Folder 12 "Tom Mooney" Files
Folder 13 "Smashing Chains, Labor Struggles in Pictures"
Folder 14 IWW -- Industrial Worker, November 6, 1920
Folder 15 Build Labor Party, 1946
Folder 16 LC News Letter Vol. 2, No. 3, March 1940
Folder 17 LC News Letter Vol. 2, No. 4, April 1940
Folder 18 LC News Letter Vol. 2, No. 5, May 1940
Folder 19 LC News Letter Vol. 2, No. 12, December 1939
Folder 20 LC News Letter Vol. 3, No. 1, January 1940
Folder 21 LC News Letter Vol. 3, No. 2, February 1940
Folder 22 LC News Letter Vol. 3, No. 6