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Workers in Hard TimesA Long View of Economic Crises$
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Leon Fink, Joan Sangster, and Joseph A. McCartin

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780252038174

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252038174.001.0001

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Workers’ Social-Wage Struggles during the Great Depression and the Era of Neoliberalism

Workers’ Social-Wage Struggles during the Great Depression and the Era of Neoliberalism

International Comparisons

(p.113) 6 Workers’ Social-Wage Struggles during the Great Depression and the Era of Neoliberalism
Workers in Hard Times

Alvin Finkel

University of Illinois Press

This chapter traces and compares workers' and especially workers' organizations' responses in North America, South America, Europe, and Australia during the Great Depression and the crisis of capital accumulation that has been more or less steady since 1975. It suggests that the extent to which the organized working class has been willing and able to defend prior social gains during times of crisis depends upon the degree of organization and militancy present within the working class before the crisis begins. In countries where class collaboration is deeply embedded in the ideology of the trade-union and labor political leadership, the response of the organized working class to economic crisis has paralleled that of capital: “national” sacrifice is required, and that means the workers giving up some social gains along with making wage sacrifices. In others, especially where workers'movements have been unable or unwilling to integrate closely with capital at a political level, or where labor has a political dominance to which capital has partly accommodated, the working-class movement has made improved social wages its central demand, and made the continued existence of private capital dependent on its accommodating that demand.

Keywords:   social wages, workers' organizations, Great Depression, economic crisis, working class, class collaboration, trade union, labor political leadership

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