Front Page Titles (by Subject) Spencer and Comte in American Labor Thought - Literature of Liberty, Summer 1980, vol. 3, No. 2
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Spencer and Comte in American Labor Thought - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Summer 1980, vol. 3, No. 2 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Spencer and Comte in American Labor Thought
“The Spencerian and Comtian Nexus in Gompers's Labor Philosophy: The Impact of Non-Marxian Evolutionary Thought.” Labor History 20(Fall 1979): 510–523.
Cotkin disputes the two claims that labor leader Samuel Gompers's (1850–1924) early development was influenced by Marxism or that he was a pragmatist. Though Gompers's class society analysis and the support for a working class organization was Marxian-inspired, historians have neglected the influence of Henry McGregor and Frank Foster on Gompers's development in the late nineteenth century. McGregor was a Comtian; Foster was a Spencerian who flirted with anarchism. Despite their differences, both espoused non-Marxian evolutionary views which disparaged politics. Gompers derived theoretical guidance from his close intellectual contact with both men.
To see Foster's and McGregor's influence, we can examine their views in relation to Gompers's on the role of the state and legislation and on the possibility of progress through the trade unions.
Foster's theory of trade unionism stressed the individual and rejected the state. In 1894 he opposed a bill limiting working hours, though he did favor child labor laws and child compulsory education because children were unable to protect themselves. Gompers held similar positions but both he and Foster denounced state charity in Spencerian language. Gompers was particularly incensed at the idea of the state setting a “fair” wage; he also thought state compulsory arbitration would weaken strong unions and make the weak unions accept poor agreements.
Foster believed that state interference retarded progress. He saw progress growing out of the trade union movement, for it emerged organically from the people who had to sell their labor to survive. Gompers used very similar language to oppose a compulsory arbitration law in New Zealand: the government, said Gompers, was trying to stem a natural phenomenon—struggle. Gompers did turn to the government before World War I, but (he wrote to Foster) it was under the pressure by the left wing of the movement.
As for McGregor, he frequently lectured on how history progressed through oppressed classes using different and more potent weapons than those of the class it was revolting against. On this view, the working class could only fail in the political realm. Gompers undoubtedly attended these lectures, since he was very familiar with their site, the New York City Positivist community of Comtians. McGregor believed that the labor organizations would triumph in the (Comtian) industrial stage of human development but to do so required unity and slow change. Gompers led his American Federation of Labor by these two principles (minus the Comtian rhetoric). Gompers's basic philosophy was that the labor union was a progressive force but only if it moved slowly and stayed out of politics.