Friday 10:00am

The New Deal of the 1930s: context and debates


The New Deal period in the US in the 1930s saw the passage of the Social Security Act, expansive government works programs and legislation which recognised unions’ right to exist, organise, bargain, and strike.

There remains a great deal of nostalgia surrounding the New Deal and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The New Deal has been invoked by both Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez as a model for their “democratic socialism” and both have called for a New Deal consisting of government intervention and pro-working class reforms to improve workers living standards and tackle the threat of climate change.

This session will discuss the context of the 1930s New Deal and take a critical look at who made up the New Deal coalition as well as the character of the reforms. It will also discuss the relationship of FDR and the Democratic party to the tumultuous labour struggles of the period and the contribution of socialists, communists and other radicals.


Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-class Radicalism in the United States by Sharon Smith

Chapters 3, 4 & 5

The New Deal and the Popular Front, Charlie Post (2011)

The Dynamics of Retreat, Interview with Robert Brenner (2016)

What should socialists do? by Joseph M Schwartz & Bhaskar Sunkara (2017)

The New Deal is not enough by Dan La Botz (2018)

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