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"A Road to Peace and Freedom": The International Workers Order and the Struggle for Economic Justice and Civil Rights, 1930-1954

by Robert M. Zecker

Temple University Press, 2017

ISBNs

eISBN: 978-1-4399-1517-2

Cloth: 978-1-4399-1515-8

Paper: 978-1-4399-1516-5

About the Book
The International Workers Order was an American consortium of ethnic mutual self-insurance societies that advocated for unemployment insurance, Social Security and vibrant industrial unions. This interracial leftist organization guaranteed the healthcare of its 180,000 white, black, Hispanic and Arabic working-class members. But what accounted for the popularity—and eventual notoriety—of this Order?

Mining extensive primary sources, Robert Zecker gives voice to the workers in “A Road to Peace and Freedom.” He describes the group's economic goals, commitment to racial justice, and activism, from lobbying to end segregation and lynching in America to defeating fascism abroad. Zecker also illustrates the panoply of entertainment, sports, and educational activities designed to cultivate the minds and bodies of members.

However, the IWO was led by Communists, and the Order was targeted for red-baiting during the Cold War, subject to government surveillance, and ultimately "liquidated." Zecker explains how the dismantling of the IWO and the general suppression of left-wing dissenting views on economic egalitarianism and racial equality had deleterious effects for the entire country. Moreover, Zecker shows why the sobering lesson of the IWO remains prescient today.
About the Author

Robert M. Zecker is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Saint Francis Xavier University. He is the author of Race and America's Immigrant Press: How the Slovaks were Taught to Think Like White People.

Reviews
"This thoroughly researched, detailed study of the International Workers Order (IWO) tells an important story of the narrowing possibilities of voluntary associations and political discourse resulting from the rampant governmental anticommunism between the 1930s and the1950s.... Zecker has illuminated an important story, and we are in his debt for the superb research and clear writing of his account."--Journal ofAmerican History

Tags
Labor unions, Labor movement, Road, Societies etc, International labor activities, Communism Post-Communism & Socialism, Labor & Industrial Relations, Political Ideologies, 20th century, Political Science, United States, History
Open Access Information

License: CC BY-NC-ND