The Socialist Mayor: Bernard Sanders in Burlington, Vermont

By Steven Soifer | Go to book overview

1
Historical Background and Theoretical Framework on Socialist Municipalities

SOCIALIST PARTY OF AMERICA: A BRIEF RETROSPECTIVE

Bernard Sanders reveres Eugene Debs, one of the founders of the Socialist Party of America. In his influential study of the Socialist Party of America, James Weinstein1 argues that the party, begun in 1901, reached its zenith in 1912 and began its decline after that. According to the author, "the old Socialist Party . . . [had] a commitment to the fulfillment of the promises of American democracy and a belief that this dream is frustrated in a society dominated by corporate capital- ism and subordinate to its imperatives."2

In 1901, the Socialist Party had about 10,000 members and by 1912, it had over 100,000 members. The party successfully placed about 1,200 of its members in office around the country, with elected officials "in 340 municipalities from coast to coast, among them 79 mayors in 24 states." However, by 1917, only seventeen Socialist mayors were left in office. 3

There were four tendencies within the Socialist Party of America: right wing, moderate, left wing, and syndicalist. Victor Berger, who essentially built the local Socialist Party branch in Milwaukee, represented the right wing. He wanted the Socialist Party to be "relevant to the existing problems of American workers." He also championed . social reform," which led others in the party to charge that he identified "socialism with progressivism." Berger was, in a sense, an incrementalist, believing that socialism would eventually be attained through the winning of small victories. 4

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The Socialist Mayor: Bernard Sanders in Burlington, Vermont
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • 1 - Historical Background and Theoretical Framework on Socialist Municipalities 1
  • 2 - Burlington, Bernard Sanders, and the Progressive Coalition 13
  • 3 - Local Government and City Finances in Burlington 39
  • Conclusion 60
  • 4 - Development and Growth Issues and the Sanders Administration 61
  • Conclusion 88
  • 5 - Citizen Participation, Democracy, and the Neighborhoods 91
  • Conclusion 117
  • 6 - The Question of Ownership Under Municipal Socialism 119
  • Conclusion 141
  • 7 - Taxes and the Redistribution of Wealth 142
  • Conclusion 171
  • 8 - Quality-Of-Life Issues and the Sanders Administration 174
  • Conclusion 204
  • 9 - Central America: Sanders and the Peace Movement 206
  • Conclusion 222
  • 10 - Conclusion 224
  • 11 - Epilogue 238
  • Notes 243
  • Selected Bibliography 273
  • Index 275
  • About the Author 287
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