Agitprop: The Life of an American Working-Class Radical

The Autobiography of Eugene V. Dennett

By Eugene V. Dennett

Series: SUNY series in American Labor History
Paperback : 9780791400791, 270 pages, June 1990
Hardcover : 9780791400784, 270 pages, June 1990

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Table of contents

Preface, Jeremy Egolf
My Background
The Turning Point
Orient to Hunger
Party Policies
Bellingham Party Organizer
A Waterfront Worker
IBU Joins Maritime Federation
1936 Seattle Labor Day Parade
The P-I Strike
Following the 1936 Election
The CIO Movement
More CIO and WCF
World War II
Back Home in Seattle
A Communist Party Frame-Up
Steel Union Member
Conflicts, Company and Union, 1951–1953
Steel Union Expulsion, 1953–1955
Libel Suit and After


Agitprop is the memoir of a Washington State maritime and steel worker who was a longtime activist in the American Federation of Labor, the Congress of Industrial Organizations, and the Communist Party. Born to a Massachusetts working class socialist family, Dennett is an idealist who sought to unify theoretical principle, policy, and practice in his daily life. His life story embodies broader themes that make this book an allegorical depiction of one man's journey through 20th century working-class America.

Eugene V. Dennett is a retired steelworker and active Democrat. He signed the founding charter of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, was the first executive secretary of the Washington State CIO, and was expelled from the Communist Party in 1947 after 17 years of active membership.


"It is the uniqueness of the document which makes it important. One can dispute Dennett's interpretations, but they are his. And he has paid a heavy cost to maintain them. The struggle, and the sacrifice, come through with great clarity. He sees what he did, what he might have done, and what mistakes he made. Unlike intellectuals (of any ideological orientation, for that matter) he neither exploits nor rationalizes his experiences. This is the rare, candid book of an ordinary radical. " —Paul M. Buhle

"Eugene V. Dennett provides an important grass roots perspective on the Communist Party in the 1930s and 1940s and on west coast union organizing during those years. His insight into the impact of the McCarthy years on American unions is also valuable. He has important memories of vital labor figures like Harry Bridges and includes a previously unpublished document dealing with John L. Lewis. He narrates fascinating episodes relating to the organization of the unemployed during the Depression, details grass roots labor-management relations in the post-World War II era, and provides interesting perspectives on piece rate bargaining. " — Robert Asher

"The inside look at policy formation and struggles is good; the middle-echelon perspective is important; the coverage of several decades makes it engrossing as well. It provides a chance to observe the career pattern of an individual, and in the process something of the course of left activities in the 20th century. " — Lorin Lee Cary