Saturday, March 23, 2019

Communism and Socialism in North America

“[T]here was probably more genuine communism practiced in nineteenth-century America than in any society, at any time, beyond the hunting and gathering stage. This certainly seemed self-evident to many Europeans. The young Friedrich Engels was among the many European socialists who were stirred by the reports of the American communities, and who first looked to them to provide the example and model for European communism. ‘The first people in America,’ wrote Engels, ‘and indeed in the world who brought into realization a society founded on the community of property were the so-called Shakers.’ The American communities, he confidently declared, had demonstrated thatcommunism, the social life and work based on the common possession of goods, is not only possible but has actually been realized and with the best result.’ The communities were themselves to a good extent the product of a wider movement of reform that enthusiastically embraced socialism. Socialism in mid-nineteenth-century America was far from being the un-Americanthing it has now become.” — Krishan Kumar, Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Modern Times (Basil Blackwell, 1987) 

One of the lessons, said Arthur Morgan, looking at early communities, lay in the fact that they were exclusive and not universal. Very few people can rise to that ultimate affirmation of the American Dream represented by Buckminster Fuller. At a time when doomsday seers talk in quasi-racist language, and demonstrate the ancient fear of diversity and an acute incapacity to consider the whole, Fuller insists that no utopia will ever be wholly justifiable unless it is democratic and created for every living person.” — Raghavan Iyer 

Again and again across the great arc of American history, at the critical junctures in our national journey, socialist citizens, thinkers and organizers, supported by Socialist candidates and elected officials (at the federal, state, and local levels), have provoked and prodded the body politic in progressive directions. Despite their determined efforts, America is not a socialist countryat least not in any formal sense. [….] Even if programs ‘organized along socialist linesdo not make a country socialist, and even if Americas relationship with social democracy is more nuanced and more complicated than that of many other nations, the United States is a country that has always been and should continue to be informed by socialists, socialist ideals and a socialist critique of public policies. That may read to some as a radical statement. It’s not, at least for those who choose to be realists about our history, about our moment, and about the future that has yet to be written.” — John Nichols

Suggested Reading:
  • Buhle, Paul. Marxism in the USA: From 1870 to the Present Day (Verso, 1987).
  • Case, John and Rosemary C.R. Taylor, eds. Co-Ops, Communes & Collectives: Experiments in Social Change in the 1960s and 1970s (Pantheon Books, 1979).
  • Curl, John. For All the People: Uncovering the Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements, and Communalism in America (PM Press, 2nd ed., 2012).
  • DeLeon, Richard Edward. Left Coast City: Progressive Politics in San Francisco, 1975-1991 (University Press of Kansas, 1992).
  • Fischer, George, ed. The Revival of American Socialism: Selected Papers of the Socialist Scholars Conference (Oxford University Press, 1971).
  • Frost, Jennifer. An Interracial Movement of the Poor: Community Organizing and the New Left in the 1960s (New York University Press, 2001).
  • Gendron, Richard and G. William Domhoff. The Leftmost City: Power and Progressive Politics in Santa Cruz (Westview Press, 2009).
  • Hine, Robert V. California’s Utopian Colonies (University of California Press, 1982; first published in 1953 by the Henry E. Huntington Library & Art Gallery).
  • Iyer, Raghavan. “The Community of Strangers,” in Parapolitics: Toward the City of Man (Oxford University Press, 1979): 286-298.
  • Jackall, Robert and Henry M. Levin, eds. Worker Cooperatives in America (University of California Press, 1984).
  • McWilliams, Wilson Carey. The Ideal of Fraternity in America (University of California Press, 1973).
  • Melville, Keith. Communes in the Counter Culture (William Morrow and Co., 1972).
  • Miller, Timothy. The 60s Communes: Hippies and Beyond (Syracuse University Press, 1999).
  • Morgan, Arthur Ernest. The Community of the Future and the Future of Community (Community Service, Inc., 1957).
  • Nichols, John. TheSWord: A Short History of an American Tradition ... Socialism (Verso, 2011).
  • Nordhoff, Charles. The Communistic Societies of the United States (Harper & Brothers, 1875).
  • Pitzer, Donald E., ed. America’s Communal Utopias (University of North Carolina Press, 1997).
Bibliographies with more or less family resemblance to this topic: (i) Anarchism: Philosophy and Praxis; (ii) Beyond Capitalist Agribusiness: Toward Agroecology & Food Justice; (iii) Beyond Capitalist-Attenuated Time: Freedom, Leisure, and Self-Realization; (iv) Beyond Inequality: Toward the Globalization of Welfare, Well-Being and Human Flourishing; (v) Democratic Theory; (vi) Global Distributive Justice; (vii) Human Rights; (viii) The History, Theory and Praxis of the Left in the 1960s; (ix) Marx and Marxism; (x) Toward a Marxist Theory of International Law; and (xi) Utopian Thought, Imagination, and Praxis; and (xii) Workers, the World of Work, and Labor Law.


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