Jul 28, 2022Liked by Eric Blanc

With regard to Jeffery’s point:

It would be a rather contrarian faction of the capitalist class to push for the legalization of worker self-activity as did Wagner. Note also the level of third party representation emerging in Congress in the mid 30s.


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Eric writes, "the capitalist class actively opposed [the Wagner Act] and did everything possible to defang it after it was signed." Were not Wagner and Roosevelt and other supporters of the Wagner Act also part of and representative of a segment of the capitalist class? This is not unimportant - to understand the purpose of the Act we need to be clear about the class forces behind its design and passage. It seems quite clear from the debate around the Act and from the text of the Act itself - the Preamble states the purpose clearly as "removing certain recognized sources of industrial strife and unrest" - that Roosevelt and Wagner and the segment of the ruling class that they represented were responding to the 1933 strike wave and the growth of the unemployed movement by establishing a legal channel for the discontent of the working class. Why 1935 and not 1934? Because it takes time to put together a consensus in support of a major change of strategy by the ruling class. Why concessions in 1935 instead of the repression of the Palmer Raids in 1919? Because the growing power of the organized workers' movement - the rise of the CIO and the growing influence of the CPUSA, AWP and SWP in industrial centers - and the split in the ruling class, weakened by the Great Depression, which brought to political office, with the votes of workers and their allies, advocates of concessions to labor at national, state and municipal levels, had changed the balance of forces. So although a big segment of the ruling class fought hard against the Wagner Act's passage and continued to find ways to "defang" it in the years that followed, it is no less clear that working class radicalization and growing militancy on the one hand and the division of the ruling capitalist class on the other were the major factors in the concessions of the Wagner Act, creating the conditions for the doubling of trade union membership in the years 1935-1940.

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