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Radical Reds Turn Heads

September 19, 2001

Historian's Notes

Despite its relatively young age, Oklahoma has a rich history of political radicalism!


Sellars, N. A. Oil, wheat & wobblies: The Industrial Workers of the World in Oklahoma, 1905-1930. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998.

Almanac Transcript

Radical reds turn heads this week on Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, Iím Steven Kite.

During its formative years the state of Oklahoma had more than just a casual brush with radical politics. The biographies of Oklahoma citizens both great and small are full of mentions of The Greenback Party, Populism, Socialism, The Industrial Workers of the World and other such groups. The Socialist and Populist parties appeared for many here to be a viable alternative to the stale uncaring two party system always it seemed mired in partisan politics. From the late eighteen hundreds through to the teens a genuine third party alternative for voters was an option for Oklahoma. With the U.S. involvement in World War I in 1917 United States political authorities used the opportunity to do away with radical politics. The last great era of third party politics in Oklahoma and the rest of the country was over essentially by 1918.

In Oklahoma, though, the Socialist Party managed to hang on for a few more years under the guise of The Farmer-Labor Reconstruction League. It was in this week in 1921, September 17th to be exact, that concerned citizens from across the state met in Shawnee to form what became The Farmer-Labor Reconstruction League. The Farmer-Labor Reconstruction League was used basically as a political vehicle by the former Socialists of Oklahoma in their attempt to take over the state Democratic Party. The League drew members from all over the state and welcomed any and all who felt oppressed or overlooked. Manned by farmers, workers and concerned citizens of all occupations The League began their work with the state elections of 1922. Most important to league members was the Gubernatorial Race. The League had nominated Jack Walton as candidate, and surprisingly enough it was Walton who eventually won the election. Jack Waltonís election orchestrated as it was by the ex-Socialists of The Farmer-Labor Reconstruction League was truly the last gasp of radical politics in Oklahoma. After the elections and Waltonís subsequent antics as governor, the League disbanded in disgrace and the Socialist Party drained from its last desperate efforts remained only as a mere shadow of its former self.

Farmers and Laborers make their voices heard, this week on the Almanac.

I'm Steven Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a production of the OSU Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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