The Anarchists, the Knights of Labor, and the Haymarket Affair : The Impact ofthe Haymarket Affair on the Decline ofthe Knights of Labor in the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries
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The Knights of Labor, for all their shortcomings and however brief their period of activity, nonetheless represented an important phase in American labor history. They were one of the first major unions welcome to unskilled workers and women. They were instrumental in helping attract attention and energy to the eight-hour movement, even without the full support of their own leaders. Nevertheless, the pressure brought about by the Haymarket Affair and the ensuing red scare wreaked havoc on the organization. The victories in the eight-hour movement were undone, and attempts to combat this did not go well. Attempts to retain membership and attract new members had failed. Elements of the movement, not limited to those who fully believed in anarchism and socialism, became alienated by the leadership's lackluster support for the eight accused. Radical elements of the movement continued to move in a different direction. The group's persistent nativist streak alienated a potential new base of support, allowing both the AF Land radical organizations to draw from a much larger potential base of support. While the Knights of Labor represented an important step forward for the labor movement, they simply were not equipped to survive the changes, tension, and upheaval that followed the Haymarket Affair.
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