Radicalism in America

The National Library has a strong collection of pamphlets, journals and other publications documenting many strands of American radicalism. They range from the Populist movement in the 1890s to the civil rights movement, the peace movement and the New Left in the 1960s. The holdings of some of the radical journals extend to the 1990s.

Some radical groups had close ties with the two great American political parties. The Populist Party, for instance, which called for the abolition of national banks, a graduated income tax, civil service reform, and government control of railways, telegraphs and telephones, was supported by William Jennings Bryan and other leaders in the Democratic Party. The Progressive Party, first formed in 1912 and continuing until the 1940s, was led by men who had been leading Republicans, Theodore Roosevelt and later Robert La Follette. They were especially concerned with achieving more efficient government, regulating large corporations and monopolies, improving social welfare and conserving national resources. Major trade union organisations, notably the American Federation of Labor, were linked with the Democratic Party and, while fiercely anti-communist, pursued radical labour reforms.

Other American radical groups were not part of the political mainstream and drew their inspiration mostly from European socialist and anarchist movements. The Socialist Labor Party of America, founded in 1876, was mostly made up of German immigrants imbued with Marxist ideals. The Socialist Party of America, founded in 1901, also depended heavily on the support of immigrants. Under the leadership of Eugene Debs, it made considerable progress in the years up to 1912, but World War I and the Russian Revolution caused deep divisions and defections. The Communist Party of the United States, formed in 1919, gained considerable support in the interwar years, but was also prone to internal divisions. In 1928 the Trotskyists were expelled and subsequently set up the Workers Party of the United States and later the Socialist Workers Party. Another organisation which for a time had strong influence among miners and other workers in the western states was the syndicalist Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), founded in 1905.

The more radical organisations were subject to violent attacks, particularly during World War I (when many members of the IWW were killed or imprisoned), the early 1920s (led by Attorney General Alexander Mitchell Palmer) and the early 1950s (led by Senator Joseph McCarthy). The American Civil Liberties Union was formed in 1921 to protect immigrants threatened with deportation and American nationals threatened with criminal charges. Many of the pamphlets in the collection were written in response to these campaigns by the enemies of radicalism.

Acquisition

A number of collections on American radicalism were acquired by the National Library in the period 1964-74. In 1964 about 1000 pamphlets were bought from Schulte’s Book Store in New York. Another collection of American radical publications was purchased in 1970 from the antiquarian bookseller John Howell of San Francisco. The reprints of radical journals were acquired from Greenwood Press in 1968-70. The microfilm of the Tamiment Library collection was purchased from the Microfilming Corporation of America in 1974.

Description

Books and pamphlets

The collection acquired from John Howell consists of 535 books, pamphlets and issues of periodicals published in America between 1875 and 1969. The main strength of the collection is the 1930-70 period, with most of the journals dating from the 1960s. The publications deal with Marxism, communism, socialism, anarchism, capitalism, profiteering, industrial relations, trade unions, strikes, women in the workforce, civil liberties, the women’s movement, political prisoners, political censorship, race relations, anti-semitism, pacifism, espionage, the Soviet Union, the Spanish Civil War, World War II, McCarthyism and the Vietnam War. They include a few socialist novels.

Among the American writers represented in the collection are Earl Browder, Eugene Dennis, James T. Farrell, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, William Z. Foster, Emma Goldman, Owen Lattimore, Scott Nearing, George Seldes, Upton Sinclair, John Spargo, Anna Louise Strong, Norman Thomas, Thorstein Veblen and Richard Wright. There are also a few works by British writers such as Arthur Henderson, Bertrand Russell, R.H. Tawney and Sidney Webb.

Periodicals

The Library holds reprints of 95 American radical periodicals (1890-1960) published by the Greenwood Reprint Corporation in 1968-70. Examples are American Fabian (1895-1900), American Socialist (1914-17), Debs Magazine (1922-23), Fourth International (1940-56), Industrial Democracy (1932-38), Industrial Worker (1909-13), Modern Quarterly (1932-40), New International (1934-58), New Nation (1891-94), Vanguard (1932-39) and Young Spartacus (1931-35).

Other radical journals held in the collection include Dissent (1954-95), International Socialist Review (1956-75), New Masses (1926-28), Masses and Mainstream (1948-53), The Progressive (1956-95), Radical America (1968-91), Radical History Review (1975-90), Ramparts (1967-75), Review of Radical Political Economics (1970-93) and Socialist Review (1978-95).

Microfilms

The Tamiment Library collection, which was microfilmed by the Microfilming Corporation of America (mfm 1306), was originally assembled by the Rand School in New York. Founded in 1906 and modelled on Ruskin College, Oxford, the School offered working men and women a wide range of courses, with a strong emphasis on socialist theory. The School closed in 1956 and its collection was taken over by the Tamiment Institute. In 1963 the Institute gave the library to New York University.

The collection consists of 8672 pamphlets produced between 1817 and 1970. A large proportion are undated, but the bulk of them seem to have been published in the 1900-45 period. They are mostly in English, but there are some in German, French, Spanish, Russian, Yiddish and Chinese. There is a strong focus on the Socialist Labor Party of America, the Socialist Party of America, the League for Industrial Democracy and the Communist Party of the United States of America. The subject range of the pamphlets is very wide including socialism, communism, anarchism, trade unionism, industrial disputes, women in the workforce, civil rights, Zionism, anti-semitism, the Tom Mooney case (1916), the Sacco and Vanzetti case (1920-27), the Scottsboro Boys case (1931-37) and McCarthyism.

Among the most prolific and well-known American radicals and labour leaders represented in the collection are Israel Amter, Herbert Aptheker, Earl Browder, Tim Buck, Victor L. Berger, Clarence Darrow, Eugene Debs, Daniel De Leon, Max Eastman, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, William Z. Foster, Henry George, Emma Goldman, Gus Hall, Morris Hilquit, Robert Hunter, Robert La Follette, Harry W. Laidler, John L. Lewis, Jack London, George Meany, Scott Nearing, Walter Reuther, Upton Sinclair, John Spargo and Norman Thomas. There are also works of British and European writers such as John Burns, Nikolai Bukharin, Georgi Dimitrov, H.M. Hyndman, Karl Kautsky, Petr Kropotkin, V.I. Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg, William Morris, Stalin and Leon Trotsky.

Organisation

The books and pamphlets in the Schulte’s Book Store and John Howell collections have been catalogued individually and integrated in the General Collection. A volume containing the order slips for the Howell Collection, entitled ‘U.S.A. Radical Literature Collection’, is held. The reprints of periodicals have also been catalogued individually and are housed in the general Collection.

The 89 reels of microfilm of the pamphlets in the Tamiment Library are held in the Newspaper and Microcopy Collection at mfm 1306. They have not been catalogued individually, but they are listed in a published guide issued by the Microfilming Corporation of America.

Reference

Guide to the microfilm edition of radical pamphlet literature: a collection from the Tamiment Library, Glen Rock, N.J., Microfilming Corporation of America [1974]