Feature

Turkel’s unreconstructed socialism

Studs Turkel hasn’t grown mellow with age, says Robert Chalmers in the London Independent. The author and interviewer, now 95, has been a socialist and champion of the working man since his boyhood in Chicago, and he often dispenses his tart opinions to p

From the magazine

Studs Turkel hasn’t grown mellow with age, says Robert Chalmers in the London Independent. The author and interviewer, now 95, has been a socialist and champion of the working man since his boyhood in Chicago, and he often dispenses his tart opinions to people he meets on the street. One day, while waiting for the bus, he was chatting to people standing alongside him.  This one couple ignores me completely,  Turkel says.  He’s wearing Gucci shoes and carrying The Wall Street Journal. She’s a looker. Neiman Marcus clothes. Vanity Fair under her arm. So I told them, ‘Tomorrow is Labor Day, the holiday to honor the unions.’ This guy gives me the kind of look Noël Coward might have given the bug on his sleeve. ‘We despise unions.’ I ask, ‘How many hours do you work a day?’ He tells me eight. ‘How come you don’t work 18 hours a day, like your grandparents?’ He can’t answer that. ‘Because four men got hanged for you.’ I explain that I’m referring to the Haymarket Affair, the union dispute here in Chicago in 1886.  Turkel went on to tell the man that he worked five days a week, and not six, only because of the  Memorial Day massacre  of striking workers in 1937.  These battles,  he told the man,  were fought for you.  Turkel has never seen the couple at the bus stop again; he imagines them thinking every time they pass it,  ‘Is that old nut still there?’  He laughs.  And who can blame them?

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