by Matthew Josephson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Dec. 4, 1952
A monumental biography of a monumental figure in American labor and politics, written by a biographer whose sense of the American scene has been evidenced by such books as Robber Barons. A less explosive book, this new one by the very magnitude of its subject matter takes on tremendous stature. Sidney Hillman's story- from his boyhood in Lithuania to his place at the peak of labor leadership in America- is unique in being symbolic of the pattern of American labor during forty years of growth and change. The early part of his life laid the groundwork:- schooling for the rabbinate in old Russia, liberal social leanings led to arrest and exodus to America, early days in Chicago gave him personal experience of the worst of working conditions,- long hours, lack of security in the garment industry, and sparked his involvement in early union, organization, strikes, the growing element of arbitration and moderation with which he came to be identified. A youth still, he won the respect of the big shots in industry and labor. Then New York and the phenomenal growth of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, which with the Ladies' Garment Workers' Union came to stand for the best in union management, but only after a dramatic struggle in city after city. Then followed the years of close association with John L. Lewis, the fight within the A F of L and the split which marked the birth of the CIO and industry-wide organization, one of the major factors in labor's story during the New Deal. Hillman was the moderator, the diplomat; he came to be the butt of attack during the political bitterness and violent antagonisms engendered by bias pro and com Roosevelt. With Lewis' personal feud coming to a head, Hillman quietly accepted the inevitable and Lewis' withdrawal, and put Murray into the saddle. Less successful were his dealings with top executives in War Production Board -- but he managed to keep impersonal, even after his split with Roosevelt, and in spite of it backed him throughout, presenting in the Political Action Committee one of the strongest weapons of political propaganda. His labor interests by now extended to the international scene, and his premature death was a terrific blow to the cause for which he lived and died. A superb biography of a man and a movement, of far wider interest than simply that of those to whom Hillman was a great man and a great leader. This makes him an integral part of the American democratic scene.
Pub Date: Dec. 4, 1952
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1952
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