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Norman Thomas: The Last American Socialist

by Johnny Reb, January 2014

* = footnote

The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism, but under the name of liberalism they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program until one day America will be a socialist nation without ever knowing how it happened.  – Norman Thomas

Norman Thomas' Dream

Norman Thomas's dream of a socialist America was never fulfilled, despite the liberal co-option of some of its programs. The Socialist Party of America he inherited from Eugene Debs never achieved even the minimal social democratic standards of Canada and most Western European countries in instituting such programs as state run universal health care. In fact, the United States is the only country in all of the so-called "democracies" of the industrialized world that does not provide for its citizens a government managed single payer universal medical system. Conservatives rant about social programs and welfare being too expensive but never hesitate to be the most enthusiastic supporters of imperialist wars that cost trillions of dollars, most of it in the form of debt to other countries such as China. Americans are continually told that social programs such as a state run health care system smack of "socialism", a political stance that the vast majority of Americans have been convinced by their conservative politicians and media is antithetical to human nature and synonymous with the anti-Christ.

Americans are continually told that socialism is a utopian dream that "does not work". But one ought to ask: does not work for whom? Certainly socialism does not work too well for Wall Street hedge fund managers, slum lords or US corporations like Apple and Nike operating sweat shops in South East Asia. Rather than anything resembling social democracy, the United States in the past few decades has moved toward a form of corporate fascism, the sort of authoritarian capitalist future predicted by Jack London in his 1908 dystopian novel Iron Heel and forty years later by Harold Laski in his prophetic essay The American Democracy (1948)

One ought to ask those who deride socialism how much they enjoy their roads, highways, bridges, public parks, schools and all the other services provided by government for the common good of the people. We ought to remember the admonitions of our mothers and elementary school teachers to "share" and "care", two key values that are foundational, not only to family life, but socialist philosophy. Yet these morally uplifting adages are anathema to capitalism, a political philosophy based almost exclusively on two of the most unsavory personal attributes:  self interest and greed.   

Norman Thomas and Tommy Douglas

After reading as much about Norman Thomas as I was able dig up, much of it out of print, I was continually reminded of Canadian great Tommy Douglas, one of the very few political figures in our country's history I have truly admired. Both Thomas and Douglas were of Scottish decent, inspiring persuasive orators, were highly educated with post graduate degrees and had warm engaging personalities in addition to an infectious sense of humor. They were self-proclaimed Christians who had enthusiastically read Walter Rauschenbusch and embraced his social gospel movement. But Thomas and Douglas are the type of Christian that seems to have become extinct in the past half century. They've been replaced by the disciples of capitalist televangelism such as Oral Roberts, Robert Tilton, Creflo Dollar, and Joel Osteen.  It's called the "prosperity gospel", a strange mutation of Christianity that informs the devout that "selfishness is a virtue", taking their cue not from the teachings of Jesus, but the atheist right wing libertarian Ayn Rand who wrote a book with the oxymoronic title, The Virtue of Selfishness. According to well-heeled jet set Christians like Osteen, God has obviously read Rand's book and been convinced by its venal commandments. The Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount it seems, has become a forgotten footnote. God has now decided that you ought to devote your life to become rich rather than be your brother's keeper.

As young men Douglas and Thomas were deeply disturbed by the massive inequities and injustices they witnessed in their respective countries, the exploitation of the poor and the state's complicity in oppression of workers that invariably took the side of wealth, power and big business. They were ethical, caring and honorable liberal Christians who espoused an uplifting vision for the future of a just and truly democratic world created from the bottom up, rather than the top down hierarchical and authoritarian one they experienced in both their religion and respective countries. They were also horrified at how the leaders of their Christian religion marched in lockstep with the status quo of conservative political power and urged their congregations to wave the flag with patriotic fervor and support every imperialistic war. Both men hated war and any sort of violence. Although Douglas never admitted to the same, Norman Thomas was a self-proclaimed pacifist.

Their conception of socialism relied on the idea that, despite so much evidence to the contrary, people really did prefer cooperation to competition, sharing to acquisitiveness and genuinely cared about one another. The idea of family to these men was not restricted to one's kin, but to the entire world - the brotherhood and sisterhood of humankind. The tendency to overpower and exploit others they deemed grotesquely immoral and socially inculcated and that compassion and empathy were natural human traits that can only flourish within the proper familial, cultural and economic environment. The depraved attributes of greed and lust for power do not have to be the dominant dispositional proclivities of the human race. Violence and endless war they perceived as the predictable upshots of these unsavory human traits.

Who was Norman Thomas?

Norman Thomas (1884-1968), the son of a doctrinaire Presbyterian minister, was born in Marion, Ohio, November 20, 1884. He was an exceptional student in both high school and university and studied political science under Woodrow Wilson at Princeton. He earned his degree in 1905 and in that same year Thomas was one of the founders of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society. Other members included Jack London, Upton  Sinclair, Clarence Darrow, Florence Kelley, Anna Strunsky, Bertram D. Wolfe, Jay Lovestone, Rose Pastor Stokes and J.G. Phelps Stokes. Its stated purpose was to "throw light on the world-wide movement of industrial democracy known as socialism."

Subsequent to his undergraduate studies at Princeton, Thomas did voluntary social work in New York City before enrolling at the Union Theological Seminary. Influenced by the writings of the Christian Socialist movement in Britain, Thomas eventually became a dedicated socialist. Thomas was ordained in 1911 and became pastor of the East Harlem Presbyterian Church. A life-long pacifist, he rightly believed that the First World War was an "immoral, senseless struggle among rival imperialisms". His brother Evan shared his views and went to prison for resisting the draft.

Like his socialist predecessor Eugene Debs, Norman Thomas is now largely forgotten, but for much of the twentieth century it was commonplace to call him the "conscience of America", even by his political enemies on the right. In a special remembrance that ran two days after his front-page obitu­ary in 1968, the New York Times wrote, "He spoke to the feelings that most Americans have about themselves: that they are a fair people; that it is somehow wrong for poverty to exist amid plenty; that it is a perver­sion of justice to be jailed for political reasons; that Constitutional rights should be respected regardless of race or creed;" He understood that these political, economic, and social problems were, first and foremost ,moral problems. He con­fronted them publicly and encouraged others to do the same.

Like his approach to Christianity, Thomas never adhered to any doctrinaire socialist orthodoxy and, despite being an avid reader, likely had never read anything by Marx or Engels except perhaps the Communist Manifesto. What motivated him was the emotional and the ethical rather than the ideological, sociological, philosophical and analytical. Intellectually he knew that capitalism was the system villain, the cause of injustice and gross inequalities but dealing in the abstract apparently held little psychological appeal for him. His focus had always been on the personal facts of injustice and oppression committed by real people and whereas socialism might remove the impersonal fundamental and systemic causes, he was only satisfied when he could act directly on specific problems that were immediate and personal. In courageously speaking out against militarism, and war, homelessness and poverty in the slums of East Harlem, the sharecropper terror in Arkansas, combating martial law in Terre Haute, Indiana, exposing the racism of the KKK in Florida or in defying the anti-free speech ordinances such as during the Red Scares and communist witch hunts, Thomas' voice rang out with eloquent wrath like that of Eugene Debs.

Beyond his affirmation of socialism, Thomas was first and foremost a tireless humanitarian and advocate for the advancement of the civil rights and liberties of minorities, the poor, the oppressed, and the deprived, and he dedicated the whole of his life to those causes. Seen from that perspective, Thomas used socialism to advance ideals that ultimately led to the enactment of the safety net that protects many Americans today - Social Security, unemployment insurance, minimum wage laws, the abolition of child labor, workers compensation laws, progressive income taxation laws, and anti-discrimination laws protecting all races and nationalities as well as women, the disabled, and the aged. 

It's routine in much historical writing that American socialism in the 1930s was rendered ineffectual by being co-opted by Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. But Roosevelt had no intentions of creating a socialist utopia or even a capitalist driven welfare state*, but rather he was attempting to save capitalism from its own abuses and internal contradictions. FDR was not a "traitor to his class" as many conservative claim, yet despite this, the conservative right wing and big business leaders perceived Roosevelt as an enemy.  In fact some went far beyond verbal criticism. Some, including Henry Ford, were complicit in a planned coup d'état to overthrow, even assassinate, and replace FDR with a Mussolini clone**.  Norman Thomas offers a rueful confirmation of the standard conservative view: "What cut the ground out pretty much completely from under us was . . .in a word, Roosevelt." This comment yields a measure of truth, but, if examined closely, it turns out to be a bit too simplistic, Roosevelt's New Deal certainly troubled the socialists; it took from them a good part of their popular support; it advanced policies, especially between 1935 and 1937, that to an indifferent eye could appear to be "socialistic" and, even to a keen eye, overlapped with some of the socialists' "immediate demands." But to recognize all this is only a facile beginning in an examination of how the American socialists confronted the New Deal.

*By "welfare state", I mean a capitalist society partially humanized and reformed as the result of pressures of democratic insurgencies, protests and civil disobedience by those on the left that included public demonstrations and strikes by socialists and trade unions, respectively. This measured progressive reformism was created in the period following the Second World War, providing opportunities and social safety nets for the middle and lower classes. But as events are unfolding today, this all-too-brief three decade flirt with social democracy is being systematically rescinded. With the past thirty years of neo-conservative ideological global dominance and the vicious anti-labor free trade agreements of the 1990s the dismantling of the welfare state will soon be complete. The economic future for our children and grandchildren looks grim indeed. Global wealth inequality is at historical highs as a recent study by Oxfam reports that the richest 85 people in the world have more wealth than the bottom half of the world's population; that's about 3.5 billion people.

** The plot to depose FDR was an alleged political conspiracy concocted by far right conservatives and fascist sympathizers in 1933. Retired Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler claimed that wealthy businessmen were plotting to create a fascist veterans' organization and use it the coup d'état. They wanted Butler, a highly decorated and experienced US military officer, to organize and carry out the scheme. Instead, Butler exposed the plot by testifying to the Special Committee on Un-American Activities Congressional committee (the "McCormack-Dickstein Committee") on these claims. In the opinion of the committee, these allegations were credible. But as is often the case in charges against conservative elites, as in the case of the blatant criminal activities that led to the massive bank bailouts of 2007-09, no one was prosecuted, or even charged.

Norman Thomas and FDR

In the fall of 1933, several months after Roosevelt took office, Norman Thomas published a pamphlet in which he offered a preliminary and, in some respects, shrewd estimate of what Roosevelt was up to. Thomas wrote:

"A nation which had persisted in a touching faith in laissez-faire economics [has] suddenly gone in for an immense degree of collective control through government. ... [The purpose of the New Deal] is, with a minimum disturbance of the accepted economic order, to relieve the strain on it at the most dangerous points, to increase spending power for the masses, and to bring some sort of order in the capitalist chaos. . . .

On the purely economic side we may conclude that, even on its own terms, to be successful over any length of time the New Deal must give us rapidly: (1) social control of money, banking and credit; (2) general economic planning; (3) a more direct approach to the redistribution of income.

A newer and more complicated note is struck in Thomas's 1934 book  The Choice Before Us:

To say that the Roosevelt Revolution, in so far as it was revolution at all, was a revolution from laissez-faire to state capitalism, is not to deny the magnitude of some of its achievements. ...

The Roosevelt program makes concessions to workers in order to keep them quiet a while longer and so stabilize the power of private owners.

In February 1936 Thomas made a radio speech with still another emphasis:

Mr. Roosevelt did not carry out the Socialist platform, unless he carried it out on a stretcher. ...

Some of [what Roosevelt did] was good reformism, but there is nothing Socialist about trying to regulate or reform Wall Street.

Not only is [the New Deal] not socialism, but in large degree; this state capitalism, this use of bread and circuses to keep the people quiet is ... a necessary development of a dying social order. . . .

From such texts it is possible to extract a number of themes:"

a)   Necessary government intervention to shore up a crumbling capitalist regime;

b)  Desirable social reforms to gain popular support and to quiet unrest;

c)   Inadequacy of these reforms for coping with the misery of the Depression;

d) A long range trend, stumbling and often not deliberate, toward "state capitalism".

Between 1933 and 1936 there was a shift in Thomas's analysis from flexibility to rigidity.* Each of his themes had some analytic cogency, but not equally so and not with equal political impact. There was a trend toward "state capitalism," if by that he means a greater degree of state control of economic life consistent with capitalist ideology. But this was hardly the main immediate significance of the New Deal: not in 1933, when Roosevelt's improvisations stirred hopes in a dazed country, or in mid-1935, when the New Deal took a turn to the left, with important social legislation ranging from the Wagner Labor Relations Act to new and somewhat redistributive tax legislation.

*One of the reasons Thomas kept attacking the New Deal is commendable and does him justice is that he had become deeply involved with the Arkansas sharecroppers who, under the leadership of local socialists, had organized the Southern Tenant Farmers Union. These desperately poor people gained few, if any, benefits from Roosevelt's administration. The Agricultural Adjustment Act payments, which were made to farmers upon reduction of their acreage, displaced thousands of Southern sharecroppers, because landlords evicted them and held on to AAA payments for themselves. Thomas kept pestering Roosevelt and his Secretary of Agriculture, the liberal Henry Wallace, for their failure to help the sharecroppers - indeed, for averting their eyes when local authorities and planters' agents subjected the STFU to violence. James Green, in Grass-Roots Socialism, writes that Roosevelt refused to risk losing the support of Senate leader Joe Robinson, a representative of the Arkansas planters, and so he agreed to the sacking of the pro-STFU people [liberals like Gardner Jackson and Jerome Frank] from the AAA. Henry Wallace went along with the purge,' too. Almost alone, Thomas kept the plight of the sharecroppers before the American public.

A conscientious objector in two world wars and a relentless advocate for world peace as well as social justice, Norman Thomas, like so many on the political left, was tear-gassed, physically beaten, arrested, and jailed as he stood up for the rights minorities, immigrants, and the working poor. In addition to being a civil rights activist, Thomas headed the Socialist Party for 18 years, ran for president six times, was a pacifist, and created several institutions to advance world peace and universal disarmament. He strongly and rightly opposed all wars as venomous lies of conservative and capitalist elites, including the Vietnam War.

Thomas has been deeply concerned about the impact of the gratuitous violence and overwhelming immorality of the Vietnam War upon American society. He feared the war's inflationary pressures and its "great cost to any war against poverty." He insisted that in the process of fighting the war Americans are experiencing an irreparable ethical erosion. America is tragically indoctrinating "a great many of our youth with a sense of the legitimacy of violence . . . which they will apply not just to the service of the sovereign state but to the service of their racial group or even their gangs at home. There is no question that the legacy of two world wars is at least partly responsible for the growth of crimes of violence, bomb threats and harassments of individuals here at home."

The Socialist leader has long been convinced that the cold war and its hot interludes have had a pernicious effect upon American life. In a debate with Barry Goldwater, at the Uni­versity of Arizona in November of 1961, he expressed his trepidation over the direction his country had taken:

"What is the effect upon us if we have to go on living forever in terms of a religion of nationalism? Do not misunderstand me, of course I love my country. Of course, I believe in nationalism as against imperialism. And I recog­nize its contributions in various lands to culture. But I do not believe that we can manage our world in an anarchy of a hundred nations of such diverse size and intent. We've got to do something about that. And I don't think that we can manage—I say it on a Sunday night—to keep any decent moral standards or religion in a world in which our real religion is the religion of the sovereign national state, which is above the moral law and sanctifies to its own use what it conceives will serve its ends. This is the thing that I fear. And this I think we have to attack. We socialists are ac­cused of caring for material things. We care for material things because of their relation to what I care about most which is ... a fellowship of free men throughout the world. . . .

The real Ten Commandments now have been changed. It is the sovereign national state that says: "I am the Lord, thy God. Thou shalt have no other Gods before me. Thou shalt not take my name in vain for the Senate and House committees will not hold him guiltless that taketh my name in vain. Thou shalt not kill-retail. But thou shalt at my com­mand kill quite indiscriminately as science has enabled us to do. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor unless perhaps it is in good cause of fighting Communism somewhere in the world." (From taped video  of Norman Thomas v Barry Goldwater Debate: "Which Way America", Capitalism or Socialism,  November, 1961).

Thomas died in 1968 and never saw the horrific unraveling of the Vietnam War and the revelations about the atrocities committed, the environmental degradation and the slaughter of women, children and aging peasants, of which the Mai Lai Massacre was a standard daily exercise. The war was also extended to the bordering countries of Laos and Cambodia, creating the conditions for the emergence of Pol Pot and the holocaust-like conditions that followed in Cambodia in particular. I urge the reader to get a new book on the Vietnam war by Nick Turse titled Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam. Thomas was also not around when the Pentagon Papers were released by a courageous Daniel Ellsberg and the subsequent US illegal interventions in Latin America and the Middle East. He would have been more outraged at the debacle of the War in Iraq, even more than he was during the insanity of the Vietnam conflict.


It was at the end of World War I that Norman Thomas became a Socialist. He would go on to run for president six times on the Socialist ticket, and he repre­sented democratic socialism until the day he died. Though many of his goals for social reform, from civil rights legislation to unemployment insurance, are now law, he was not a good politician, and he always fared badly at the polls. His failure as a politician, though, matters less than the reasons he traveled down the path he did. He became a Socialist because he despaired at what he saw and held out hope for something better. He thought society had lost the balance between opportunity and equality, creativity and security, the individual and the community. He was convinced that the capitalist emphasis on self-interest and profit engendered injustice, irresponsibility, and class conflict, and that it was perverse that money was treated with greater reverence than the lives of workers. He was a pacifist before he was a Socialist, believing methods of force were antithetical to freedom. But his pacifism helped lead him to socialism, after he came to see war as the result and ultimate expression of capitalist exploitation. Along with Helen Keller, Crystal Eastman and Felix Frankfurter, Thomas was one of the founding members of the ACLU in 1920.

As a politician he never managed (nor really tried) to put forth a coher­ent political philosophy, except to say what he was not: not a Marxist, not a communist, not a liberal, not a capitalist. At times, during party battles, he tried to adopt a more orthodox socialism. He was pessimistic about the state bureaucracy from the start, however, and he became less dogmatic after long and bruising fights with communists, of whom he was an early and determined opponent. With his hand in many causes, he spoke every­where, in chapels and high school gyms, atop soapboxes and on the stage at Madison Square Garden. He cut a striking figure: tall and thin (6' 2"), with a high forehead and penetrating blue eyes. His voice resounded, and when he made a point he jabbed the air with a protruded finger. Norman Thomas connected freedom to  justice and justice to human beings.

But that came later. When World War I broke out, Norman was an unknown minister, more extraordinary for his promise as a pastor than for his politics. Soon after the United States entered the war, he lost his church. He also lost his faith in the aims and efforts of many liberals, including his old professor Woodrow Wilson. Yet it was also a time of discovery. Nor­man developed a new sense of purpose and a new understanding of what makes men free: freedom of conscience. Every person, he believed, has a conscience - a sense that he is more than a creature of instinct, an aware­ness of ultimate ethical ends - but not everyone is ordinarily free to heed it. A person is not free while fighting in war or living in extreme poverty. A person is not free if he is censored or unjustly jailed. During the war, Norman's own brother Evan was sentenced to life in prison by a military tribunal for refusing an order to eat by a military officer during a hunger strike while in prison for being a conscientious objector.

The conservative and liberal politicians and the massive propaganda campaigns that led their countries into World War I described it as a war for freedom and democracy. Nothing much has changed today when one examines the blatant lies that were used to convince Americans about the justification for the Korean, Vietnam and Iraq wars, to name just three. But Norman became convinced that an ethical and civilized society could not emerge from the slaughter of a battlefield. Courage was important, but what was necessary was courage in daily life - the courage to judge right from wrong and oneself before others. The courage to say no to the big lies of war. He thought freedom required the conditions that would satisfy the basic needs of men and women so they might have the chance to cultivate their own way of life, and so they might also treat others and be treated by others with dignity and respect.

Norman's faith in freedom of conscience raised questions about citi­zenship and responsibility that could not easily be answered, if at all. His brothers answered those questions differently than he did. No brother was always right, nor always wise nor always fair. Still, each understood that he was not alone; he had brothers, both familial and through the brotherhood of man.

Norman Thomas was young, only thirty-three years old, when World War I ended. Yet his journey had already been long. Its lessons, many of which would remain with him always, were evident in his application for membership in the Socialist Party. He has been both praised and disparaged for being an idealist or a Utopian. He did have ideals, but he was less naive about human nature or about schemes of salvation than those epithets suggest. In the letter that accompanied his application, he wrote that he believed in the necessity of establishing a more just economic order than capitalism provided, but noted that he was applying with reservations. "My accepting of the Socialist platform is on the basis of general prin­ciples rather than of details," he wrote. He was wary that the Socialists had not always guaranteed civil liberties. Like the anarchist philosophers such as Mikhail Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin, he harbored "a profound fear of the undue exaltation of the state and a profound faith that the new world we desire must depend upon freedom and fellowship rather than upon any sort of coercion whatsoever." Despite his qualms, he believed that social­ism represented the best hope for a better world.

Norman's application to the Socialist Party was returned, "not because of the exceptions you wish to be recorded upon, but because you have not filled out the other side." Caught up in his statement of principles, Nor­man had forgotten to include his address and personal information. Detail and intellectual nuance were not Thomas's strengths.

The criticism that Thomas was more concerned with listening to his conscience than attending to practical considerations has been leveled many times. But the accusation assumes that he considered himself a solitary arbiter of right and wrong, removed from the vicissitudes of daily life. In fact, his conscience was formed by practical experience and was respon­sive to it. He had a moral instinct, but his convictions and actions were also shaped by his family, friends, school, and work, by what he did and what he saw. His story is part of the shifting intellectual, social, and reli­gious context of the early twentieth century. It is also part of his family's story. For the Thomas family, conscience was not an empty word. It made demands.

Thomas the pacifist spoke out against all wars as wars of imperialism, greed and the lust for power; he worked tirelessly for global disarmament and nuclear nonproliferation. He was a vociferous critic of the Vietnam War and other American imperialistic ventures and was an advisor to A. Philip Randolph, the civil rights leader in the 1920s, never ceasing to espouse the ideas of racial equality. In a tribute to Norman Thomas titled "The Bravest Man I Ever met", Martin Luther King Jr. told the story of a young African American at the 1963 March on Washington who "listened at the Washington Monument to an eloquent orator. Turning to his father, he asked, 'Who was that man?'. His father responded with: 'That's Norman Thomas. He was for us before any other white folks were.'"

As a man whose instincts were primarily ethical,  Norman Thomas was a deeply moral and caring man in an immoral and uncaring capitalist society.

Here is an excerpt from the 1961 debate with Barry Goldwater:

We are socialists because we believe this income which we all cooperate in making isn’t divided as it ought to be. [...] We do reward men according to deed. We do reward or give to people according to need. No religion would be possible in which that wasn’t done. There are the young, there are the old, there are many whom we have to reward according to their need. But in spite of improvements that have been made, and especially perhaps by my liberal friends who aren't just sure how far to go...we still have a society where there's a great deal of reward not according to deed, not according to need, but according to breed - the choice of your grandfather is very important. And according to the successful greed, which operates not in terms of great contributions to men, but in terms of manipulations of one sort of another. - Norman Thomas,  Debate with Barry Goldwater, University of Arizona campus, Tucson, Arizona, November 1961 (follow the link for this fascinating debate) A brief interview conducted by two conservatives from the mid 1950s can be viewed here.

On the occasion of Norman Thomas' seventy-fifth birthday, No­vember 20, 1959, the Washington Post, in its editorial columns, summarized perceptively his role in American life:

”For most of his 75 years Norman Thomas has been a Socialist in his political affiliation, a radical in economic outlook, a conservative in constitutional principles and a liberal in his friendliness to people and ideas. Above everything else he has been an independent - a man who thought and spoke for himself - with wit and fervor and indignation - an apostle  of human freedom, a champion of the defeated, a kind of animated and indomitable conscience of the American peo­ple. . . . Yet even as an inveterate loser, he has been among the most influential individuals in 20th Century American politics. His ideas have received from his rivals the supreme compliment of plagiarism and from the American people the accolade of acceptance. . . . We join great numbers of his fellow Americans in congratulating the country on hav­ing him as a leader at large."


Political, writing career and references:

Norma Mattoon Thomas unsuccessfully sought election as governor of New York (1924, 1938) and as mayor of New York City (1925, 1929). After the death (1926) of Eugene Debs, who had been sentenced to a ten year prison term for speaking out against the US entry into World War I, Thomas assumed leadership of the Socialist party and was repeatedly (1928, 1932, 1936, 1940, 1944, 1948) the party's candidate for president. He polled his highest vote, about 880,000, in 1932. An advocate of evolutionary socialism, Thomas was a constant critic of the American economic system and of both major parties; he strongly opposed American entry in World War II while bitterly denouncing both fascism and Soviet communism. After the war, he lectured and wrote extensively on the need for world disarmament and the easing of cold war tensions. In 1955, he resigned his official posts in the Socialist party, but he remained its chief spokesman until shortly before his death.

His works include The Conscientious Objector in America (1923), Socialism of Our Time (1929), Human Exploitation (1934), Appeal to the Nations(1947), Socialist's Faith (1951), The Test of Freedom (1954), The Prerequisite for Peace (1959), Great Dissenters (1961), and Socialism Reexamined (1963).

See biographies by M. B. Seidler (2d ed. 1967), H. Fleischman (1964, repr. 1969), and B. K. Johnpoll (1970); Conscience (2011) by Louise Thomas, his great-granddaughter.




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