MIA: History: USA: Publications: Bugle

The Bugle



THE BUGLE (Oklahoma City, 1922-24) The Socialist Party of Oklahoma is a unique case in the history of American socialism. Nowhere did a state affiliate of the Socialist Party of America grow so rapidly, both in size and electoral influence. Nowhere was a party so thoroughly destroyed in the nationalistic and ultra-patriotic fervor which accompanied American participation in World War I.

In 1916, on the eve of American intervention into the imperialist slaughter, more than 11% of the entire Socialist Party of America — 9,369 members out of 83,284 nationwide — resided in the state of Oklahoma. A vast array of socialist newspapers helped instill and almost evangelical fervor for the promised land of the cooperative commonwealth, while camp meetings lasting up to a week fired up the faithful with the gospel of socialism during the summer months.

Then came war, and hysteria, and an ill-fated IWW plan for a revolutionary march to Washington remembered as the “Green Corn Rebellion.” It mattered little that the bungling rural insurrection had nothing to do with the Socialist Party itself — the party was blamed. In just one year, the Socialist Party of Oklahoma shed 6,000 members from its ranks. Party influence vanished.

In 1918 a new weekly paper emerged, the Oklahoma Leader. Ostensibly a socialist publication in its initial iteration, the weekly rapidly moved to the reformist right, hitching its wagon to a state movement inspired by the Non-Partisan League based in North Dakota — the Farmer-Labor Reconstruction League.

With its members demoralized and shattered, the paid membership in the Socialist Party of America in Oklahoma continued to plummet. By about 1920 things had dwindled to the point there insufficient locals remained to maintain a state organization. The SPA National Office therefore revoked the charter of the Socialist Party of Oklahoma.

The Bugle is the written record of an attempt to reorganize and rebuild a Socialist Party of Oklahoma from the ashes. The effort was cheered on by retired wallpaper hanger Otto Branstetter, National Executive Secretary of the SPA, who was himself a former Socialist Party organizer in Oklahoma.

The Bugle was a privately-owned paper, edited and published in Oklahoma City by E.H.H. Gates. A total of 8 issues are known to exist, bearing dates from April 1922 to January 1924.

By this time the task of Socialist Party organizing in Oklahoma was probably more or lessgiven up for lost. The organizing task could not have been easy: by 1925 the SPA had declined to such an extent that there were fewer members nationwide (8,558) than there had been in the state of Oklahoma one decade previously. The Debsian era of the SPA was at an end.

Tim Davenport
Corvallis, OR
December 2018

Vol. 1, No. 1, April, 1922

Vol. 1, No. 2, May, 1922

Vol. 1, No. 3, June, 1922

Vol. 1, No. 4, October, 1922

Vol. 1, No. 5, May, 1923

Vol. 1, No. 6, June, 1923

Vol. 1, No. 7, November, 1923

Vol. 1, No. 8, January , 1924

Last updated on 3 November 2018