An American Dissenter

An American Dissenter: The Life of Algie Martin Simons 1870--1950

Copyright Date: 1969
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    An American Dissenter
    Book Description:

    In this biography of Algie Martin Simons, a major figure in the Socialist party of America, Kent and Gretchen Kreuter show the widely ranging social activities that brought Simons into touch with many of the movements and personalities of his time. As a propagandist and historian, Simons wrote the first thoroughgoing Marxist account of American history. As a journalist, he furnished Upton Sinclair with much of the material that he used in The Jungle, and as a party politician, Simons was a significant force in unifying the party, in establishing the International Workers of the World (IWW), and in trying to make socialism an acceptable alternative for the American voter.

    Although he broke with the party in 1917, Simons, as a teacher and a writer on industrial relations, continually struggled with the major problems that faced industrial society in the twentieth century.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6370-3
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)

    Americans are a sentimental people, full of nostalgia for lost causes and vanishing frontiers. Few, however, have ever become nostalgic about the vanished hopes of the Socialist party of America. Often ridiculed in its heyday for its seemingly endless quarrels and controversies, and despised for its attacks on much that Americans held dear, the socialist movement in this country has since been dishonored by its supposed kinship with communism. Many of the old Socialists themselves repudiated their radicalism and gratefully joined what they once had called “the interests.”

    Algie Martin Simons was one of the leaders in that great lost...

  6. CHAPTER ONE On Native Ground
    (pp. 1-17)

    A slim, dark-haired youth, with a mustache that made him look older than his years and more distinguished than his origins, gathered up his luggage and hurried off the train as soon as it ground to a stop.¹ Algie Martin Simons joined the crowd of young people who made their way up the platform and into the station on that autumn day in September 1891. The train had taken him to Madison, Wisconsin, but his journey had been brief. He had come from Baraboo, in Sauk County, and it had been little more than an hour since he had said...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Poverty and Philosophy
    (pp. 18-34)

    Algie Simons moved into the Cincinnati Social Settlement in September 1895. During the day he worked as an investigator for the Associated Charities of the city, and in the evenings he took part in the regular activities that the settlement house provided for the surrounding area. When he had time, he talked with students from the University of Cincinnati who came down to the settlement to help out with its clubs and classes, he wandered about the ugly, crime-ridden neighborhood, and he pondered the effects of the great depression of the 1890s. It was a busy life, but a worthwhile...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Many Mansions
    (pp. 35-54)

    Simons returned to Chicago with his bride shortly after the wedding, and together they began working to bring the Cooperative Commonwealth to pass in America. On the face of it this seemed a rather curious enterprise for one of May Wood’s background. Her parents were Presbyterians, and May had, until recently, given every indication that her interests were thoroughly religious. As a girl, she had been a delegate to the convention of the Christian Endeavor, and when she graduated from high school she delivered a commencement address on “Missionary Enterprise in India.”¹

    Her ambition was to become a medical missionary,...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Spreading the Word
    (pp. 55-81)

    Unity seemed distant in 1900, but not unattainable. In the struggles that finally resulted in the creation of the Socialist party (sp) of America in 1901, Algie Simons personified both the aspirations and the contradictions of the movement. He wanted revolution and success, but he also wanted to see the triumph of the essential ideas in which he believed. He was already a professional radical, seasoned by party conflict and made wiser by what he had learned abroad, but he was still young enough to point his career in other directions if it should appear that socialism was destined to...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Politics
    (pp. 82-115)

    It was not the itch for office that had brought Simons into the Socialist party nor was it the desire for spoils. Once within the fold, however, and with some influence and a chance to be heard it was hard not to think of the possibilities that might open up within a few years. Simons was young, energetic, and American in heart, mind, and ancestry. If the party was truly to become a major force in American politics, then these were the qualities of a man to be reckoned with.

    The Unity Convention of 1901 had marked his emergence as...

    (pp. None)
  12. CHAPTER SIX Kansas Exile
    (pp. 116-143)

    After the rugged conflicts of Chicago socialism, Girard, Kansas, promised to be a peaceful spot. Simons, though disappointed with his political losses, was enthusiastic about his new job. Julius Wayland, who had long published theAppeal to Reason, was beginning a related venture—a literary and artistic supplement to be called theComing Nation. For years theAppealhad been filled with breathless stories about greedy and wicked capitalists, simple girls forced into lives of sin, and similar matter. It had been the perfect instrument for the serial publication of Upton Sinclair’sThe Jungle.

    Now the management of theAppeal...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN Milwaukee Journalist
    (pp. 144-162)

    On the face of it, Victor Berger had been no more enthusiastic than Simons at the prospect of hiring this explosive new journalist. He had warned Simons that he would have to take a cut in salary and that theLeaderwould have to create an opening for him—something that must have been somewhat painful to one as sensitive as Simons.¹

    In fact, however, Berger needed some new blood for his newspaper. The frantic expansion of the ChicagoDaily, Socialistin 1912 had attracted the leading members of Berger’s editorial staff, for theLeaderwas not flourishing, and its...

  14. CHAPTER EIGHT War and Revolution
    (pp. 163-191)

    In February 1917 Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare, and the United States severed diplomatic relations. Hurriedly the Socialist party called an emergency convention to meet in St. Louis to consider the next steps it ought to take. On April 6, a day before the convention opened, Woodrow Wilson went before the Congress to ask for a declaration of war. At St. Louis, 140 of the 200 delegates voted to declare the Socialist party of America unalterably opposed to the war, and in the national referendum that followed, three-fourths of the party membership concurred. The party vowed to oppose conscription, fight...

  15. CHAPTER NINE The New World
    (pp. 192-216)

    Simons was glad to be back home after his two-month absence.¹ Apart from his reluctance to remain away from his family, he had too many irons in the fire to leave them untended so long. He was eager to finish his new book,The Vision for Which We Fight, and he wanted to shape a postwar program for the Wisconsin Loyalty Legion, a program that would, he hoped, “make some headway against the reaction that seems impending.”²

    Then there was the matter of the Social Democratic League and his own relation to the socialist movement in general. By the time...

  16. CHAPTER TEN Reminiscence
    (pp. 217-224)

    In 1944, at the age of 74, Simons retired from the Bureau of Medical Economics and, with his wife, moved to Brooklyn, New York, to live with his daughter and son-in-law. He had hoped to write history after his retirement, but the ill health that compelled him to give up his job with the ama continued to plague him. Though he occasionally jotted down an idea or an outline for an article, he never got anything more substantial on paper. Some of his old colleagues were writing their memoirs now, but Simons never tried, or, if he did, never thought...

    (pp. 225-230)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 231-236)