Wasn't That a Time?: Growing Up Radical and Red in America

Robert Schrank, Author MIT Press (MA) $45 (472p) ISBN 978-0-262-19389-4
Schrank's recollections of his combat in the trenches of social change during the volcanic 1920s-1940s spotlights the inner workings of the labor movement as few memoirs do. Schrank was born two weeks before the Bolshevik Revolution into New York City's large German socialist community. ""Out of school, out of work, out of money, out of food, out of clothing, out of shoes--and out of hope,"" he joined the Young Communist League and there found a purpose in addressing workers unable to buy the products they produced. His gift for persuasive soapboxing led to deepening involvement in union organizing, whether through marches on Fifth Avenue or, later, as victor in Schrank vs. Brown, which established grounds for union members to criticize their leaders. The Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact of 1939 undermined his faith, though Schrank took some comfort when Roosevelt's New Deal programs approached socialist goals. Schrank left the party, returned to school, graduated from Brooklyn College and worked on the Mobilization for Youth program to help ghetto youth out of poverty. Except for extraneous love affairs laced throughout, Schrank's lively memoir remains focused with valuable labor movement details (especially his Mine Mill union effort in Butte, Mont.). There have been many leftist memoirs recently, some self-serving, some bitter, some just dull, but Schrank's recollections of life among the down and dirty vanguards is well documented and animated by steadfast personal commitment. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
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Paperback - 468 pages - 978-0-262-69226-7
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