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The manuscript posted here represents the first scholarly account of the "Turn to the Working Class," an important strategy that emerged from the late 1960s political ferment. Thousands of young black, white, Asian, and Latino radicals from diverse class backgrounds concluded that a transformation of the nation's politics required them to concentrate their organizing efforts on worksites and within trade unions.

Some of these radicals aimed to build labor support for the antiwar, African American, and women's liberation movements. Some sought to reform corrupt and ineffective trade unions. Still others harbored more ambitious dreams of a worker-led socialist revolution. Their efforts were complicated and contradictory, and they ultimately failed to achieve many of their most ambitious goals. Their best efforts nevertheless succeeded in advancing a spirit of militancy, promoting labor feminism and civil rights unionism, and reinvigorating a dormant tradition of international solidarity that had largely been extinguished from the labor movement during the anti-communist crusades.

As workers continue to grapple with the impact of economic globalization, those traditions will be essential building blocks in ongoing struggles for democracy and economic justice. The manuscript is currently being revised for publication and the author, an assistant professor of history at The Citadel: The Military College of South Carolina, welcomes all comments and criticisms. Kerry.taylor@citadel.edu

 

Turn to the Working Class: The New Left, Black Liberation and the U.S. Labor Movement (1967-1981) (PDF file)