The St. Louis Commune of 1877

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The St. Louis Commune of 1877

Communism in the Heartland

Mark Kruger

330 pages
6 photographs, 8 illustrations, index

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Paperback

October 2021

978-1-4962-2813-0

$29.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

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October 2021

978-1-4962-2892-5

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eBook (PDF)

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October 2021

978-1-4962-2893-2

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About the Book

Following the Civil War, large corporations emerged in the United States and became intent on maximizing their power and profits at all costs. Political corruption permeated American society as those corporate entities grew and spread across the country, leaving bribery and exploitation in their wake. This alliance between corporate America and the political class came to a screeching halt during the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, when the U.S. workers in the railroad, mining, canal, and manufacturing industries called a general strike against monopoly capitalism and brought the country to an economic standstill.

In The St. Louis Commune of 1877 Mark Kruger tells the riveting story of how workers assumed political control in St. Louis, Missouri. Kruger examines the roots of the St. Louis Commune—focusing on the 1848 German revolution, the Paris Commune, and the First International. Not only was 1877 the first instance of a general strike in U.S. history; it was also the first time workers took control of a major American city and the first time a city was ruled by a communist party.

Author Bio

Mark Kruger has previously taught at several universities, including Saint Louis University, where he was the director of the Criminal Justice Organization program. He is retired and lives in St. Louis.

Praise

“The stirring story of St. Louis’s 1877 general strike, in which workers came to rule a city by withdrawing their labor, deserves telling and retelling.”—David Roediger, author of The Sinking Middle Class: A Political History
 

“A marvelous [look at] a crucial moment in American history. Mark Kruger has captured the drama and context of the forgotten uprising of working people as the close of Radical Reconstruction ended the ongoing social transformation that W. E. B. Du Bois would describe as the finest moment of interracial democracy in the nineteenth century.”—Paul Buhle, author of Marxism in the United States: Remapping the History of the American Left
 

“There are lessons to be learned from this book that are as relevant today as they were when, for a brief, shining moment, American workers took control of a major city and in so doing improved their lives and the lives of generations to come.”—Michael Wallis, author of The Best Land under Heaven: The Donner Party and the Age of Manifest Destiny

The St. Louis Commune of 1877 provides a rich and riveting description of a working class uprising in nineteenth-century America. . . . Dreams of social justice combined with crushing poverty and brutal police repression created an explosive revolutionary mix. It’s a history with obvious relevance for the present.”—Warren Rosenblum, professor of history at Webster University, St. Louis
 

 “Mark Kruger’s new book places the events in East St. Louis, Illinois, that precipitated a general strike in St. Louis in their true historical and transnational context. . . . A truly original and pathbreaking study.”—Melvyn Dubofsky, coauthor of Labor in America: A History
 

“We can’t begin to solve our current problems if we don’t understand the class nature of this society and the world. In the American Midwest, in the nineteenth century, ordinary workers who were also intellectuals and revolutionaries met the crisis of their times with imagination, solidarity, and courage. They were soundly defeated, alas. Why was this history, finally uncovered by Mark Kruger, buried for almost 150 years? The Masters of the Universe don’t want us to know that workers fought back.”—Mark Rudd, author of Underground: My Life with SDS and the Weathermen
 

“Mark Kruger captures the excitement of the hot summer in 1877 when workers in St. Louis, then America’s fourth-largest city, initiated the first general strike in American history. . . . In many ways the fundamental elements that resulted in the St. Louis Commune in 1877 are not unlike those that characterize American society today. Falling wages and standards of living, attacks on unions, gaps in wealth, and street demonstrations and violence parallel the current problems faced by everyday Americans, making this book especially relevant to our times.”—Bob Swacker, author of New York City History
 

“Mark Kruger has made a significant contribution to understanding the events of the St. Louis area in the late nineteenth century. Not since 1966, with the publication of The Reign of the Rabble, have we heard some of the details of those violent and fearful days. Now some fifty years later we receive, in a sense, the details of the details. . . . It is [Kruger’s] use of a diversity of sources that gives this work its richness.”—Elizabeth Kolmer, retired professor of American studies at Saint Louis University

“Mark Kruger has brought alive the labor struggles of the nineteenth century as they culminated in the St. Louis Commune. He skillfully shows how the 1848 revolutions in Europe, the Paris Commune of 1871, the First International, the 1873 depression, and the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 all converged to produce remarkable events in St. Louis. This is an excellent example of a local history set on a world stage.”—Cliff DuRand, research associate at the Center for Global Justice and author of Moving beyond Capitalism
 

The St. Louis Commune of 1877 brings new life to the story of the St. Louis Commune, demonstrating its connections to the German revolution of 1848, the Paris Commune and the First International. The commune, which has too often been seen as a story of only local interest, can now be fully understood in its national and international context.”—Kristen Anderson, associate professor of history at Webster University
 

“The Great Upheaval of 1877 was the first of the great mass strikes that have periodically shaken the United States, and its acme was the St. Louis general strike, in which workers took over and ran one of America’s major cities. The St. Louis Commune of 1877 provides the fascinating backstory of the German immigrants—many veterans of the European revolutions of 1848—who helped define the character and provide the leadership for America’s first general strike.”—Jeremy Brecher, labor historian, filmmaker, and author of Strike!
 
 
 

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. Revolution Comes to St. Louis
2. Revolution in Europe
3. After the Civil War
4. The Paris Commune
5. The First International
6. The Condition of the American Working Class
7. German Immigration
8. The Railroad Strike
9. The St. Louis Commune
Epilogue
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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