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

By Robert Hyfler | Go to book overview

6
Norman Thomas and the Socialism of Concern

The First World War shattered notions of working-class solidarity and the understanding on the left that a clear demarcation existed between the enlightened of the progressive world and those aligned with the capitalist order. Reinforced by organizational separations that were the legacy of the great schisms of 1914-1920, any acceptance within socialist ranks of a maxim reminiscent of Jefferson's "Differences of opinion do not make differences of principle" disappeared completely. In the process of schism and war, the political barricades were thrown every which way. Socialists, newly defined Communists, trade union activists, and liberals and progressives of all stripes constantly maneuvered to redefine the lines of conflict.

In the decades which followed, Norman Thomas emerged as the premier American social democrat, the spokesman for a non-Marxist brand of socialism which offered itself as an alternative to both communism and twentieth-century capitalism. That so moderate a voice for social change should emerge as a major spokesman for the American left (with a fair share of Marxist socialists standing to his right) was indicative of the reigning ideological and political confusion. As Hillquit's old guard scholastically condemned left-wing and Communist heretics to some Marxist purgatory, and as Communists labored to fight off repression while carrying out Kafkaesque Soviet dictates, Thomas fought a lonely battle to create a viable socialist presence in America. In an age of ideology, his lack of a truly critical theoretical perspective

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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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