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.
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.
"Mark Kruger has masterfully unearthed an episode of labor history which the ruling class had buried and tried to permanently erase. . . . This is a book well worth reading."—Bob Bonner, Marxism-Leninism Today
"Kruger's book has valuable lessons. It should find a working class audience at a time when socialism's popularity is on the rise."—Douglas Lyons, wsws.org
“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