Working Class Radicals: The Socialist Party in West Virginia, 1898–1920

Working Class Radicals

 

Frederick A. Barkey
With a foreword by Ken Fones-Wolf
April 2012
244pp
PB 978-1-935978-45-9
$24.99
Cloth 978-1-935978-44-2
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PDF 978-1-935978-46-6
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Summary

Working Class Radicals: The Socialist Party in West Virginia, 1898-1920  examines the rise and fall of organized socialism in West Virginia through an exploration of the demographics of membership, oral interview material gathered in the 1960s from party members, and the collapse of the party in the wake of the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek coal-mining strike of 1912.  The first local branch of the West Virginia Socialist Party was established in Wheeling in 1901 and by 1914 several thousand West Virginians were dues-paying members of local branches. By 1910 local Socialists began to elect candidates to office and in 1912 more than 15,000 West Virginian voters cast their ballots for Socialist presidential candidate Eugene Debs. The progress that West Virginia socialists achieved on the electoral front was a reflection of the party’s strategy of increasing class-consciousness by working with existing unions to build the power of the labor movement. The party appealed to a fairly broad cross section of wage earners and its steady growth also owed much to the fact that many members of the middle class were attracted to the cause. Several factors combined to send the party into rapid decline, most importantly deep fissures between class and craft factions of the party and 1915 legislation making third party political participation difficult. Working Class Radicals offers insight into the various internal and external forces that doomed the party and serves as a cautionary tale to contemporary political leaders and organizers.

Contents

Foreword
Acknowledgments

INTRODUCTION

I. THE ORIGINS OF WEST VIRGINIA SOCIALISM: 1898 – 1904

II. THE GROWTH AND APPEAL OF THE WEST VIRGINIA SOCIALIST MOVEMENT: 1905 – 1911
III. THE SUSCEPTIBILITY OF THE WEST VIRGINIA WORKING CLASS LEADERSHIP TO THE APPEAL OF SOCIALISM
IV. “WE HAD THE REVOLUTION” THE WEST VIRGINIA SOCIALIST PARTY AT ITS PEAK: 1912 – 1915
V. THE DECLINE OF THE WEST VIRGINIA SOCIALIST PARTY: 1915 – 1920
VI. TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE AND THE DECLINE OF TRADE UNION STRENGTH FOR THE WEST VIRGINIA SOCIALIST PARTY

CONCLUSION

APPENDIX A: SOCIALIST – NON-SOCIALIST WORKING CLASS LEADERSHIP SAMPLE
APPENDIX B: SOCIALIST VOTING PATTERNS IN WEST VIRGINIA

Notes
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Index
 

Author

Frederick A. Barkey is Professor Emeritus, Marshall University and Founder of the West Virginia Labor History Association. 

Ken Fones-Wolf is Professor of History and Stuart and Joyce Robbins Chair, West Virginia University.

Reviews

“A catalyst inspiring additional research into West Virginia’s political past. A starting point for all current and future inquiry into West Virginia’s past and the history of socialism in the United States.”
Kevin T. Barksdale, Assistant Professor of History, Marshall University