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Rebel Rank and File: Labor Militancy and Revolt from Below During the Long 1970s

The hidden story of the 1970s insurgency from below, against employers and bureaucrats.

Often considered irredeemably conservative, the US working class actually has a rich history of revolt. Rebel Rank and File uncovers the hidden story of insurgency from below against employers and union bureaucrats in the late 1960s and 1970s.

From the mid-1960s to 1981, rank-and-file workers in the United States engaged in a level of sustained militancy not seen since the Great Depression and World War II. Millions participated in one of the largest strike waves in US history. There were 5,716 stoppages in 1970 alone, involving more than 3 million workers. Contract rejections, collective insubordination, sabotage, organized slowdowns, and wildcat strikes were the order of the day.

Workers targeted much of their activity at union leaders, forming caucuses to fight for more democratic and combative unions that would forcefully resist the mounting offensive from employers that appeared at the end of the postwar economic boom. It was a remarkable era in the history of US class struggle, one rich in lessons for today's labor movement.

Reviews

  • “Truly shines ... By uncovering the hidden history of the 1970s, Rebel Rank and File reminds us that there is another path to union renewal—a path firmly rooted in the workplace and motivated by visions of transforming society.”
  • “An important collection ... honest and thoughtful.”
  • “This is an unusually high-quality effort, with an all-star cast of authors, which should attract wide interest.”
  • “The chapters in this collection take the reader on a vivid journey through battlegrounds of the 1960s and 1970s where workers and employers clashed over the future of the US workplace.”
  • “Bracing and often electrifying ... A primer and a call to arms for a radical rank-and-file politics.”
  • “Extraordinary reflections.”
  • “[A] spirited volume ... a call to arms to today's workers and potential activists.”
  • “Page after page of the remarkable militancy of rank-and-file workers.”

Blog

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    In the second part of his 1991 essay on the decline of the Eastern Bloc Robert Brenner provides a prescient analysis of the likely outcome of the political and economic crisis in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. He correctly predicts that the future for the region would resemble less the post-war experience of Western Europe and would more closely follow the trajectory of the nations of the Global South. The essay originally appeared in the March/April 1991 issue of Against the Current and is reproduced here for the first time. Read the first part of this essay on the nature of exploitation and accumulation in the Soviet and eastern bloc bureaucratic systems and the beginnings of its crisis.

    Brenner is the author of many important interventions in world economics including: 
    The Boom and the Bubble, Merchants and Revolution, and The Economics of Global Turbulence.


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  • The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe - The Roots of The Crisis

    In 1991 Robert Brenner, Director of the Center for Social Theory and Comparative History at UCLA, authored a two-part essay on the decline and collapse of the Soviet and Eastern European economic systems. The article appeared in the March/April 1991 issue of Against the Current and is reproduced here for the first time. Brenner is the author of many vital books on global economics including: The Boom and the Bubble, Merchants and Revolution, and The Economics of Global Turbulence.

    In the first part of the article Brenner describes the nature of the Eastern bloc's economic system, the failure of the market reforms of the 1970s, the exacerbation of the Eastern bloc's productivity crisis via the arms race with the United States, and the difficulties of adapting a command economy to the production of consumer goods. 

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  • Interns, Occupiers, and Strikers: A May Day 2014 Reading List



    The 1st of May marks International Workers' Day, a festival of working-class self-organization stretching back over 130 years. It was originally inaugurated to commemorate the Haymarket Massacre of 1886 in Chicago, where a bomb thrown during a worker's strike kicked off a period of anti-labor hysteria.

    In 1890, the first internationally coordinated demonstration for an 8-hour day was held, in commemoration of those killed in the massacre. Eight anarchists were executed on trumped-up charges after the event.

    Here, Verso staff present an updated reading list for May Day. Since first posting the list a few years back, we've added some of our recent titles that trace the changing nature of work and the labor movements in the U.S. and around the world. 

    All books listed are available for direct purchase from our site at discounts of 40% off paperbacks, 30% off hardcovers, and 50% off ebooks, with free shipping, and ebooks bundled with your print purchase where available. 

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Other books Edited by Aaron Brenner, Robert Brenner, and Cal Winslow