Doing History from the Bottom Up: On E.P. Thompson, Howard Zinn, and Rebuilding the Labor Movement from Below
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In the 1960s historians on both sides of the Atlantic began to challenge the assumptions of their colleagues and push for an understanding of history "from below." In this collection, Staughton Lynd, himself one of the pioneers of this approach, laments the passing of fellow luminaries David Montgomery, E.P. Thompson, Alfred Young, and Howard Zinn, and makes the case that contemporary academics and activists alike should take more seriously the stories and perspectives of Native Americans, slaves, rank-and-file workers, and other still-too-frequently marginalized voices.
Staughton Lynd is an American conscientious objector, Quaker, peace activist and civil rights activist, tax resister, historian, professor, author, and lawyer.
and psychologists Harry Stack Sullivan, Kurt Lewin, and Gardner Murphy. Howard’s logic goes as follows. Everyone has a hierarchy of values. For many persons, racism may be one such value, but it is unlikely to be the thing that anyone cares about most. Change the external requirements of daily life so that whites must engage in equal-status contact with blacks in order to achieve their highest priorities, and over time racist attitudes will change in response. In his autobiography Howard tells
comprehensive efforts are not made now to interview and gather data from this generation of workers, whether union members or not, future historians will continue to write labor history under the same handicaps that impeded their predecessors. In view of the current interest in the technique of oral history, it might be thought that the memories of rank-and-file workers were being systematically taped and preserved. Not at all. Oral history, like every other form of American history, proceeds
pledge, or, of course, the Taft-Hartley Act and McCarthyism, pointed to events that happened after the passage of the Wagner Act and the initial organization of CIO industrial unions. Sargent said, in effect, “No, the problem was the initial pattern of union recognition and collective bargaining imposed by John L. Lewis on the incipient CIO.” The institutional pattern dictated by Lewis included the following four elements: 1. Exclusive recognition by the employer of a single trade union that
used on each major medical statement. Have a person at the Blue Cross office in Youngstown that people can go to with their papers to get problems resolved or effectively appealed or payment expedited. A representative of Blue Cross explained that they service what LTV bought. The benefits are set out in the benefits booklet. A retiree complained about Blue Cross’s telephone service: “The 800 number stays busy. You can’t get through. An 800 number is not adequate for a person with a stack of
delegations to Washington and of the endless run-around we get there.” Federated Press dispatch, April 18, 1934. 26. Statement by James Egan to Harold Ruttenberg on June 5, 1934, Ruttenberg narrative, p. 23. That same day, an SMWIU delegation in Washington voiced the same criticism to the press. Federated Press dispatch, June 5, 1934. 27. Harold Ruttenberg to George Soule, July 6, 1934, Ruttenberg Papers. 28. Arthur S. Weinberg interview with Ruttenberg, May 12, 1968, and Don Kennedy interview