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To those who support socialism, it only fails when it isn’t done correctl

Bernie Sanders, Socialist Piped Piper of Campus Naifs

Bernie Sanders, Socialist Piped Piper of Campus NaifsThe American college campus has long been fertile ground for growing socialists.
Four months before the Russian Revolution of 1905, ISS (The Intercollegiate Socialist Society) was founded on September 12, 1905, when about 50, middle-and-upper class men and women—except for then-poor author Jack London—gathered at Peek’s Restaurant in New York City in response to an invitation from Upton Sinclair. At the time, a series of excerpts from Sinclair’s book, The Jungle, was running in a socialist publication, Appeal to Reason, before the book was released.

The Intercollegiate Socialist Society

In the General Election of 1904, Eugene Debbs, the Socialist Party candidate for President, received 400,000 votes—four times his 1900 tally. Sinclair wrote in his invitation that: ”…the recent remarkable increase in the Socialist vote in America should serve as an indication to the educated men and women in the country that Socialism is a thing concerning which it is no longer wise to be indifferent.” (p.3, The Intercollegiate Socialist Society, 1905-1921, Origins of the Modern American Student Movement, by Max Horn, 1979, Westview Press, source referred to below as “Horn”)

Sinclair defined The ISS purpose as being to promote: ”…an intelligent interest in Socialism among college men and women, graduate and undergraduate, through the formation of study clubs (later renamed Study Chapters) in the colleges and universities, and the encouraging of all legitmate endeavors to awaken an interest in Socialism among the educated men and women of the country.” (p.3, Horn)

In the “Object” section of the subsequent ISS Constitution, additional means to promote “an interest in Socialism” included: ”…by providing speakers and placing books and periodicals on Socialism in college libraries and reading rooms; by holding public meetings, and by publishing or otherwise providing such literature as may be required.” (p.225, Horn)

Before ISS was founded, the University of Wisconsin and the University of California, Berkeley, were precursors to the mission, already having independently formed their own socialist study clubs.

By May 1908, ISS had chapters in seven eastern schools: Barnard, Columbia, New York University, New York University Law School, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard.

ISS generally shared the platform goals of the Socialist Party of America

The President of the Harvard ISS Chapter, Walter Lippmann—destined to become a renowned journalist—commented on the success of ISS at Harvard: “‘There has been an awakening at Harvard in the last three years. I am inclined to think that the club is a good deal more of a symptom than a cause.’ Lippmann’s assessment was correct in part. In retrospect, the Harvard Socialist Club (and one might add the ISS) was clearly a child of the larger movement of social protest and reform during the Progressive era.” (p.39, Horn)

While ISS generally shared the platform goals of the Socialist Party of America, it did not align itself with any one, particular, socialistic ideology. But it was in general agreement ”…regarding the central role of Marx in providing the theoretical basis for the remarkable growth of the international socialist movement.” (p.45, Horn)

And, while ISS did not aim to be a vassal of the Socialist Party, it did see itself as part of the larger socialist movement.

Lippmann advocated a practical approach toward socialism: “Socialism, wrote Lippman, should not be treated as a rigid creed whose utility can be proved my abstract reasoning, in the manner of scholastic philosophers trying to discover the nature of substance. A more profitable way to test the practical value of socialism would be to examine various experiments in public ownership through the world, using social well-being as a standard of measurement.”(p.55, Horn, emphasis added)

The ISS had 15 College Chapters in 1910. By 1916, it had 71. Then, in 1918, only 39.



The ISS decline began with America’s entry into World War I

The Oct-Nov 1916 masthead of The ISS Quarterly listed the colleges then affiliated with the organization.

The ISS decline began with America’s entry into World War I. Many ISS students entered military service. Some went to work in war-related industries. Many among the most active ISS Charter members never returned to school after the war.

The University of Michigan ISS Chapter, pictured above as it was in 1912

The University of Michigan ISS Chapter, pictured above as it was in 1912, was refused meeting space on campus during the war because of “the cloud thrown over all Socialist activities by the war.” (p.153, Horn). World War I damaged the image of socialism.

Also, “Another factor in the decline of college ISS recruitment was the split within the socialist movement in 1919. For the first time since it had been organized in 1905, the shrinking number of radical students was split into socialist and communist factions, foreshadowing the bitter struggles of the thirties.” (p.180, Horn

Difference between a Socialist and a Democrat is rather like the difference between a lama and an alpaca

In 1921, publication of the ISS Quarterly ceased. The organization was finished.
To summarize: “The ISS was part of the great wave of social protest, reform, and radicalism that began early in this (the 20thcentury and reached its high-water mark in the years before the United States entered the Great War.” (p.186, Horn)
Now, jump ahead in time to the only self-avowed Socialist candidate for President of the United States, Senator Bernie Sanders, who is running from within the Democratic Party—a party with key leaders unable to define the difference between a Socialist and a Democrat: e.g., Hillary Clinton and former DNC Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  Their difficulty can be explained with an analogy: It is less than that between a lama and an alpaca—two animals closely related and able to cross-breed.
In the 2016 Democrat Primary, Bernie offered a political message that resonated with many college students, as they felt “the Bern”. He’ll make the same play in 2020. And, more than a few on campus will swoon; they’re a fresh pool of potential socialists.
Sanders’ first speech in his Iowa Campaign for the Democrat Party nomination was delivered in Council Bluffs on March 7, 2019. He promised a bundle of stuff that aligns with the socialist agenda. Below are a few samples of the Sanders’ agenda likely to attract today’s on-campus naifs.
  • “Guaranteeing health care to all as a right…”
  • ”…economic justice, social justice, racial justice and environmental justice.”
  • ”…high quality, universal pre-K program.”
  • ”…public colleges and universities tuition free…”
  • ”…Social Security benefits. We’re going to expand them.”
  • “We’re going to invest in affordable housing…”
  • ”…everyone is guaranteed a stable job.”


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