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date: 24 March 2018

The Socialist Party of America, 1900–1929

Summary and Keywords

One of the pervasive myths about the United States is that it has never had a socialist movement comparable to other industrialized nations. Yet in the early 20th century a vibrant Socialist Party and socialist movement flourished in the United States. Created in 1901, the Socialist Party of America unsurprisingly declared its primary goal to be the collectivization of the means of production. Yet the party’s highly decentralized and democratic structure enabled it to adapt to the needs and cultures of diverse constituencies in different regions of the country. Among those attracted to the movement in its heyday were immigrant and native-born workers and their families, tenant farmers, middle-class intellectuals, socially conscious millionaires, urban reformers, and feminists. Party platforms regularly included the reform interests of these groups as well as the long-term goal of eradicating capitalism. By 1912, the Socialist Party boasted an impressive record of electoral successes at the local, state, and national levels. U.S. Socialists could also point with pride to over three hundred English and foreign-language Socialist periodicals, some with subscription rates that rivaled those of the major urban daily newspapers.

Yet Socialists faced numerous challenges in their efforts to build a viable third-party movement in the United States. On the one hand, progressive reformers in the Democratic and Republican parties sought to coopt Socialists. On the other hand, the Socialist Party encountered challenges on the left from anarchists, syndicalists, communists, and Farmer-Labor Party activists. The Socialist Party was particularly weakened by government repression during World War I, by the postwar Red Scare, and by a communist insurgency within its ranks in the aftermath of the war. By the onset of the Great Depression, the Communist Party would displace the Socialist Party as the leading voice of radical change in the United States.

Keywords: Socialist Party of America, socialism, communism, World War I, Wilsonian internationalism, Mexican Revolution, Eugene Debs, Kate Richards O’Hare, Victor Berger


The Socialist Party of America (SP) was by no means the first socialist organization in the United States. The economic dislocations and inequalities wrought by the industrial revolution in the 19th century inspired both immigrant and native-born workers and social reformers to create a range of socialist organizations in the United States, the most durable of which was the Socialist Labor Party (SLP), established in 1877. Yet the SLP’s dogmatic leader, Daniel De Leon, alienated many both within and outside the party. In 1901, opponents of the SLP called a Unity Convention in Indianapolis in an effort to create a new, more inclusive Socialist Party. One hundred and twenty five delegates attended the convention. Of these, seventy came from a dissident SLP group led by Morris Hillquit of New York; forty-seven came from the Chicago-based Social Democratic Party recently created by Eugene Debs and Victor Berger; and eight represented fragments of the former Populist parties of Iowa, Kentucky, and Texas.

The Socialist Party of America, 1900–1929Click to view larger

Figure 1. Pictured here are Victor Berger, first Socialist elected to the U.S. House of Representatives (from the district of Milwaukee, Wisconsin); Bertha Hale White, Assistant and Executive National Secretary of the Socialist Party of America; and Eugene Debs, five-time Socialist Party candidate for U.S. president. December 13, 1914. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-DIG-npcc-12745

Immigrant workers were well represented among the delegates at the convention, but only three representatives were African Americans. Equally striking, only eight of the delegates were women, despite a long history of female activism and membership in socialist organizations.1

One of the first acts of the convention was to create a new party called the Socialist Party of America and to develop a set of general principles to guide it. The foundational statement of the SP declared that the “exploitation of labor will come to an end only when society takes possession of all the means of production for the benefit of all the people.”2 Both political and economic action, it argued, would be necessary to achieve collective ownership of the means of production. Yet in an effort to avoid some of the tensions that had developed between the SLP and the American Federation of Labor (AFL) over the latter’s nonpartisan political policies, the SP convention statement struck a conciliatory note in emphasizing that “trade unions are by historical necessity organized on neutral grounds as far as political affiliation is concerned.” It nonetheless insisted that Socialists should join the trade unions in their respective industrial fields and argued that all trade unionists had a vested interest in joining the Socialist Party.3 This general principle would prove controversial after the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was created in 1905; many left-wing Socialists favored abandoning the allegedly conservative craft unionism of the AFL and aligning the Socialist Party behind the revolutionary syndicalist agenda of the IWW. This agenda called for direct economic action through industry-wide and general strikes as the primary means to achieve collective ownership of the means of production. Yet in 1901 the goal of the Unity Convention was to encourage trade unionists to join the Socialist Party and to bring Socialism into their AFL unions in a nonthreatening way.

Despite the dearth of female delegates at the convention, the party also reached out to women by pledging to support “equal civil and political rights for men and women.” The party, however, did not formally endorse women’s suffrage in its constitution until 1908, apparently inspired by the women’s suffrage policy adopted by the meeting of the Second Socialist International in Stuttgart Germany in 1907.4 The delegates at the Unity Convention also invited the “Negro to membership and fellowship with us in the world movement for economic emancipation,” but in practice the record of the party in recruiting African Americans before World War I was quite mixed.5

Perhaps even more important than the general principles established for the Socialist Party at the Unity Convention were the agreements reached about the party’s structure. Midwesterners prevailed in emphasizing the merits of a decentralized party structure in which “the state or territorial organization shall have sole jurisdiction of the members residing within their respective territories, and the sole control of all matters pertaining to the propaganda, organization, and financial affairs within such state or territory.”6 This structure, in turn, facilitated the growth of strong local and regional socialist organizations, albeit sometimes at the expense of national coordination.

Grass-Roots and Regional Socialism: 1900–1920

During its first fifteen or so years of existence, historian Jack Ross suggests, the Socialist Party developed a “significant political presence in every part of the country except the Southeastern seaboard from Maryland to Georgia.”7 In the Northeast, New York City emerged as an intellectual hub, and organizers there built a movement that incorporated immigrant workers alongside millionaire philanthropists, suffragists, and high-powered intellectuals. The millionaire Socialists proved particularly important in funding think tanks like the Rand Corporation and Socialist newspapers. By 1917, New York boasted an impressive range of Socialist periodicals that included papers as diverse as the Yiddish-language Jewish Daily Forward, the German-language Volkszeitung, the English-language New York Daily Call, and the African American paper the Messenger. The Jewish Daily Forward enjoyed a circulation of over two hundred thousand, making it the leading Yiddish-language newspaper in the world, while the New York Call included a vibrant women’s section that won followers throughout the country. The New York movement also helped spread the Socialist message through multilingual street rallies, “soap box” speakers who gave impromptu speeches on street corners, and Socialist-sponsored social activities, ranging from picnics to educational events.

Yet the very diversity of the city, in combination with the continuing influence of the Tammany Hall Democratic machine, prevented standard-bearer Morris Hillquit from winning any of his mayoral bids. Strong anarchist movements in the city’s German and Italian neighborhoods may also have sapped Socialist strength, since anarchists opposed all forms of capitalist, governmental, and religious authority and counseled against participation in politics. Anarchists also developed an infrastructure of social activities for workers that sometimes competed with those of the Socialists, ranging from anarchist saloons and beer gardens to singing clubs and dance halls. Although the strength of the Democratic machine and competition from anarchist and other radical subcultures prevented the Socialists from winning mayoral elections, Socialist Meyer London was elected as a U.S. congressional representative by his Manhattan Lower East Side district in 1915. New York state congressional districts that included areas such as the Bronx and Flatbush and Williamsburg in Brooklyn, also elected several Socialist state assemblymen.8

Socialists enjoyed even greater electoral successes in mid-sized industrial cities in the Northeast. In Schenectady, New York, for example, Socialist George Lunn won his bid for mayor and remained popular throughout his terms in office (1911–1917) by expanding city parks, improving public education, building community health centers, and adding a range of new city services. Several other small and mid-sized cities in the Northeast also elected Socialist mayors and aldermen. In every northeastern state except Maine, voters elected Socialists to serve in state legislatures. Socialist state legislators in the Northeast particularly concerned themselves with regulating corporations and establishing more legal rights and protections for workers. Yet in presidential elections, voters in midwestern and western states tended to vote for Socialist candidates Eugene Debs (1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1920) and Allan Benson (1916) in greater numbers than did voters in northeastern states.9

Particularly striking was the strength of socialism in the southwestern United States. Local organizers there used methods quite different than those in the Northeast to spread the Socialist gospel. Especially popular were week-long Socialist encampments in rural areas that were reminiscent of the religious revival meetings that had at one time swept through the Plains states. Such encampments often featured not only political talks but also barbecues, skits, and music that drew thousands of area tenant farmers and agricultural laborers. As one Socialist explained, these events gave many attendees “the greatest opportunity of their lives for a good time.” So successful were the encampments that French Socialist leader Jean Jaures asked Kansas-based Socialist agitator Kate Richards O’Hare to come to France to advise Socialists there on how to better attract farmers to their cause.10

Yet also important in popularizing the party in the Southwest was a diverse set of homegrown Socialist newspapers that often strayed from party principles in emphasizing highly creative solutions to local problems. Oklahoma and Texas each boasted more than a dozen Socialist newspapers. Girard, Kansas, was home to the Appeal to Reason, which enjoyed a large national as well as local following and for a time boasted the largest circulation of any weekly political periodical in the country. In southern Texas, Thomas Hickey’s Halletsville Rebel gained a local following of over twenty-five thousand by emphasizing solutions to the land question and to the increasing impoverishment of area tenant farmers that drew more on the programs of Mexican revolutionaries and the Irish Land League than on traditional Marxist assumptions.11

Socialism also made strong inroads into the Pacific Northwest, where the bitter class war in the mining and timber industries won it a steady stream of supporters. Among those towns electing Socialist mayors during this period were the strife-filled mining towns of Butte and Anaconda, Montana. Both IWW and AFL local unions in the Northwest often supported local Socialist politics in an effort to gain supporters in government circles who would preempt the use of hostile state militia and local police against strikers in labor disputes.12

In the Midwest, Chicago emerged as an intellectual hub for the party in ways that rivaled New York. Like its Eastern counterpart, Chicago boasted a sophisticated and contentious English and foreign-language Socialist press. Among the English-language periodicals published in the city were the American Socialist, the official party organ of the Socialist Party; the International Socialist Review, a paper known for its theoretical sophistication and as a voice for the left-wing of the Socialist Party; and the Christian Socialist, which also enjoyed a national following. As a heavily immigrant city, Chicago supported a dozen or so foreign-language newspapers. Particularly important were the Slovenian, Slovakian, and Bohemian Socialist newspapers that catered to the city’s stockyard- and steelworkers. The Socialist publisher Charles H. Kerr also established its central office in Chicago. Yet Socialists proved more electorally successful in Milwaukee, home of Victor Berger and a large German American population. Voters there elected Victor Berger to Congress, and Socialists dominated city government for over thirty years by eliminating corruption and promoting “sewer socialism”—an emphasis on publicly controlled city utilities such as the sewer system. As in the Northeast, many smaller industrial towns in the Midwest also elected Socialist mayors and aldermen, and many state congressional districts in mining and industrial areas elected Socialists to state legislatures.13

National Evolution, Successes, and Problems

As the party grew in different regions of the country, national leaders used party platforms both to refine demands for collective ownership of the means of production and to incorporate some of the diverse reform interests of constituents throughout the country. In some respects the 1904 platform, as Jack Ross has argued, adopted a populist tone that diluted Marxist demands for collective ownership of the means of production. The platform insisted that “private ownership of the means of employment grounds society in an economic slavery which renders intellectual and political tyranny inevitable.” Yet it argued that the goal of Socialism was not to eliminate all private ownership but instead to “organize industry and society that every individual shall be secure in that private property in the means of life upon which his liberty of being, thought, and action depends.” Meanwhile, the SP adopted demands for an eight-hour day, an end to child labor, women’s suffrage, social insurance, income and inheritance taxes, and policies guaranteeing a right to citizen’s initiatives, recalls, and referenda at every level of government. These demands alienated left-wing Socialists, who charged the party with political opportunism in an effort to garner votes.14

In its 1908 platform, the SP limited its demands for collective ownership to “all social means of transportation and communication” and to “all industries organized on a national scale and in which competition has virtually ceased to exist.” Such an approach seemed to allow for private ownership of both farms and small businesses. In addition to the reform demands made in 1904, it also called for the abolition of the Senate, an end to judicial legislative review, and the election of judges. By 1915, Socialists further confused the issue of collective ownership by including the increasingly widespread demand among trade unionists for “industrial democracy” in their platforms and statements.15

Yet if the SP was far from consistent in its approach to collective ownership of the means of production, its programs nonetheless seemed to strike a chord with many U.S. voters. By 1912, a peak year for the party, local and regional Socialist parties acting under the loose guidance of the National Executive of the Socialist Party had helped to build a formidable socialist movement in the United States. Party membership stood at a record high of 118,000, and the party had by this date elected over 1,200 Socialists to political office, including aldermen, mayors, state legislators, and two congressmen. Eugene Debs also ran for presidential office in this year and received a respectable 6 percent of the vote.16 Despite, or perhaps because of, its ideological impurities, the Socialist Party had also become an important intellectual influence in American society, with reformers and labor activists alike adopting many of its ideas. Although the leadership of the AFL remained hostile to Socialist politics, Socialists enjoyed a significant minority presence within the movement. Socialists also boasted a presence within the IWW despite growing tensions with this organization. To many Socialist leaders, the future likely seemed bright in 1912.

Yet the party’s record of successes masked some developing problems. The increasingly reformist bent of the party, as well as a debate over whether to support the IWW’s revolutionary syndicalism and abandon the AFL, created right-left factionalism within the party. In 1913 Big Bill Haywood, a leader of the IWW, was recalled from his position on the National Executive Board of the Socialist Party for advocating sabotage, further widening the rift between the left and right factions and leading to a split between the leadership of the IWW and the Socialist Party. Even Eugene Debs now denounced the IWW as an “anarchist organization in all except in name.”17 The Socialist Party’s actions antagonized not only IWW members, some of whom nonetheless remained Socialist Party members, but also the leaders of anarchist movements in Mexican American, German American, and Italian American communities. Another problem for the party was the growing foreign-language federations that had been sanctioned in the party constitution by the Socialist Congress in 1910. The federations were a source of electoral strength but tended to operate quite independently of the mainstream Socialist Party. Some Socialist leaders worried that they were disproportionately left-leaning and committed to IWW or other left ideologies rather than to mainstream Socialist values.18

The party also faced continuing problems in integrating and attracting African Americans and women. Perhaps the most important factor impeding recruitment of African Americans was the openly white supremacist views of some Socialist leaders. Victor Berger, for example, argued that “negroes and mulattoes constitute a lower race” and believed that “socialism would be victorious only by keeping the United States a ‘white man’s country.’” Yet Eugene Debs’s assertion that the class struggle was “colorless” also proved problematic. Debs insisted that because there was no “negro problem apart from the general labor problem,” the party did not need to make “separate appeals” to African Americans or other people of color. To highlight race, he argued, might divide the working class. Yet many Harlem-based African American Socialists and black émigré Caribbean radicals disagreed with Debs’s thinking on this issue. Hubert Harrison, who was born in the West Indies, “thought that Socialists should champion the cause of African Americans as a revolutionary doctrine” and “affirm the duty of all socialists to oppose race prejudice.” The party’s failure to embrace a more activist approach to combatting racism and recruiting people of color led many black Socialists to renounce it. Women, for their part, complained about the party’s tendency to neglect gender issues and particularly criticized the decision of the party to defund the Woman’s National Committee, which had been entrusted with increasing membership among women and promoting women’s suffrage. Problems of integrating immigrants, African Americans, and women, and of right- and left-wing factionalism, would be significantly exacerbated by World War I.19

The Crucible of Revolution and War

Socialist leaders demonstrated an early interest in international affairs by regularly sending delegates to the Second International, a group of predominantly European socialist and labor parties committed in theory to trying to promote international working-class solidarity. Yet during its first decade of existence the party necessarily focused primarily on domestic issues in its party platforms and political campaigns. The outbreak of revolution in neighboring Mexico in 1910, however, forced the party to take a more systematic interest in questions of U.S. foreign policy and events abroad and to analyze the significance of imperial relationships for workers. Following the overthrow of the dictatorial regime of Porfirio Díaz, many Socialists at first joined American liberals in supporting the moderate Mexican reformer Francisco Madero, who promised to restore democracy to Mexico and made vague promises about land reform. Yet other Mexican revolutionaries sought more far-ranging social and economic changes in Mexico and called for the expropriation of large landholders and foreign investors. Among these were the Los Angeles–based Mexican exiles Ricardo and Enrique Flores Magón, who began to openly promote an anarchist agenda for Mexico following the outbreak of the revolution. In 1911, they organized a failed invasion of Baja California with the assistance of some IWW leaders in an effort to establish anarchist communities there. Despite imprisonment for their activities, the Flores Magóns and their followers within the binational Partido Liberal Mexicano (PLM) continued to urge peasants and workers to engage in acts of expropriation and to begin the process of communally managing Mexico’s farms and factories.20

The actions of Mexican anarchists posed a conundrum for many U.S. Socialists, since they assumed, in line with Marxist doctrine, that nations needed first to pass through a stage of bourgeois democracy before they would be prepared for social revolution and the collective ownership of the means of production. According to Eugene Debs, the masses of Mexican workers and producers were “ignorant, superstitious, unorganized and all but helpless” and not yet prepared to take over the management of Mexican farms and factories. He criticized PLM activists and other insurgents for causing needless bloodshed and urged them to lay down their arms so that Francisco Madero could begin a process of democratic reform that would eventually lead to socialism. By contrast, other Socialists who befriended the Flores Magóns argued that Mexico had a long tradition of communal landholding and cooperative management of economic enterprises but that the Díaz regime had forcibly dispossessed peasants in order to give the land, mines, and industries to foreigners and to Mexican elites. A firm base for democracy, they argued, could be established only after the profound economic injustices in Mexico were addressed and Mexico was freed from foreign control.21

Following Madero’s assassination in 1913 during a military coup, Mexico descended into civil war, and U.S. Socialists further divided over what revolutionary faction to support. Yet the turbulent situation in Mexico did encourage one common concern among U.S. Socialists. Most feared that U.S. business interests would try to encourage the Wilson administration to intervene in the Mexican situation, and even to establish a financial protectorate there, in order to protect their investments. These fears seemed to be confirmed when the Wilson administration militarily occupied the port of Veracruz near the Tampico oil fields in the spring of 1914, resulting in the deaths of nineteen U.S. soldiers and several hundred Mexicans. Many blamed U.S. oil interests for provoking Wilson’s actions and argued that further U.S. intervention in Mexico at the behest of business groups would be contrary to the interests not only of Mexican but also of U.S. workers.22

This event, in combination with the stunning outbreak of World War I in Europe a few months later, led the national Socialist Party to devote unprecedented attention to foreign policy issues from 1914 to 1916. Although Wilson quickly issued a proclamation of neutrality with respect to the European War, Socialists feared that U.S. economic interests also had a vested interest in involving the United States in this conflict. When preparedness activists began to promote programs calling for an increased military budget, a larger national army, and universal military training, Socialists argued that business groups were the moving force behind this agitation; big business would profit from military contracts and would use a larger military to suppress labor unrest at home as well as to protect their economic interests in Mexico and Europe. Workers, on the other hand, were always the ones who fought and died in military conflicts. At grass-roots levels, many Socialists and antiwar activists began to refer to World War I as a “rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.”

The Socialist Party of America, 1900–1929Click to view larger

Figure 2. Antiwar cartoons like this one were quite common in the Socialist press following the outbreak of World War I and conveyed the sense that workers, as the majority class, had the power to stop U.S. intervention in the war through either political means or a general strike if they chose. The International Socialist Review, July 1915; author’s collection

Upset by the decision of most European Socialist groups to support their governments after the outbreak of war, U.S. Socialists first tried to arrange a meeting of the Second International in the United States in an effort to encourage a Socialist-negotiated peace. When this failed, U.S Socialists pledged themselves to a “war on war” and devoted themselves to trying to prevent U.S. military intervention in both the Mexican Revolution and the European War.23

Since President Wilson had declared U.S. neutrality only shortly after the outbreak of war in Europe, Socialists initially viewed the president’s European foreign policies favorably and instead devoted themselves to discrediting his more jingoistic critics such as Theodore Roosevelt and the preparedness organizations. Yet over time Socialists became concerned about two interrelated aspects of Wilson’s policies toward the war in Europe. First, they complained that Wilson’s trade and credit policies favored the British and Allied powers at the expense of the Germans. Second, Wilson demanded that Germany renounce submarine warfare but did not demand that Britain stop its starvation blockade of the continent. When Wilson insisted that Germany was threatening U.S. national security through its submarine attacks on American ships and passengers, Socialists charged that Wilson’s definition of national security revealed a class bias. Belligerent attacks on U.S. shipping, they argued, were not a direct threat to the security of the U.S. workers who constituted the majority class in the United States but rather to the profits of American businessmen. The greatest threat to the security of most Americans, they argued, was not the German military machine but American business groups who sought to force the United States to intervene in the war.24

Despite these criticisms, historians have demonstrated that Wilson’s initial efforts to keep the United States out of the war won some support among Socialists and helped him to build a “left-of-center coalition” to support his presidential candidacy in 1916.25 Yet while some Socialists defected to Wilson in 1916, the party itself lambasted Wilson for his hypocrisy on foreign policy issues and developed a highly original set of foreign policy programs that diverged significantly from those of Wilson. Socialist John Kenneth Turner, a friend of the Flores Magóns, set the tone by explaining that Wilson had by the fall of 1916 “SAID more fine things, probably, than any president before him not excepting even Washington and Lincoln.” Yet Turner insisted that “ALL the fine things he has said have been FLATLY CONTRADICTED by other fine things he has said—or by things he has DONE.” He emphasized that while Wilson claimed to respect the rights of small nations, he had violated the territorial integrity of Mexico and other nations in the Caribbean more than any other president, usually at the behest of either money trusts or other imperialist interests. The Socialist Party platform thus renounced the Monroe Doctrine on the grounds that Wilson had changed it from a “safeguard to a menace” and was using it as a justification for imperial interventionism by the United States in Latin American affairs.26

On the question of World War I, the party platform insisted that it was caused by the “desire and effort of competing national groups of capitalists to grasp and control the opportunities for profitable investment.” It further argued that “not until the capitalist system of production is destroyed and replaced by industrial democracy will wars for markets cease and international peace be securely established.” Yet in the interim it called for the democratization of foreign policy powers as the best way to prevent wars. To this end, it supported an initiative of Socialist presidential candidate Allan Benson calling for a referendum vote of all American men and women if the U.S. government wished to intervene in a foreign, or “offensive,” war. Under the terms of the initiative, the U.S. government would be allowed to wage war in a foreign country only if a democratic majority of Americans supported it. The government would be allowed, however, to raise an army to defend the United States in the event of an actual attack on American soil without a referendum vote. The platform also demonstrated a particular distrust for Wilson by asking that the power to create foreign policies and conduct diplomatic negotiations be lodged in Congress rather than the president. Such steps were necessary, Socialists argued, because the president had proven that he was not neutral in the European war despite his claims to the contrary and was also engaged in unlawful acts in Mexico and in Caribbean nations such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua. No single individual, they argued, could be trusted to withstand the overwhelming pressure and influence exerted by the business class on issues of foreign policy.27

President Wilson’s decision to declare war against Germany in April 1917 only a few months after he successfully campaigned for office on a platform of keeping the country out of war confirmed the worst fears of many Socialists about him. In striking contrast to most European socialist parties, the majority wing of the U.S. Socialist Party continued to oppose U.S military intervention in the European conflict as well as conscription even after Wilson’s declaration of war. At an emergency Socialist convention on the war held shortly after Wilson’s address to Congress, the party famously declared, “As against the false doctrine of national patriotism, we uphold the ideal of international working class solidarity.” The emergency convention’s statement on the war was also striking for its point-by-point renunciation of the lofty wartime goals laid out by President Wilson in his speech before Congress. Perhaps most importantly, the party repudiated Wilson’s idealistic claim that the war would be fought to make the “world safe for democracy,” arguing that “democracy can never be imposed on any country by a foreign power by force of arms.” Ironically, like some conservative groups, the SP saw Wilson’s expansive democratic rhetoric as camouflage for a potentially dangerous escalation of the U.S. role in the world and the emergence of the United States as a full-fledged imperial power.28

The government, concerned about high levels of opposition to the war as well as labor unrest, passed the Espionage and Sedition Acts in 1917 and 1918. These acts made obstructing military recruitment and slandering the war effort, government, and even the flag illegal. Yet Socialists continued to oppose the war both individually and through newly created organizations like the People’s Council. Scores of Socialists soon found themselves indicted and sometimes jailed for exercising their rights to free speech. Among these were the popular Socialist leaders Kate Richards O’Hare and Eugene Debs. O’Hare was convicted for a speech in Bowman, North Dakota, in which she allegedly claimed that U.S. women were being treated as “brood sows to raise children to get into the army and [be] made into fertilizer.” O’Hare, the mother of four young children, vigorously denied the claim but was sentenced to five years in prison for obstructing military recruitment. Debs was sentenced to ten years for an antiwar speech in Canton, Ohio. Many Socialist newspapers were also denied mailing privileges under the terms of the Espionage and Sedition Acts.29

Yet government repression did not by itself cause an irreversible decline in the Socialist Party. Indeed, as James Weinstein has convincingly demonstrated, party membership grew significantly following the U.S. declaration of war, and vote tallies for Socialists with strong antiwar records increased exponentially in 1917–1918 in many locations. In New York City, for example, Morris Hillquit polled five times the number of votes that Socialist candidates, including himself, usually received in city elections in November 1917. During this same election cycle, the party made substantial gains in many other major industrial cities and won mayoral elections in eleven smaller towns and cities. Victor Berger won election to the House of Representatives in 1918 despite a pending indictment under the Espionage Act. After his conviction, he was not allowed to take his seat. He remained popular with voters, however, and was subsequently elected to Congress two more times. Existing evidence also suggests that the anti-conscription campaigns of Socialists were extremely popular.30

Yet the war, and the repression and revolutionary upheaval it wrought, damaged the Socialist Party, because it provoked divisions and splits. The first major split occurred only shortly after the Socialist emergency convention in 1917, when a number of prominent Socialists broke with the party’s antiwar agenda and announced their intent to support the government during wartime. These Socialists subsequently enjoyed a privileged position within the Wilson administration. Yet their numbers were small. Far more important were the defections from the party that developed in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution.

The Bolshevik Revolution, the Red Scare, and the Splintering of American Socialism

Almost all Socialists in the United States greeted the news of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in November 1917 with enthusiasm. Problems arose, however, when the Bolsheviks in January of 1919 laid plans for a Third International and called on workers throughout the world to engage in “mass action” to achieve a “dictatorship of the working class.”31 Left-wingers within the Socialist Party took this as a call to insurrection and sought to capture leadership of the National Executive Council from the centrists and align the party behind the revolutionary program of the Bolsheviks. Among those particularly influenced by the Third International’s call to action were the foreign-language federations within the party, which now comprised about 53 percent of the Socialist Party’s membership and a small minority group of native-born U.S. communists. When the national party leadership got wind of the left-wing movement to capture the party, they suspended seven foreign-language federations associated with the revolt, thereby prompting further antagonism from the left wing. Subsequently, a group led by Nicholas Hourwich of the Russian Language Federation organized the U.S. Communist Party, and another group of predominantly English-language left-wingers organized the Communist Labor Party. Among the English-language group were those who had long been sympathetic to the direct action techniques of the IWW and felt alienated by the Socialist Party’s almost exclusive emphasis on political action.32

The conventions of both Communist parties as well as the Socialist Party met in Chicago in the late summer of 1919. The Communist Party insisted in its manifesto that “the problems of the American worker are identical with the problems of the workers of the world.” They emphasized mass general strikes as the way to mobilize the revolutionary potential of American workers. The Communist Labor Party advocated similar tactics but emphasized that the Russians must not be allowed to dictate the terms of the American Revolution. The Socialists, in contrast to both Communist parties, insisted that revolution was not imminent in the United States and that Bolshevik methods were unsuited to the democratic political landscape of the United States. Further complicating the political situation for the Socialist Party in 1919 was the emergence of a Labor Party movement that spread like a prairie fire across the Midwest in 1919. The movement was initiated by dissident union activists from the Chicago Federation of Labor who had grown disillusioned with the wartime policies of the AFL and soon spread to other local labor movements as well as national unions. Labor Party leaders also held their convention in Chicago, albeit in November of 1919, and emphasized the goal of democratic control of industry by those who work with “hand and brain” as well as representation for workers in the new international organizations created at Versailles in proportion to their “numbers in the armies, navies and workshops of the world.” Both goals seemed close to those formerly enunciated by the Socialist Party, yet trade unionists opposed to AFL president Samuel Gompers now sought their own distinctly working-class political organization. The Labor Party, created in Chicago in 1919, was reorganized in 1920 as the national Farmer-Labor Party.33

The explosion of radical politics in the postwar era, in combination with militant labor strikes and an anarchist bombing campaign in 1919, helped provoke the so-called Red Scare, during which authorities launched new raids that led to more mass arrests and deportations of radicals. IWW activists, anarchists, and Communists were especially targeted in the new wave of arrests, but many Socialists were victims of the raids as well. The new spirit of repression may also have prolonged the sentences of Socialists and radicals still jailed for antiwar activities. The Socialist Party continued to promote its long-standing goals and agenda despite the new campaigns waged against radicals and the splits and competition from the Communist and Labor parties. Eugene Debs campaigned for president from his jail cell in 1920 and polled an astounding 915,000 votes, or about 3.5 percent of the popular vote. Yet the party clearly suffered as a result of the fragmentation on the political left.

The Socialist Party of America, 1900–1929Click to view larger

Figure 3. Eugene Debs was serving time in prison for violating the 1917 Espionage Act when he campaigned for U.S. president in 1920. National Archives, Berryman Political Cartoon Collection, 1896 – 1949, 306114

In early 1919, Socialist Party membership was around 109,000, but by 1920 the combined tally of membership in the Socialist Party, Communist Party, and Communist Labor Party was only 36,000.34

Some expected the Socialist Party to shift to the right politically after the rise of Communist parties in the United States, Yet as David Shannon has demonstrated, the center of gravity within the Socialist Party seemed for a time to shift further to the left. Surprisingly, the party expressed an interest in aligning with the Soviet-inspired Third International, or Comintern, and criticized the Berne Socialist Conference of 1919 for failing to invite European communist parties. Yet in 1920 the Socialist Party convention complained that the Third International was too dominated by the Russian model and argued that all “true Socialist forces” should be invited to join the new organization. The Third International, however, moved in the opposite direction and developed twenty-one conditions that had to be met for affiliation with it. The U.S. Socialist convention in 1921 responded by defeating a proposal to seek affiliation, leaving it isolated from both the Third International and the more moderate Berne Socialists.35

U.S. Socialists also remained estranged from the newly created U.S. Communist parties of the postwar era and instead chose to align with the moderate groups who coalesced in the Conference on Political Action (CPPA) from 1922 to 1924. This coalition included railroad unions, Farmer-Labor Party activists, and various progressive groups. The highlight of this coalition’s activities came in 1924, when it sponsored the third-party ticket of Robert La Follette. The Socialists worked hard for the La Follette campaign, hoping that it might lead to a coalition similar to that upon which the British Labour Party had been built. Yet while La Follette won about 17 percent of the vote, the CPPA disintegrated in the aftermath of the election, and the Socialist Party continued to lose members. When Eugene Debs died in 1926, it seemed to many the end of an era.36

Yet by the latter part of the 1920s, the party showed some new signs of life. The young Norman Thomas emerged to fill Debs’s shoes and ran for presidential office on the Socialist ticket in 1928. Although Thomas fared poorly by comparison with Debs, he remained an important pacifist voice as well as a voice for social change throughout the interwar period. Socialists also attempted to gain new audiences for the movement through the growing mass medium of radio and defied the growing capitalist concentration in this field by creating the radio station WEVD (the latter three letters being Debs’s initials) in New York City in 1927. The station provided an important new forum for continuing to promote the Socialist message. Also important in spreading the Socialist message in New York in the 1920s was the African American newspaper the Messenger, which became a vibrant intellectual hub for the party. A. Philip Randolph, one of the editors of the paper, also became a driving force behind the campaign to organize sleeping car porters. Yet other African American activists and Caribbean émigré radicals in Harlem were attracted to the Communist Party. Beyond New York, the SP continued to fare well in longtime strongholds such as Milwaukee and forged new areas of strength in industrial towns such as Reading, Pennsylvania. Yet the party never succeeded in regaining the electoral strength it enjoyed prior to World War I. Support for socialism within the labor movement also decreased significantly. During the Depression, the SP would be undercut in part by the popularity of the New Deal. Equally significant, the Communists, with their emphasis on general strikes and direct action, would succeed in creating a more significant presence for themselves in the newly emerging Congress of Industrial Organizations.37

Discussion of the Literature

In 1906, German scholar Werner Sombart helped frame a debate that would last for the next century by asking, “Why is there no Socialism in the United States?” Sombart acknowledged that, at the time he wrote, there were two major Socialist parties in the United States (the SP and SLP). However, he argued that the parties’ small vote tallies demonstrated that the “American working class does not embrace Socialism.” Among the many reasons for this, he argued, was the affluence of American workers and their generally favorable attitude toward both capitalism and the American democratic political system. In the 1950s, the American scholar Daniel Bell followed up on Sombart’s questions by asking why the U.S. socialist movement had failed to “adapt to the distinctive conditions of American life.” Although he emphasized that the Socialist Party had enjoyed a period of relative success after Sombart wrote, he nonetheless argued that it suffered from fatal flaws. In particular, the party was “in but not of the world.” By rejecting capitalism, it made practical solutions to problems impossible and alienated potential supporters, who were instead drawn to the reform agenda of Progressives like Woodrow Wilson. Bell also insisted that the antiwar positions of the party during World War I discredited it.38

Other historians of the 1950s and 1960s such as David Shannon, Ira Kipnis, and James Weinstein detailed more of the Socialist Party’s electoral successes and positions on particular issues but also remained focused on the question of why the party declined and failed to establish a foothold in American politics. David Shannon offered a multicausal explanation of the party’s decline that included many of the factors highlighted by Bell but also emphasized the importance of other factors, such as the ethnic diversity of the American working class, in impeding its electoral successes. Ira Kipnis highlighted the ways in which party leaders strayed from Socialist principles and alienated significant segments of the party’s left wing during World War I. James Weinstein disputed both Bell’s and Kipnis’s claim that the party began its decline during World War I and instead demonstrated that the party’s antiwar policies seemed to significantly increase its popularity. Weinstein placed more blame for the party’s decline on the communist insurgency within the Socialist Party’s left wing and the splits and decrease in membership it caused. Also important was the new challenge from the Farmer-Labor Party movement. This splitting and competition from other left groups, suggested Weinstein, caused the party to lose its “organizational cohesion and a sense of direction.” After 1925, he argued, the party became more “narrow” and “sectarian” and was ill-prepared to challenge either the New Deal reform agenda or the new Communist presence in the Congress of Industrial Organizations. Early historians of U.S. communism writing about the period also emphasized the importance of the splits but sometimes disagreed about their causes and assigned blame differently.39

If early studies of the Socialist Party tended to focus on national political development and the party’s decline, the 1970s ushered in an era of scholarship influenced by the new social history. This literature emphasized the party’s rich and diverse regional subcultures, political structures, and membership as well as the role of previously neglected subjects such as race and gender within the party. Space precludes an examination of all of the books that fall within this genre, but a few examples include James Green, Grass-Roots Socialism: Radical Movements in the Southwest, 1895–1943; Donald Critchlow, Socialism in the Heartland: The Midwestern Experience, 1900–1925; Richard Judd, Socialist Cities: Municipal Politics and the Grass Roots of American Socialism; Cecelia Bucki, Bridgeport’s Socialist New Deal; and Mary Joe Buhle, Women and American Socialism. Many post-1970 biographies of Socialist leaders also revealed a social history sensitivity in connecting their subjects to regional subcultures, including Sally Miller’s biographies of Victor Berger and Kate Richards O’Hare and Nick Salvatore’s biography of Eugene Debs. Some of the more recent historiography following in a social history genre has emphasized the importance of questions of race in Socialist subcultures, including Jeffrey Perry’s biography of Harlem-based Hubert Harrison, Minkah Makalani’s study of Caribbean radicals in New York, and David Chang’s study of race, nation, and the question of land in Oklahoma.40

Even more recently, historians have returned to national and international themes important to the history of the Socialist Party. A wide-ranging study by Jack Ross explores the diverse political roots of the early Socialist Party and faults the “malign influence” of Ira Kipnis in leading many subsequent historians to overrepresent the significance of the left-wing of the party. Other recent histories, building on the newly emerging field of transnational history, have emphasized the need to further explore the international roots of the early Socialist Party and the ways in which it significantly diverged from the Wilson administration in its international vision. In particular, Elizabeth McKillen has suggested that the Socialist Party offered an incisive anti-imperialist critique of the Wilsonian international ideals that would dominate 20th-century U.S. diplomacy and agrees with Weinstein that its international policies during the World War I–era were a source of electoral strength.41

Primary Sources

The most important archival collection for those wishing to study the Socialist Party of America is the Socialist Party of America Papers at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Also useful is the Socialist Party Printed Ephemera Collection at Tamiment Library, New York University in New York City. Nearly as important as the Socialist Party archives are the many collections of the personal papers of Socialist Party leaders. Eugene V. Debs’s papers are held at Tamiment Library. The Victor Berger, Morris Hillquit, Adolph Germer, Algie Simons, and William English Walling Papers are housed at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin in Madison. The society also maintains a very small collection on microfilm of Kate Richards O’Hare’s papers, most of which were destroyed in a family dispute. Tamiment Library at New York University holds a number of other collections of prominent Socialists and Socialist writers, including those of Norman Thomas, Daniel Bell, Algernon Lee, and Meyer London. Upton Sinclair’s papers are available at the Lilly Library at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. The papers of African American Socialist A. Philip Randolph are housed at the Library of Congress, and those of Caribbean American radical Hubert Harrison are held at the Rare Book and Manuscript Collections at Columbia University in New York City.

The abundant Socialist press is another excellent way of accessing the history of the Socialist Party. Most of these newspapers are held on microfilm by university libraries, public libraries, and/or local historical societies and can often be located through WorldCat and obtained through interlibrary loan.

The sometimes elusive sources for the study of local socialist movements are best discovered by examining the references for books written about these subjects. At the opposite end of the spectrum, important information on the international activities of the U.S. Socialist Party and its suppression by the U.S. government during World War I is available in State Department Archives, in the National Archives and Record Administration in College Park, Maryland, and in appropriate foreign labor and socialist archives. Major archival collections for the study of international socialist movements are held at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam. Many collections of U.S. Communist Party papers and of U.S. Communist Party leaders have recently become available through the Russian Center for the Preservation and Study of Documents of Recent History in Moscow, Russia, and are forcing a rethinking of U.S. Communist Party history and of the splits between Socialists and Communists in the United States.

Significant digital collections for the study of socialism include the Marxist Internet Archive, which contains collections of speeches and writings of some prominent U.S. leaders such as Eugene Debs, as well as a collection of U.S. Socialist newspapers and cartoons. Another useful source for Socialist cartoons is the Cartooning Capitalism website. Some of Hubert Harrison’s papers are available online as well.

Important published collections include J. Robert Constantine’s extremely well-annotated Letters of Eugene V. Debs and Philip S. Foner and Sally M. Miller, Kate Richards O’Hare: Selected Writings and Speeches.42

Further Reading

Bell, Daniel. Marxian Socialism in the United States. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1967.Find this resource:

Bucki, Cecilia. Bridgeport’s Socialist New Deal, 1915–1936. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001.Find this resource:

Buhle, Mari Jo. Women and American Socialism. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983.Find this resource:

Buhle, Paul. Marxism in the USA: From 1870 to the Present Day. London: Verso, 1987.Find this resource:

Fine, Nathan. Labor and Farmer Parties in the United States, 1828–1928. New York: Russell and Russell, 1961.Find this resource:

Green, James. Grass-Roots Socialism: Radical Movements in the Southwest, 1895–1943. Baton Rouge: Louisiana University Press, 1978.Find this resource:

Judd, Richard. Socialist Cities: Municipal Politics and the Grass Roots of American Socialism. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989.Find this resource:

Kipnis, Ira. The American Socialist Movement, 1897–1912. New York: Columbia University Press, 1952.Find this resource:

McKillen, Elizabeth. Making the World Safe for Workers: Labor, the Left, and Wilsonian Internationalism. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Miller, Sally M. Victor Berger and the Promise of Constructive Socialism, 1910–1920. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1973.Find this resource:

Miller, Sally M. From Prairie to Prison: The Life of Social Activist Kate Richards O’Hare. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1993.Find this resource:

Perry, Jeffrey B. Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883–1918. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Ross, Jack. The Socialist Party of America: A Complete History. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Salvatore, Nick. Eugene V. Debs, Citizen and Socialist. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982.Find this resource:

Shannon, David. The Socialist Party of America: A History. New York: Macmillan, 1955.Find this resource:

Sombart, Werner. Why Is There No Socialism in the United States. Translated and edited by Patricia M. Hocking and C. T. Husbands. White Plains, NY: International Arts and Sciences Press, 1976.Find this resource:

Weinstein, James. The Decline of Socialism in America, 1912–1925. New York: Monthly Review, 1967.Find this resource:


(1.) Jack Ross, The Socialist Party of America: A Complete History (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2015), 58, 64; and Mari Jo Buhle, Women and American Socialism: 1870–1920 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983), 105. On Daniel De Leon and 19th-century socialism, see Paul Buhle, Marxism in the USA: From 1870 to the Present Day (London: Verso, 1987), 50–56.

(2.) Ross, Socialist Party of America, 64.

(3.) Ross, Socialist Party of America, 64.

(4.) M. J. Buhle, Women and American Socialism, 105, 146–147; and M. J. Buhle, “Woman’s National Committee,” in Encyclopedia of the American Left, 2d ed., eds. Mari Jo Buhle, Paul Buhle, and Dan Georgakas (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 879–880.

(5.) Ross, Socialist Party of America, 61–62; and James Weinstein, The Decline of Socialism in America, 1912–1925 (New York: Monthly Review, 1967), 63–74.

(6.) Ross, Socialist Party of America, 58.

(7.) Ross, Socialist Party of America, 76.

(8.) Paul Buhle, “Socialist Party,” in Buhle, Buhle, and Georgakas, Encyclopedia of the American Left, 767–768; Ross, Socialist Party of America, 90–92, 110, 621–623. On U.S. anarchism, see particularly, Paul Avrich, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991); and Tom Goyens, Beer and Revolution: The German Anarchist Movement in New York City, 1880–1914 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007).

(9.) Kenneth Hendrickson, “George R. Lunn and the Socialist Era in Schenectady, New York, 1909–1916,” New York History 47.1 (January 1966): 22–40; Cecilia Bucki, Bridgeport’s Socialist New Deal: 1915–1936 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001); and Brad Paul, “Socialist Party of America,” in Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working Class History, vol. 3, ed. Eric Arneson (New York: Routledge, 2007), 1281–1283. See also Ross, Socialist Party of America, 609–658, for a useful appendix of Socialist voting tallies and percentages during these years.

(10.) Nick Salvatore, Eugene V. Debs, Citizen and Socialist (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982), 236–237; and Ross, Socialist Party of America, 98–99.

(11.) P. Buhle, “Socialist Party of America,” 767–768; John Graham, “Yours for the Revolution:” The Appeal to Reason, 1895–1922 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990); Elizabeth McKillen, Making the World Safe for Workers: Labor, the Left, and Wilsonian Internationalism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013), 48; James Green, Grass-Roots Socialism: Radical Movements in the Southwest, 1895–1943 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana University Press, 1978); Jim Bissett, Agrarian Socialism in America: Marx, Jefferson and Jesus in the Oklahoma Countryside, 1904–1920 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999); and David Chang, The Color of the Land: Race, Nation, and the Politics of Land Ownership in Oklahoma, 1832–1929 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010).

(12.) Ross, The Socialist Party of America, 689; McKillen, Making the World Safe for Workers, 91–100, 143–146; and Jeffrey Johnson, They Are All Red Out Here: Socialist Politics in the Pacific Northwest, 1895–1925 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008).

(13.) P. Buhle, “Socialist Party,” 767–768; Richard Judd, Socialist Cities: Municipal Politics and the Grass Roots of American Socialism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989); Donald Critchlow, ed., Socialism in the Heartland: The Midwestern Experience, 1900–1925 (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986); and Sally M. Miller, Victor Berger and the Promise of Constructive Socialism, 1910–1920 (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1973).

(14.) Ross, Socialist Party of America, 72–73.

(15.) Ross, Socialist Party of America, 102–103; and McKillen, Making the World Safe for Workers, 85–86.

(16.) Weinstein, Decline of Socialism in America, 27, 93.

(17.) Ross, Socialist Party of America, 146–147.

(18.) Ross, Socialist Party of America, 120.

(19.) Jeffrey B. Perry, Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883–1918 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), 142–143, 187; M. J. Buhle, “Woman’s National Committee,” 679–680; and Weinstein, Decline of Socialism in America, 53–74.

(20.) McKillen, Making the World Safe for Workers, 33–34, 41–45. There is an extensive literature on anarchism, the Mexican Revolution and the PLM. But see especially Lowell Blaisdell, The Desert Revolution: Baja, California, 1911 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1962); and James Sandos, Rebellion in the Borderlands: Anarchism and the Plan of San Diego, 1914–1923 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992).

(21.) McKillen, Making the World Safe for Workers, 34, 41–45. John Kenneth Turner, Barbarous Mexico: An Indictment of a Cruel and Barbarous System (New York: Cassell, 1912).

(22.) McKillen, Making the World Safe for Workers, 23–28.

(23.) Jeanette Keith, Rich Man’s War, Poor Man’s Fight: Race, Class, and Power in the Rural South during the First World War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 3; and McKillen, Making the World Safe for Workers, chapter 2.

(24.) McKillen, Making the World Safe for Workers, 56–90. See also Ross Kennedy, The Will to Believe: Woodrow Wilson, World War I, and America’s Strategy for Peace and Security (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2009).

(25.) Thomas Knock, To End All Wars: Woodrow Wilson and the Quest for a New World Order (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), viii–x, 101.

(26.) McKillen, Making the World Safe for Workers, 43–44, 88.

(27.) McKillen, Making the World Safe for Workers, 79–80, 88.

(28.) McKillen, Making the World Safe for Workers, 132–133.

(29.) McKillen, Making the World Safe for Workers, 140.

(30.) Weinstein, Decline of Socialism in America, 154–157; Ross, Socialist Party of America, 632; and McKillen, Making the World Safe for Workers, 136–141.

(31.) Weinstein, Decline of Socialism in America, 192.

(32.) Weinstein, Decline of Socialism in America, 182, 192–210.

(33.) Weinstein, Decline of Socialism in America, 211, 210–233; Elizabeth McKillen, Chicago Labor and the Quest for a Democratic Diplomacy, 1914–1924 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995), 88; and McKillen, Making the World Safe for Workers, 173–174.

(34.) Weinstein, Decline of Socialism in America, 232–243. David Shannon, The Socialist Party of America: A History (New York: Macmillan, 1955), 157.

(35.) Shannon, Socialist Party, 150–154.

(36.) Shannon, Socialist Party, 178–180; and Weinstein, Decline of Socialism in America, 326.

(37.) Shannon, Socialist Party, 188–189, 198; Weinstein, Decline of Socialism in America, x–xi, 324–339; P. Buhle, “Socialist Party,” 770–771; and Nathan Godfried, “Legitimizing the Mass Media Structure: The Socialists and American Broadcasting, 1926–1932,” in Culture, Gender, Race, and U.S. Labor History, ed. Ronald C. Kent, Sara Markham, David R. Roediger, and Herbert Shapiro (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1993), 124–142. For similar efforts to create an alternative to capitalist-controlled media by the Chicago Federation of Labor, home of the Labor Party movement, see Nathan Godfried, WCFL: Chicago’s Voice of Labor, 1926–78 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997). Ross, Socialist Party of America, 251; Andrew E. Kersten, A. Philip Randolph: A Life in the Vanguard (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006); and Minkah Makalani, In the Cause of Freedom: Radical Black Internationalism from Harlem to London, 1917–1939 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), 45–46.

(38.) Werner Sombart, Why Is There No Socialism in the United States?, tr. Patricia M. Hocking and C. T. Husbands (London: Macmillan, 1976), xix–xx, 16; and Daniel Bell, Marxian Socialism in the United States (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1967), vii, 5, 90–95 (originally published as an article in the 1950s).

(39.) Shannon, The Socialist Party of America; Weinstein, Decline of Socialism in America, x–xi, 28, 45; Ira Kipnis, The American Socialist Movement, 1897–1912 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1952); and Theodore Draper, The Roots of American Communism (New York: Viking, 1957).

(40.) Green, Grass-Roots Socialism; Judd, Socialist Cities; Critchlow, Socialism in the Heartland; Bucki, Bridgeport’s Socialist New Deal; M. J. Buhle, Women and American Socialism; Sally M. Miller, From Prairie to Prison: The Life of Social Activist Kate Richards O’Hare (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1993); Miller, Victor Berger; Salvatore, Eugene V. Debs; Jeffrey B. Perry, Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883–1918 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009); Makalani, In the Cause of Freedom; and Chang, The Color of the Land.

(41.) Ross, Socialist Party of America, xix; Leon Fink, The Long Gilded Age: American Capitalism and the Lessons of a New World Order (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015); McKillen, Making the World Safe for Workers; and Knock, To End All Wars.

(42.) J. Robert Constantine, ed., Letters of Eugene V. Debs, 3 vols. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990); and Philip S. Foner and Sally M. Miller, eds., Kate Richards O’Hare: Selected Writings and Speeches (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1982).