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The Historiography of Debsian Socialism: A Century of Interpretations, Part 2 (May 2022): The Press and Education

By Edward Remus

The Press and Education

The intellectual life of Debsian socialism was registered throughout a decentralized press that consisted of over 320 periodicals by 1912 and reached a combined circulation of over two million readers. In Socialism and Print Culture in America, 1897–1920 (2012), Jason D. Martinek argues that Debsian socialism gave rise to this ideologically fractious “print culture of dissent” because the founders of the SPA consciously decided against creating a centralized party-owned press. Martinek also narrates the fate of the SPA’s abortive, internally focused Information Department and Research Bureau. Several books treat specific publications and presses whose editors and publishers were politically aligned with the SPA during the Debsian period. These include Theodore Kornweibel, Jr.’s No Crystal Stair: Black Life and the Messenger, 1917–1928 (1975); Leslie Fishbein’s Rebels in Bohemia: The Radicals of The Masses, 1911–1917 (1982); and Allen Ruff’s “We Called Each Other Comrade”: Charles H. Kerr & Company, Radical Publishers (2011). A number of additional SPA-aligned periodicals are profiled in essays collected in The German-American Radical Press: The Shaping of a Left Political Culture, 1850–1940 (1992).

Debsian socialism also gave rise to a range of educational institutions. Founded in New York City in 1906, the Rand School of Social Science was among the most influential of these. It is profiled in Thomas Wirth’s dissertation, “A beautiful public life: George D. Herron, American Socialism, and Radical Political Culture at the Rand School of Social Science, 1890–1956” (2014). Debsian socialism even attracted the interest and allegiance of college students across the United States. Their activities are described in Max Horn’s The Intercollegiate Socialist Society, 1905–1921: Origins of the Modern Student Movement (1979).

Works Cited