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ONE HAS TO ADMIRE THEIR PERSISTENCE. Labor Notes, the flagship journal of the domestic labor Left, professes itself to be “the voice of union activists who want to put the movement back into the labor movement.” Though stylistically about as riveting as the phonebook, for more than three difficult decades Labor Notes has critically observed and recorded organized labor’s endemic corruption, democratic shortcomings, and gross ineptitude in organizing workers in the private sector, where today only 7.2 percent of Americans are unionized.
RANDI STORCH’S RED CHICAGO takes to task prevailing caricatures of American Communism during the so-called “Third Period” of the late twenties and early thirties, a period in the history of American Communism frequently criticized for its growing ideological rigidity, its organizational Stalinization, and its ultimate failure to revitalize the flagging world revolution and to check the threat of fascism. Against such views, Storch argues historians have been unfair to the early Chicago Communists, falsely constructing them either as mannequins manipulated by Soviet puppeteers, or else as heroic defenders of the city’s working class, a collection of hyper-romantic organic radicals whose every breath stood in defiance of both employers and the party itself.
ON SEPTEMBER 24, 2009, approximately 900 Chicagoans rallied on the sidewalks in front of the Park Hyatt Hotel near the Magnificent Mile. At the height of rush hour, about 200 members and community allies of UNITE HERE Local 1, Chicago’s hospitality workers’ union, arrived at the scene and blocked all four lanes of Chicago Avenue by sitting down in rows and linking their arms.