If people show strength, they will find leaders. There are in the unions a handful of union-made men, now without much power, who see what is happening and who will be ready, when the time comes, to take the chance of leadership. There will be more such men. Even in our short political lifetime, we have witnessed an entirely new labor leader elite come to the fore. In another slump, it will happen again. The labor movement in America is still building. The AFL is only two generations old; the CIO, one-third of one generation.
To have an American labor movement capable of carrying out the program of the left, making allies among the middle class, and moving upstream against the main drift, there must be a rank and file of vigorous workers, a brace of labor intellectuals, and a set of politically alert labor leaders. There must be the power and there must be the intellect. Yet neither the intellectuals nor the workers at large are in a position to take up an alliance and fight against the great trend. The unions are the organizational key to the matter; and neither intellectuals nor rank and file are now running labor unions in the United States.
This is where labor stands: there are labor leaders who are running labor unions, most of them along the main drift; there are left intellectuals who are not running labor unions, but who think they know how to run them against the main drift; and there are wage workers who are disgruntled and ready to do what must be done.
It is the task of the labor leaders to allow and to initiate a union of the power and the intellect. They are the only ones who can do it; that is why they are now the strategic elite in American society. Never has so much depended upon men who are so ill-prepared and so little inclined to assume the responsibility.
· C. Wright Mills
Changes in the American structure of power have generally come about by institutional shifts in the relative positions of the political, the economic, and the military orders. . . .
Like the tempo of American life in general, the long-term trends of the power structure have been greatly speeded up since World War II, and certain newer trends within and between the dominant institutions have also set the shape of the power elite and given historically specific meaning to [it]. . . .
I. In so far as the structural clue to the power elite today lies in the political order, that clue is the decline of politics as genuine and public debate of alternative decisions--with nationally responsible and policy- coherent parties and with autonomous organizations connecting the lower and middle levels of power with the top levels of decision. America is