© 2019

Socialism before Sanders

The 1930s Moment from Romance to Revisionism

  • Establishes the significance and scope of the socialist revival in the 1930s, the importance of its most radical elements, its successes and limitations at the local level, and how its participants evolved through the 1940s and beyond

  • Foregrounds the development of two key institutions, Soviet House and the Highlander Folk School

  • Connects the 1930s revival to the successes of the Socialist Party in the early twentieth century and to American politics today


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-ix
  2. Jake Altman
    Pages 1-6
  3. Jake Altman
    Pages 7-18
  4. Jake Altman
    Pages 53-80
  5. Jake Altman
    Pages 81-119
  6. Jake Altman
    Pages 137-166
  7. Jake Altman
    Pages 195-207
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 209-225

About this book


The early years of the twentieth century are often thought of as socialism’s first heyday in the United States, when the Socialist Party won elections across the country and Eugene Debs ran for president from a prison cell, winning more than 900,000 votes. Less well-known is the socialist revival of the 1930s. Radicalized by the contradiction of crushing poverty and unimaginable wealth that existed side by side during the Great Depression, socialists built institutions, organized the unemployed, extended aid to the labor movement, developed local political movements, and built networks that would remain active in the struggle against injustice throughout the twentieth century. Jake Altman brings this overlooked moment in the history of the American left into focus, highlighting the leadership of women, the development of the Highlander Folk School and Soviet House, and the shift from revolutionary rhetoric to pragmatic reform by the close of the decade. As another socialist revival takes shape today, this book lays the groundwork for a more nuanced history of the movement in the United States.


American Socialism socialist revival labor history Utopianism Radicalism Highlander Folk School social democracy democratic socialism Bernie Sanders Soviet House Union Theological Seminary Eugene Debs Norman Thomas Socialist Party Revolutionary Policy Committee US labor movement

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.SalineUSA

About the authors

Jake Altman is active in the trade union movement. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Iowa and currently works for a chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Socialism before Sanders
  • Book Subtitle The 1930s Moment from Romance to Revisionism
  • Authors Jake Altman
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages History History (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-030-17175-9
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-030-17178-0
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-030-17176-6
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages IX, 225
  • Number of Illustrations 1 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics US History
    Labor History
    Social History
    Political History
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