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

By Robert Hyfler | Go to book overview

possibility that they might be rectified. They understood that however inevitable, likely, or "scientifically" proven the coming of socialism might be, the cause would gain adherents only when people understood that it ought to be.

Yet, Berger's socialism was more similar to that of a Durkheim than to that of a Marx. He despaired over social conflict and anarchy, the passing of traditions, and the illegitimacy of capitalist power. His polemics were a call to the middle classes and the proletariat to save civilization from the rule of the plutocrats on the one hand and the savagery of a violent revolution on the other.

He perceived the formation of two nations, one composed of the "hungry millions," the other of the "overfed few." Unless rectified through socialist reform, this polarization of humanity would lead to a revolution complete with "fearful retribution." "Such a revolution," Berger warned, "will retrograde all civilization--it might throw back the white race to Barbarism." The evolution of society had left two courses open to man: socialism or revolutionary "barbarism." He viewed himself, and socialists like him, as modern Daniels, calling on all elements of society to see the writing on the wall, "to heed the warning of history," and to initiate reform before it was too late. 141

American socialists such as Berger, Spargo, and Hillquit yearned for organization, rational hierarchy, and order. Their concerns were greater for civilization than they were for man, and their fears of deep-rooted radical change at times exceeded abhorrence of capitalism. Whatever tactical advantages their approach might have offered were often dissipated by their lack of a vision transcending a variation of the status quo.


NOTES
1.
Morris Hillquit, Socialism in Theory and Practice ( New York: Macmillan, 1912), p. 4 (hereafter cited as Hillquit, Theory).
2.
Ira Kipnis, The American Socialist Movement, 1897-1912 (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1968), p. 107.
3.
John Spargo, Applied Socialism ( New York: Huebsch, 1912), p. viii.
4.
John Spargo, Socialism ( New York: Macmillan, 1909), pp. 181-82.
5.
Morris Hillquit, Socialism Summed Up ( New York: Fly, 1912), p. 37.
6.
Hillquit, Theory, p. 286.
7.
Spargo, Socialism, p. 76.
8.
Hillquit, Socialism Summed Up, p. 44. 41

-40-

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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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