In the depths of the Great Depression, maritime and waterfront workers on the Pacific Coast of the US — from Bellingham, Washington, to San Diego, California — erupted in militant strikes against their shipping magnate employers.
Benjamin Y. Fong is honors faculty fellow and associate director of the Center for Work & Democracy at Arizona State University. He is the author of Quick Fixes: Drugs in America from Prohibition to the 21st Century Binge (Verso 2023).
The level of anti-capitalist sentiment in the US today hasn’t been seen since the 1930s. Labor radicals seized that moment to create the pivotal Congress of Industrial Organizations. We should take lessons from their achievements — and their missteps.
When the Great Depression sank workers to new depths, craft unions weren’t up to the task. Then, in 1934, a team of revolutionary leftists in Minneapolis organized a brave and bloody strike that reinvigorated labor and changed the course of American history.
Workers in the US were deeply split in the 1930s, not least by race and ethnicity. To organize greater swaths of the working class, the Congress of Industrial Organizations had to turn division into solidarity.
In the 1930s, unions grabbed headlines and won major battles with sit-down strikes, where striking workers occupied their workplaces. The fiery tactic put the Congress of Industrial Organizations on the map and struck fear in the hearts of business elites.
Workers in the Great Depression were beaten down but desperate for change. When a militant new labor federation, the Congress of Industrial Organizations, raised their sense of political possibility, they seized the opportunity and unionized en masse.
Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph’s Jobs and Freedom Strategy offers a path forward for a Left that has become increasingly insular, minoritarian, and powerless.
In the 1930s and ’40s, the Congress of Industrial Organizations unionized American workers with an energy never seen before. But its peak years were short-lived, and the labor movement has struggled to reach such heights again.
Tomorrow, 75,000 health care workers are set to strike at hundreds of Kaiser facilities across several states in the largest such strike in US history. Their primary grievance is low staffing levels, which unions say are hurting patients and workers alike.
The US is remarkable for its extreme relationship to drugs, marked by a love affair with psychoactive substances of all kinds and also draconian efforts to curtail drug use. That relationship has roots in America’s particularly virulent strain of capitalism.
Activist and organizer Norman Hill was present for every major development in the civil rights movement during the 1960s. He spoke to Jacobin about the arc of the movement, the legacy of its leadership, and the lessons for the modern left.
In the absence of a powerful workers’ movement, 19th-century reformers blamed alcohol for poverty and despair. Their assumption that moral shortcomings rather than political and economic ones were the root cause unfortunately resonates with our politics today.
John Brophy earned the moniker “Mr. CIO” in the 1930s for his excellent organizing for the Congress of Industrial Organizations. He was steadfast and never flashy, which is perhaps why he’s been forgotten. It’s also what makes him a model for our times.
The next Bernie Sanders campaign, if it happens at all, could be used to build an organization that helps transcend the Left’s current impasse. Bernie 2024 — but make it a new beginning instead of a last hurrah.
Pharma companies and shrewd investors are poised to make massive profits off the medical legalization of psychedelics. For now, they’re united with the psychedelic movement’s true believers — an uneasy truce that must break in one party’s favor.
Tasked with carrying out what ought to be state functions, but dependent on private interests, NGOs will never challenge the basic structures of capitalism.
Last year, both Arizona and California voted on ballot initiatives to tax the rich. So why did it fail in blue state California but pass in libertarian Arizona?
Some “anti-elitists” on the Right say they want the GOP to be the party of the working class. But what they’re really offering is a PR campaign that won’t fundamentally change the lives of workers.
We must not choose between staving off economic catastrophe or a public health disaster. We can do both — if we immediately expand Medicare to cover everyone while safely and simultaneously rebuilding our healthcare infrastructure.”
Bernie Sanders can’t continue campaigning as usual, and he certainly can’t drop out of the race. We desperately need Bernie to retool his entire operation to demand a robust government response to the coronavirus — a response the Democratic Party will never spearhead themselves.