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The American Socialist/Welfare Movement

Great socialist and welfare movements started in the beginning of the 1900s. There was no period ever in the American history that socialism has been as popular as from 1900 to 1914. 1000 offices were held by socialists at that time period, which did change the American society quite a bit since they did get elected into powerful positions, both local, and national offices (Brinkley 596).
The conditions for the American workers improved dramatically. The number of working hours decreased, and the wages increased. Benefits were given to the workers, which was completely new to most workers at that time period. All those facts were due to the socialist movement starting in the 1900s, and they are still helping American workers today (Brinkley 597).
Henry Ford was one of the business owners that made socialist changes for his workers. First of all, he gave his workers benefits beside their wages, as well as shortening working hours. Obviously, Henry Ford was not a socialist, but his efforts to improve conditions for his workers did help the workers fight for more welfare and socialism, which at was needed at the time (Henry Ford (1863-1947), Winnipec’s labor movement to 1900). Joe Hill was another important figure during this period. He immigrated to the United States in 1902 from Sweden and moved to the southern part of New York. Hill was shocked when he saw the conditions most immigrants were in after they had come to the United States, so he joined the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) in 1910, and started working for workers rights. Hill tried to make socialism more popular in 1914 and he did succeed, the popularity for the socialist party increased, and many offices were taken by socialists (Wilde). That is probably why he was caught and accused for a murder (that he, according to many historians, did not commit). He was hanged in 1915 (Smith). Eugene Victor Debs was one of the founders of the IWW, or the Industrial Workers of the World. The IWW contends that workers should be united within one single union and, the class and wage system should be abolished. It had about 100,000 members (one of them was Hill) in 1923 and today it has about 2,000 members world-wide (Industrial Workers of the World). Debs was also a Presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America and a women’s rights activist (http://www.eugenevdebs.com/pages/women.htm). He worked hard for workers rights and did succeed in doing so not only by the IWW, but also by helping them perform strikes. This did have a large impact on the power of the American workers (Eugene Victor Debs 1855-1926).
These socialist and welfare movements were definitely needed in the United States at the time since the working conditions, salary, safety and working hours, were all horrible. Working hours could stretch up to 82 hours a week, which is more than double the common amount of working time today (Savery 307 – 310). Since even Henry Ford, being a rich business owner understood that there was a great need for change. Of course, most people would expect to find the poor workers being the ones pushing the hardest for socialistic politics, but there were many highly educated people that sought to improve workers rights, which is surprising, but it does give us a good idea of how terrible the conditions must have been. The socialism in the United States today is not as popular as it seems to have been at that time, but it is probably not as needed today as what it was at the time (Davey).
This movement has played a huge role in the American society we live in today. First of all, the politics have changed so that they serve the people of the United States as a whole, and not only a few of all the Americans. Also, the government has used its powers to make it fair for all citizens of the United States (fair is in relation to what it was during that time period) (Davey). Evidence of these movements can be found in some of the modern politics. Limits on how low wage an employee can give to his or her employer, and the use of the income tax are two good examples which both came from that period of the US history (Morris). No matter how much the American people oppose socialism today; ideas are constantly being used that originate from socialist and welfare movements earlier in history (US Government.).
The textbook does not cover this movement very well at all. It mentions some small changes that were done by business owners but not much else. It seems like socialism isn’t in priority and like it isn’t as important as many other movements and happenings in the American history. There were only two pages talking about the socialistic movement, and not much of that text actually helped to relate either the significance of Socialism, or the impact it had on the United States.

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