Oklahoma socialism

Oklahoman socialist parties date back to the time when Oklahoma was trying to become a state. When George W. Steele was elected territorial governor he met with the Oklahoma Socialist Party, as well as many others, including the Farmers Alliance Party, Greenback Party and the Populist Party. [McDonald B: "Oklahoma: Land of Contrasts", p. 306. Clairmont Press (2007)] The two factors of low crop prices and high credit costs restricted most farmers in Oklahoma to live in debt and in poverty. Many responded to this by turning to the Socialist Party. Difficult conditions prevailed throughout the South, and in no other southern state did a mature socialist movement emerge on a scale even approaching Oklahoma's. [Bisset, J: "Agrarian Socialism in America", Introduction.] In 1907, the Democratic Party took control of the primarily Republican territorial government. All the while, the Socialist movement was gaining momentum.

Formation

The Socialist Party of America was formed in 1901 by a merger between the three-year-old Social Democratic Party and a wing of the older Socialist Labor Party.

Rise and fall

The party's supporters were mostly trade unionists, immigrants, miners, and intellectuals from the midwestern and Plains States. Many Oklahoman farmers were in a poor economic situation due to bad weather, poor crop prices, and high credit costs. Many of the state's farmers, miners, and others had emigrated from socialist nations, and others believed the current form of government were creating poverty for the common people. [McDonald B: "Oklahoma: Land of Contrasts", p. 350. Clairmont Press (2007)] In the seven years following statehood, the socialist vote increased exponentially. By 1910, there were more Socialist Party members than in any other state.

However, the Socialist Party opposed World War I, and came under fierce attacks for being unpatriotic. It also had many German immigrant members, and suffered from widespread Germanophobia, which also saw the cities of Kiel, Bismark, and Korn were renamed Loyal, Wright, and Corn, respectively. [McDonald B: "Oklahoma: Land of Contrasts", p. 365. Clairmont Press (2007)] Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, much of the Socialist Party split off to form the Communist Party of America and the Communist Labor Party, which further eroded the socialist movement in Oklahoma.

References


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