Labor's War at Home

PDF-file by Nelson Lichtenstein

Labor's War at Home PDF ebook download A. The intent of this book is to discuss American industrial workers and their unions during WWII. IT focuses on the main CIO affiliates including the Unites Steelworkers of America (USW), the United Rubber Workers (URW), United Mineworkers (UMW), and particularly the United Automobile Workers (UAW). It seeks to uncover a neglected history of the individual union movement. This neglected history deals with the question of why the militancy of the 30's was replaced by conservatism and accommodation during and after the war.
B. Studies of this topic have been made sociologists, 1st generation historians, the New Left or the Corporate Liberal Theorists, and Lichtensteins group- the Neo-Marxists.
1. The first historical studies of this has been by sociologists.
a) They provided the initial and most widely accepted explanation of the decline of union militancy and democracy in the 1940s
b) Their conclusion was that given the mass character and confrontation with powerful national employers, the new trade unions were destined to develop an oligarchic organization and a set of accomodationist policies.
2. The first generation of historians to examine this topic followed the guidelines of the sociologists
a) An example was Irving Bernstein and Sidney Fine who accepted the belief that the establishment of collective bargaining was the goal of labor history.
b) They saw no conflict between the rank and file.
c) They viewed WWII as a great advance for the CIO because domestic labor policies assumed permanency and the unions routinized collective bargaining
3. The third group was the New Left or the Corporate Liberal Theorists who had a positive view of the New Deal.
a) They emphasized the extent to which the new industrial unions made the old order more secure.
b) According to Lichtenstein, the problem with this was that it oversimplified the relationship between the business community, trade union growth, and state power.
4. The final group was the Neo-Marxists, and the ideology that Lichtenstein subscribes to, is the Neo-Marxist approach.
a) This view was based on Nicos Poulantzas and Claus Offe
b) They argued that the system-sustaining interests of the capitalist class (which are often divided) are sustained by relatively autonomous state control.
c) Lichtenstien believes that their insight into how the state regulates this conflict within the capitalist class has been very important.
d) But the flaw in their theory is that they have not advanced a study of working class history itself. Also, the working class consciousness is ignored.
C. So, Lichtenstein's book demonstrates how the home front pressures for social and political order during WWII did much to weaken the independence and shop-floor power that the industrial union movement had won in the late 1930s
D. My organizational breakdown of the book
1. Organizational difficulties and CIO politics before the war
2. The problems of mobilization. This deals with the problems that arose concerning the no-strike pledge and union security.
3. The social psychology of the wartime workforce. This deals with shop-floor conflict with the wildcat strikes and the problems that arose over incentive pay
4. Chronologically towards the end of the war. During this period the CIO increases its reliance on the NWLB and becomes more bureaucratic and timid.
5. Final section is post-war reconversion.

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