Right Out of California: The 1930s and the Big Business Roots of Modern Conservatism

Kathryn S. Olmsted. New Press (Perseus, dist.), $27.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-62097-096-6
Olmsted (Real Enemies), chair of the history department at the University of California, Davis, suggests that the New Deal’s National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, which lacked protection for agricultural workers who wanted to unionize, served as the catalyst for the organization of the political right as it is known today. Olmsted’s research goes beyond newspaper archives and government transcripts, many of which, she points out, purposely did not record statements and speeches made by union organizers. Instead, she delves into oral histories and personal papers to tell the stories of how growers used violence, espionage, and virulent anti-Communist rhetoric to invoke the idea that unions would destroy the family, traditional gender roles, and whites’ ability to subjugate non-whites. Olmsted expressly places a larger focus on women’s involvement in the struggle for fair treatment of pickers, writing at length on Communist organizer Caroline Decker and political activist Ella Winter. This fuller perspective—along with sections on famous literary figures of the time, including Upton Sinclair, Langston Hughes, and John Steinbeck—cements Olmsted’s authority on the subject of labor organization. This is an accessible work that aids in contextualizing the rise of future conservative leaders such as Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. B&w photos. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 07/13/2015
Release date: 10/01/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-1-62097-139-0
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-1-62097-306-6
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