Strike! - Jeremy Brecher

Strike! - Jeremy Brecher

In possibly the best book on the American working class movement ever written, Jeremy Brecher narrates the hidden history of mass strikes from 1877 to 1970 from the point of view of the workers themselves.

Attached in PDF format is the 1972 version of this book. We heartily recommend readers buy this book - a revised version was published in 1999.

AttachmentSize
strike-Jeremy-Brecher.pdf15.5 MB
Jeremy_Brecher_Strike.epub330.07 KB

Comments

Chilli Sauce
Apr 22 2013 11:17

Don't know why it's anonymous, but big thanks to whoever posted this.

petey
Apr 22 2013 12:52

an excellent resource but i got so angry reading it that i had to put it down.

Alaric Malgraith
Apr 22 2013 13:46

A new revised and expanded edition should be coming out next year.

NannerNannerNan...
Apr 22 2013 13:50

Dead to rights! I was looking for this book!

Oh, and we're communists, if we're not getting angry at history than there's something wrong

mons
Apr 22 2013 15:02

Yeah this is amazing! The foreword - from memory anyway - is pretty much the best succinct summary of communist politics I've read.

Steven.
May 23 2013 19:13

Noticed two pages from this are missing. Will correct shortly.

iexist
Aug 25 2013 01:27

Is it only 4 chapters

Chilli Sauce
Aug 25 2013 07:26

Good point. The .pdf, however, is the full thing.

If you haven't read this iexist, I can't recommend it enough. I think it might actually be better than A People's History.

Steven.
Aug 25 2013 12:21
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Good point. The .pdf, however, is the full thing.

yeah, the rest of it is going up slowly, as doing the OCR is very time-consuming, especially as there are so many footnotes.

Quote:

If you haven't read this iexist, I can't recommend it enough. I think it might actually be better than A People's History.

I think it is definitely better than A People's history in terms of the struggles of mostly white, male workers in US since the 1870s. However there is hardly anything in it about the struggles of Native Americans, and women and black workers.

Now I don't think this is particularly damning criticism given the scope of the book, which is looking at mass strikes in the US since the 1870s, which were mostly by white, male workers, but I think it does mean that A People's history does cover vitally important additional stuff, so I don't think you can do a straight up comparison saying one is better than the other overall.

Chilli Sauce
Aug 25 2013 13:21

Fair points, Steven. In making that statement, I was thinking more that Brecher gives a deeper analysis and has a bit more developed critical framework when it comes to unions, self-organisation, etc.

Steven.
Aug 25 2013 15:56
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Fair points, Steven. In making that statement, I was thinking more that Brecher gives a deeper analysis and has a bit more developed critical framework when it comes to unions, self-organisation, etc.

yeah, that is true as well, I should have mentioned that

Hieronymous
Aug 25 2013 16:47
Steven. wrote:
Now I don't think this is particularly damning criticism given the scope of the book, which is looking at mass strikes in the US since the 1870s, which were mostly by white, male workers,

Comrade, in all due respect, this isn't accurate.

From Chapter 1 on "The Great Upheaval" Brecher talks about how the strike was sparked and then propelled across the continent because its interracial character (with African Americans, Native Americans and immigrants prominently involved in the general strike that created the "St. Louis Commune"). For example:

p. 50 wrote:
Coal miners and other -- "a motley crowd, white and black" -- halted a train guarded by fifty U.S. regulars after it pulled out of Martinsburg.

Chapter 2:

p. 28 wrote:
The one great sentiment embodied in the Knights of Labor was the idea of solidarity among all workers, whether white or black, skilled or unskilled, men or women.

Chapter 4. The strike of textiles workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts who were mostly young women immigrants:

p. 115 wrote:
Russians... Italians, Poles, Lithuanians, Greeks, Ukrainians, Syrians, Franco-Belgians, Finns, and ... Germans

Chapter 5:

p. 145 wrote:
The [Unemployed] Councils' weapon is democratic force of numbers... to eliminate through publicity and pressure discrimination between Negroes and white persons, or against the foreign born...

Brecher was in the U.S. council communist group Root & Branch when he wrote Strike!, so throughout the book the theme of class unity -- across divisive lines of race, ethnicity, gender, native vs. immigrant, etc. -- is clear. I'm my opinion, it was his attempt to apply Rosa Luxemburg's method for The Mass Strike to the breadth of the working class history of the U.S.

If I were to suggest books to read about class war in the U.S., I would put Strike! first, followed by Adamic's Dynamite, but Zinn's excellent People's History would be further down the list. Zinn does a fine job covering social movements, but his class analysis isn't as sharp as either Brecher or Adamic's.

Again, the title of the book is Strike! and it doesn't purport to cover social movements that were no less important than the many mass strikes, general strikes, and wildcats that occurred in the U.S. since 1870 (strikes in that period numbered around 300,000 overall -- a fact that has often been underplayed by the Left when it still said American workers were "bought off"). So the historical context of when he first wrote it in 1972 is important. The left was running around calling cool things juche to give props to Kim Il Sung and the Workers' Paradise of North Korea, when they weren't chanting "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Mihn, the NLF is gonna win!" in homage to Ho Chi Mihn (which in hindsight we learned had been executing their political enemies, be they Trots or other leftists, in proper Stalinist fashion in Ngo Van's amazing In the Crossfire: Adventures of a Vietnamese Revolutionary). There was still an extremely strong anti-American "my enemy's [the U.S.] enemy is my friend" dogma in the Left. So nearly every despotic Third World dictator who spouted anti-Yankee rhetoric came in for hero worship. So the class analysis and documentation of working class self-activity (in the George Rawick sense) in Strike! is a healthy corrective to all that statist, anti-intellectual "People's Power" ideology of the time.

Steven.
Aug 25 2013 23:24
Hieronymous wrote:
Steven. wrote:
Now I don't think this is particularly damning criticism given the scope of the book, which is looking at mass strikes in the US since the 1870s, which were mostly by white, male workers,

Comrade, in all due respect, this isn't accurate.

From Chapter 1 on "The Great Upheaval" Brecher talks about how the strike was sparked and then propelled across the continent because its interracial character (with African Americans, Native Americans and immigrants prominently involved in the general strike that created the "St. Louis Commune"). For example:…

I have read this book a couple of times previously, and have just re-read most of it in the last few weeks. I know there are a good few excellent examples where he does talk about strikes of women workers, or the activity of the wives of male strikers, or areas where workers united across racial lines - or didn't and lost as a result. But, the majority of the book is about mostly white males. But as I said, I don't think this is problematic necessarily as the majority of wage workers at the time were white males.

I agree with you that his point about class unity across racial and gender lines etc is clear in the book - I didn't say it wasn't, and in general I'm a big fan of Root & Branch, hence why I have put so much of it in the library here.

Steven.
Aug 25 2013 23:29

On this note, we did add one critical footnote to this text in the prologue after this first paragraph:

Quote:
Visiting the United States in 1831, the French traveller Alexis de Tocqueville was impressed above all by the equality which marked life in America. The great majority of Americans were farmers working their own land, primarily for their own needs. Most of the rest were self-employed artisans, merchants, traders, and professionals. Other classes -employees and industrialists in the North, slaves and planters in the South-were relatively small. The great majority of Americans were independent and free from anybody's command.

as this does seem to brush over things like the subjugation of women, the genocide of Native Americans, etc. Again, in general I think this is an excellent text and one of my favourite books but I don't think it's flawless.

Steven.
Sep 12 2013 22:17
iexist wrote:
Is it only 4 chapters

This is now complete!

Only thing which remains is that the PDF has a few pages missing. This will soon be sorted.

Following on from my earlier comments which may have seemed like criticisms, but which won't really, the latter parts of the book which I have just re-read from the present day (i.e. the 1970s) onwards talk a lot about race and gender.

It really is such an important book!

Tyrion
Sep 13 2013 06:10

Thanks for getting up a non-pdf version, Steven! Would anyone be able to convert this into an epub/mobi with a working table of contents?

syndicalist
Sep 26 2013 13:58

Just as an FYI....when I FB liked the book, a picture of Che appears along with the book info

Tyrion
Sep 26 2013 16:40

Much thanks to whoever put up the epub!

iexist
Dec 7 2014 21:46

I remember chili saying the 1999 version was weaker politically than the 1972 version. Is this true?

Juan Conatz
Dec 7 2014 22:12

His politics, like most of the Root & Branch group, ended up as a kind of labor left type mishmash of radical liberalism and social democracy. The revised edition reflects this change in political orientation if I remember correctly.