Checklist for Radical!

Virtual Lecture for Radical!

Curated by Lyuba Basin, 2020

Digital exhibition produced by Lyuba Basin, 2020


The literature of politics is multifaceted, filled with various genres that range from poetry to pamphlets, novels to newscasts. Today, new methods of disseminating literature allow voices from all walks of life to be heard on major digital platforms. However, a century ago, these virtual megaphones were nonexistent, and if you wanted a voice, you had to make it from scratch. During the early part of the 20th century, many writers, activists, and artists had become closely linked to the Labor and Socialist movements that were growing inside the United States. Over the course of several decades, such social movements emerged in different areas around the country, and particularly through the work of independent, underground or alternative presses which published radical ideas in the form of pamphlets, posters and literary magazines. Although unassuming in form, these materials created a cultural impact and developed intricate networks which continue to highlight issues of civil rights, censorship, and free speech today.


The Industrial Revolution, a period spanning the course of nearly one hundred years, saw the rise of machines, the middle class, and the urban population. From it, increased opportunities for employment could be found in factories, mills, and mines. The development of such jobs required an evolving organization of laborers, beyond what previous trade unions could offer - a union that could represent skilled and unskilled workers, workers from all trades and backgrounds, and workers from all over the world. 

On June 24, 1905, a convention of some two hundred socialists, anarchists, members of the Socialist Party of America and Socialist Labor Party, and radical trade unionists from all over the United States, came together to form the Industrial Workers of the World. 

The Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.), often called the “Wobblies,” promoted “One Big Union” - a concept that cut across traditional guild and union lines to unite and organize workers as one social class against a capitalist industry. The notion of industrial unionism, as opposed to craft unionism, also pushed other aspects of social justice, such as being the first American union to welcome women, Black Americans, and immigrants not only into the organization, but into prominent roles of leadership. 

Its inclusion of diverse workers, trades, and industries helped the I.W.W. grow in popularity. At its peak in 1917, it celebrated more than 150,000 members with active charters all throughout the United States, Canada, and Australia. By the 1920s, however, several factors caused membership to decline dramatically. Other labor groups saw the Wobblies as too radical. This same sentiment was also echoed by the government, which began to crack down on a growing number of socialist groups during the First Red Scare, after World War I. 

Throughout the twentieth century, the Industrial Workers of the World were met with unparalleled resistance from Federal, State and Local governments in America. Beyond mere suppression of the First Amendment, many of its members and affiliates were imprisoned on the basis of legislative acts passed by Congress - such as the Espionage Act, the Sedition Act, the Smith Act, and the McCarran Act.

Songs of the Workers, 1914

Industrial Workers of the World
I.W.W. Publishing Bureau : Cleveland, OH 1914
Joe Hill Edition (8th)
M1977 L3 I5 1914

Since the founding of the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905, songs have played an important role in spreading the message of the “One Big Union.” Such songs have been preserved in editions of the Little Red Songbook, or Songs of The Industrial Workers of the World. This compilation of tunes, hymns and songs were meant to help build morale and promote solidarity among the I.W.W. members. Between 1909 and 1995, thirty-six different editions were published. The eighth edition, published in 1914, commemorates I.W.W. songwriter, Joe Hill, who was arrested the same year for an alleged murder.

Songs of the Workers, 1914, spread

Utah State Platform and Constitution of the Socialist Party

Socialist Party (Utah)
Ogden, UT : Issued by the State Committee of the Socialist Party, 1908?
JK2391 S6 

The Socialist Party in Utah began developing during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, with a particularly strong faction in the mining town of Eureka. Like Eureka, other mining areas in the state gave their support to the growing socialist party, with one of every eight members working in the mining industry. Utah was one of only eighteen states to have socialist representation in its legislature, with a diverse membership that included educators, clergy, white-collar workers, small-business owners, and farmers. Between 1900 and 1923, approximately one hundred socialists were elected to a variety of offices throughout the state.

Socialist State Ticket (Utah)

Socialist Party (Utah)
Salt Lake City, UT : 1914
JK2391 S6 S63 1914

The socialist party in Utah was unique because it grew out the tradition of Christianity. Members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints comprised approximately forty percent of the Utah Socialist party membership and, as part of a larger, nationwide movement, many American Protestant churches advocated socialism and were strong supporters of the miners laboring in the Mountain West region. Christian socialists preached a message that combined Marxism with lessons from the Christian Gospels, promoting cooperation, community, and equality in regards to power and wealth.

Despite the influence of Christianity on socialism in Utah, there was plenty of debate over the issue, with many non-religious socialists arguing that there was no place in the movement for Christian rhetoric or values. Secular socialists believed that churches were aligned with the status quo, and their true allegiance was to employers and capitalists, rather than the working class.

Open Chat
 Last Modified 5/25/23