in the United States
Director, League for Industrial Democracy
past century, the socialist movement throughout the world has
grown from a few thousand social pioneers, many of them exiles
from their native lands, to a movement which embraces tens of
millions of men and women and is molding the economic and
political systems of many of our most important countries.
Parties with a democratic socialist viewpoint are today
in control of the governments of Great Britain, Denmark, Norway,
Sweden, and Israel; have important representatives in the
coalition cabinets of Holland, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and
Finland; and are supported by strong delegations in the
parliaments of Belgium, France, Western Germany, Japan,
Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.
numerous countries, it is true, the organized socialist movement
is weak. But even
in some of these countries, socialist ideas have had a
remarkable effect on the country’s institutions.
In India the Indian Socialist Party is small numerically,
but Premier Nehru, leader of the Congress Party, has long been
regarded as a democratic socialist, and has greatly influenced
public thinking in the direction of the democratic socialist
The United States is one of the few great
industrial nations where the Socialist or Labor or Social
Democratic Party has not attained political stature.
But even here, the socialist message has profoundly
influenced our economic, political, and social thinking.
The first stage of socialist thinking and
agitation, as is well known, was the Utopian stage of over a
century ago. In the
beginning of the nineteenth century in France and England, many
Utopian thinkers and doers, shocked at the gross inequalities,
the economic wastes, and poverty which they witnessed all around
them, determined to help bring about a society where justice,
equality, and fraternity would be the order of the day.
Many of them felt that the best way to do this was to
organize cooperative colonies as experimental laboratories which
would seek to carry out their ideas of a good society.
They believed that once the people witnessed the success
of these colonies, other cooperative ventures would result, and
gradually the competitive, profit-making society would be
supplanted by a cooperative economy where men and women worked
for service to the community, rather than for private profit.
The followers of these Utopians—of Cabet
and Fourier of France, of Robert Owen, famous cotton mill owner
and social crusader of England, and others—began to look
around for the best places in which to establish these colonies.
They looked across the sea and saw the vast, unsettled
territories in America. They
sent their emissaries to this country to prepare the ground for
their social experiments. In this they had the help of such Americans as Albert
Brisbane, father of the famous editor, Arthur Brisbane.
After a trip to Europe in the early 1830’s, Albert
Brisbane interested the great Horace Greeley of The New York
Tribune and others in the establishment of colonies here.
The result, particularly during the 1840’s,
was the organization of large numbers of colonies in the United
States, the most famous of which was the Brook Farm Experiment
in New England. Most
of the brilliant thinkers of that section of the
country—Emerson, Thoreau, Lowell, Whittier, Greeley, Nathaniel
Hawthorne, William Ellery
Channing, Theodore Parker, Margaret Fuller, George Ripley, and
John S. Dwight—were, in one way or another, associated with
it. The North
American “Phalanx,” developed by a number of New York
idealists at Red Bank, New Jersey, in 1843, and New Harmony,
established by Owen in Indiana twenty years earlier, should also
The colonies, for the most part, failed.
It was found to be a difficult thing to establish little
islands of Utopia in the midst of an economic system run on
entirely different principles.
But some colonies survived, and the fundamental
discussions evoked by this development of the possibilities of
the cooperative way of life contributed their part to the social
thinking and action of this country.
A small socialist movement of a non-Utopian
nature was started by a number of Germans who came to the United
States following the uprisings of 1830 and 1848.
But the antislavery movement and the Civil War began to
absorb the energies of the “forty-eighters,” and the
movement, to all intents and purposes, was suspended until after
the war was over. In
1867, several groups of social radicals, primarily from Germany,
reorganized their forces and formed a number of workingmen’s
unions with a socialistic objective in cities of the East and
In 1872, Karl Marx, who had formed the First
International of Workingmen eight years before, found that,
while he was hard at work in the London libraries on his Das
Kapital and other works, Bakunin and his anarchistic
followers, with a philosophy of violence and insurrection, were
securing a tight hold on the machinery of this body. At the Hague Congress of that year, as a means of preventing
the International from falling into Bakunin’s hands, Marx and
his followers succeeded in having its headquarters removed to
the United States. The
small group of socialists in this country rallied to its
support, but they were weak and divided, and, in 1876, after a
lingering illness, the First International, which had taken up
headquarters in New York, was finally pronounced officially
Until the turn of the twentieth century, the
principal socialist organization in the United States was the
Socialist Labor Party. In
the first decade of this movement the party members agitated
vigorously for numerous reform measures and cooperated with a
number of political and trade union groups. In 1886 they took an active part in the tense campaign for
the election of Henry George, America’s leading single taxer,
for Mayor of the city of New York.
In 1890, however, the party admitted to its
membership Daniel DeLeon, a native of Venezuela, who, after
receiving his education in Germany, came to the United States
and was granted a prize lectureship in international law at
Columbia University. DeLeon,
who had an incisive mind and a trenchant pen, quickly rose in
1892 to the editorship of the party’s paper, The People.
Once in the saddle, he used his position to mold all
party members to his particular way of thinking.
One of his first crusades was that against
the leaders of the trade-union movement whom he denounced for
failing to organize along industrial lines.
He took them to task for asking for mere crumbs for labor
rather than working for an entire change in the industrial
system. He declared
that some of the leaders of labor were ignorant, some corrupt.
All, he affirmed, were unfit for leadership.
In 1895, after failing to capture the Knights
of Labor, he organized the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance
and began to form unions in competition with the A.F.L. and the
K. of L. The Alliance, however, only succeeded in antagonizing and
alienating organized labor and in splitting the Socialist Party
Among other things, it led Morris Hillquit,
and those who wished to work closely with the A.F.L. and other
labor groups, and who refused to conform to the rigid discipline
imposed by DeLeon in the party, to secede from the S.L.P., and
to join with other groups to organize the Socialist Party of the
United States. In
1900, those who remained in the S.L.P. under DeLeon struck out
all immediate demands from their platform, declaring that such
demands belonged to the infancy of the movement.
For this action, they acquired the name of “impossibilists,”
and henceforth wielded little influence on the American scene.
After seceding from the S.L.P., the Hillquit
group looked around for new allies.
It found these allies in a group called the Social
Democracy that had shortly before been organized in the Middle
West. This group
was composed chiefly of the followers of Victor Berger, the
Milwaukee socialist leader, who later became the first socialist
Congressman in the United States, and of the followers of Eugene
Victor Debs. Berger,
a man of great energy and keen intelligence, a native of
Austria-Hungry, had brought his socialist ideas from Europe, and
had built a strong movement in this important Wisconsin city.
Eugene Victor Debs had come to the socialist
movement as a result of his experience in the trade-union
movement in the United States.
Born in Terre Haute, Indiana, of Alsatian parents, he
became a worker in the railroad shops of his native city at an
early age. Bitterly
resenting the tragic conditions to which the railroad workers
were then subjected, he joined the Brotherhood of Locomotive
Firemen and became one of its most active workers.
An increasingly popular figure in the union, he was
elected Grand Secretary and Treasurer of the Brotherhood, and
editor and manager of their magazine at 25. During the next 13 years, from 1880 to 1893, as secretary, he
built up the organization from 60 to 226 lodges, wiped out a
considerable debt, and made the union a force to be reckoned
with in the railroad industry.
In the meantime he served as city clerk of Terre Haute
and as a Democratic member of the Indiana legislature.
Debs came to feel during these years,
however, that the union was doing little or nothing for “the
forgotten man,” the unskilled worker, in the railroad
industry. He gave
up his job, which paid a salary of $4,000 a year, to form a more
inclusive union organized along industrial lines.
He formed the American Railway Union, receiving in his
new position a salary of $900.
As leader of the A.R.U., he first tackled the
job of improving the lot of the workers in the Great Northern
Railroad where the scale of wages ranged from a dollar a day for
trackmen and trainmen, to $80 a month for train dispatchers.
The A.R.U. won a great victory over this giant railroad.
The railroads, however, decided to do
everything in their power to annihilate this young union.
They saw their opportunity when the workers for the
Pullman Car Company voted to strike against intolerable
conditions. Deb’s union had advised against the strike, but, when it
came, decided to support it.
The A.R.U. asked its members not to handle
Pullman cars. The
company pressed the government to send to the scene of action
thousands of deputy marshals, armed and paid for by the
were followed by troops and state militia.
An injunction was issued against Debs and others, for
violating the injunction, and sent to jail for contempt of
Debs entered jail a Democrat. In prison he read many socialist books and pamphlets,
including the writings of Edward Bellamy, Blatchford, and
visited him and delivered to him “the first impassioned
message of socialism” Debs had ever heard.
He left Woodstock jail a socialist in spirit.
However, in the election of 1896, he supported the
silver-tongued orator on the Democratic ticket, William Jennings
Bryan. But in June,
1897, on the dissolution of the American Railway Union, he
helped to form the Social Democracy, which Berger and some
Eastern socialists, notably Abraham Cahan of the Jewish Daily
Forward, later joined.
At its 1898 convention the party was captured by a group
which felt that its main efforts should be directed to the
organization of colonies, rather than to independent political
Berger, Cahan, and others revolted and formed the Social
Two years later, in 1900, the Hillquit wing
of the S.L.P. and the Social Democracy Party joined forces to
put into the field as their candidate for President, Eugene
Victor Debs. Debs
was the first socialist leader in the United States coming out
of the ranks of the American working class.
He talked in the language of the American worker—a
leader as American as apple pie—waged a vigorous campaign,
with McKinley and Bryan as his opponents, and, to the surprise
of the old party leaders, received a vote of nearly 100,000.
The vote was about three times that of the candidate of
the Socialist Labor Party.
Elated as the results of the campaign, the
various forces backing Debs came together in a Unity Convention
at Indianapolis, in June, 1901, and formed the Socialist Party.
The next 11 years of socialist activity in
the United States, the period from 1901 to 1912, showed the
greatest period of numerical growth and of political promise of
any decade in the party’s history.
This period covered the presidencies of McKinley,
Roosevelt, and Taft; it was the time of the country’s second
great period of trust formations; of the depressions or
recessions of 1904 and 1907; of the first great forward march of
organized labor, the American Federation of Labor having grown
from 278,000 in 1898 to 1,676,00 in 1904.
It was the period of the anthracite coal strike of 1902
in behalf of union recognition and the nine-hour day; of the
development of the building trades; of the dramatic 1909 and
1910 strikes against sweatshop conditions in the men’s and
women’s garment industry; of the organization of the
Industrial Workers of the World and their dramatic strikes among
the Western miners, lumbermen, and textile workers.
This period brought forth the
muckrakers—Lincoln Steffens, Ray Stannard Baker, Ida Tarbell,
Charles Edward Russell, Gustavus Myers—with their telling
polemics against monopoly and the “malefactors of great
It produced a brilliant group of social
novelist who had revolted against the extremes of wealth and
poverty found in the Fifth Avenue and the East Sides of our
crowded cities—Upton Sinclair with his Jungle; Jack
London with his Iron Heel; Ernest Poole with his The
Harbor; Frank Norris, David Graham Phillips, and James
It was the time of
vivid factual studies of the conditions of the poor—of John
Graham Brook’s Social Unrest; Jacob Riis’s How the
Other Half Lives; Robert Hunter’s Poverty; W. J.
Ghent’s Our Benevolent Feudalism.
It was the period
of the remarkable development of Christian social and socialist
literature—including the eloquent volumes Christianity and
the Social Crises by Walter Rauschenbusch and Between
Caesar and Jesus by George D. Herrons.
gave birth to the first group of books on socialism written by
American socialists and published by regular publishers—books
from the pens of Morris Hillquit, Robert Hunter, John Spargo,
Louis B. Boudin, Edmond Kelly, W. J. Ghent, William English
Walling, A. M. Simons, James Mackaye, Allan Benson, Algernon
Lee, and many others.
Historians of the type of Charles Beard
during these days were busy borrowing a leaf from Karl Marx, and
in emphasizing the importance of economic factors in molding our
political and social institutions.
John Dewey was engaged in relating philosophical and
educational systems to democratic ends.
Charles Steinmetz, the electrical wizard and leading
socialist, was busy in showing how our technological progress
must be accompanied by social progress if the United States and
other lands are to avoid tragic dislocations and are to be able
to utilize all of our resources for the common good.
Veblen and Lester Ward were arousing the world of scholarship
with their heretical volumes on economics and sociology.
Social workers—Jane Addams, Frances Perkins, Florence
Kelley among them—were increasingly emphasizing the need of
getting at the causes of poverty, while trying immediately to
ameliorate present day social conditions.
And artists and cartoonists of the type of Art Young,
John Sloan, Ryan Walker, and George Bellows, were portraying
through pictures the topsy-turvy character, as they saw it, of
much of our commercialized civilization.
It was the period also of the beginning of
the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, formed to promote an
intelligent interest in socialism among college men and
women—a movement which, while committing no student member to
a belief in socialism, stimulated thousands of the finest social
idealists in our universities to do their part in the
constructive solution of the social problems of the day.
These and other forces had a tremendous
impact on the socialist movement.
Socialist magazines flourished, the Appeal for Reason
running a circulation of about a half million.
Hundreds of thousands of pamphlets and leaflets were
printed and distributed. Socialist lecture services were eagerly utilized.
Party branches appeared throughout the nation. The
Socialist Party membership grew from 16,000 in 1903 to 118,000
in 1912, a seven-fold growth in nine years.
The Socialist vote quadrupled between 1900 to 1904 to
reach 400,000, doubling again from 1904 to 1912, when it reached
900,000. If this
rate of increase continued, declared socialist prophets, it was
easy to see that the Socialist Party would become in the not
distant future the dominant party of the land.
As for the country’s cities, Socialists won
control during those days of Milwaukee, Schenectady, and other
cities. In 1912, in
fact, Socialist mayors headed 56 cities, while over 1,000
dues-paying members of the party were occupying public office in
various cities and states.
One Socialist, the Milwaukee leader, Victor Berger, was
elected to Congress.
Socialists were active in the trade-union
movement. In 1912,
Max Hayes, a prominent Cleveland Socialist, running against
Samuel Gompers for President of the A.F.L., obtained about
one-third of the votes cast.
In the needle trades of New York and other cities, the
leadership was almost entirely Socialist.
The party did much during this period in the
promotion of social and labor legislation, and, time and time
again, after the party members had initiated legislation, and
had joined with free-lance reformers to popularize it, the
country found Socialist legislative proposals taken over by the
major parties and enacted into legislation, usually, however, in
a watered-down form.
Although there were many differences of
opinion within the Socialist Party during the period 1901 to
1912 as to the best procedures to follow, the party members were
so busy building and so enthusiastic about the results obtained,
that these differences failed to lead to splits.
During the following decade, from 1912 to
1922, however, a number of things happened both in the United
States and abroad which decimated the party ranks.
First of these was the controversy of a number of years
standing between the moderate socialists of the type of Morris
Hillquit and Victor Berger and the extremists.
The moderates believed that progress toward socialism
would come primarily through political action, the election of
Socialists to public office, and the gradual peaceful and
democratic transfer of industry from private to public
extremists, like William D. Haywood, the leader of the I.W.W.,
were more syndicalist than socialist in their philosophy.
Haywood laid more emphasis on economic action
than he did on parliamentary activity.
He believed with a syndicalists that strikes, leading to
a general strike, and such tactics as sabotage, would be more
effective in bringing about fundamental change.
Haywood was for a while a member of the
Executive Committee of the party.
But after a long and bitter controversy, the party, in
1912, passed an amendment to its constitution to the effect that
anyone advocating the use of sabotage and violence would not be
eligible for membership. Such
tactics, the amendment declared, “made for to the agent
was expelled from the party’s Executive Committee in 1913, and
took with him a number of his adherents.
Others left not because they agreed with Haywood, but
because they disliked the controversy engendered in party
Then in 1912, some of the former adherents of
the party, particularly among the social workers’ group, were
drawn into the ranks of the Progressive or Bull Moose Party, led
by Teddy Roosevelt. They
thought his was a more effective instrument for achieving
immediate social reforms. Others,
listening to the eloquent addresses of Woodrow Wilson on the New
Freedom, decided to vote for the former Princeton President and
thus prevent the reelection of William Howard Taft.
The most vigorous disagreements within the
party, however, were those caused by events emanating from
abroad. The first of such events was the breaking out of World War I.
The majority of the party opposed America’s entrance
into the war—some because they were opposed to all wars, or
all wars between capitalist nations; some because they believed
that, if America remained neutral, it would be in a better
position to help to mediate a just and lasting peace.
Other favored the most vigorous prosecution
of the war by the United States as a means of crushing German
militarism and imperialism.
When the United States entered the war, and the Socialist
Party passed the St. Louis anti-war resolution, this
group—including many of the writers of the movement—left the
party either temporarily or permanently.
During the war, the party’s voting strength
increased in such cities as New York, which, in 1917, during the
Hillquit campaign, sent strong delegations to the city and state
party’s opposition to war, on the other hand, led to the
imprisonment of Eugene Victor Debs and a number of other
Socialist leaders and rank and filers, to the breaking up of any
party meetings, and to the disorganization of the party
But a more important cause of disruption of
the party at that time was the Russian Revolution of 1917,
followed by the establishment of Soviet Republic in the form of
a Communist Party dictatorship.
Many Socialists in America, particularly those who had
come from Russia and surrounding countries, were mistakenly of
the opinion that the proletarian revolution starting in Russia
would soon sweep over the world like a prairie fire, engulfing
the United States. They
thought that it was their duty to mobilize the masses for the
revolution in this country.
The majority of the party, however, declared that they
saw no evidence of a revolutionary crisis in the United States,
and that the job of Socialists here, as in other democratic
countries, was to use the ballot and other peaceful instruments
of change to bring about a cooperative system of industrial
extremists, at a convention held in Chicago in July, 1919, split
from the Socialist Party, and formed the Communist and Communist
Labor parties. The
Socialist Party membership, as a result, declined to 27,000.
Thus the party secessions of the decade
1912–1922 resulting from disagreements over syndicalism and
sabotage, over Bull Mooseism, Wilsonism, war policies, and
bolshevism, had greatly weakened the party and left its
membership less than one-fourth of that of 1912.
Source: Current History, June, 1950
* * *
* * *
Sex at the Margins
Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry
By Laura María Agustín
This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London
* * * * *
The New Jim Crow
Mass Incarceration in the Age of
By Michele Alexander
Contrary to the
rosy picture of race embodied in Barack
Obama's political success and Oprah
Winfrey's financial success, legal
scholar Alexander argues vigorously and
persuasively that [w]e have not ended
racial caste in America; we have merely
redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial
segregation has been replaced by mass
incarceration as a system of social
control (More African Americans are
under correctional control today... than
were enslaved in 1850). Alexander
reviews American racial history from the
colonies to the Clinton administration,
delineating its transformation into the
war on drugs. She offers an acute
analysis of the effect of this mass
incarceration upon former inmates who
will be discriminated against, legally,
for the rest of their lives, denied
employment, housing, education, and
public benefits. Most provocatively, she
reveals how both the move toward
colorblindness and affirmative action
may blur our vision of injustice: most
Americans know and don't know the truth
about mass incarceration—but her
carefully researched, deeply engaging,
and thoroughly readable book should
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
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If you like this page consider making a donation
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Negro Digest /
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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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