The Story of Class Violence in America
By Louis Adamic
Foreward by Jon Bekken
The history of labor in the United States is a story of almost continuous violence. In Dynamite, Louis Adamic recounts one century of that history in vivid, carefully researched detail. Covering both well- and lesser-known events—from the riots of immigrant workers in the second quarter of the nineteenth century to the formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO)—he gives precise, and often brutal, meaning to the term “class war.”
As its title suggests, Dynamite refuses to sugarcoat the explosive and bloody legacy of the US labor movement. While quite clear that the causes of class violence lay with both the nature of capitalism and the specific policies of US industrialists, Adamic offers no apologies for the violent tactics workers employed in response. When peaceful strikes failed to yield results, working men and women fought back by any means necessary. The violent methods they used were often the only way that social injustices—from “ordinary” exploitation to massacres and judicial murder—could become visible, let alone be addressed.
“A young immigrant with a vivid interest in labor—and the calluses to prove his knowledge was more than academic—Louis Adamic provided a unique, eyes-open-wide view of American labor history and indeed of American society. Dynamite was the first history of American labor ever written for a popular audience. While delineating the book’s limitations, Jon Bekken’s foreword also makes clear for today’s readers its continuing significance.”—Jeremy Brecher, historian and author of Strike!
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