Child labor was common in urban, industrial America for most of the country’s history. It’s now making a disturbing comeback: lawmakers across the US are undertaking concerted efforts to weaken or repeal statutes that prohibit employing children.
Steve Fraser is a writer and historian whose latest book is Mongrel Firebugs and Men of Property: Capitalism and Class Conflict in American History (Verso).
A century ago, universities were hotbeds of reaction, and Ivy League undergraduates would leave class to break strikes. The Left has now built a base within the academy, but without ties to organized labor, these movements will achieve little.
Throughout American history, no matter the oscillations in politics, the economy, or class struggle, the “labor question” refuses to die.
The “labor question” was once the principal question confronting American society, the axis upon which other maladies turned. We don’t think about social problems according to the labor question today — but perhaps we should.
Despite America’s two-party duopoly, third parties have played a crucial role in shaping US politics for good and ill — from bringing us pro-worker reforms and the welfare state to laying the groundwork for Donald Trump’s right-wing authoritarianism.
People tend not to rebel against their oppressors, because the cost is simply too high. But sometimes they do, overcoming extraordinary odds — and understanding how and why rebellions like the Civil Rights Movement happen is crucial for socialists today.
The Bernie Sanders campaign is beholden to no one in high places, has no affiliated elites to please or negotiate with, and has helped unleash new working-class militancy in America. The question now is, how can we sustain this extraordinary left turn in American public life to transform society?
The New Deal solidified capitalist democracy in the United States. The country has swung between hints of social democracy and free market absolutism ever since.
One hundred years ago was a time of revolution. Emma Goldman, John Reed, and Bill Haywood were at the center of it all.
On the twentieth anniversary of New Labor Forum, Steve Fraser reflects on organized labor’s hopes and disappointments over the last two decades.
What was the mass strike and what would a successful one look like today?
From Debtor’s Prison to Debtor Nation.