IN TRANSIT: THE TRANSPORT WORKERS UNION IN NEW YORK CITY, 1933-1966, by Joshua B. Freeman. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. 434 pp. $34.95.
WORKING-CLASS AMERICANISM: THE POLITICS OF LABOR IN A TEXTILE CITY, 1914-1960, by Gary Gerstle. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. 345 pp. $39.50.
At a time when the industrial unions launched during the Great Depression are struggling with the symptoms of what may be an irreversible decline, labor scholars are producing works of originality and insight about the 1930s and 1940s—a more sanguine, though not completely triumphant, era.
This ironic concurrence is not hard to explain. Most contemporary historians of the CIO are former New Leftists, old enough to appreciate the pain of political eclipse but too young to have been partisans in the events they now interpret. They are, moreover, skillful riders on that long wave of innovative scholarship in social and cultural history that, over the past quarter century, has completely transformed our understanding of how American working people thought and acted....
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