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2004

European Labor: The Ideological Legacy of the Social Pact

Europe’s trade union movement is on the defensive. It is also in a deep political and ideological crisis. At present, the trade unions are unable to fulfill their role as the defenders of the immediate economic and social interests of their members. They have lost ground in all sectors and industries. What was, in the post–Second World War period, the strongest and most influential trade union movement in the capitalist world is today openly confused, lacks a clear vision, and hesitates in its new social and political orientation. Ironically, the same theories, analyses, and policies which gave it its strength in the postwar period have now become a heavy burden. The ideological legacy of the “social pact” is now leading the trade union movement astray | more…

She Challenged the Rules

Barbara Ransby, Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision (Chapel Hill & London: University of North Carolina Press, 2003) 470 pages, cloth $34.95.

Ella Baker was known and revered by a generation of Southern civil rights organizers. Her name is virtually unrecognized by political activists today. Yet she persisted as a Southern African-American woman in male-dominated national organizations, working as an organizer/educator for five decades to help transform the poisonous U.S. landscape of white supremacy. She was a founding mentor of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) who nurtured a radical democratic practice: that the black sharecroppers and most oppressed rural poor could resist oppression, challenge power, and speak for themselves. Leadership for the black community must emerge, she insisted, from the courage, experiences, suffering, and understanding of ordinary, often illiterate, people in the Mississippi Delta, in Lowndes County, Alabama, and in Albany, Georgia. Students might spark the flame: the Freedom Rides, the voter registration drives, and Mississippi Summer were staffed with young volunteers, but Baker taught them to learn from—and be transformed by—grassroots leaders and to respect their wisdom in a dynamic, group-centered manner. Never fixed or finished, she remained a work in progress; she encouraged a spirit of radical, democratic humanism that influenced the black freedom movement, labor, the women’s movement, the student antiwar movement, GIs and veterans, prison and solidarity work, and community organizing for decades to come | more…

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