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Tom Kerry

Labor’s Revolt Against Industrial Oligarchy

(Summer 1964)

From International Socialist Review, Vol.25 No.3, Summer 1964, p.91.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Labor’s Giant Step: Twenty Years of the CIO
by Art Preis
Pioneer Publishers, New York, 1964. 550 pp. with index. Pre-publication price $5.00.

Readers of International Socialist Review will welcome the announcement by Pioneer Publishers of a major publishing event. Labor’s Giant Step: Twenty Years of the CIO by Art Preis, is a unique contribution to the history of the American union movement. There is nothing like it in print – and with good reason. Major publishing houses, to whom books are marketable commodities to be sold for profit, shy away from authors whose concern for truth spares none of the sacred cows of our social system.

It has been my privilege to know and work with Art Preis for some 30 years. He is not one to mince words – not where the interest of the working class is concerned. Like a master surgeon he applies his scalpel to men and events to lay bare many a rattling skeleton in the closets of our myth-makers. Deified capitalist politicians and sanctified labor skates; zig-zag artists and twisters of the Stalinist and Social Democratic variety; pure and simple union fakers of the Gompers-Meany school; all are given their just due.

The real heroes of Preis’ book are the union militants and radicals who refused to knuckle under when the going got tough. The men and women who fought to preserve the crusading spirit, the militant methods of struggle, the democratic tradition, of the early and heroic days of the CIO. Many succumbed to the fleshpots of the union bureaucracy as the apparatus extended its sway over the ranks in the period of “stabilization” following the establishment of union power in the mass production industries. Others fought and are still fighting for the ideas and ideals that girded American labor”s first giant step toward emancipation from capitalist wage slavery.

For those who made possible its publication Preis’ book is a labor of love. When no major publisher could be found with guts enough to publish this work, many individuals answered an appeal for contributions to make its publication possible. Despite volunteer workers who gave freely of their time, energy and talents, we are informed that there is still a deficit of approximately $1,000 which will have to be met before publication date now tentatively set for September 15.

This short appreciation is not intended to be a review of the book. It is, rather, in the nature of an appeal for contributions to make up the deficit and for pre-publication orders to ensure enough income to pay the printer before it comes off the press. (The ISR will probably carry a review in its next issue.)

This is a big book of 550 pages. To give some idea of its scope we list here the chapter contents:

Part 1, Nine Chapters: The Rise of the CIO (1929-1940). Part 2, Five Chapters: Prelude to War (1940-1942). Part 3, Eight Chapters: CIO in the War (1942-1945). Part 4, One Chapter: The Post War Strike Wave (1945-1946). Part 5, Two Chapters: The New Offensive Against Labor (1945-1947). Part 6, Five Chapters: The Cold War in the CIO (1946-1950). Part 7, Four Chapters: The Korean War Years (1950-1953). Part 8, Five Chapters: After the New Deal-Fair Deal Era (1953-1955).

Art Preis spent six years in writing Labor’s Giant Step and 30 years in acquiring the material. Born in Philadelphia, he attended the University of Pennsylvania, 1928-30, and Ohio State University, 1930-32. At Ohio State, he published an anti-war magazine, Free Voice, which was banned from the campus.

In 1933 he helped to found the Lucas County Unemployed League in Toledo, Ohio, which grew into the largest organization of its kind in the country. Throughout the Thirties he participated in scores of labor and unemployed struggles.

From 1935 to 1938, he was chairman of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Union of Toledo which organized 23,000 workers in militant struggle. He was a charter member and legislative agent of an AFL teachers local in Toledo, founding chairman of Local 29, CIO United Office and Professional Workers, and a delegate to the Toledo CIO Council.

Since 1940, Art Preis has been a staff writer and labor editor of The Militant, for which paper he has reported many of the outstanding labor events of the past 22 years. A number of his longer articles on labor and the socialist movement have been published in the International Socialist Review and its predecessors, Fourth International and New International, including several chapters of Labor’s Giant Step.

We urge our readers to send their contributions to help publish Labor’s Giant Step: Twenty Years of the CIO, to Art Preis, 116 University Place, New York 3, N.Y. Send your advance orders now and save $2.50 on each copy to: Pioneer Publishers. (See announcement on back cover of this issue.)

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