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Steinbeck's "In Dubious Battle" (1936) was written before his landmark novel "The Grapes of Wrath" (1939). Both novels have strong parallels. One of the running themes is the struggle between Capitalism and the working man. For the fruit pickers in California, the profit motive has little conscience. The migrant fruit pickers must work long hours picking fruit for little more than to feed their families. Capitalism justifies this by citing market demands and high unemployment. The Communist party of America tries to incite the workers to form unions and strike. Workers who crossed the line and worked despite the strike were called scabs. I believe this term is still used today.