The Forging of American Socialism: Origins of the Modern Movement

By Howard H. Quint | Go to book overview
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Today the United States remains the last great citadel of capitalistic democracy. An organized and institutionalized American socialist movement as such, moreover, is virtually a matter of past history. Of course, some contemporary Jeremiahs insist that the nation is drifting into socialism through the extension of governmental power into spheres of activity hitherto virgin to it. With such persons I should take sharp issue if that were the purpose of this book. But it is not. Nor do I propose to deal with the present dilemma of socialism in the United States and the moribund condition of the Socialist Party of America.

Instead, this study aims to investigate the socialist movement of the last decades of the nineteenth century, when it was in its infancy and full of hope for the future. Specifically, it attempts to show both the European influences and the distinctly American elements that affected the movement, since it should be borne in mind that the upsurge of socialism in the United States at this time was only in part inspired by the classic doctrines of the European Marxists. In point of fact, it came primarily as a protest against the social iniquities resulting from the tremendous economic concentration taking shape in these hectic years of industrial growth. I should say that it owed more for its inspiration to Edward Bellamy Looking Backward/than it did to Karl Marx Das Kapital.

The historian has a certain privilege of being arbitrary in establishing the time limits of a study. I have exercised that privilege by setting the years between 1886 and 1901 as the boundaries of this monograph. In fairness to the reader and to the events that transpired during these years I have sought to compress in an opening chapter the developments of the earlier period from 1870 through 1886. In many respects I feel that they are merely anticipatory to the more important story which is related in the ensuing ten chapters.

Making acknowledgments is one of the more pleasant aspects of scholarly endeavor, in some measure because they are usually


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