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Abstract

The decade of the sixties witnessed a resurgence of radical or leftist movements in the United States as manifested in the political activism of college students, civil rights organizations, community groups and others. Today, in the post-Vietnam era of the seventies, the fires of the New Left appear to have been dampened. But even though these groups may be less visible and vocal today, it would be a mistake to think that their ideas are no longer of interest to certain segments of our society. Some contemporary New Left groups, while outwardly rejecting dramatic Marxist revolutionary tactics have instead engaged in grass-roots organizing efforts at the community level.

What follows is an analysis of one such New Left organization, Western Massachusetts Labor Action (WMLA), an affiliate of the National Labor Federation (NATLFED). Prior literature regarding NATLFED and its branch associations ("entities") has been descriptive of the organization, but heavily propagandistic (National Labor Federation, 1976; Leggett and Mouldner, 1976). Here, we attempt a critical examination of WMLA both as a representative entity of NATLFED and as an example of an independent effort to organize the poor. The essential question addressed is the manner in which grass-roots, community-based groups can best organize the poor to improve their living conditions in American society.

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