Struggle and Mutual Aid: The Age of Worker Solidarity
A dynamic historian revisits the workers’ internationals, whose scope and significance are commonly overlooked.
In current debates about globalization, open and borderless elites are often set in opposition to the immobile and protectionist working classes. This view obscures a major historical fact: for around a century—from the 1860s to the 1970s—worker movements were at the cutting edge of internationalism.
The creation in London of the International Workingmen’s Association in 1864 was a turning point. What would later be called the “First International” aspired to bring together European and American workers across languages, nationalities, and trades. It was a major undertaking in a context marked by opening borders, moving capital, and exploding inequalities.
In this urgent, engaging work, historian Nicolas Delalande explores how international worker solidarity developed, what it accomplished in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and why it collapsed over the past fifty years, to the point of disappearing from our memories.
Praise for Struggle and Mutual Aid: The Age of Worker Solidarity
“A fascinating book about globalization, internationalism, and wealth redistribution between 1870 and 1914, with lots of lessons for the twenty-first century. When trade and capital flows go global, worker solidarity and political mobilization need to do the same and invent new forms of transnational organizations. A must-read.” —Thomas Piketty, international bestselling author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century
“A persuasive reinterpretation of a period of labor activism often viewed as ‘chaotic, conflictual, and contradictory.’” —Publishers Weekly
“This timely take on worker solidarities draws upon Delalande’s deep and nuanced understanding of economic sociology, sociopolitical, and geopolitical factors…Important lessons about building cross-cultural movements focus on championing worker rights and economic equity.” —Seattle Book Review
“We throw around the word ‘solidarity’ today without understanding its history or even its meaning. Delalande has provided us with a much-needed guide to the history of solidarity. This critically important history of international solidarity efforts reminds us that we must know the past to be effective activists today. The translation of this book into English should be celebrated on the left. Everyone interested in the history of the workers’ struggle must read this book.” —Erik Loomis, author of A History of America in Ten Strikes
“Struggle and Mutual Aid recovers the history of workers’ organizations as an essential component of nineteenth-century globalization. It is a brilliant study of the financing, politics, and practice of labor internationalism, and a counter-example to the apparently inexorable expansion of international capital in the twenty-first century.” —Emma Rothschild, author of An Infinite History: The Story of a Family in France over Three Centuries
“In the wake of the destructive coronavirus pandemic, this book provides an extraordinary resource for workers seeking to build new cross-border solidarities to prevent the pervasive globalization phenomenon ‘from benefiting only the rich and powerful.’” —Joe William Trotter, Jr., author of Workers on Arrival: Black Labor in the Making of America
“An indispensable history of working-class internationalism—this book is a must-read for anybody interested in building solidarity across borders today.” —Eric Blanc, author of Revolutionary Social Democracy and Red State Revolt
“Nicolas Delalande’s fresh account of nineteenth and twentieth century labor internationalism captures its evolving aspirations, successes, failures, and resiliency amid defeats, reminding us of the pivotal role it has played in world history. Through its captivating survey of cross-border working-class solidarity initiatives, this volume helps us imagine how a revived labor internationalism might challenge the forces presently plunging us deeper into social, political, and ecological crisis. Delalande’s vivid history inspires hope—just when we need it.” —Joseph A. McCartin, coeditor of Purple Power: The History and Global Impact of SEIU