on September 30, 2000
A wonderful and well researched study of the origins of corporate power in America. It began with the Big Business reaction towards the gains made by the American labor movement in the 30s with the FLSA. That reaction was embodied in the most anti-labor law passed in the history of America, the 1947 Taft/Hartley Law. This is a must read for all labor activists out there. The book goes into the strategies and propaganda used then to sway the American people against organized labor. Many of the strategies of the past are still used today by American Business and this book will help you recognize them, answer them and effectively rebut them.
When most people think of American society in the 1950s they think of "Leave It To Beaver"; an age of consumer abundance, good jobs and political consensus. What Fones-Wolf has shown in this book is that business and labour fought a protracted and intense propaganda struggle for the hearts and minds of American citizens. Starting in 1944, even before the end of the Second World War, the business community, especially the very conservative National Association of Manufacturers, realized the threat that New Deal values represented to corporate interests and they began to prepare themselves for the post-war world and the struggle with labour unions. Both sides in this struggle between the corporations and the unions used any and all media to get their message across. At stake was the shape of American society in the years after the Second World War.
Fones-Wolf has written a very readable account of this struggle, an ideological struggle that engaged Americans throughout the late-forties and the fifties and bears little resemblance to the TV version of society epitomized by "Leave It To Beaver". The book is well-written, well-annotated and opens a new view on the struggle between corporate interests and the interests of wider society.
An interesting quote caught my eye. On page 258 Fones-Wolf quotes National Association of Manufacturers chairman Charles Sligh in 1955 wondering if the AFL-CIO might "become a ghost government, in which a handful of people not elected, not authorized by the American people would pull strings behind the scenes to direct the destinies of the nation". Sligh was right, except it wasn't the unions which became his "ghost government" it was, and is, the corporations. Sadly ironic.