When Workers Shot Back
Class Conflict from 1877 to 1921
By Robert Ovetz
When Workers Shot Back: Class Conflict from 1877 to 1921 explores one of the most tumultuous times in United States history. Self-organized workers recomposed their power by devising new strategies and tactics to disrupt the capitalist economy and extract concessions. Mine, railroad, steel, and iron workers pursued a strategy of tension that sometimes erupted into militant class conflict and general strikes in which workers took over and ran a number of cities. Turning conventional wisdom on its head, When Workers Shot Back argues that the escalation of working-class conflict drives rather than reacts to the consolidation and reorganization of capital and economic and political reform of the state. Studying the class composition of this period illustrates why workers escalated the intensity of their tactics, even using tactical violence, to extract concessions and reforms when all other efforts to do so were blocked, co-opted, or repressed.
“When Workers Shot Back is a revelatory and illuminating account of the uses of political violence by workers in American history that contributes to understanding a crucial historical and social legacy of the American labor movement.”—Immanuel Ness, editor of New Forms of Worker Organization
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