cover dictionary-copy.jpg courtesy of Tom Hynds
If only I were certain, to which the word ‘Left’ in the line “Many on the Left…” refers to (writers of the New Left Review? or the ‘left’ a political generalization?) I would commit to an opinion, that ‘No Scabs’ by The Charnel-House blog is not only a great literally and historical essay, but will turn the dictionary establishment upside down, with this epic definition to and fascinating history lesson of a long understood word. I will be challenged to think of ‘scab’ in the same way again, and perhaps, may begin to question the use of all words.
In the history of modern class struggle, those who cross picket lines to fill jobs temporarily vacated by workers on strike are known as “scabs.” Scabs are thus low-cost replacement workers, whose willingness to work for less allows employers to starve out the more organized regular workforce. They are therefore looked down upon, understandably, and treated with disdain. Not all strikebreakers are scabs, however. Company muscle, whether made up of mafiosos or Pinkerton men, are typically deployed in order to clear pickets and escort scabs into work.
Many today on the Left, either unaccustomed to labor disputes or unschooled in their past, are confused by the term “scab.” For example, Sebastian Budgen — an editor for Verso, New Left Review, and Historical Materialism, formerly a member of the SWP in Britain — has writtenfrothy diatribesagainst anyone who illegally downloads books published by his company (er, I…
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