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A Catholic Perspective on Capitalism and Economic Democracy: Edward M. Marciniak's Advocacy for Justice

Charles Shanabruch


Edward M. Marciniak (1917-2004) was a labor activist and crusader for justice who left his mark on Catholic social action in his native Chicago and beyond. What began as a personal response to depression-era problems evolved into a vocation to challenge the systemic causes of social and economic injustice. He built on his experiences as a Catholic Worker to found the Catholic Labor Alliance in Chicago and dedicated himself to educating workers, employers, and public officials to undertake economic reforms. While he recognized the failures of communism, he did not substitute anti-communism for patriotism. Rather he called for an economic justice that recognized the rights of workers and those of management as an alternative to the unrestricted individualism of American capitalism. His solution was to support economic democracy, often known as the Industrial Council Plan, wherein the interests of workers, management, and government were balanced in a partnership aimed at the common good. As leader of Catholic Labor Alliance and editor of its paper, Work, he was not unique in Catholic social action. However, his blend of idealism and realism, grounded by life in the labor movement trenches and daily rubbing shoulders with the victims of injustice was uncommon. This realism with his constancy and drive made him a voice to be reckoned with in Catholic social action.