American Labour and Consensus Capitalism, 1935–1990 by Patrick Renshaw

By Patrick Renshaw

Booklet by means of Renshaw, Patrick

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No one had really attempted this since William Sylvis and the short-lived National Labor Union in the 1860s. The Knights of Labor had spoken in the 1880s of forging 'a connecting link between all branches of honourable toil'. But their failure, and that of the IWW later, had demonstrated the dangers of industrial unionism. AFL hostility to the idea had shown itself earlier in the New Deal by its reaction to the upsurge of new industrial unions stimulated by the NRA and Section 7(a). The AFL leaders had shunted these new unions off into so-called Federal unions, directly affiliated to the AFL, until jurisdictional problems could be resolved.

Was the reply. An economy produces in response to spending - it was absurd to suppose one can stimulate economic activity by declining to spend. When individuals failed to spend enough to maintain employment, then government must do it for them. ' 10 New Deal reflationists, like Frances Perkins or Rexford Tugwell, the leading left-winger in FDR's circle, agreed with Keynes and Laski on the overriding need for more public spending. Yet despite the NRA, Roosevelt himself was wholly innocent of such notions.

Sponsored by George Norris, champion of the old Progressives, and Fiorello La Guardia, hero of the new, it revealed how the 1930s were to become a watershed, and was overwhelmingly supported by both Congress and nation. But for all its importance in pointing the way to the lO AMERICAN LABOUR AND CONSENSUS CAPITALISM labour policies of the New Deal, it did not meet the immediate problem of the nation's wage earners: chronic, growing, grinding unemployment. IV Once Roosevelt had won his landslide at the polls in November 1932, New Deal policy towards labour was based upon two premisses: the need to create jobs, and the right for workers to organize as written into the Norris-La Guardia Act.

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