… Of Human Oppression Worldwide. Kagan is another minion of Evil who must be denied any power over Americans. Kagan will precipitate violence.
Kagan's Thesis – Her 'CONCLUSION'
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 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 mans 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 characteristics of American society that have militated against widespread acceptance of radical movements. These societal traits– 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. In the period between 1901 and 1918, the Socialist Party established itself as a visible– albeit a minor– political organization. Its growth, although not dramatic, was steady and sure; its outlook on the future was decidedly optimistic. Yet in the years after World War I, this expanding and confident movement almost entirely collapsed. Conditions of American society will not explain such a phenomenon: we must look further to find the causes of U.S. socialism's demise.
Granted that one city is not a nation, the experience of New York may yet suggest a new solution to this critical problem. Here, the disintegration of the Socialist Party in 1919 and the socialist trade-union movement in the late 1920s represented but the culmination of a decades-long process of internal decay. 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? The debate raged fiercely, but it did not rage alone. At the same time, the needle-trades unions seethed with dissension over the proper policies and tactics of a socialist labor organization. Radicalized Jewish garment workers demanded militant union action, attacked labor-management cooperation, perceived the strike as their most powerful weapon. Socialist union leaders, on the other hand, followed cautious trade policies, advocated industrial government, hesitated to stake their powerful organizations on the outcome of a walkout.
Over the years, the two controversies only grew more bitter, feeding off each other and off themselves. For a brief time during World War I, the socialists of New York achieved unity; during their common fight against the war effort, the deep and critical issues dividing them lay temporarily submerged. The war years, however, were but an aberration, the socialists' newfound unity but a precarious truce between two sworn enemies. That both the Socialist Party and the socialist trade-union movement disintegrated under the pressure of the Russian Revolution is not surprising: The way had long since been paved for just such a collapse.
Through its own internal feuding, then, the SP exhausted itself forever and further reduced labor radicalism in New York to the position of marginality and insignificance from which it has never recovered. 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.