Author

Jacob Bilsky

Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2021

Degree Type

Thesis

Department

History

First Advisor

Douglas Little

Abstract

In a period when “labor-based parties” in Europe had reached their “own ‘end of history’” with the rise of neoliberalism and the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Keynesian consensus, influential union organizer Tony Mazzocchi of the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Organization led a bold effort to build a workers’ party independent of the Democratic and Republican Parties in the United States from 1991 until his death in 2002. While the Labor Party never made its way into mainstream politics, it represented an important moment for organizing left of the Democratic Party in the United States. This thesis compiles the scant secondary sources and untapped wealth of primary sources concerning the Labor Party into the first full-length history on the subject, contextualizing it within U.S. political and Labor History. In addition, it argues that while former Labor Party leaders are partially correct in blaming economic and political conditions for the Labor Party’s decline in the 2000s after initial growth in the 1990s, their failure to engage concretely with electoral politics and unorganized workers impeded the party’s success. It also highlights the positive role played by revolutionary socialists, traditionally portrayed by existing accounts as sectarian wreckers, in founding and building the Labor Party.

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