A History of Utah Radicalism: Startling, Socialistic, and Decidedly Revolutionary

A History of Utah Radicalism: Startling, Socialistic, and Decidedly Revolutionary

A History of Utah Radicalism: Startling, Socialistic, and Decidedly Revolutionary

A History of Utah Radicalism: Startling, Socialistic, and Decidedly Revolutionary

Excerpt

The topic of this book is the history of radical movements in Utah, with a particular emphasis on the Socialist Party of America in the early twentieth century. More precisely, our interest is with “progressive” traditions of radicalism. A book might be written on conservative, rightwing, or reactionary radicalism. That is not our subject here. Our focus is on movements that (1) called for thoroughgoing change in the way society was organized, structured, and operated, as opposed to small adjustments in the way things were, and (2) emphasized inclusion and redistribution, seeking to enlarge, rather than restrict, the sphere of freedom and opportunity.

Utah has a long-standing tradition of such radical movements, beginning with the arrival of the Mormons in 1847 and continuing to the present. These movements have challenged the fundamental principles on which society has been established and have offered alternative visions of how to live. It began with the Mormon Church, one of many utopian communities to arise in the United States in the early and middle years of the nineteenth century that were deeply critical of the materialism and inequality of their contemporary America. The Mormons, or Latter-day Saints, viewed their immigration to Utah as the area’s first white settlers as an opportunity to escape deeply rooted inequities and begin anew. Subsequent groups of Utah radicals included the Godbeites in the late 1860s; the Liberal Party in the 1870s and 1880s; the Knights of Labor in the 1880s; Populists in the 1890s; anarchists, Wobblies, and Socialists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; Communists in the 1930s; Old and New Leftists in the 1960s; and various groups since, including the Democratic Socialists of America, Food Not Bombs, and the Wasatch Front Coalition for Peace and Justice. Specific features of that radical tradition include the Godbeites’ support of the Paris Commune of 1871; the Liberal Institute of the 1870s and 1880s; and three groups of the 1890s, including the Populist Party’s People’s Church, which invited “all those interested in rational religion, ethical culture, and social progress” to join; the Independent Free Thought Spiritualistic Church; and the Workingman’s Club, which met regularly in Industrial Square in downtown Salt Lake City to agitate for social change and discuss topics such as “Reform or Revolution: Which Shall We Have?” and . . .

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