Capitalist Development and Class Capacities: Marxist Theory and Union Organization

By Jerry Lembcke | Go to book overview

2
Historical Problems and Theoretical Advances in the Study of U.S. Working-Class Capacities

INTRODUCTION

Serious questions have been raised about the capacity of the U.S. labor movement to meet the challenges of a deepening economic crisis. Activists within the movement and interested academic scholars have increased their attention to the details of U.S. labor's last 50 years in an effort to understand better the current malaise. The history of the CIO period, roughly the years 1936 to 1955, have been given special attention because of their proximity to the current period; it is assumed, probably correctly so, that the events of those years laid the groundwork upon which the present situation developed.

Important as the CIO period is to our understanding of contemporary events, it has remained vastly under-theorized. Most accounts have been confined to as yet unresolved factual disputes and interpretations of the faction fights that tore the CIO apart in the late 1940s. For the most part, moreover, this interpretive work remains trapped in the thesis of American exceptionalism advanced by Fredrich Turner and adopted by Selig Perlman for a theory of the U.S. labor movement in 1928. Attempts by radicals to reformulate the central problem during the last 20 years have only managed to disassemble the historical body without reconstituting it in a way that advanced us theoretically. Thus we have numerous studies of the cultural and technological dimensions of U.S. labor history with great depth and intensity, but they have tended to fragment the subject and offer few strategical insights for activism in the current period.

In only a few recent works do we find a theoretical framework with the potential for deepening our understanding of the causal relationships that underlay the events themselves. One of the more promising works is Mike Davis ( 1980) two-part essay on the U.S. working class. By periodizing history and keeping the analysis at the level of class

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Capitalist Development and Class Capacities: Marxist Theory and Union Organization
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Labor Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1 - From Organizational Democracy to Organizational Efficacy: Toward a Class Analysis of Union Organization 1
  • Notes 23
  • 2 - Historical Problems and Theoretical Advances in the Study of U.S. Working-Class Capacities 25
  • Introduction 62
  • Introduction 65
  • Conclusion 108
  • Note 109
  • 4 - Class Capacities and Labor Internationalism: The Case of the Cio-Ccl Unions 111
  • Introduction 111
  • 5 - There Was a Difference: Communist and Noncommunist Leadership in Cio Unions 133
  • Introduction 133
  • SUMMARY 153
  • 6 - Uneven Development, Class Formation, and Organization Theory: New Departures for Understanding Current Struggles 155
  • Introduction 155
  • SUMMARY 174
  • Notes 176
  • Appendix 177
  • References 185
  • Index 195
  • About the Author 205
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