Prophets of the Left: American Socialist Thought in the Twentieth Century

By Robert Hyfler | Go to book overview

1
Introduction: Theory and American Socialism

In 1912, Morris Hillquit, the most prominent theorist of American socialism, could lay claim to the following boast:

The Socialist movement is as wide as the world. In Europe, its power is felt alike in the highly civilized central and northern countries, in autocratic Russia, in apathetic Spain, and in the backward Balkan principalities and kingdoms. The "Red spector" has invaded the Celestial empire, Persia, and Japan; Transvaal and the Australian colonies; the South American republics and the Dominion of Canada. The United States is fast becoming a stronghold of the new doctrine. 1

With the exception of the last sentence, Hillquit's statement is no less true today than it was then. However, the spirit and context of the truth have changed. Red Russia remains autocratic; Spain--having experienced a revolution, a traumatic civil war, and an extended period of reaction--struggles to enter the twentieth century; Middle Eastern oligarchies call their order socialism; and in the "highly civilized central and northern countries" of Europe, socialist governments and parties administer to the needs of an ailing capitalism. The movement, which seventy years ago stood as the antithesis of existing orders, has often merged with them. Lacking the courage to admit its defeats, it has transformed its dreams to conform to its failures.

Socialism in America has been spared this fate. For the most part, history and the forces of American capitalism have not allowed so-

-3-

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Prophets of the Left: American Socialist Thought in the Twentieth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1 - Introduction: Theory and American Socialism 3
  • Notes 13
  • 2 - The Conservative Uses of Marx: Hillquit, Spargo, and Berger 15
  • Notes 40
  • 3 - De Leon and Labor Accommodationism: Two Poles of the Working-Class Movement 47
  • Notes 62
  • 4 - Socialism in the Working Class: Debs and the Wobblies 67
  • Notes 91
  • 5 - The Emergence and Subjugation of the Socialist Left: Boudin and Fraina 97
  • Notes 116
  • 6 - Norman Thomas and the Socialism of Concern 121
  • Notes 137
  • 7 - Michael Harrington and the Future of Socialism in America 143
  • Notes 168
  • Selected Bibliography 173
  • Index 183
  • About the Author 189
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