The Socialist Platform, 1914

Atlanta Constitution, Sep 28, 1914

Since it is election season, I am offering a small piece of history.  On September 28, 1914, (98 years ago today) a short article appeared on Page 5 of the Atlanta Constitution.  I have included a copy of the article at the right.  There are several things notable about the story.  First, I doubt that the socialist platform would get even a small space in the Atlanta paper today.  Was the political climate more open 100 years ago?  Perhaps.  The fact is that about 6% of Americans were voting Socialist that year, and any decent newspaper would be keeping track of the local races.  It’s also important to note that there were many political parties then, including multiple leftist parties, and it would be not unusual to have half a dozen candidates for any office.

Also of note is that socialists were already closely aligned with labor unions, and this is evident in the platform planks.

And to those who think the socialist movement in America has been a failure, take a look at the list of platform planks from 1914: women’s suffrage, clean schools, child labor laws, free schoolbooks, public sector unions, workplace safety inspections, etc.  Socialists have been incredibly successful over the past 100 years.  Let’s not let the backsliding of the past 20 years get us down.  Most of the policies we advocated 100 years ago have been adopted by the majority of Americans regardless of their political affiliation.  As much as Conservatives want to claim that they are the last defense against socialism, they lost that battle decades ago.

Lastly, I know a little bit about this little known Atlanta mayoral candidate, Sam Kreisberg.  He was my great grandfather.  Sam’s daughter Sadie, my grandmother (may her memory be for a blessing), was only 7 years old at the time of the Atlanta election.  In her later years she told me that the only thing she remembered about Pa’s mayoral campaign was that a famous man came to their house to visit.  There was a lot of excitement.  It was Eugene Victor Debs.  He had come to Atlanta to stump for Pa.

3 thoughts on “The Socialist Platform, 1914

  1. Thank you Rick for sharing your personal story and for this short article; it should motivate us all especially in this current political climate.

  2. A nice bit of history alright; very much appreciated..

    But my question is, and this I do with due respect, what is being done to truly develop a social-democratic party in the U.S.? What kind of organizing effort is being done that may encourage social-democrats to get involved?

    I understand that Social Democrats USA is a small organization, but we need to start organizing somehow to challenge the status quo and plant the seed of social-democracy among the people at large. Regrettably, I don’t see it. Could it be that I am just too far south, in South Florida?

    In any case, I wish you my best!

    • Jesus,
      Honestly, there is little activity to create a separate Social Democratic Party. Most democratic socialists are operating within the Democratic Party. See my comments here:
      http://socialistcurrents.org/?p=1169#comment-4921

      However, in some states smaller parties can participate in elections without being spoilers. First, your state needs to have either fusion balloting or instant runoff elections. If you have fusion balloting, your small party can endorse a candidate from a major party. In other words, the Social Democratic Party of Florida could choose to field its own candidate or if it is afraid of being a spoiler like the Green Party was in 2000, it could endorse the Democratic Party nominee. It’s not the best system because your party may shy away from fielding its own candidate, but on the other hand it would cause the DP candidate to seek out your endorsement and give you recognition.

      A better system is instant runoff voting. In that system, the Social Democratic Party of Florida could field its own candidate and get him/her on the ballot. There would be NO danger of being a spoiler; you can’t be a spoiler because you have to also pick a second choice and a third choice if your preference fails to gain a certain threshold of votes. You always get to pick your favorite without the danger of giving away the election to the opposition candidate. Getting this system in place throughout the country would be a worthwhile goal for the SD. It would be the first step to getting SD parties in each state.

      However, barring success in getting electoral reform we need to think about creating a substantial voting bloc within the Democratic Party, and not being afraid to call ourselves social democrats. In some locales it may be even possible to become a majority of the Democratic Party. That is a tall task. We would have our own platform that we are pushing and would be viewed as a threat. As I stated above, most social democrats are already operating in the DP, but they are not identifying themselves distinctively as social democrats.

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