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Religion and Trade Union Politics in the United States, 1880–1920

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 December 2008

Ken Fones-Wolf
University of Massachusetts-Amherst


More than three decades have passed since Marc Karson analyzed the Catholic church's critical role in impeding the growth of socialism in the American labor movement. He was not the first to make the argument; Progressive Era socialists were acutely aware of Catholics' outspoken opposition, and David Saposs outlined Karson's arguments as early as 1933. However, the evidence marshaled by Karson, first in a 1951 article and later in American Labor Unions and Politics, 1900–1918, so clearly detailed facets of Catholic antisocialism that his thesis has become the conventional wisdom. With few exceptions, historians depict the church as a potent enemy of socialism, heartily welcomed by trade union leaders.

Religion and the Working Class
Copyright © International Labor and Working-Class History, Inc. 1988

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59. A fuller overview would speak much more to religion among women, blacks, and southerners and, perhaps less, to the labor institutions of the working class.

60. If one were to divide cities along the lines of figure 2–6 of David Ward's Cities and Immigrants (77), one would have a fairly close approximation of successful and unsuccessful Labor Forward campaigns.

61. Hobsbawm, Eric, Workers: Worlds of Labor (New York, 1984), 33, 48.Google Scholar

62. Philadelphia Central Labor Union, “Minutes,” 9 11 1913.Google Scholar

63. Phelan, , “William Green,” 143–44.Google Scholar The inadequacies of liberalism, with its emphasis on public and private spheres, to address the potential for domination in a “private” economy is argued forcefully in Bowles, Samuel and Gintis, Herbert, Democracy and Capitalism (New York, 1986), 1418.Google Scholar

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