WASN'T THAT A TIME? by Robert Schrank


Growing Up Radical and Red in America
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Schrank’s autobiography would be a yawner--yet another memoir of a radical who decided to get comfortable--if he weren’t a good storyteller and if he didn’t write from the point of view of a union member and organizer. Schrank, now a management consultant, joined the Young Communist League in 1934 as a teenage high school dropout, but with a solid grounding in radical ideas from his anarchist father. As a member of the working class in a party filled with intellectuals, and with his natural talents for organizing and public speaking, Schrank was a prized recruit. His value to the party increased when he became president of his machinists— union local in New York City, then organized a statewide council of machinists’ locals, of which he also became president. But then the machinists were swept up in Cold War anticommunist fervor; Schrank was expelled from the union in 1950, despite landmark victories in a series of court battles, and his disillusionment with the Communist Party, from which he resigned in 1948, grew. He went back to factory work for a few years, won a hard-fought victory organizing copper miners in Montana for the Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers’ union, then went over to the other side, eventually becoming a corporate executive. When the book ends in 1965, Schrank, at 48, has just graduated from college and left his long-suffering wife, and he thanks his therapist for keeping him from suicide. Schrank says this book is a product of his therapy, and the worst parts--his preoccupation with sex, his psychological ruminations about his parents--read that way. His descriptions of how both the Communist Party and the American worker let him down smack of the bitterness of a disappointed lover. But there are also wonderfully told stories here that are a textbook on how to organize everything from a street-corner rally to a union.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-262-19389-2
Page count: 452pp
Publisher: MIT
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1998


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