[Marxism] American communists in the unions

lshan at bcn.net lshan at bcn.net
Wed Feb 4 17:53:32 MST 2004

Using History to Advance Social Justice
FEB. 28/ Labor and the Left Program

The Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research will host an
enlightening labor  program on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2 p.m. at the Library
(free), 6120 S. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, (323) 759-6063. Authors Judy
Stepan-Norris and Maurice Zeitlin will be part of a book signing and panel
discussion of their book, *Left Out: Reds and America's Industrial Unions,
which lays out the political struggle around the expulsion of the
Communist-dominated unions in the CIO and the profound repercussions for the
labor movement. Joining them in a compelling discussion about American labor
and the Left, past and present, will be moderator Luis Arroyo, CSULB
professor; Goetz Wolff, research director of the LA County Federation of
Labor; and Peter Olney, associate director of the UC Institute for Labor and

The Library has a collection of about 25,000 volumes and 30,000 pamphlets;
its major subject interests are Communist and Marxist movements, ethnic
studies, history of peace, labor, and labor movements, especially in
southern California.

Special collections include: Harry Bridges Deportation case, Chicano and
Black Liberation, Civil Rights Congress records, Morris Kominsky files,
Smith Act Case records, and many others.

The roots of the Library go back to the 1930s, when Los Angeles activist
Emil Freed began collecting labor and Left literature. Later, in the
politically repressive 1950s, the collection mushroomed when Freed began
rescuing materials that fearful activists were consigning to their backyard

After filling numerous with his hoard, he opened SCL in 1963 in a downtown
storefront. In 1973, he moved the Library to its permanent home, a large
commercial building in South Central Los Angeles.
I visited this library last summer after Ken Cloke,  one of the leaders of
SLATE (the Berkeley campus political party) in the early 1960s, told me that
he had donated his papers to this excellent resource. In addition to the
collection above, in recent years they have been conducting in-depth
interviews and gathering material on the local community.

from Brian Shannon
* Amazon.com review
"Left Out" tears the veil of anti-Communism away to reveal the insurgent
origins of Communist-led unionism in America. The Communists didn't
"infiltrate" or "colonize" unions, but were instead the backbone of popular
struggles for decent working conditions, racial equality, women's rights,
and participatory democracy. Culling and compiling data from many sources,
Left Out reveals a broad, grassroots support for the Communists in America's
industrial unions stretching from the long decade of the 1930s through the
early 1950s. The postwar decline of organized labor is, then, tied to the
aggressive purge of Reds and radicals of all hues and the failure of the
expelled Communist-led unions to forge their own labor federation. Left Out
goes against the shibboleths of our time and questions the inevitability of
American labor's self-destructive accommodation to corporate capitalism.
Courageous, clear and compelling, this is counterfactual history at its best
-- history returned to the actors who make it.

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