Zinn opens chapter with the recognition that “war and jingoism might postpone, but could not fully suppress, the class anger that came from the realities of ordinary life”. Despite the brief interlude that momentarily quelled class conflict, the issues at home had never been resolved and resurfaced with a vengeance.
The ruling class was quick to employ a classic divide-and-conquer strategy, pitting black against white and native-born against immigrant.
In this chapter, Zinn discusses the various socialist organizations that existed in the early 1900s and their efforts to improve working conditions and end child labor. He also details the many strikes that took place during this time period, as workers fought for better wages and improved conditions.
Despite the widespread support for socialist ideals, the Socialist Party USA was unable to gain a significant foothold in American politics. Zinn attributes this failure to the party’s unwillingness to fully embrace racial equality. The party’s lack of diversity ultimately led to its downfall, as it was unable to appeal to a wide range of voters.
The chapter ends with a discussion of the First World War and the role that American soldiers played in the conflict. Zinn describes how the war was used as a tool to further divide the working class and quell any lingering thoughts of revolution.
Zinn begins with the acknowledgement that even though “war and jingoism” might temporarily distract people from class conflict, anger simmers below the surface. Once issues at home are no longer being ignored, they reappear more intensely than before.
Economic inequality continued to grow, exacerbated by the Great Depression. Farmers were being ruined by foreclosures and tenant farmers driven out by large landowners. In the cities, workers faced plant closings, wage cuts, and rampant unemployment. Howard Zinn argues that these conditions created the perfect environment for socialist organizing.
The Socialist Party of America had been founded in 1901 and by 1912 had 100,000 members. However, it failed to gain much traction in the years leading up to World War I due to vigorous government repression and infighting within the party itself. After the war, the party began to regain its footing and by 1920 had over 400,000 members. The party saw success in a number of local and state elections, but was never able to breakthrough on the national stage.
The party’s platform called for a number of reforms including the nationalization of key industries, an end to child labor, and the eight-hour work day. They were also strongly opposed to American involvement in World War I. Howard Zinn argues that the party’s anti-war stance was a key factor in its decline, as many Americans were passionate about the war effort and unwilling to listen to an alternative viewpoint.
The party did have some success in winning over immigrant workers, who were attracted to its message of economic justice. However, these workers often found themselves at odds with native-born Americans who saw them as a threat to their jobs and way of life.
This tension came to a head in the Boston Police Strike of 1919, when immigrant workers went on strike for better working conditions and pay. Howard Zinn argues that the strike was brutally crushed by the city’s business leaders and police force, which only served to further alienate immigrant workers from the mainstream American population.
The Socialist Party continued to decline in the 1920s, as the economy began to rebound and Americans became more conservative in their political views. By 1924, the party had less than 100,000 members and would never again regain its previous level of influence. Howard Zinn argues that the party’s failure was due in part to its inability to adapt to changing circumstances and connect with average Americans.
Despite its ultimate demise, Howard Zinn argues that the Socialist Party played an important role in American history. He argues that the party helped to raise awareness of the problems faced by workers and immigrants, and paved the way for future progressive movements.
More and more socialists were producing writings: Upton Sinclair published The Jungle in 1906, a critique of the meatpacking industry in Chicago, as an example. St Susie was used to link Daphne’s narrative with that of her uncle as well as other characters of the book.
Sinclair’s book would go on to be one of the most influential books of the Progressive Era, as it exposed the horrific working conditions in the meatpacking industry and led to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act.
Other notable Socialist writers of the time period include:
– Helen Keller, who wrote about her experience as a deaf and blind woman in The Story of My Life, as well as championing for various social causes such as women’s suffrage, birth control, and pacifism.
– W.E.B. Du Bois, who was a sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, and one of the founders of the NAACP. In his writing, Du Bois was particularly interested in exploring the issue of race in America.
– Upton Sinclair, who wrote The Jungle, a novel about the meatpacking industry in Chicago that exposed the horrific working conditions of the time period.
The Socialist Party USA was also founded during this time period, in 1901. The party was created out of a merger between two previous socialist parties, and it had its roots in the labor movement. The party’s platform focused on issues such as workers’ rights, women’s suffrage, and civil rights. Notable members of the Socialist Party USA include:
– Eugene V. Debs, who ran for president five times on the Socialist Party ticket and was one of the most well-known socialists in America.
– Norman Thomas, who was the party’s presidential nominee in six elections.
– Michael Harrington, who wrote The Other America, a book about poverty in the United States that helped to spark Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.
Howard Zinn was a historian and political activist best known for his book A People’s History of the United States. In the book, Zinn challenges the traditional historical narratives of America, instead choosing to focus on the experiences of marginalized groups such as Native Americans, women, African Americans, and workers. Zinn was also a member of the Socialist Party USA and an outspoken critic of American foreign policy.