‘The Need For a Labor Culture’ by David J. Saposs from Labor Age. Vol. 18 No. 11. November, 1929.

Passaic, 1928.
‘The Need For a Labor Culture’ by David J. Saposs from Labor Age. Vol. 18 No. 11. November, 1929.

The prize need in the United States at present is an effective labor movement, in order to counter-act rampant and welfare capitalism. An effective labor movement is only possible when it is based upon a labor culture; that is, a mode of feeling, thinking and acting in terms of the problems and aspirations of labor. And this attitude must in turn permeate and inspire a completely rounded out labor movement, the organizations of which function in all important fields of human endeavor.

As dwellers in the Machine Age we are subjects of a capitalistic culture. But there are minority cultural groups taking issue with this dominantly inhuman and anti-social capitalistic culture. In all important industrial countries, except the United States, the outstanding minority cultural group is the labor movement, which explains why organized labor through its manifold organizations and activities is such a tremendous social force in those countries,

The labor movement in this country was well on the way to developing a labor culture with a rounded out labor movement including unions, cooperatives, political parties, mutual benefit societies, a press, workers’ education, and so on. Then came the American Federation of Labor with its business unionism, which deliberately discouraged all working class organizational activity except unions, and which led the workers to immerse themselves in the capitalistic culture. This attitude automatically destroyed the incipient labor movement and labor culture, with its traditions and customs, finally even resulting in the weakening of the trade union movement, so that in general it is weaker now than it has ever been in its history.

Intellectually, it has had even a greater demoralizing effect, for in all his important activities the worker in the United States is surrounded with a point of view that is anti-labor, or at best non-labor. Practically every institution or organization with which he comes in contact is either hostile or has no direct and intelligent interest in the ideals of labor. This situation holds true of his political party, church, athletic club, fraternal and benefit society, press, theatre, store, and so on. And the only agency to which the organized worker belongs that might counteract the anti-labor sentiments and opinions of his environment is the trade union, pigmy in stature, poor and feeble in spiritual, intellectual and philosophic content. And to make matters worse the trade union movement is apologetically striving to fuse itself with the capitalistic culture.

Is it any wonder that even Union members are generally indifferent, if not ashamed of their union affiliations, to say nothing of the broader implications that labor stands for. Is it any wonder that the unorganized workers are generally equally hostile to conservative and radical unions and other labor activities?

Hence in order to develop an effective labor movement in this country, we must begin by developing a labor culture as the foundation for a completely rounded out labor movement encompassing the organization of the workers on all important fields of human endeavor.

Labor Age was a left-labor monthly magazine with origins in Socialist Review, journal of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society. Published by the Labor Publication Society from 1921-1933 aligned with the League for Industrial Democracy of left-wing trade unionists across industries. During 1929-33 the magazine was affiliated with the Conference for Progressive Labor Action (CPLA) led by A. J. Muste. James Maurer, Harry W. Laidler, and Louis Budenz were also writers. The orientation of the magazine was industrial unionism, planning, nationalization, and was illustrated with photos and cartoons. With its stress on worker education, social unionism and rank and file activism, it is one of the essential journals of the radical US labor socialist movement of its time.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/laborage/v28n11-Nov-1929-Labor%20Age.pdf

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