Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2001


Published in Great Plains Research 11:1 (Spring 2001). Copyright © 2001 Center for Great Plains Studies.


Jim Bissett's well-written book on the Socialist Party of Oklahoma goes down a well-worn path. In his search for a usable past to illuminate the hidden strength of an authentic American radicalism, he finds roughly what most radical scholars find when they indict the spurious openness of American democracy (176). Oklahoma tenant-farmers are exploited, co-opted, and coerced; large landowners and commercial interests are by turns clever and rapacious; an effective protest movement inspires radical insurgents whose appeal becomes "extraordinarily powerful" for a short period (99); the movement becomes so threatening to the political and economic dominance of the "interests" that they resort to state-sponsored repression to scatter the insurgents (178).