Elena Kagan’s Undergraduate Thesis
In our own times, a coherent socialist movement is nowhere to be found in the United States. Americans are more likely to speak of a golden past than of a golden future, of capitalism’s glories rather than of socialism’s greatness. Conformity overrides dissent; the desire to conserve has overwhelmed the urge to alter. Such a state of affairs cries out for explanation. Why, in a society by no means perfect, has a radical party never attained the status of a major political force? Why, in particular did the socialist movement never become an alternative to the nation’s established parties?
In answering this question, historians have often called attention to various charcteristics of American society… an ethnically-divided working class, a relatively fluid class structure, an economy which allowed at least some workers to enjoy what Sombart termed “reefs of roast beef and apple pie”–prevented the early twentieth century socialists from attracting an immediate mass following. Such conditions did not, however, completely checkmate American socialism…. Yet in the years after World War I, this expanding and confident movement almost entirely collapsed….
From the New York socialist movement’s birth, sectarianism and dissension ate away at its core. Substantial numbers of SP members expressed deep and abiding dissatisfaction with the brand of reform socialism advocated by the party’s leadership. To these left-wingers, constructive socialism seemed to stress insignificant reforms at the expense of ultimate goals. How, these revolutionaries angrily demanded, could the SP hope to attract workers if it did not distinguish itself from the many progressive parties, if it did not proffer an enduring and radiant ideal? How, the constructivists angrily replied, could the SP hope to attract workers if it did not promise them immediate benefits, if it did not concern itself with their present burdens?…
Through its own internal feuding, then, the SP exhausted itself forever…. The story is a sad but also a chastening one for those who, more than half a century after socialism’s decline, still wish to change America. Radicals have often succumbed to the devastating bane of sectarianism; it is easier, after all, to fight one’s fellows than it is to battle an entrenched and powerful foe. Yet if the history of Local New York shows anything, it is that American radicals cannot afford to become their own worst enemies. In unity lies their only hope
About Nathan and Joanna CornettWe are a from San Diego California, currently on a mission trip in Guatemala. Nathan has worked as a youth pastor, teen center director, college advisor, and now missionary. Joanna has worked at LaBahn's Landscape for 7 years in the field, sales, and as the Vice President, she started the Hispanic ministry at Foothills Church, and has worked in youth ministry, she is now working as a missionary. We are both passionate about youth, worship, and missions.
Nathan: President of CLP
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