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Lynd, Staughton 1929- (Staughton Craig Lynd)

Lynd, Staughton 1929- (Staughton Craig Lynd)

PERSONAL:

Born November 22, 1929, in Philadelphia, PA; son of Robert Staughton (a sociologist and professor) and Helen (a professor) Lynd; married Alice Niles, 1951; children: three. Education: Harvard University, B.A., 1951; Columbia University, Ph.D., 1962; University of Chicago, law degree, 1976.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Niles, OH. Office—700 Metropolitan Tower Bldg., Youngstown, OH 44503.

CAREER:

Writer, activist, and attorney; admitted to the Bar of the State of Ohio, 1976. University Settlement House, New York City, tenant organizer and community worker, 1957-58; Spelman College, Atlanta, GA, history instructor, 1961-64; Yale University, New Haven, CT, assistant professor of history, 1964-67; Chicago State College, Chicago, IL, associate professor of history, 1967-68; attorney in Youngstown, OH, 1978; Legal Services Corp., Youngstown, attorney, beginning 1978. Head of Council of Federated Organizations' Freedom Schools in Mississippi, 1964. Military service: U.S. Army, 1953-54; held noncombat status.

MEMBER:

American Historical Association.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Morse fellowship, 1966.

WRITINGS:

NONFICTION

Anti-Federalism in Dutchess County, New York: A Study of Democracy and Class Conflict in the Revolutionary Era, Loyola University Press (Chicago, IL), 1962.

Class Conflict, Slavery, and the United States Constitution (essays), Bobbs-Merrill (Indianapolis, IN), 1966.

(Editor) Nonviolence in America: A Documentary History, Bobbs-Merrill (Indianapolis, IN), 1966.

(With Tom Hayden) The Other Side, New American Library (New York, NY), 1967.

Intellectual Origins of American Radicalism, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1968.

(With Michael Ferber) The Resistance, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1971.

(Editor) Personal Histories of the Early C.I.O., New England Free Press (Boston, MA), 1973.

(With Gar Alperovitz) Strategy and Two Essays towards a New Program: American Socialism, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1973.

(Editor) American Labor Radicalism: Testimonies and Interpretations, Wiley (New York, NY), 1973.

(Editor, with wife, Alice Lynd) Rank and File: Personal Histories by Working-class Organizers, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1973.

Labor Law for the Rank and Filer, Industrial Workers World, 1978, revised edition, Singlejack Books (San Pedro, CA), 1982.

The Fight against Shutdowns: Youngstown's Steel Mill Closings, Singlejack Books (San Pedro, CA), 1982.

(Editor, with Sam Bahour and Alice Lynd) Homeland: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians, Olive Branch Press (New York, NY), 1995.

(Editor, with Sam Bahour and Alice Lynd) Nonviolence in America: A Documentary History, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 1995.

(With Alice Lynd) Liberation Theology for Quakers, Pendle Hill Publications (Wallingford, PA), 1996.

(Editor) We Are All Leaders: The Alternative Unionism of the Early 1930s, University of Illinois Press (Champaign, IL), 1996.

Living inside Our Hope: A Steadfast Radical's Thoughts on Rebuilding the Movement, ILR Press (Ithaca, NY), 1997.

(Editor, with Alice Lynd) The New Rank and File, ILR Press (Ithaca, NY), 2000.

Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising, Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2004.

Correspondent for Viet Report, 1965. Contributor to periodicals, including Commentary, Liberation, Nation, New Republic, Radical America, and Studies on the Left.

SIDELIGHTS:

Staughton Lynd is a longtime radical political activist whose career includes stints in both education and law. His sociopolitical philosophy, a melding of pacifism and democracy-rooted socialism, has impressed readers of his books from Intellectual Origins of American Radicalism to the 1997 Living inside Our Hope: A Steadfast Radical's Thoughts on Rebuilding the Movement and the 2004 Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising. But his actions, particularly a controversial 1965 visit to North Vietnam, alienated and even outraged others who might otherwise be favorably inclined toward his work. Likewise, his championing of tenant rights in New York City's lower east side endeared him to members of the community there, while his controversial advocacy of federal intervention in the steel industry has disturbed conservative elements in business and government. Lynd maintains, however, that his concerns are ultimately humanitarian, not primarily economic or political. He wrote in Intellectual Origins of American Radicalism that "we owe our ultimate allegiance, not to this or that nation, but to the whole family of man."

Lynd is the son of famous parents, the sociologists Robert and Helen Lynd, coauthors of the classic book Middletown. He began his wide-ranging activism in the 1950s. Soon after leaving Harvard University, where he belonged to various leftist groups, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, which was immersed in the Korean War. Lynd declared himself a conscientious objector, seeking noncombatant status in the army. Lynd's military term came during the McCarthy era, when America was swept by a wave of anti-leftist—and, especially, anticommunist—activity spearheaded by Senator Joe McCarthy. In 1954 the army, in an ostensible purging of the politically suspect, discharged Lynd and many others before they had completed their terms of service.

Emotionally shaken by the untimely discharge, Lynd moved with his wife to a southern commune. Three years later they moved east, settling in New York City, where Lynd found work as a tenants' rights activist. In 1959, after the courts ruled that military discharges such as Lynd's must be considered as honorable, Lynd availed himself of the G.I. Bill and commenced graduate studies in history at Columbia University. During the early 1960s he taught at Spelman College, an institution for black women, and directed the Freedom Schools project in Mississippi. At this time Lynd also established himself as a keen observer of American politics, publishing such works as Anti-Federalism in Dutchess County, New York: A Study of Democracy and Class Conflict in the Revolutionary Era. In addition, he called for a revival of America's socialist movement, which he decried as having diminished considerably in the wake of the Cold War.

During the escalation of the Vietnam conflict in the mid-1960s, Lynd became increasingly involved in America's burgeoning antiwar movement. In the spring of 1965, the year after he was named assistant professor of history at Yale University, he helped organize a protest march in Washington, DC, and in late summer he was arrested after conspiring to overtake the House of Representatives. His most notorious action, however, was probably a December tour of North Vietnam with American communist Herbert Aptheker and student activist Tom Hayden. Lynd and companions hoped that in visiting North Vietnam—against which the United States was fighting an undeclared but nonetheless real and costly war—they might better serve the cause of peace once back in the United States. But upon returning home Lynd and his two fellow travelers drew the ire of many Americans, some of whom termed the trip treasonous. Federal officials, perhaps yielding to political pressure, terminated the three men's passports.

In addition, Lynd angered Yale's influential conservative element, which reportedly pressed for his dismissal. He skirted that issue by earning a Morse fellowship and thus meriting a one-year sabbatical from the school. By the spring of 1967 Lynd had gained an extension on his sabbatical and commenced training community organizers in Chicago. He was granted a one-year professorship by Chicago State College, but a state board of governors, citing the controversial North Vietnam excursion, nullified the hiring. Lynd then began preparations for a lawsuit, whereupon the board overturned its initial decision and granted the appointment. A few months later, Lynd won—on appeal—his suit against the U.S. Government, which he had charged with violating his rights in revoking his passport. He unsuccessfully pursued academic posts at such schools as the University of Illinois, Loyola University, Roosevelt University, and Northern Illinois University.

From the mid-1960s Lynd was recognized as a leading voice in American activism. He became increasingly involved in the antiwar movement, and at various campuses he provided instruction in effective protest and alternative action. He also devoted greater consideration to writing. In 1966 he published Class Conflict, Slavery, and the United States Constitution, an essay collection on the influence of various economic groups on American politics in the 1770s. In his New York Review of Books appraisal, Eugene D. Genovese noted Lynd's "excellent empirical work on a number of important questions," and he declared that the volume's first four essays "justify Lynd's reputation as a thoughtful scholar of early American history." Genovese added, however, that Lynd's work on intellectual history bears evidence of the author's "methodological and philosophical confusion," and he accused Lynd of compromising his materialist analysis of slavery by imposing "a moral absolutism that contradicts the theory itself."

In 1967 Lynd collaborated with Tom Hayden on The Other Side, an explication of their earlier trip to North Vietnam. This work was found to be surprisingly mundane and ineffective by such reviewers as Jonathan Eisen, who wrote in Commonweal of its "rather wearisome style … and its partisan blind spots," and Ronald Steele, who wrote in the New Republic of the book's "platitudes and imported cliches." Steele conceded that Lynd and Hayden were "courageous … for having forced us to come to terms with the shortcomings, indeed the staggering inadequacies and injustices, of our own society," but he urged upon them "the courage not to be self-indulgent, and the maturity to realize that the grass is not necessarily greener simply because it's on ‘the other side.’"

Another of Lynd's key works from the late 1960s is Intellectual Origins of American Radicalism, in which—according to New York Times reviewer Thomas Lask—the author attempts "to show that there is in American history an honored, working radicalism that did not begin with the appearance of the industrialized proletariat; that there is a continuing revolution that needs only men to quicken it." Commentary reviewer David Donald found Lynd's book "subtle and scholarly," and he declared that it "will abundantly satisfy any serious student of American thought."

In the early 1970s Lynd published such works as The Resistance, in which he provided a history of the 1960s antiwar movement, and Strategy and Two Essays towards a New Program: American Socialism, where he outlined his ideas about developing socialism in America. By the middle of the decade, however, he determined that he might more effectively promote his sociopolitical humanitarianism by practicing law. He earned his law degree at the University of Chicago and soon began working for a private firm in Youngstown, Ohio, a steel-mill community. But the firm fired him in 1978 after he published Labor Law for the Rank and Filer, which counseled readers on solving workplace problems.

Lynd rebounded from the dismissal by joining the federal Legal Services Corporation (LSC), which offers aid to needy individuals involved in non-criminal lawsuits. With the LSC, Lynd is probably best known for his involvement in Ohio steelworkers' efforts to prevent the closing of various plants. In 1982 Lynd published The Fight against Shutdowns: Youngstown's Steel Mill Closings, which a Nation critic praised as "a magnificent document of history in the making."

Lynd added to his work in labor relations with the 1973 title Rank and File: Personal Histories by Working-class Organizers, edited with his wife, Alice Lynd, and twenty-seven years later revisited the topic with his updated The New Rank and File, again edited with his wife. The original book was the result of meeting with regular workers and recording their memories of the labor unrest of the 1930s and the 1940s. The resulting Rank and File was a "classic," according to Media Beat reviewer Jeremy Brecher, who went on to note that the book "presented a picture radically different from that found in the conventional labor histories of that time." Specifically, Brecher wrote, "it showed that, without regard to what was going on in union offices, workers had organized themselves on the job during the 1930s and 1940s to affect the conditions they faced."

Over the quarter century between Rank and File and The New Rank and File, much had changed in the labor sector. Real wages had actually diminished, union membership was down, and major strikes seemed to be a thing of the past. The Lynds once again interviewed activists among the rank and file of workers for the updated version, which shows, as Brecher observed, that "under the surface, invisible to the media, in the workplace where most people spend so much of their lives, the class struggle continues." The Lynds demonstrate a sort of independent organization among workers that has even crossed over from the industrial to the new service economy. The editors also include stories of individual activists, some whom are in both books. These tales tell of direct action at the workplace in the absence of strong unions, and of a long-held tradition of labor self-organization in the workplace. Brecher went on to write that The New Rank and File "includes dozens of accounts of collective action on the job, embedded in the life stories of those who participated in them." Lynd also includes some data on foreign workers. The same critic found the book important because "the lessons people learn in their daily life struggles are unlikely to be passed on in schools, let alone in the media." Doug Smith, writing in Canadian Dimensions, noted that The New Rank and File is "an oral history, with all of that genre's virtues and vices." Smith went on to term the book "inspirational" and praised the Lynds for reminding readers "that we owe a debt to both to the past, and to the people in the trenches today."

Lynd also serves as editor for the essays gathered in We Are All Leaders: The Alternative Unionism of the Early 1930s, a work that furthers Lynd's studies of the labor upheavals of the 1930s. The book includes nine essays that deal with aspects of labor from the Pennsylvania coal mines to longshoremen in California. Writing in the Journal of Social History, Joseph A. McCartin typified the book as "an effort to capture the experience of labor's rank-and-file." The overwhelming conclusion of the gathered essays is a strong condemnation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), finding it overly bureaucratic and unrepresentative of the rank-and-file workers. "No recent work of history has delivered a harsher verdict on the CIO than Lynd advances here," noted McCartin. Reviewing the same work in Labour/Le Travail, Martin Glaberman commented: "The importance of this book cannot be overemphasized, not because the same forms will reappear in the future, but because the source of future change lies with a rank-and-file, organized and unorganized, that can create new forms of organization."

In Living inside Our Hope, Lynd gathers a dozen autobiographical essays published between the 1970s and the new millennium, dealing with everything from socialism to Lynd's Quaker beliefs and a recollection of his sociologist parents. Booklist contributor Mary Carroll lauded this collection as "an essential reminder that despite media stereotypes and noisy ex-radicals …, some of those who challenged ‘the American way’ 25 years ago continue to take the promise of ‘liberty and justice for all’ quite seriously." Similarly, Library Journal contributor Kent Worcester thought Living inside Our Hope was "a provocative defense of ethically informed radicalism with a labor movement twist." Reviewing the same title in the Nation, Paul Buhle observed: "Staughton Lynd, although he would never admit it, is one of the visible saints of the modern American left. His life has been full of determined idealism, small kindnesses and self-abnegation." Of this collection of essays, Buhle concluded that Lynd's "example, at once political, intellectual and even spiritual, continues to inspire. Staughton Lynd is the proof of his own words, and no others can expect to live better than that inside their own hope." A Publishers Weekly reviewer termed the work a "valuable resource for new generations of ‘long distance runners’ as well as for anyone interested in social change."

Lynd looks at the justice system in Lucasville, in which he investigates the case of five prison inmates on death row in Ohio for supposedly organizing the killings of prison informers and a guard during a 1993 prison uprising. Lynd places blame for the deadly uprising on the pitiful prison conditions, noting that conditions had to be bad for black and white prisoners, who were otherwise enemies, to rise up together against the prison system. Library Journal reviewer Frances Sandiford noted that Lucasville would be "of interest to anyone who follows prison politics or the often enigmatic workings of the justice system." Higher praise came from Historian reviewer Donna J. Spindel, who concluded: "In the end this is a very worthy study because it raises significant questions … about the American prison system as a whole."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Calabrese, Len, Visions of History, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1983.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, June 1, 1997, Mary Carroll, review of Living inside Our Hope: A Steadfast Radical's Thoughts on Rebuilding the Movement, p. 1629.

Canadian Dimension, September, 2001, Doug Smith, "History—of the Inspirational Kind," p. 47.

Commonweal, October 13, 1967, Jonathan Eisen, review of The Other Side; January 17, 1969, David Donald, review of Intellectual Origins of American Radicalism.

Historian, winter, 1999, Melvyn Dubofsky, review of We Are All Leaders: The Alternative Unionism of the Early 1930s, p. 426; spring, 2006, Donna J. Spindel, review of Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising, p. 145.

Journal of Social History, spring, 1998, Joseph A. McCartin, review of We Are All Leaders.

Labor Studies Journal, fall, 1998, Martin Comak, review of Living inside Our Hope, p. 103.

Labour/Le Travail, fall, 1998, review of We Are All Leaders; spring, 2002, Nico Pizzolato, review of The New Rank and File.

Library Journal, April 15, 1997, Kent Worcester, review of Living inside Our Hope, p. 103; October 1, 2000, Paula R. Dempsey, review of The New Rank and File, p. 130; August, 2004, Frances Sandiford, review of Lucasville, p. 98.

Middle East Policy, March, 1996, Ronald Bleier, review of Homeland: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians, p. 180.

Monthly Review, April, 1994, Jane Slaughter, "Our Kind of Marxist: An Interview with Staughton Lynd," p. 47; January, 1998, Martin Glaberman, review of Living inside Our Hope, p. 58.

Nation, December 25, 1982, review of The Fight against Shutdowns: Youngstown's Steel Mill Closings, p. 695; June 9, 1997, Paul Buhle, review of Living inside Our Hope, p. 30.

New Republic, April 8, 1967, Ronald Steele, review of The Other Side; July 20, 1968, review of Intellectual Origins of American Radicalism.

New York Review of Books, September 26, 1968, Eugene D. Genovese, review of Class Conflict, Slavery, and the United States Constitution.

New York Times, May 20, 1968, Thomas Lask, review of Intellectual Origins of American Radicalism, p. 45; August 9, 1969.

Oral History Review, summer, 1997, Ilham Abu-Ghazaleh, review of Homeland, p. 130; June 22, 2000, Mildred Allen Beik, review of We Are All Leaders, p. 210; winter-spring, 2003, Paul Ortiz, review of The New Rank and File, p. 138.

Progressive, October, 1995, Colman McCarthy, review of Nonviolence in America: A Documentary History, p. 42.

Publishers Weekly, April 21, 1997, review of Living inside Our Hope, p. 52.

ONLINE

Media Beat,http://www.zmag.org/ (March 15, 2008), Jeremy Brecher, review of The New Rank and File.

Public Broadcasting Service Web site,http://www.pbs.org/ (March 15, 2008), "Staughton Lynd Interview."

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