The Intellectuals and McCarthy: The Radical Specter

By Michael Paul Rogin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
THE TRANSFORMATION
OF THE REFORM IMPULSE

The Progressive Heritage

The decline of the Knights of Labor in the 1880's and the defeat of the Populist Party ten years later initiated a new era in American politics. Narrow interest groups--the American Federation of Labor and the American Farm Bureau Federation--rose to take the place of protest movements which had attempted to organize all farmers, all workers, or all common men.1 During the same period, the urban machine, product in large part of the growth in city size and the influx of immigrants, came to dominate America's cities. Just as the AFL organized workers on narrow craft lines--carpenters, plumbers, printers--so the machine organized its constituents on narrow ethnic lines--Irish, Italians, Jews. Like the Farm Bureau and the AFL, the urban machine sought to supply narrow tangible favors. The jobs, contracts, food baskets, and police protection which the machine provided corresponded to the AFL's concentration on wages, hours, and working conditions and the Farm Bureau's concern with demonstration farms, marketing coops, and parity.2 Each of these narrowly based organizations followed the line of least resistance; they satisfied the immediate demands of their constituents and challenged the power struc

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