American Writers and Radical Politics, 1900–39: Equivocal - download pdf or read online

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As a result, the ambiguity of London's novel has not been correctly understood. Ernest Everhard reverts to the background. It is Avis who betrays the movement. The mutual penetration of revolutionaries and Oligarchs, the changes of physical identity and political loyalties, and the reversal of roles between opponents, do much to cloud the moral atmosphere so clearly drawn in the first half of the book. It is as though London strayed by accident into the landscape of Under Western Eyes - but Conrad's novel was published four years after The Iron Heel.

Smith's reports constitute an important and hitherto unnoticed 'source' for the novel. But the Lancet was not the first to bring to public notice the conditions in the stockyards. Nor were Smith's reports, especially those published in January 1905, the only source available to Sinclair. In 1899 Algie M. Simons, who had been assigned the stockyard district by the Bureau of Charities in Chicago, published a propaganda tract, Packingtown, which may have suggested some aspects of Sinclair's approach.

Attempts to bring the American Federation of Labor over to socialism were abandoned. The leadership of the party were seeking respectability and discouraged the use of confrontational or revolutionary language; like good social democrats they rejected the industrial use of direct action for political purposes. Jack London viewed the signs of reformism in the Socialist Party with growing impatience. He played a major role, along with Upton Sinclair, in launching the Inter-Collegiate Socialist Society in 1905, and was an indefatigable speaker on campuses across America.

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