Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States
This accessible, critical history of the U.S. labor movement examines the hidden history of workers’ resistance from the nineteenth century to the present. Workers in the U.S. have a rich tradition of fighting back which remains largely hidden. Subterranean Fire brings that history to light and reveals its lessons for today.
The title is taken from the inspiring words of August Spies, a U.S. radical and labor activist executed during the fight for the eight-hour day. He said, “If you think that by hanging us you can stamp out the labor movement, then hang us. Here you will tread upon a spark, but here, and there, and behind you, and in front of you, the flames will blaze up. It is a subterranean fire. You cannot put it out. The ground is on fire upon which you stand.” These words remain fundamentally true today, as Sharon Smith demonstrates by tracing the legacy of worker’s struggle from August Spies’ days to the present.
Sharon Smith speaks on identity politics and the fight against oppression at Socialism 2008, cosponsored by Haymarket Books:
“A veteran worker-intellectual brilliantly addresses the crisis of the labor movement, skewering those who believe that renewal can come from the top down, and encouraging those who are fighting to rebuild it from the bottom up.”
--Mike Davis, author, Prisoners of the American Dream and City of Quartz
“In urgent prose, Sharon Smith’s Subterranean Fire reminds us that the ruling class’s grip on power is not absolute, but a tenuous toehold on a shaky edifice that is ready to crumble when the right kind of popular pressure is applied. Times of crisis are also opportunities for revolutionary change. The time for action is now; Sharon Smith has written a roadmap for how to achieve a more just future. The rest is up to us.”
--Jeffrey St. Clair, coeditor CounterPunch, author, Grand Theft Pentagon
“This book is a timely and valuable contribution to our understanding of the history of the U.S. labor movement. At a time when it seems like the labor movement is paralyzed by the onslaught of globalization, Smith reminds us of the rich history of workers’ struggles in the U.S., and how labor has rebounded from similar impasses to win important gains. A truly inspiring book!”
--Deepa Kumar, author, Outside of the Box: Labor and the Media in the Age of Globalization, and professor, Rutgers University