Tuesday, February 20, 2024

The International Labor History Association (ILHA) announced the 2023 “Book of the Year Award” for labor history is Claiming the City: A Global History of Workers’ Fight for Municipal Socialism, by Professor Emeritus Shelton Stromquist (NY: Verso, 2023).

Professor Stromquist writes an elegant history of workers’ struggles for municipal socialism from the 1880’s to the 1920’s. Tracing the early rise of cities and urban governance along with labor conflicts and working-class politics, Stromquist builds a credible foundation for his well-documented look at municipal socialism appearing in the United States, Australia, Austria, Britain, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, and Sweden. 

The socialist reconstruction of urban communities is examined in the multiple contexts of nationalism, race, gender, and war. From the Great War (1914-1918) and subsequent demise of the Second International, to the growth of localism, nationalism, political parties, and internationalism, Stromquist brings to life the fights of workers, unions, and socialists for a more humane municipal government. Convincingly analyzed are the wartime politics in Britain, the conscription-opposition in the United States, the war and post-war struggles in German cities, as well as the post-war rise of “Red Vienna.” 

Documentation through extensively helpful footnotes, period photographs, and maps provide a fine foundation for Stromquist’s arguments concerning the construction of “humane urban cities by workers and socialists.” Documented as well is the building of massive infrastructure, advanced healthcare, sanitation, education, and housing in various urban settings. Many of the achievements have been passed down to the generations following their advent. 

Stromquist has impressively rescued from historical oblivion the signal achievements, defects, struggles, and constructive legacy of municipal socialism, highlighting the roles of workers, their labor leadership and labor allies.

International Labor History Association. (2024 February 19). ILHA Book of the Year Award 2023 [Press release].