Tuesday July 7th, 2015, 2:59 am (EDT)

Labor

Under the Raj

Under the Raj

Prostitution in Colonial Bengal

Under the Raj explores the world of the prostitute, seeking to understand the culture of the trade and its impact on society, in the changing reality of nineteenth century Bengal. Sumanta Banerjee outlines the class structure that emerged within the profession, examines popular perceptions of prostitution and analyzes the complex relationship between the newly educated Bengali bhadralok society and the prostitute community. Banerjee gives voice to the prostitutes themselves, from which we hear their songs, letters, and writings, collected and reproduced from both oral tradition and printed sources.… | more |

Working-Class Households and the Burden of Debt

It is an old axiom, common to both Marxian and Keynesian economics, that uneven, class-based distribution of income is a determining factor of consumption and investment. How much is spent for consumption goods depends on the income of the working class. Workers necessarily spend almost all of their income on consumption, with relatively little left over for savings or investment. Capitalists, on the other hand, spend only a small percent- age of their income for personal consumption. The overwhelming proportion of the income of capitalists and their corporations is devoted to investment … | more |

Not Automatic

Not Automatic

Women and the Left in the Forging of the Auto Workers' Union

This story of the birth and infancy of the United Auto Workers, told by two participants, shows how the gains workers made were neither easy nor inevitable—not automatic—but required strategic and tactical sophistication as well as concerted action.… | more |

The Blair Kitsch Project

When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, it was not simply the Soviet Union or the “communist idea” or the efficacy of Marxist solutions that collapsed. Western European social democracy, too, was severely dented. In the face of a triumphalist capitalist storm that swept the world it, too, had to trim its sails. The fact that, barring Spain, social democratic parties or coalitions govern most of Western Europe today is of inter- est largely because of the collective experience it provides: these parties can no longer deliver effective policies that improve the conditions of the majority of electors whose votes have placed them in power. Capitalism, unchallenged from any quarter, no longer feels the need to protect its left flank by conceding reforms… | more |

Us Versus Them

Laboring in the Academic Factory

Consider the following items culled from some of the journals, newspapers, and email discussion groups to which I subscribe: … | more |

The Road Not Taken

Paul Buhle, Taking Care of Business: Samuel Gompers, George Meany, Lane Kirkland, and the Tragedy of American Labor (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1999), $18, 315 pp.; Mike Parker & Martha Gruelle, Democracy is Power: Rebuilding Unions from the Bottom Up (Detroit: Labor Notes, 1999), $17, 255 pp.

In a very well-known passage, Marx said, “Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.” Elsewhere, he said, “The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.” These words of wisdom provide us with a good entry point into a review of these two exceptional books … | more |

Braverman and the Class Struggle

Since Paul Sweezy gently rejected my first submission to Monthly Review in 1972, he and Harry Magdoff and all of the MR writers and staffpersons, living and deceased, have been my mentors, helping me to see things more clearly and to act more effectively. And Harry Braverman’s book ranks near the top of MR’s books which have deeply influenced my thinking. I remember mentioning it in my PhD defense in 1976. I told the committee that one of the weaknesses of my thesis, which was about public school teachers’ unions, was that it had not incorporated the pioneering work of Harry Braverman in Labor and Monopoly Capital. I had a suspicion that the work of teachers was not immune to the forces described so well by Braverman: detailed division of labor, mechanization, Taylorization. Today, as the fine scholar David Noble will tell us, these forces are bearing down upon the professoriate, with potentially devastating results … | more |

On Twenty-Five Years with Braverman’s Labor and Monopoly Capital

I was extremely pleased to have the opportunity to read, once again, Braverman’s Labor and Monopoly Capital and to reflect on the last twenty-five years. While the years seem to gallop now, I want to try in this brief time period to capture a few moments and reflections and share them with you … | more |

Rising from the Ashes?

Rising from the Ashes?

Labor in the Age of “Global” Capitalism

Big changes in the global economy and world politics have put new questions on the table for labor movements around the world. Can workers regain the initiative against the tidal wave of corporate downsizing and government cutbacks? Can unions revive their ranks and reignite the public imagination? Is labor rising from the ashes? … | more |

Taking Care of Business

Taking Care of Business

Samuel Gompers, George Meany, Lane Kirkland, and the Tragedy of American Labor

The first comprehensive history of American labor leadership in the twentieth century, this is a tale of tremendous hope and appalling treachery, stunning accomplishment and dramatic defeat.… | more |

November 1998 (Volume 50, Number 6)

November 1998 (Volume 50, Number 6)

There’s been a lot of discussion in MR about the implications of “globalization.” We don’t intend to repeat the arguments here, but we recently received a communication that brings into focus one major aspect of this much debated issue: what it means for workers to “think globally, act locally.” … | more |

On Gender and Class in U.S. Labor History

The relationship between gender and class, central to understanding the history of the labor movement, raises important issues for Marxist analysis in general. Grappling with the complexities of this relationship forces us to confront a wide range of theoretical and practical questions. What is the connection between “material conditions” and “identity”? What role do culture, discourses, sexuality, and emotions play in shaping people’s responses to their material conditions? How are the varieties of consciousness of class related to other identities and affiliations? These questions challenge us theoretically and politically, as we seek to develop a working-class politics that incorporates struggles against all forms of oppression … | more |

April 1998 (Volume 49, Number 11)

April 1998 (Volume 49, Number 11)

Readers may remember that in last year’s summer issue on labor we talked about a roundtable organized by MR for activists in the labor movement and held in our office in New York last March. The idea was to provide a forum for labor activists to establish connections among themselves and to discuss issues of common interest at a particularly important historical moment, at a time when the labor movement in various parts of the world, including the United States, is beginning to show signs of renewal. We also hoped to revive the long dormant connection between the socialist left and the labor movement, and we were very pleased to discover that people within the movement were anxious to work with us too … | more |

Teamster Reform Movement Survives Carey’s Debacle

What’s remarkable about the aftermath of Ron Carey’s removal as a candidate for Teamsters president is the staying power of the reform movement. Most predicted the union would quickly fall back into the hands of the mobbed-up Old Guard, personified by James Hoffa, Jr. But in recent local elections rank and file members have chosen to carry on with the business of reform, without the man who once symbolized those changes in the Teamsters … | more |

Confronting the Time Bind

Work, Family, and Capitalism

Socialists have long contended that capitalism produces distinctive and undesirable structures of time. Marx argued that capitalism created an ineluctable downward pressure on wages, forcing workers to work long hours in order to earn enough to sustain themselves. By the same token, lengthening the working day was one of the ways by which employers could increase the production of surplus-value. Marx’s son-in-law, Paul Lafargue, added that capitalism disciplined workers by creating a kind of ideology of work, a moral compulsion to labor; although, in Lafargue’s view, this was in part responsible for capitalism’s periodic crises of overproduction, it was one of the ways by which employers were able to enforce work discipline… | more |

A New Labor Movement for the New Century

A New Labor Movement for the New Century

“Labor has finally awakened from a long, deep sleep.” So declared one observer after the victory of John J. Sweeney’s “New Voice” slate in the 1995 contest for leadership of the U.S. trade union federation, the AFL-CIO. Sweeney’s team promised to make organizing its top priority, and new stirrings in labor have brought unprecedented media attention. With a surprisingly popular and victorious nationwide strike at United Parcel Service in 1997, hopes have risen for a new labor movement. … | more |

Labor and Monopoly Capital

Labor and Monopoly Capital

The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century

This widely acclaimed work, first published in 1974, overturned the reigning ideologies of academic sociology and became the standard text for many basic areas of sociological inquiry, including the science of managerial control, the relationship of technological innovation to social class, and the eradication of skill from work under capitalism.… | more |

Meatpackers

Meatpackers

An Oral History of Black Packinghouse Workers and Their Struggle for Racial and Economic Equality

Available for the first time in paperback, Meatpackers provides an important window into race and racism in the American workplace. In their own words, male and female packinghouse workers in the Midwest—mostly African-American—talk of their experiences on the shop floor and picket lines. They tell of their fight between the 1930s and 1960s for economic advancement and racial equality. In cities like Chicago, Kansas City, Omaha, Fort Worth, and Waterloo, Iowa, meatpackers built a union that would defend their interests as workers—and their civil rights.… | more |

The Women Who Organized Harvard

A Feminist Model of Labor Organization?

Balloons transformed Harvard Yard on May 17, 1988, the day the “servants of the university,” as workers were originally called, voted on whether to join the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW), an affiliate of AFSCME. “Ballooning” lightened the tension, but Kristine Rondeau, lead union organizer, had a grim warning for her staff: “You did a wonderful job. But we don’t have it … It’s very likely we didn’t win.”1 In fact, by a slim margin, they did have it. One of the most influential universities in the world had been outsmarted by some of its unknown employees, mostly women… | more |

Labor, the State, and Class Struggle

After a long period of sustained attack by governments of various stripes, a steady deterioration of working and living standards, and declines in membership and militancy, there are encouraging signs that organized labor is moving again. This may come as a surprise to many, not least on the left, who have long since written off the labor movement as an oppositional force; and it may begin to challenge some of the most widespread assumptions about the nature and direction of contemporary capitalism, assumptions often shared by activists and intellectuals on the left as well as the right.…Although it is, of course, too early to make big claims about this trend, it does seem to be a good moment to take a close look not only at these new signs of activism but also at the nature of labor today and at the environment in which the labor movement now has to navigate.… | more |

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