Understanding Socialism: Part Four.
Summary: It’s Part Four this week, and things are really heating up. We’re bridging the gap between the “critique” years and the “praxis” years with a deep dive into the late 1800s. Mikhail Bakunin and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon make grand entrances into our narrative and bring some intrigue along with them. Part Four covers the pivotal year of 1870, the splinter between the anarchist and Democratic socialist wings of the party, and speaks to the variables present on the European continent at this critical juncture. The essay culminates with the Paris Commune of 1871 and lays the groundwork for Part Five where we’ll cover the rise of the Bolsheviks and the American labor movement. Are we having fun yet? (Don’t answer that.)
“Politics is a constant battle over values, and we are all inevitably in a state of competition to realize our ideals. In such a contested space, it is possible to develop tactics only in a situated and contextualized way. Because there is no war to be won, but rather an endless series of struggles, critical theory must focus on strategies and tactics.” -Bernard Harcourt, Critique and Praxis
We left off in Part Three with somewhat of a cliffhanger. It’s 1848. Karl Marx just published The Communist Manifesto to critical acclaim, with millions of copies sold throughout the world and governments toppled as a result, thereby ushering in the Russian Revolution…something, something Fidel Castro, China takes over the world and Hunter Biden sells uranium to the Norwegians for a bag of cocaine, steals a fishing vessel and blows up the Nord Stream Pipeline.
(For those of you following at home, the only true part of that was that Marx published the Communist Manifesto.)
Right, so…Marx’s seminal political work was published in a vacuum and pretty much collected dust until it was brushed off by Russian and German revolutionaries much later on. But the uprisings throughout Europe made him extremely prescient. Workers were revolting against increasingly brutal working conditions in the new urban factory settings toward the end of the First Industrial Revolution. Economic crisis gripped the European economies and led to widespread starvation and dislocation, which manifested in worker revolts in disparate parts of the continent.
Throughout what I’m referring to as the “critique period,” from New Harmony in 1825 to a historical turning point in 1870, we’ve thus far examined the works of Marx and John Stuart Mill, who were working in parallel. What happened from 1848 to 1870 in the second half of the critique period was a gradual coalescence of political thinking.
This merger of interests and observations helped formulate more specific and practical philosophies. With peasants moving into the working class, accessing education and participating in the capitalist economy, there was a sense among socialist theorists that the ideas that once existed in journals and scholarly outlets might somehow come to life.
But how? And where?
Two intellectuals who sought to answer these questions were Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin. While Marx deserves to live in the public consciousness as one of the great intellectuals in human history, in socialist circles, Proudhon and Bakunin were far more influential during their lifetimes and probably contributed more to the practical aspects of socialist theory that have endured. I’ll leave it to academics to answer why Marx emerged as the most notable of all the theorists, which is not to take anything away from his scholarship; it’s just a fascinating twist of history that’s above my pay grade.
So, we’ll pick up our journey heading out of the critique period by talking about Proudhon and Bakunin and why their contributions bridge the narrative to the “praxis period,” which takes shape in 1870. We’ll spend a bit of time in 1870 and 1871 to discuss why this was such an inflection point that reverberates even today, then crank through 50 years of an epic battle between socialism and capitalism culminating in the dual revolutions in Russia in 1917.
Let’s quickly talk about the distinction between these periods and why I chose to separate them around this specific moment in time.
This is where we have to bring political structures into the conversation. We’re talking European-style socialism specifically, but we can’t discount what was unfolding around the world. In Asia, the dominant force remained the Qing Dynasty, though anti-monarchism would eventually spread to China in much the same way as it swept across Europe, only slightly later. And of course, across the pond the American experiment continued to arouse interest among political groups.
A nascent empire built on democratic principles with no established monarchical rule, no heirs or dynasties? Yes please.
The possibility of secular democratic rule was inspiring and there’s no question that it was influencing the minds of the great thinkers in our story.
With more than 50 revolts and uprisings occurring throughout Europe in 1848, it makes sense that a revolutionary sentiment was palpable. Whereas Marx viewed this through the lens of the proletariat and envisioned a mass uprising that crossed borders and united people based upon class, there was something much bigger at play. But one can imagine how unsettling and inspiring this period was, because the uprisings were largely independent of one another. Completely uncoordinated.
If this scattershot of protests throughout Europe in 1848 signified a global philosophical shift and would portend a changing of the ruling guard, then 1870 was the single atomic blast that would define the next century.
Chapter Eight: Socialist Fault Lines.
If critique implies something wholly theoretical, then praxis represents the attempt to bring theory to life in some practical manner that impacts society broadly. That’s why big ideas like socialism are ultimately difficult to define. A holistic framework like socialism must account for cultural practices, economic conditions, geography and terrain, education levels, legal structures and political circumstances. And in 19th Century Europe, all nations were undergoing incredible transformations in every manner possible.
As we said in Part Three, what places Marx on the Mount Rushmore of political thinkers is his attempt to organize social, economic and political theories into practical doctrines and to predict how it would all come about. Most practitioners of the social sciences weren’t that bold. Still, he had impressive foundations to build upon.
Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham were writing at a time of relative stability in terms of feudal and monarchical systems. Henri de Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier and Robert Owen bore witness to the early impact of the first Industrial Revolution that challenged some of the economic and political structures that dominated European life for centuries. Combined with the church’s waning influence, they began to break free of traditional shackles to think freely about the evolution of society. In response, intellectuals like Mill and Marx began to wonder aloud how society would evolve.
The Germanic states were about to get a significant makeover under Otto von Bismarck. The United Kingdom would double down on imperialism. Monarchies and dynasties were just starting to fall apart. And the United States was careening toward a Civil War that would take it off the stage for a spell. All the while, the capitalist engine was gaining a head of steam and new classes were being forged throughout Europe. Can you imagine how disorienting this period was? The church is no longer at the center of political and cultural life. The peasant class was migrating to urban environments. And beneath it all, we have a population growing exponentially, thus exacerbating the inequality that resulted from the new capitalist market structures.
So now, let’s paint this picture from the perspective of the worker.
A generation ago, your family was probably on a farm somewhere in the countryside and pretty uneducated. Now you’re living in a city, kids are attending school and you’re working long hours in brutal conditions. But, you’re working and living alongside the same people. And so you get to talking, because you’re always together.
You still go to church, but it’s not as important as it was to your parents. They don’t run the schools and the government like they used to. And speaking of governments, the monarchy your ancestors grew up with—the ones who used to live in faraway gated castles and lord over vast territories of disparate villages—are losing luster and respect. They start to seem almost powerless in the face of the real people who are in charge these days. The factory owner, the capitalist.
And that’s where one of the fault lines in socialist praxis began to occur.
“In 1851, the ‘Amalgamated Society of Engineers’ was formed, which became one of the ‘New Model Unions.’ The distinctive feature of the ‘New Model Union’ was that it organised skilled workers only on a craft basis, so to say the ‘aristocracy of labour.’ Unskilled workers and workers in the new factory industries remained unorganised until towards the end of the century.
“French unions were closely associated with socialism of St. Simon and similar political ideologies from the beginning, but the French labour movement remained decentralised, highly individualistic and therefore rather ineffective. Also the German labour movement was associated with political parties and political action from its start in the 1860s, but it was more centralised and cohesive.”
This passage is from an essay titled Economic Development in Europe in the 19th Century. It highlights the differences between labor movements in different countries depending upon an array of influences and starting points.
I know I’m beating this to death, but noting the differences in culture, legal systems, education levels, and even the industries that were taking off is really important, because it prevents us from painting the European experience with a single brush. It also exposes one of the flaws in Marx’s vision: he believed that the worker would see themselves as workers first and countrymen second. Religion didn’t factor into his equation and governments were something to be seized.
But that’s not how the working class saw itself.
We can see the difference in an important organization that was founded in 1864—long after the failed revolutions of 1848 had died down—the International Workingmen’s Association (First International). At this time, Marx had been thrown out of Germany, France and Belgium, and was toiling away in almost total obscurity in London. Outside of the tiny constellation of revolutionaries who traded barbs and shared work with one another, he was essentially forgotten.
Somehow, the reclusive Marx was invited to the inaugural meeting of the First International. Despite accounts that he said virtually nothing during the meeting, he was appointed to an organizational subcommittee. He did not squander this opportunity.
The idea behind the First International was to organize anarchists, socialists and labor unions into a single movement. It was a bold initiative that gained surprising momentum early on and welcomed important intellectuals and labor leaders from all over the world. One of the most notable members was renowned anarchist Mikhail Bakunin.
Bakunin was a physically hulking man and a towering figure in several movements throughout his life, described by someone close to him once as “born not under an ordinary star but under a comet.” If Karl Marx was quietly annoying and politely exiled from country after country due to his writing, Bakunin was thrown out of countries like a disruptive bar patron.
Born in Russia in 1814, Bakunin served in the Russian army before quitting to pursue philosophy. He moved about during the tumultuous period of the 1840s, spending time in Germany and France; and it’s in France where he first encountered Marx and Friedrich Engels as well as Proudhon, whom we’ll get to shortly.
According to Bakunin’s biographer, Paul Avrich:
“His broad magnanimity and childlike enthusiasm, his burning passion for liberty and equality, and his volcanic onslaughts against privilege and injustice all gave him enormous appeal in the libertarian circles of his day.”
Bakunin’s personality and tendency to draw attention would prove to be trouble. In Dresden, he was sentenced to death. Then he was extradited to Austria, where he was again sentenced to death. Fate intervened again and he was sent to Russia, where he was imprisoned for several years, spending half of it in Siberia. Somehow, this very obvious and looming figure managed to escape to Japan and eventually made his way to the United States during the American Civil War. Of the United States, Bakunin wrote, “the most imperfect republic is a thousand times better than the most enlightened monarchy.”
After a brief visit to the United States, Bakunin would settle for a couple of years in London around the time the First International was founded. It was then that he would cross paths with Marx and begin to collaborate on building this new international framework. It’s here that we can see the socialist and anarchist paths truly diverge.
(Quick note on Bakunin after this point, because we’re going to focus on the break with Marx more than the balance of Bakunin’s life. He was eventually expelled from the First International because he started to break apart from the other anarchist groups represented. Bakunin dedicated much of his energy in later years to the worker’s cause in Russia and had a great impact on anarchist thinking the world over. He died in Switzerland in 1876.)
But it’s how Bakunin broke with Marx’s ideology that matters most in our story today. At its core, his critique of Marx and the prevailing socialist narrative of the day was with respect to the state. In his words, “No theory, no ready-made system, no book that has even been written will save the world. I cleave to no system.” Essentially, Bakunin understood that no matter who was in control of the state, it would be corrupt. If the lower and working classes were to authentically gain control of their fate, they would need two things: education and organization.
Again, Bakunin in his own words:
“If instinct alone sufficed to liberate peoples, they would long since have freed themselves. These instincts did not prevent them from accepting…all the religious, political, and economic absurdities of which they have been the eternal victims. They are ineffectual because they lack two things…organisation and knowledge.”
In his mind, and in the minds of the growing ranks of anarchists in Europe, state socialism and state capitalism were two sides of the same coin. Marx’s vision would simply replace one oppressive regime with another. Here’s Noam Chomsky 100 years after the fact reflecting on how this all played out.
“Maybe the only prediction of the social sciences that ever came so dramatically true was Bakunin’s discussion of this in the late 19th century. He was arguing with Marx. And it’s well before Leninism, but he predicted very perceptively that the rising class of intellectuals were just kind of becoming identified as a class in modern industrial society...He predicted that they were essentially going to go in one of two directions. There would be some who would believe that the struggles of the working class would offer them an opportunity to rise and take state power in their own hands. And at that point he said they would become the red bureaucracy who would create the worst tyranny that humanity has ever known, of course all in the interests of the workers. That’s one direction. And he said the others would recognize that you’re never going to get power that way and the way to get power is to associate yourself with what we would nowadays call state capitalism and just become the servants of its ruling class.”
Bakunin understood the two paths forward better than anyone it seems. Either you’ll have “red bureaucracy,” with labor rising up to seize control of the state, or they’ll partner with state capitalism. That’s why he advocated for elimination of the state to the greatest extent possible and is considered one of the founders of modern anarchism. But if his ideas were taking root in Russia and the Germanic states in particular, there was another part of Europe that was trending in a different direction. Here’s Marx from The Communist Manifesto:
“France is the land where, more than anywhere else, the historical class struggles were each time fought out to a decision, and where, consequently, the changing political forms within which they move and in which their results are summarized have been stamped in the sharpest outlines.”
And this is where we have a little visit with Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.
Proudhon connects so many of our protagonists. He associated with Fourier in particular and knew both Marx and Bakunin personally. A French socialist, philosopher and economist, Proudhon was the first to declare himself an anarchist, describing liberty as “the synthesis of communism and property.”
One unfortunate trait that he shared with Bakunin was a tendency to casual anti-Semitism in his writings. Bakunin was more prone to these sentiments in private, whereas I think it’s fair to say that it was more pronounced in Proudhon’s work. Whether that’s part of the subtext to his criticisms of Marx is beyond me, but it’s worth pointing out that there were interpersonal dynamics at play during that shouldn’t be ignored. Proudhon was also far more sexist than his contemporaries, many of whom were firmly behind the feminist and suffrage movements.
In practical philosophical terms, Proudhon favored worker cooperatives as well as peasant possession over private ownership or the nationalization of land and workplaces. It’s here where Marx and Proudhon would battle most for the mantle of the emerging socialist doctrine.
As Michael Harrington, author of Socialism: Past and Future writes:
“One part of that realism, which emerged with striking clarity in Marx’s 1847 polemic with Proudhon, was an insistence upon the importance of an emergent trade-union movement to socialism. In one of his most audacious insights, Marx understood that the unions, even when focused on immediate demands, were potentially the school of socialism, the point of contact between the movement’s idealism and the practicality of the masses.”
So we see at this time that our intellectuals were trying to incorporate labor unions into their revolutionary prescriptions. It’s interesting that Marx, Bakunin and Proudhon were writing at the height of the American Civil War. When we think about this period, I think U.S. ethnocentrism tends to overlook the fact that these figures were all contemporaries of Abraham Lincoln. In The Federative Principle, Proudhon wrote, “If Mr. Lincoln teaches his compatriots to overcome their revulsion, grants blacks their civil rights and also declares war on [what creates] the proletariat, the Union will be saved.”
Proudhon was truly in praxis mode, perhaps more than Marx and Bakunin. He attempted to found a national bank that looks a lot like the modern day credit union. He pushed for an income tax on capitalists and shareholders. But he’s perhaps most famous for the popular phrase “Property is Theft,” a proclamation taken from his influential work What is Property in which he also declared, “I am an anarchist!”
Unlike Marx’s break later with Bakunin, Marx and Proudhon would battle through polemics almost from the outset of their relationship. Proudhon published The Philosophy of Poverty in 1846 in response to what he viewed as Marx’s authoritarian version of socialism. Always looking for a good fight, Marx responded the following year with The Poverty of Philosophy, and attacked Proudhon vigorously.
Proudhon wasn’t immune to the treatment his contemporaries received at the hands of power, by the way. Though he wasn’t exiled and forced to live the nomadic existence that both Marx and Bakunin led, he was imprisoned by Napoleon III for nearly three years following the revolts of 1848.
Perhaps the clearest expression of his feelings toward state socialism can be found in The General Idea of the Revolution in the 19th Century where he states:
“Direct legislation, direct government, simplified government, are ancient lies, which they try in vain to rejuvenate. Direct or indirect, simple or complex, governing the people will always be swindling the people. It is always man giving orders to man, the fiction which makes an end to liberty; brute force which cuts questions short, in the place of justice, which alone can answer them; obstinate ambition, which makes a stepping stone of devotion and credulity.”
Chapter Nine: 1870, The year everything changed.
Throughout the 20th Century, historians began to look at 1870 as a tipping point in the evolution of political and economic systems. Stepping back to contextualize what was happening on the ground, we can see some clear changes that began with the uprisings of 1848 and culminated in 1870:
The broader union struggle, the conflicts between the newly constructed trade or craft unions that organized workers based on their chosen trade, and industrial unions that attempted to unite workers of all backgrounds and skill levels. This is going to be a central theme in our next section when we examine the American socialist experiment.
Simultaneously, monarchical authority and state power was beginning to disintegrate in new and different ways with a capitalist class emerging to wrest control of state apparatuses.
And we have burgeoning social systems associated with our protagonists ranging from socialism and anarchism to mutualism and syndicalism.
But the real world was moving faster than the social theorists who were attempting to define it. Two events that center on this period would provide a boost to capitalism with such force and authority that it would become the dominant political and economic structure and alter the course of human existence. German unification and the second Industrial Revolution.
The German writer Ludwig von Rochau coined the term “Realpolitik” in the 19th Century. This term would come to be associated with the governing style of Otto von Bismarck who unified the Germanic states in the mid 19th century.
By 1870, Bismarck’s work was near complete and a new form of politics was born. An empire not based on blood rule or aristocracy. An empire born not of bloodlust, but by pragmatism. Drawn upon ethnic lines, organized to promote economic growth and unified by language and culture. The speed with which Bismarck acted and the ease with which he drew together the Germanic states immediately cast unified Germany in a new light and made it the center of the European economy.
Sure, the United States had done it, but it was a blank slate, a clean canvas. All it took was political will, a frontier spirit and willingness to commit mass genocide of Native peoples to build an independent state. But for a ruler to unite the Germanic states under a political and economic umbrella and wrap it in nationalistic pride was astounding. This wasn’t hereditary, it was ethnic. A top down maneuver that understood the bottom up. Bring together disparate states that are unified by language and culture enough to make it a source of pride, create an economic engine that will be dominant, and kick the whole thing off by kicking Napoleon’s ass and you’ve got a formula for secular nationalism.
The history buffs out there will know this but, like many other nation states, Spain was still in turmoil and was struggling to recover economically. So a deal was struck with Bismarck to facilitate the administrative state, not in a way that would make it part of Germany, but in a consultative fashion more than anything. This was the last straw for France who saw the encroachment on southern Europe as a bridge too far. So they mounted an offensive against the newly formed German state that ended up with the total defeat of Napoleon’s army and his imprisonment.
As a result, France was forced to give up most of the territory Alsace-Lorraine, which kicked off mass outflow of French from these parts and an influx of German citizens. As if that wasn’t enough, Germany also imposed punitive financial reparations upon France, which stymied the economy of the country.
There are two historic events that result from this, one immediate and another that would play out over time. The immediate impact was the formation of the Paris Commune in 1871, which we’ll talk about shortly. The long-term consequence of German unification and punitive treatment of the French was a deep seated hatred of the German people in France that would explode twice in the next century with devastating consequences to the world.
A 1981 article by Roberto Vivarelli from the University of Florence details the importance of 1870 in geopolitical terms, centering on the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and ‘71, calling it a “prelude to the First World War.” In the article, he cites a number of historians who share the view that 1870 was an inflection point that reverberates well into the 20th century:
“1870, which saw the formation of the German Empire as it was shaped by Bismarck and the beginning of German hegemony over Europe, took on the precise function of a turning point, a decisive moment at which one distinct form or ideological era comes to an end and another begins. Thus the moment of change that marked the defeat of liberalism echoed that decline in Europe which later found its provisory epilogue in the First World War.”
But the impact of 1870 extended beyond the first Great War, as Harrington writes:
“Bismarck’s revolution from above left reactionary social and ideological structures intact and prepared the way for Adof Hitler.”
What’s really important about Harrington’s note here is that Bismarck not only unified Germany into a superpower relative to the time, he did so without smashing the working class or any of the labor movements. So, during the Great Depression, revolutionaries and fringe parties who were sidelined at the turn of the century through World War One still remained (albeit on the sidelines). But they were there, with the more radical elements prone to view the outreach of the Nazi Party in a favorable light. But that’s for another day.
What’s important about Bismarck’s actions is that he took a top down approach to consolidating power that alternately inspired some of our philosophers and worried others. If the working classes could be so easily swept up into state control and assuaged, then over time they would become servants to the capitalist state.
What’s fascinating is that recessions and economic shocks continued unabated during the 1870s and ’80s; this contributed to the economic dislocation of workers at the same time the world was going through a technological revolution that favored the capitalist class. How the second Industrial Revolution took shape is important to understand because it speaks to the utter speed and totality of industrialization throughout Europe that would overwhelm any causes for revolution and splinter the labor groups, thus preventing the concept of worker solidarity across national boundaries.
In 1998, Joel Mokyr, Professor of Economics and History at Northwestern University, wrote a paper on the magnitude of the industrial revolution. Here’s a passage for context:
“The first Industrial Revolution—and most technological developments preceding it—had little or no scientific base. It created a chemical industry with no chemistry, an iron industry without metallurgy, power machinery without thermodynamics. Engineering, medical technology, and agriculture until 1850 were pragmatic bodies of applied knowledge in which things were known to work, but rarely was it understood why they worked.
“The consequence of changing production technology was the rise of technological systems. Again, some rudimentary systems of this nature were already in operation before 1870: railroad and telegraph networks and in large cities gas, water supply, and sewage systems were in existence. These systems expanded enormously after 1870, and a number of new ones were added: electrical power and telephone being the most important ones. The second Industrial Revolution turned the large technological system from an exception to a commonplace.”
Innovation during this time was both widespread and sector specific. For example, Henry Bessemer revolutionized the steel industry with the Bessemer converter that eliminated impurities from iron and sparked subsequent innovations that resulted in high quality and far cheaper steel. The Germans led the charge in chemical innovation that impacted agriculture, medicine, weapons, plastics, rubber, and myriad applications that enhanced a wide array of industries.
Electricity was still in the nascent stages of development in the 1800s but exploded after 1870 with the invention of the lightbulb, Nikola Tesla’s alternating currents and large scale energy transmission projects that would light up entire cities. Rail travel got faster and safer. Crude oil cracking was invented, which kicked off a wave of innovation with respect to the use of fossil fuel.
So, against this backdrop of historic innovation that helped foster capitalism, we have Bismarck’s top down consolidation of the Germanic states allowed for the existence of labor unions, thus calming some of the revolutionary spirit from the leftist movements. It also cleared the way for the growth of the capitalist class, in spite of profound recessions, that was able to take advantage of a freight train of innovation exploding throughout Europe. With a convincing victory over its rival in France and no monarchy to pay fealty to, the most significant development from this period was the invention and immediate rise of nationalism.
As Vivarelli notes, “The key to understanding German unification in 1870 lay in the creation of a ‘strong state,’ not in a ‘free state’... All the elements of an aggressive nationalism can be found in the history of Germany after 1870, but they are already present in the Parliament of Frankfurt and in the German middle classes that were represented in that Parliament; and it is here that the separation between the idea of nation and the liberal idea was first fully expressed in Germany.”
Paris Commune (1871)
I know it’s strange to come in now with what I referred to as the bookend of the critique period, but similar to Owen’s New Harmony experiment, the short-lived existence of the Paris Commune is absolutely central to understanding the hope and optimism that remains among proponents of socialism. And it really crystallized Marx’s view of the potential that existed among the working class to rise up and seize the levers of power.
With Napoleon defeated and imprisoned, the French government was adrift. Racked with recession and rudderless, a movement took hold in France to regain control of its fate. On March 26 of 1871, a group referred to as the Paris Commune, a worker led party, was elected to lead the nation. Its list of accomplishments is stunning and the organization was swift.
According to Marxists.org:
“On March 30, the Commune abolished conscription and the standing army, and declared that the National Guard, in which all citizens capable of bearing arms were to be enrolled, was to be the sole armed force. It remitted all payments of rent for dwelling houses from October 1870 until April, the amounts already paid to be reckoned to a future rental period, and stopped all sales of articles pledged in the municipal pawn shops. On the same day the foreigners elected to the Commune were confirmed in office, because "the flag of the Commune is the flag of the World Republic.”
The Commune continued breaking down remnants of the power structure by formally separating the Church from state affairs. It removed all religious symbolism from the schools and state offices. It revived factories with workers in charge of production and decision-making. Legislated reduced working hours, abolished child labor, burned public guillotines and demolished symbols of militarism. It banned state press, encouraged participation from women, and took control of the nation’s finances to settle debts and return money to the people.
It was a glorious period that would inspire not only Marx and build the reputation of Proudhon (who was seen as an inspirational figure for the French revolutionaries), but it would provide a useful legend for the likes of Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky just a few decades later. Lenin, in fact, referred to this period as “the first step” and would use it as a model for the Russian soviets.
In the end, the Paris Commune lasted only two months before the exiled leaders gathered military forces and brutally put down the leaders in what is referred to as “The Bloody Week.” But, it would loom large in socialist circles as an example of what is possible when the working class unites.
Bring it home, Max.
The death of our protagonists over the next several years cleared the way for new revolutionaries who would interpret their work in various ways and battle against the forces of industrialization. Capitalism would go on a historic winning streak at the turn of the 20th Century, characterized by increasing nationalism and a new breed of imperialist tendencies across the pond in the United States.
In the next sections, we’re going to move toward the United States but tell the story of Russia in parallel as new figures emerge to seize control of the public imagination, as well as the levers of power, with vastly different outcomes that would forever splinter the socialism movement and corrupt many of the ideals of its founders.
We’ll also explore the increasing divide between industrial and craft unions as well as anarchists and the new breed of socialists in Europe characterized by Lenin, Trotsky and Joseph Stalin.
We’ll talk about how the Great War changed the calculus in both Europe and America and fed into the capitalist movement and the rise of nationalism that would plague the globe throughout the 20th Century and beyond.
We’ll learn how Marx emerged as the figurehead of communism, and how state power in partnership with the newly formed capitalist class combined to snuff out the labor movement in the United States. And, how a lanky, mild mannered figure from Indiana named Eugene Debs would capture the imagination of so many Americans from railroad laborers in the early 1900s to Bernie Sanders.
Here endeth Part Four of Understanding Socialism.