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Uptian Sinclair and Socialism

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Upton Sinclair and Socialism

Socialism has always been hard for me to understand. I never

really grasped the concept of it until I read the book The Jungle and

began to research for this paper. Before I begin I would like to go

through a condensed version of the history of Socialism. It was

founded in 1901 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Two groups came together

to form the Socialists, the Social Democratic Party and the "Kangaroo"

wing of the older Socialist Labor Party. These parties contained mostly

immigrant workers from big cities (Jurgis from The Jungle was one

such fictional worker). The new party expanded and included every

type of extremist. They stood on the motto of "reform vs. revolution"

and focused mainly on the labor union's, "this included the concepts

of revolution by education and of 'building the new society within the

shell of it's old.'

In 1912 they had elected two members of Congress and more

than seventy mayors. The most members it every attained at this

time was 100,000 and even had a presidential candidate, Eugene

Debs, who received almost a million votes. However soon the party

began to have internal problems due to diverse ideologies. During the

war half did not believe in the war and half believed in Stalin and his

Communist ways, therefore, the party split.

The party had become weak and did not enter a political

candidate for the presidential election. However, once the Great

Depression began the Socialist party took a turn back to full tilt and

gained strength. It ran Norman Thomas as their Presidential

Candidate. He never won but continued to run, losing

votes every

time he ran. Finally in 1948 with only 80,000 votes Thomas declared,

"a Socialist presidential race was a futile effort and an utter waste of

the party's resources."

This warning was pushed aside and the party ran Darlington

Hoopes in 1952. He received merely 20,203 votes and in the next

election he received only a woeful 2,126 votes in the race of 1956.

The Socialist Party in this nation had come to a crashing final end in

terms of elections. It now only had an underdeveloped 2,000

members nationwide. In 1960, the first time since 1924 the Socialist

party did not enter a presidential candidate on the ballot.

It was at this time the party took a swing away from the

presidential candidacy and swung full force into the civil rights

movement. In 1960 the book The Other America was published by

Michael Harrington. This book took great favor within the Socialist

Party. The left wing Socialists were beginning to die out and in 1968

the right wing Socialists held the majority of the members. Over the

next years many splits, divisions and merging occurred under the

control of the right wing Socialists and in 1982 the party was renamed

the Democratic Socialists of America. The only state to have a

Socialist ballot is the Socialist Party of Oregon, which formed in 1994.

This is how it remains today.

In the beginning I read Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle in

order to gain entrance into the Advanced Placement English class. The

things I learned about Socialism, the meat-packing industry and

Sinclair's own views lead me to discover a new era of writers I didn't

know existed. These writers brought to the attention of the nation

problems that were carefully shielded from the public's eyes. Many of

these authors such as Upton Sinclair, Jack London, Ida Tarbell and

many others took a particularly Socialistic view and this was

expressed in their writing. A few of the books that Sinclair wrote had

an especially socialistic tone, such as The Jungle which was published

in 1906. Conflictive to most people's beliefs The Jungle was not

written to reform the meat-packing industry and incite pure food acts.

He stated, "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the


He wrote this book to persuade people in the direction of

Socialism and away from Capitalism. "It is difficult to get a man to

understand something when his salary depends upon his not

understanding it." (Upton Sinclair)

Upton Sinclair had many factors working against him, eventually

leading him to a life as a Socialist. He was born in 1878 to his parents

Upton Beall and Priscilla Harden Sinclair. His father was an alcoholic

which caused Sinclair to be staunch



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