The Long Deep Grudge
A powerful account of the epic clash between corporate greed and militant workers in the American heartland.
A Story of Big Capital, Radical Labor, and Class War in the American Heartland
By Toni Gilpin
This rich history details the bitter, deep-rooted conflict between industrial behemoth International Harvester and the uniquely radical Farm Equipment Workers union. The Long Deep Grudge makes clear that class warfare has been, and remains, integral to the American experience, providing up-close-and-personal and long-view perspectives from both sides of the battle lines.
International Harvester – and the McCormick family that largely controlled it – garnered a reputation for bare-knuckled union-busting in the 1880s, but in the 20th century also pioneered sophisticated union-avoidance techniques that have since become standard corporate practice. On the other connected to the Communist Party, mounted a vociferous challenge to the cooperative ethos that came to define the American labor movement after World War II.
This evocative account, stretching back to the nineteenth century and carried through to the present, reads like a novel. Biographical sketches of McCormick family members, union officials and rank-and-file workers are woven into the narrative, along with anarchists, jazz musicians, Wall Street financiers, civil rights crusaders, and mob lawyers. It touches on pivotal moments and movements as wide-ranging as the Haymarket “riot,” the Flint sit-down strikes, the Memorial Day Massacre, the McCarthy-era anti-communist purges, and America’s late 20th-century industrial decline.
Both Harvester and the FE are now gone, but this largely forgotten clash helps explain the crisis of yawning inequality now facing US workers, and provides alternative models from the past that can instruct and inspire those engaged in radical, working class struggles today.
“Combining the expertise of a historian, detailed eye of a journalist, and flair of a novelist, Toni Gilpin breathes life into an important and fascinating story that, in lesser hands, could be as dull as dishwater. Gilpin aspires to tell no less a story that the epic battle between a corporate behemoth and the working-class radicals who—for decades—fought it tooth and nail. The plucky, interracial, leftist Farm Equipment workers union that sought to wrest control of the shop floor from the owners and managers of International Harvester is the story of America.”—Peter Cole, co-editor of Wobblies of the World and author of Ben Fletcher: The Life and Times of a Black Wobbly
“Toni Gilpin’s The Long Deep Grudge is a remarkable accomplishment, which succeeds on multiple levels. The definitive history of an important but largely forgotten labor organization and its heroic struggles with an icon of industrial capitalism, this book is also a compelling and deeply moving reflection on the tragic history of radical industrial unionism in Twentieth Century America. It is essential reading for anyone who truly wishes to understand the history of labor and class struggle in this country.”—Ahmed White, author of Under the Iron Heel: The Wobblies and the Capitalist War on Radical Workers
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