Labour Research November 2012


Fighting back

The American working class in the 1930s

John Newsinger, Bookmarks, 208 pages, paperback, £12

The story of the American working class in the 1930s is a tale of mass resistance in the face of violence and racism —and governments prepared to overlook the murder of trade unionists, socialists and activists in the interest of protecting capitalism.

The 1920s had been a period of defeat, the ruling class had carefully exploited anti-red propaganda, and companies spent fortunes on powerful, private armies. Murder, beatings and lynchings were not uncommon for those trying to unionise workplaces. Even those who were simply members of a union, or talked of its importance, could find themselves exposed by company spies and on the dole within minutes.

In 1934, three cities were rocked by strikes based around car workers in Toledo, Ohio; truckers in Minneapolis; and dockers in San Francisco.

Workers organised across industry lines, united against the employers, city and federal governments and the police. The revolts were tremendous demonstrations of workers’ power.

This is a detailed account of the period that should be read by trade unionists across the world. There is a wealth of material here to help us today in the current struggles against austerity.

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