TO UNDISCERNING conservatives of the 1890's Populism and socialism were one and the same bird irrespective of the coloration of their plumage. Their followers were regarded not merely as failures in life but, even worse, as immoral men who would displace with shocking arbitrariness those whom the Darwinian laws of natural selection had elevated to positions of leadership and authority in the world of enterprise.
To be sure, Populism and socialism, as radical movements, did have certain similarities.1 Both represented strong currents of social protest against the concentration of economic power in a relatively few. Socialists and Populists could agree that existing special privilege was based on monopolistic control over the means of production and distribution. In the liberal tradition, each wished to destroy special privilege, since it prevented equality of rights and freedom of opportunity for all. And in method, both socialism and Populism would resort to the state, which alone could control in the public interest the predatory forces of industrial and finance capitalism.
Yet the end products sought by the socialists and the Populists differed markedly in spirit and in purpose. The Populists, mostly penurious agrarians from the South and Middle West, favored collectivist measures only insofar as they would elimnate the monopolist from control over economic and political life. Unlike the socialists, they wished to preserve rather than____________________
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Publication information: Book title: The Forging of American Socialism:Origins of the Modern Movement. Contributors: Howard H. Quint - Author. Publisher: Bobbs-Merrill. Place of publication: Indianapolis. Publication year: 1964. Page number: 210.
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