Mao in the Mines: An Anti-Systemic View of New Communist Movement Activity in the Appalachian Coalfields, 1962-1978

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Virginia Tech

This thesis deploys world-systems theory to analyze two series of mid-twentieth century wildcat strikes in the Appalachian coalfields: the Eastern Kentucky-based Roving Picket Movement of 1962-1963 and a separate set of unauthorized strikes throughout the region that lasted from 1974-1978, with a particular focus on the Gas Strike of 1974, the strikes surrounding the 1974 Kanawha Country book boycott, and the 1977-1978 contract strike. More specifically, I will examine the New Communist Movement's (NCM) role in these strikes, with special emphasis on the Maoist-inspired Progressive Labor (PL)'s participation in the 1962-1963 strikes and the role of the Miner's Right to Strike Committee (MRSC), a project of the Revolutionary Union/Revolutionary Communist Party in the 1970s wildcats. I argue that PL and the MRSC's divergent experiences demonstrate the shift from the first to the second anti-systemic movement. PL's experience working with the strikers was more typical of the first anti-systemic movement; the MRSC's experience was more typical of the second anti-systemic movement. The two sets of NCM organizers' varying levels of success, different approaches to the New Social Movements, and different interactions with structural forces at play in the world-system all point to the shift in anti-systemic movements.

World-Systems Theory, Anti-Systemic Movements, Internal-Colonization, Appalachia, New Communist Movement, Coal Industry