San Francisco Book Review

Burning Bridges: America’s 20-Year Crusade to Deport Labor Leader Harry Bridges
By Peter Afrasiabi
Thirlmere Books, $21.95, 278 pages, Format: eBook

Star Rating: 5 / 5

Burning Bridges: America’s 20-Year Crusade to Deport Labor Leader Harry Bridges by Peter Afrasiabi is a story of one of the most influential, denigrated, yet rarely mentioned labor leaders in the US Labor movement—a controversial, radical character who might not be known to many American citizens. Harry Bridges, Australian born, was a labor leader who suffered untold persecution from government agencies, including the FBI, the police, and policy makers, with a string of lawsuits against him and his activities. In this story, the author explores the path the government would walk to protect its power while silencing radical voices. With compelling evidence, the author leads readers through the experiences of Bridges, from the moment he found work as longshoreman in San Francisco to his unmitigated interest in unionization, to the tribulations he endured as a consequence of what he stood for.

Afrasiabi presents astounding evidence drawn from declassified FBI documents, resources from J. Edgar Hoover’s vault and unpublished documents from the National Archives. The portrait of Harry Bridges comes across as that of an indefatigable warrior, a man with single-mindedness, but what will take readers by surprise is the treatment given him by the authorities with unauthorized wire tapings, falsehood, witness intimidation, secret FBI investigations, and a lot more. This is also a story about those lawyers who would risk everything, including prison, to stand behind the truth and defend their clients.

The writing is excellent and crisp, and it reads with fluidity. Peter Afrasiabi writes with the confidence of one who knows the facts and who is comfortable with the research he has made. The story is gripping, at times gritty, and readers will love to follow Bridges as he fights for justice and a cause he believes in. Burning Bridges is utterly enjoyable and informative; a story that uncovers the dangerous workings of power and a dark morsel of the American history which readers would like to know.