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Dynamite: The Story of Class Violence In America Paperback – December 18, 2008
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As strikes and "riots" are often portrayed in the media as unprovoked violence against the employers or scab workers, and haphazard destruction of the employers' properties, Adamic will not let the reader ignore that in many (most?) cases, it is the the monopolists and the concentrated Big Business who are directly responsible for the opening salvo (i.e., hired thugs to bust the strikes, agents provocateurs, corrupt politicians, etc.). He also notes that while many attempts at labor organizing were demonized and even prosecuted as illegal interference with commerce, etc., the duplicitous nature of the American legal system often ignored equally heinous interference with commerce when done on behalf of organized Big Business.
Adamic is unabashedly anti-capitalist, so his character descriptions tend to favor the champions of labor, and make the enemies of labor seem characteristically repugnant. That said, he keeps a fairly even keel and is not afraid to highlight labors shortcomings, infightings, especially weak leadership, a "We'll get ours and damn the rest" mentality, failures of the AFL as well as the politicking and racketeering scandals which plagued early labor organizations and it would seem, doomed them for the future.
Although he does not explicitly endorse "dynamite" as a means to achieving labor's goals, I think he is without a doubt sympathetic to its use; at least under certain desperate circumstances the majority of which cannot be blamed on the working classes.
While documenting these and other instances of savage exploitation that led to decades of labor strife, Adamic portrays the shortcomings and errors of labor leaders just as unflinchingly. The struggle to organize labor proceeded by misdirected fits and starts and Adamic candycoats nothing. Contrary to one of the other reviews, neither Adamic nor his book can be construed as "unabashedly anticapitalist." Adamic was quite honest about his biases and stated them up front. His sympathies were with labor, but neither did he "habitually pronounce capitalist with a hiss."
In sum, a classic of labor history, of which no serious student of either labor or history should remain ignorant.
I could bore you to death with support for my argument, but will just say that I have an active interest in the history of the ameican labor between 1870 and 1918 and leave it that. So much that is interesting about the United States happened during that time, and almost NONE of it had to do with national politics. If you think the study of history requires a focus on national policial events, you know little of history.
I picked up Louis adamic's "Dynamite: the history of class violence in america", after learning about its existence while reading about the history of the Los Angeles Times.
This book specifically examines episodes of violence by organized labor against the owning class. I think recent concern over "terrorism" gives this subject heightened interest. The labor movement were "domestic terrorists" way before the term was in vogue.
This book also points to the fondness for violence that lies in the heart of America. America, always violence. Any doubt that a proposensity for violence is "As american as apple pie?" This is a trait that extends from our gun wielding criminals, to our culture taste, to our justice system all the way on up to our deal old President. And mind you, I'm not saying "good" or "bad" about this particular cultural characterstic- it is just fact.
Dynamite! was originally published in 1933 and then republished in 1968. I found a paperback version of the '68 reprint on amazon. It runs about 420 pages. This length is mitigated by the fact that the writing style is "journalistic" and the format of the narrative is anecodtal (I.e. "the next struggle between capital and labor came in 1908 when miners in Wyoming... Etc). Though the language is a tad dated, the journalistic style keeps eveything moving along quickly. Your reference point should be one of those books that is based on a New Yorker article- Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point", for one example.