Eugene V. Debs
Eugene V. Debs
Few Americans today remember a time when the Socialist Party of America was a power of any proportions in politics. They have forgotten or never knew that a scant two generations ago the socialists were the third party of American politics; that they were a considerable force in local and state politics; and that many of the "radical" policies which they advocated have become standard fixtures in the American system.
In mid-twentieth century, the American socialists have fallen on evil days. The First World War divided the party into quarreling sects which sapped its remaining life and ruined its cohesiveness as an organization. The disillusionment that followed the war, the collapse of progressive sentiment, the frivolity of the 1920's, the Great Depression and its cure, the New Deal, the Second World War, a permanent cold war--these have served in their separate and collective ways to deaden any popular appeal the once important Socialist Party of America might have had. At the height of its influence in 1912, the party's presidential candidate polled nearly 6 per cent of the vote in the face of two other powerful liberal vote-getters; forty years later the vote was hardly a courtesy one. In 1912, more than a thousand socialists held elective office; forty years later the number was close to zero.
If the Socialist Party seems to have no future, it at least has a past. No student of American history of the . . .