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Dynamite: The Story of Class Violence in America


5.0 average, based on 1 reviews

Manufacturer: AK Press

Product Information

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.

This AK Press edition of Adamic's revised 1934 version of Dynamite, includes a new foreword by professor and labor organizer Jon Bekken, who offers a critical overview of the work that underlines its contemporary relevance.

Louis Adamic emigrated from Slovenia when he was fifteen years old and quickly joined the American labor force. Interspersing stints of manual labor with writing for Slovenian and English-language newspapers, he went on to receive a Guggenheim fellowship and to author of eleven books. He is now recognized as a great figure in early twentieth-century American literature. He was found shot to death in a burning farmhouse in 1954.

Jon Bekken is co-author of The Industrial Workers of the World: Its First 100 Years (IWW 2006), and coeditor of Radical Economics and Labor: Essays Inspired by the IWW Centennial (Routledge, 2009). He is associate professor of communications at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania, a former General Secretary-Treasurer of the Industrial Workers of the World, and a member of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Review editorial collective.

AK Press, 2008.

"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!

"Adamic's Dynamite is a classic, written with the verve and perspective of an author who was a first-hand observer and participant in many of the struggles he chronicles. And it is a powerful reminder that class struggle in America has always been pursued with ferocity and intensity. With all the book's strengths and weaknesses, outlined in a perceptive foreword by Jon Bekken, it remains a foundational text for those who wish to understand the world...and to change it."

—Mark Leier, director of the Centre for Labour Studies at Simon Fraser University

"Highly readable and packed with information, Dynamite is a brilliant introduction to the history of American class warfare. Essential reading itself, the book will inspire a new generation of activists to continue to seek out, and explore, working class organization and history."

—Barry Pateman, Associate Editor, The Emma Goldman Papers

"DYNAMITE! Of all the good stuff, that is the stuff! Stuff several pounds of this sublime stuff into an inch pipe...plug up both ends, insert a cap with a fuse attached, place this in the immediate vicinity of a lot of rich loafers who live by the sweat of other people's brows, and light the fuse. A most cheerful and gratifying result will follow. In giving dynamite to the downtrodden millions of the globe science has done its best work..." —from Alarm, 21 February 1885

Product Code: 9781904859741

Customer Reviews

Average Rating: 5

Land of opportunity?

This book is required reading for all interested in American history, especially if you have been subjected to a course at any level of the education system that focuses on the ‘culture war’ to the expense of the class war in America and gives the impression that American history was some kind of jolly jaunt. Adamic sheds light on the regularly unflinching use of violence by the American ruling class in its history (it really is quite shocking) and the retaliatory use of guns and dynamite by the workers. In this he contextualises and examines why the American working class used violence to such an extent. For example in the face of dreadful working and living conditions there were gangs amongst some immigrants who would attack and sometimes kill employers. It goes on to examine the role of the mainstream unions like the Knights of Labour and American Federation of Labour and the relationship between small scale, illegal organised crime, mainstream unions and large scale, legal organised crime in the form of bosses attacking workers pay and conditions. On the flip side Adamic's views do seem pretty reformist at times by, for example, calling for capitalism to be reformed. This, however, does not negatively affect the outstanding quality of the work. As such this book is required reading that is well complemented by the full edition of Upton Sinclair’s ‘The Jungle’ published by See Sharp Press and the classic Howard Zinn’s ‘Peoples History of the United States’. Highly recommended.

Anonymous :: May 24 2010, 20:44 PM

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