The Glowing Dream: A history of Socialist America

I'm surprised that the deathtoll from the establishment of the Fricktatorship of the Bourgeoisie wasn't higher. They just outlawed a mass movement that had the support of something like 1/3 of the population and massively rolled back civil liberties and social protections. I would expect that the blood-shedding and score settling in the aftermath to be much more violent with anti-Socialist militias committing pogroms against communities and neighborhoods that were seen as Socialist supporters and mass politicide against known and suspected Socialists, with local authorities turning a blind eye or even actively supporting it. I'd also expect quite a few of the Socialists who were detained would end up suffering "accidents" in prison. Typical deathtolls for anti-Communist mass killings typically ran into the tens to hundreds of thousands even in countries much smaller than the US. I'm also surprised that state governments controlled by the Socialists didn't try to organise some sort of armed resistance to the crackdown or mobilised their National Guards and leftist militias to defend themselves against dissolution.

On the other hand I also find it odd that the moderate reformists in the Socialist Party weren't able to reconstitute themselves into a new party, distancing themselves from De Leon's radicalism, or being accepted into the Populists as a draintrap for leftists and to split them off from the revolutionary underground.


Keep your nose to the grindstone, @Iggies . I've been frequenting this board for years--and SHWI before that--and this is literally the only timeline that I specifically come back to check for.

It's great work, and you should have won the Turtledove for it. #respect
The Growth of the Repressive Apparatuses in the Frick Administration
In the meantime, Frick and his gang went on consolidating their power over the nation.

The ‘safe’ labor unions that existed under Kearney in California soon became a model for similar associations across the country.

In early 1906, John Mitchell, president of the United Mine Workers of America, met with Secretary of Labor Samuel Gompers in Baltimore, Maryland. Here, he received an unofficial blessing to establish a national federation of trade unions that would operate (conditionally) without harassment from the state. Frick must have countersigned this, though no record exists of it.

On 4 November of 1906, Mitchell officially founded, with himself at its head, the League of American Trade Unions (LATU) in Indianapolis (‘red’ Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Chicago being consciously rejected as potential venues), at a conference attended by the heads of various trades unions that remained un-proscribed.

There was some grumbling and groaning from nervous bourgeois, but it was allowed to go on unimpeded.

Soon, almost every union across the country still in operation was affiliated with the LATU. Striking, it was clear, was all but entirely prohibited, and the LATU and its constituent unions were limited to polite bargaining with the bosses.

The SLP gone, the LATU moved towards the closest available substitute in the contemporary political climate – the Populists. With the Socialists banned, the Democrats long reduced, and the Republicans in a state of collapse, Bryan’s party was the only credible opposition left to the Nationalists.

Nervous as he had been of Socialist ‘entryism’ into the Populists, Bryan now allowed the unions to woo his party. He was conscious that only with such a broad, mass constituency could he hope to pose a challenge to the ruling party in the next round of elections.

The LATU would thus support Populist candidates for the House in the 1906 midterms, and in the various by-elections, of which the years after 1904 saw an inordinate number. This was a reasonably successful policy – various Populists were elected to state legislatures and local government, and they maintained a respectable presence in congress. In states like Florida and North Carolina, enough Populists clung to their seats to at least prevent sweeping changes at the hands of growing Nationalist majorities.

In 1907, William Bryan spoke to a chapter of the American Ironworkers Union in Richmond, promising to “defend hearth and home from the creeping onslaught of the great industries and lords of capital.” It was a strangely anachronistic message, tailored towards his old base of smallholding farmers. “Hearth and home” struck an unfamiliar chord with urban workers who had never had a fireplace, and the attacks on “industry” alienated those who had no problem with industry in and of itself, of which they were part and parcel, but rather with its bosses.

Still, Bryan was the ‘next best thing.’

Many ex-socialists, particularly those who had been to the right of the SLP, made the best of a bad situation and urged workers to affiliate with the LATU and vote for the Populists where they could. Among these compromisers were men like Morris Hillquit and Victor Berger, conservatives (by socialist standards) who had yet to forgive their still-imprisoned comrade DeLeon for what they saw as the recklessness that had led to the disaster of 1904.

This pragmatism would leave a black mark on their legacies in the eyes of their revolutionary counterparts.

And while the embers of resistance struggled to accommodate the onerous new restrictions of Frick’s regime, the regime itself worked to integrate what remained of labor into the state apparatus. In early 1907, the ‘Economic Regulatory Office’ was founded in Washington, under the indirect auspices of Secretary Gompers’ Department of Capital and Labor. The ERO was essentially the elevation of the LDP to a governmental body – the LDP’s board of directors and the ERO’s commissioners were by and large identical. Representatives of Standard Oil, Anaconda Copper, AT&T, Union Pacific, and the other great cartels staffed the new office, with the supposed task of ‘coordinating’ economic activity with the president and with congress.

But in line with Frick’s corporate vision, representatives of the various LATU unions were also given seats at the ‘table’ of the ERO, for the ostensible purpose of speaking for the workers as the cartels spoke for the capitalists. John Mitchell in fact served as both leader of the LATU and the chairman of the ERO, though his position in the latter was largely ceremonial.

Frick himself, and various members of his cabinet, often sat in on ERO sessions. Some of them, certainly Gompers at least and probably Taft, among a few others, seem to have been sincere in their hopes that it would serve as a legitimate forum for capital and labor to advance their respective interests in a peaceful fashion.

Occasionally, victories were won through the ERO. In May of 1908, as the economy improved and election day neared, an agreement was reached among the commissioners to affect a general pay raise across the various industries they represented. John Rockefeller, ever the philanthropist, led the charge along with Mitchell, and the resolution was accompanied with much fanfare and press photography.

But of course, the decision was not legally binding, and depended entirely on the largesse of the Cartel. And more often than not, even such concessions could not be extracted. A push spearheaded by the young John L. Lewis, representing the United Mine Workers in the LATU, to establish pensions for men injured on the job, was stonewalled by the capitalists and died a quick death. The ERO, fundamentally, remained a tool of the bosses.

And its primary job, of defusing revolutionary energies and subsuming organized labor in the capitalist state, was largely achieved for the time being.

But pacification was not enough – the Nationalist-dominated federal government also looked towards beefing up its tools of violent repression. At the center of this counterrevolutionary push was the BIS.

From its establishment in 1905, the BIS honed its security apparatus, planting spies in every labor union that remained, and rifling through ostensibly sacrosanct civilian mail in search of evasive revolutionists. By 1907, the BIS maintained nearly 9,000 employees, making it one of the larger federal services. These included clerks, detectives, and analysts, but also CS toughs meant to deal with subversives on the ‘street level.’

Chief Bell had become aware of the existence of the underground IWW in early 1907 and was immediately obsessed with its destruction. BIS men swooped down on every whisper of strike or unionization, arresting ringleaders and harshly interrogating the rest.

In Buffalo, New York, in June of 1907, the workers of a US Steel plant walked off the job after management upped the hours without a commiserate raise in pay. A strike committee was formed, chaired by a molder called Frank Green.

The evening after the first official convocation of the committee, Green was picked up from work by BIS agents. He was threatened harshly, as were his wife and children, and questioned as to any “revolutionary contacts” that he maintained. When he denied having any revolutionary intention or knowing anyone who did, he was arrested and detained without trial for nearly six months.

Outright violence was not exceptionally common in the beginning. But as usual, the south served as a bellwether in the national class conflict.

BIS offices south of the Mason-Dixon line often recruited ‘informants’ and muscle from the Klan and other vigilante organizations known to be viciously opposed to socialism and organized labor. In early 1909, just after the 1908 elections, three black farmworkers were kidnapped by Klansmen outside Little Rock, Arkansas after supposedly boasting that they knew ‘underground wobblies.’ The men were taken to an abandoned rock quarry, beaten for information, and then shot dead. Their corpses were dumped outside a local cemetery – no one was ever arrested or charged.

The Klansmen responsible, though it was not public knowledge at the time, were on the BIS payroll.

In the north, CS men generally filled that role. In Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, coal miner Charles Andrassy went missing on his way home from work in mid-1909. He had been a Socialist and member of the STLA in its days of legality and had been arrested and released in the aftermath of the December Decree. Andrassy’s fate remained a mystery, until the opening of the BIS archives after the revolution revealed he had been arrested by CS agents, held without trial for nearly four years in a Colorado prison, and then most likely executed quietly in the course of the draft riots of 1914. His sad story was hardly unique.

The repressive initiatives of Frick’s government would become worse and worse as time went on and dissent began to bubble again. But not yet.
Well I'll be damned, just as I was planning on sitting down and rereading the whole thing!
I must say that I feel the Iron Heel really adds a level of "realism" to the alternate history that isn't seen in a lot of "Communist/socialist America" TLs. I don't mean that others are bad, but the concept of the industrial barons using their vast resources to crush any nascent socialist movement during the gilded age isn't something you see a lot of; often the socialists being repressed is what causes the revolution/civil war in the first place, but america going the way of the OTL 1905 russian revolution is a really interesting angle to explore.