Grass-Roots Socialism answers two of the most intriguing questions in the history of American radicalism: why was the Socialist party stronger in Oklahoma than in any other state, and how was the party able to build powerful organizations in nearby rural southwestern areas?
Many of the same grievances that had created a strong Populist movement in the region provided the Socialists with potent political issues—the railroad monopoly, the crop lien system, and political corruption. With these widely felt grievances to build on, the Socialists led the class-conscious farmers and workers to a radicalism that was far in advance of that advocated by the earlier People’s party.
Examined in this broadly based study of the movement are popular leaders like Oklahoma’s Oscar Ameringer (“The Mark Twain of American Socialism”), “Red Tom” Hickey of Texas, and Kate Richards O’Hare, who was second only to Eugene Debs as a Socialist orator. Included also is information on the party’s propaganda techniques, especially those used in the lively newspapers which claimed fifty thousand subscribers in the Southwest by 1913, and on the attractive summer camp meetings which drew thousands of poor white tenant farmers to week-long agitation and education sessions.
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