From David Montgomery, The Fall of the House of Labor:
Nevertheless, to organize concerted action and to fashion a sense of social goals shared by all workers required deliberate human agency. Class consciousness was more than the unmediated product of daily experience. It was also a project. Working-class activists, and some individuals from other social strata who had linked their aspirations to the workers’ movement, persistently sought to foster a sense of unity and purposiveness among their fellow workers….Both “history from the bottom up” and the common fixation on great leaders have obscured the decisive role of those whom twentieth-century syndicalists have called the “militant minority”: the men and women who endeavored to weld their workmates and neighbors into a self-aware and purposeful working class.
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The becalmed and beleaguered trade unions of the 1920s had made their peace with a most undemocratic America, whose economic underpinnings were soon to give way. When working-class activists sought a path out of the depression of the 1930s, they revoked that settlement, reopened controversy over what had been considered accomplished, and began to organize anew on the basis of the ways America’s heterogeneous working people actually experienced industrial life.