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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Lawrence Rogin, November 2, 1975. Interview E-0013. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Importance of labor education and its neglect within the movement

Rogin discusses the importance of labor education and addresses why he believes labor education has been overlooked in the labor movement. In particular, Rogin stresses the labor movement's emphasis on "doing" as a reason why not all labor activists were drawn to labor education, which emphasized the politics, economics, and history of labor activism and industry.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Lawrence Rogin, November 2, 1975. Interview E-0013. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

WILLIAM FINGER:
Well, you've had a lot of different real interesting experiences on labor. I mean, whole education… Maybe a good way to end it is for you to maybe elaborate a little more what you mentioned almost at the beginning, that labor education has been neglected in the American labor movement.
LAWRENCE ROGIN:
Oh, I wrote a history (about six pages) in that study I did of labor education which says what I think. And it's really: labor education in the American labor movement, for the most part, the support of education has come from the left side—that is, the people who wanted to reform the labor movement, whatever they were—and from the outsiders. For a long time it was outsiders who had the interesting experiments in labor education, like the Southern School for Workers, Highlander, Brookwood: all these things, they were outsiders. The problem is then, of course, the relationship of the labor movement with them. But in general the average American trade unionist felt that you could learn by doing—and that's true. You can learn a lot by doing, and so on. And if you have a business unionism then you don't have to know more than your own industry and your own…
WILLIAM FINGER:
You don't have to know the political…
LAWRENCE ROGIN:
You don't have to know the political situation, all those kinds of things. And so that's what I meant. And the A.F.L., of course, has been always concerned about dual unionism—was for a long period, at the I.W.W. struggles and then at the terrible decline after World War I (so it almost didn't exist when the New Deal came), and so on. So all of this. But in the New Deal, of course, since the New Deal there's been some education which has been broader, and a lot of education in industrial unions (because they're depending on volunteer work, that is, stewards and others). And you've had to train them, and so that's been an education that's come up that way. But in general it attracts people who try to get a little further with it, who are interested in politics and economics and change, and so on. So you move with it, and I guess that's why I've always stayed with it.