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Old April 13th, 2011, 11:30 PM
Scipio Africanus Scipio Africanus is offline
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When was American Socialism Dead?

It has always seemed odd to me that America never had a strong socialist or social democratic party. From a high water mark in the early part of the century, socialism was completely dead and villanized by the 1950s. So what POD would be needed for America to have a strong socialist part like say France, Britain or Spain, or an even more radical one? There are many great tl' on this site about successful socialist revolutions in America, but I am more talking about a world were socialism is part of the American political mainstream. When was this no longer a possibility?
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Old April 13th, 2011, 11:36 PM
minifidel minifidel is offline
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Not having this happen would probably be a good start.
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Old April 13th, 2011, 11:48 PM
Emperor Norton I Emperor Norton I is offline
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Probably the New Deal. As far as reform was concerned, it was a conservative program compared to what the Socialists would have wanted, and took the wind out of their sails. There was no longer enough left to change and enough to get angry about to make them appealing. Once the public was placated enough, the Socialists died.
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Old April 13th, 2011, 11:59 PM
Antipater Antipater is offline
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This is a very tough one. From very early on Socialism was always tainted in the United States by its association with foreign radicals. Events like the Haymarket Riot set the tone early on, with the American Middle class being likely to associate socialism with bomb throwing anarchists and revolution.

Though I am not sure about the exact moment Socialism was dead in the US, I think it was certainly dead as a force by the early 1950's with the Red Scare. By that time it was too closely tied to Communism in the US public mind. This was of course only possible because the Socialist Party had never managed to establish itself as a strong movement distinct from the US Communist party, but nonetheless was a political fact this time.

Earlier, Socialism's reputation in the US was eroded by its association with Pacifism during the WWI. Even though many Americans came to oppose America's participation in that conflict after the war, the socialists' opposition was often seen as treasonous. The IWW (International Workers of the World, a Socialist organization) was violent in both rhetoric and action, and probably alienated many Middle Class Americans both by its actions and its reputation.


My final answer: Socialism in the US was dead on arrival because it was associated with foreign immigrants and radicals. Because it could never be portrayed as anything other than a foreign ideology, and was so antithetical to traditional American political beliefs, it was always doomed to be a minority movement.
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Old April 14th, 2011, 12:22 AM
Plumber Plumber is online now
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Not always. Socialism was killed by Wilson and Palmer wiping their asses with the Constitution, and the New Deal stopped a revival.

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Originally Posted by Antipater View Post
This is a very tough one. From very early on Socialism was always tainted in the United States by its association with foreign radicals. Events like the Haymarket Riot set the tone early on, with the American Middle class being likely to associate socialism with bomb throwing anarchists and revolution.

Though I am not sure about the exact moment Socialism was dead in the US, I think it was certainly dead as a force by the early 1950's with the Red Scare. By that time it was too closely tied to Communism in the US public mind. This was of course only possible because the Socialist Party had never managed to establish itself as a strong movement distinct from the US Communist party, but nonetheless was a political fact this time.

Earlier, Socialism's reputation in the US was eroded by its association with Pacifism during the WWI. Even though many Americans came to oppose America's participation in that conflict after the war, the socialists' opposition was often seen as treasonous. The IWW (International Workers of the World, a Socialist organization) was violent in both rhetoric and action, and probably alienated many Middle Class Americans both by its actions and its reputation.


My final answer: Socialism in the US was dead on arrival because it was associated with foreign immigrants and radicals. Because it could never be portrayed as anything other than a foreign ideology, and was so antithetical to traditional American political beliefs, it was always doomed to be a minority movement.
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Old April 14th, 2011, 02:04 AM
Rush Tarquin Rush Tarquin is offline
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Not having this happen would probably be a good start.
That was a pretty disgusting read.
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Old April 14th, 2011, 02:53 AM
Wendell Wendell is offline
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I think that there are several factors that did in the prospects for a viable socialist party in the United States. But, I think the most important one is the Russian revolution. Prevent it, or have it go differently, and the prospects for socialism elsewhere grow in my opinion.
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Old April 14th, 2011, 03:22 AM
lloyd007 lloyd007 is offline
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Socialism actually might have died with Lincoln who was actually somewhat supportive of Marx's ideals... without a strong, undeniably American voice to champion it communism/socialism was DOA.
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Old April 14th, 2011, 06:01 AM
Glass Onion Glass Onion is offline
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Socialism was always a relatively minor movement in the United States as I understand things. But if you want the Socialist Party to remain any kind of political force minor or otherwise, I think you need to either avoid or tweak the Great War. The influence of the rise of the Bolsheviks in Russia probably did make Socialism a bit more unpalatable. And the WWI era surpression of the movement due to Socialist's opposition to the war probably fatally crippled the movement, or at least made the party weaker than in previous years. Since both the Russian Revolution and the imprisonment of Eugene Debbs was a consequence of that war, the war might be the key for saving Socialism as an albeit minor movement in the United States. The problem here is probably a matter of two pod's. Unless you somehow have the war end between 1915-1916 I can't think of a way to avoid American entry and the Overthrow of the Provisional Government. I hope my imput here doesn't seem too glib.
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Old April 14th, 2011, 06:03 AM
mtg999 mtg999 is offline
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Originally Posted by Antipater View Post
My final answer: Socialism in the US was dead on arrival because it was associated with foreign immigrants and radicals. Because it could never be portrayed as anything other than a foreign ideology, and was so antithetical to traditional American political beliefs, it was always doomed to be a minority movement.
Is there any way for a form of what might be called 'left-wing nationalism' to arise in the USA which counter this? Traditionally from my understanding in the USA (and here in Australia too) patriotism/nationalism has been associated with conservatism/the political Right.

I have heard it pointed out before that social democracy (which is I assume the form of left-wing thought you are talking about) was most successful where it was able to appropriate patriotic ideals for itself, ie left-wing nationalism. Sweden has been espoused as an example of this (Folkhemmet could be considered a way of connecting patriotism and left-wing policies).

Of course, Sweden and the USA are about as poles apart in terms of political culture as is possible between two Western nations, so it is hard to see how this could evolve. Given the US' individualistic cultural norms, it is hard to see a left-wing nationalism that perceives the nations as being 'one large family' with an obligation to support each other, ever becoming a part of the political mainstream.
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Old April 14th, 2011, 08:37 AM
Grey Wolf Grey Wolf is offline
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World War 2 killed it IMHO, since it made the USSR a direct rival of the USA and anyone associated with it seemed weak and verging on being a traitor - look at how views of Wallace changed

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  #12  
Old April 14th, 2011, 09:01 AM
wolf_brother wolf_brother is offline
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Dead? But we have a socialist-fascist-islamist Kenyan alien-space-bat President!

In all seriousness though, I think asking one of the boards resident 'socialist experts' such as Jello_Bafia would be a good start. However, I think Glass Onion has the basic gist of it; WWI, and in particular America's involvement in it, truly derailed the socialist movement in the US. Locked out of the political environment during the Roaring 20s, I'd imagine socialism might have made a comeback in the 30s and 40s if it weren't for FDR and the New Deal. Keep the socialist party at least a functional organization throughout the 20s and they'll have a bigger say in the Depression and New Deal-era.
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