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The purposes of an interview, expressed and implied, conscious and unconscious, also influence and shape the narrative itself. For a generation, social historians worked to shift the focus of historical inquiry away from party politics and public life towards an understanding of the everyday lives of ordinary people. As a result, their interviews are often rich with detail about work and family, neighborhood and church, but include little about the workings of local power. Interviews are also often exercises in historical resuscitation, efforts to revive popular memory about a subject precisely at that moment when it is about to slip away-hence the enormous number of interviews done in the 1960s and 1970s with pre-World War I immigrants. Hence too the more recent spate of interviewing projects on World War II, the holocaust, and the civil rights movement. These interviews often have a valorizing quality-the passion to remember, the pleasure of remembering serving as a filter to what is actually remembered, even as narrators also confront loss, disappointment, and unmet goals. Community-based oral history projects, often seeking to enhance feelings of local identity and pride, tend to side step more difficult and controversial aspects of a community's history, as interviewer and narrator collude to present the community's best face. More practically, narrators whose interviews are intended for web publication, with a potential audience of millions, are perhaps more likely to exercise a greater degree of self-censorship than those whose interviews will be placed in an archive, accessible only to scholarly researchers. Personal motives too can color an interview. An interviewer who admires the interviewee may well fail to ask challenging questions out of deference and respect; a narrator seeking to enhance a public reputation may well deflect an area of inquiry that threatens to tarnish it.

The following passages are excerpts from two different interviews with Stella Nowicki for different purposes. Ms. Nowicki organized workers in the meat packing industry during the 1930s. Read each excerpt, then take the quiz below.

Excerpt One
SN: Some woman was in the floor below, this was where they made the hotdogs. She would have to push the meat in and whatever and stuff, and she pushed something and the machine was going, the chopper, and it took her fingers tips off, you know. This friend of ours she said something, well how could they do this, they should have safety guards, you know, because we talked about safety also. Well the people after this accident and they were horrified but they figured they couldn't do anything. Well that night a bunch of us got together and we wrote out a leaflet on this and came out with certain demands. And asked the women not to operate those machines until the company assured us that there would be safeguards. The whole plant heard about it. Here's this bunch of women actually organized and stuck together, you know, and they went right up to the foreman and swore and said, you know, in Polish, whatever, English, you know "We don't work, you fix the machines, put safety guards on, you know, something . . .

S.N. I was getting together with these other people, young folk. By the way they were all young. And saying, well here the CIO was taking, they're organizing, and the sit-down in Flint. The steel workers are organizing, automobile workers are organizing. We want to organize too.

Q. At this time did you see yourself as a radical or a . . .

S.N. Oh sure, sure, because I wasn't about to do housework or anything else, because now I was convinced I became a dedicated radical. You know, working with these friends whom I liked and respected very much. It made a lot of sense, you know.

Q. Do you think very many of the people who were involved then in organizing the early CIO were also socialists?

S.N. Most of them were, I think. Most were dedicated or had sympathies in that direction.

Q. What would a socialist society mean to working people?

S.N. Well basically, a socialist society would mean that the means of production would be owned by them and that the fruits of their labor would be divided on a more equitable basis than it was.

Excerpt Two
S.N. We started talking union. The thing that precipitated it is that on the floor below they used to make hotdogs and one of the women, in putting the meat into the chopper, got her fingers caught. There were no safety guards. Her fingers got into the hotdogs and they were chopped off. It was horrible.

Three of us "colonizers" had a meeting during our break and decided this was the time to have a stoppage and we did. (Colonizers were people sent by the YCL [Young communist League] or CP [Communist Party] into points of industrial concentration that the CP had designated. These included mass basic industries: steel, mining, packing, and railroad. The colonizers were like red missionaries. They were expected to do everything possible to keep jobs and organize for many years.) All six floors went on strike. We said, "Sit, stop." And we had a sit-down. We just stopped working right inside the building, protesting the speed and the unsafe conditions. We thought that people's fingers shouldn't go into the machine, that it was an outrage. The women got interested in the union. . .

I remember one of the first big CP meetings when we had William Foster come to talk. The hall wasn't big enough. Somebody had gotten hold of a loudspeaker (they were very difficult to get in those days) and we hooked that up so that people could hear down the steps and into the street.

We had a YCL/CP unit. (There weren't enough people in either the YCL or the CP to meet separately and so we met together, younger and older people.) We would have meetings and marches and classes on Marxism and Leninism. We would write articles on the history of Marxism and Leninism which we would then discuss. These would go into The Yards' Worker. We asked the old time friends of Bill Foster from the different plants for news of what was going on.

EXCERPT ONE: What do you think the purpose of this interview might have been?
family record
documentary film for broad distribution
labor studies book
union archive

EXCERPT TWO: What do you think the purpose of this interview might have been?
family record
documentary film for broad distribution
labor studies book
union archive

Once you have both answers right, click for an explanation.