Marxism in the United States: Remapping the History of the American Left

By Paul Buhle | Go to book overview

2
American Socialism, American
Culture

The migration of Marxism from its European homeland to the United States produced, as we have seen, results sometimes exciting but also deeply troubling to the Marxists. To succeed, any revolutionary movement needed to come to grips with the pervasive religious and cultural values, to understand and appreciate as well as to attempt to transform them. Homegrown radicals and class-conscious workers, for all their weaknesses, potentially provided Marxists access into the American mainstream. The process of discovery had to be mutual, a complex and protracted probing from both sides. The critical question was, what did each bring to the conversation? Marxism supplied a definite class view and a strategic instrument, the union, which could serve as means of transition to a new order. Indigenous radicalism stood for the most part outside these traditions. But its disciples held for that very reason a more sophisticated view of the multi-cultural, factory and non-factory, character of the American lower classes, Black and white, male and female. They also had a better subjective sense of the meaning, for Americans, of the old Republic's decline and debauch at the hands of monopolistic capitalism. At their best they understood the traumatic awakening into history which alone could bring a serious acceptance of Socialist ideas, and the moral or spiritual vacuum which only an expanded faith in democracy could fill.

The pre-industrial religion of a redemptive, benevolent deity watching over the republic fitted the needs of American radicals and reformers well into the late-nineteenth century. More than that, it placed the palpable deterioration of democracy in a great field of hope. America had failed the trust given its founders with

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Marxism in the United States: Remapping the History of the American Left
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Haymarket Series ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface 1
  • Introduction 9
  • 1 - Immigrant Socialism, 1865-1900 19
  • 2 - American Socialism, American Culture 58
  • 3 - Marxism in the Debs Era 86
  • 4 - Leninism in America 121
  • 5 - Rise of the Culture Critique, 1925- 1940 155
  • 6 - Somewhere Beyond Leninism, 1940-1960 184
  • 7 - The New Left 221
  • Conclusion 258
  • Notes 277
  • Index 296
  • The Haymarket Series 303
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