Report by Jordan Shay
Abstract: The Socialist Voice was the second in a sequence of Socialist Party newspapers published in Seattle.
Dates: Weekly from March 1911-June 1911, then bimonthly until June 20, 1912
Size: 4 pages
Circulation: 15,000, each issue from March 11th - June , 1911; 16,000 in June 1911; 20,000 on December 9th, 1911; 50,000 on February 17th, 1912; 25,000 on June 8th, 1912
Publishing Organization: The City Central Committee of the Socialist Party of Seattle
Business Addresses: 220 Liberty Building, Seattle Washington
Location of Collection: University of Washington Libraries, Microform and Newspaper Collections: [A7249]. Status of Collection: Complete
The Socialist Voice was issued weekly during its first three months in publication, and then bi-monthly in greater volume by the City Central Committee of the Socialist Party of Seattle. It issued forth on the 11th of March, 1911, with a circulation of 15,000, and on the last Saturday in June of 1912 the Socialist Voice retired, or rather devolved, into the Socialist Herald (which became the Herald and finally, the Socialist World which circulated until the 23rd of March, 1917)
Each issue of the Socialist Voice contained equal parts journalism and advertisements. Some of the staff of the Socialist Voice advertised their personal businesses or services, and sometimes conferences at which they would be speaking. For example, Dr. Edwin J. Brown, dentist and lead journalist, advertised his discounted dental service in each issue, and M. J. Kennedy, journalist and distribution consultant for the Socialist Voice, often advertised socialist dances, banquets and picnics at which he frequently spoke. Other advertisements were for material goods and craftily targeted a frugal, socialist, consumer public. There were several advertisements for rare socialist literature and for bookstores at which socialist literature could be found.
The Socialist Voice devoted itself to socialist education rather than news reporting through most of its short life. Its articles and columns were always didactic and frequently preachy in tone, striving to instruct readers in socialist ways of thinking and to encourage commitment to the movement. The newspaper found "lessons" everywhere, especially in its large quota of international and national reports.
The Socialist Voice provided news from other cities in the United States and Europe where socialism was a growing force Often the coverage was positive, touting the success of a certain city’s socialist group in attaining some goal (increasing its numbers, winning non-socialist praise, etc.). A report of this nature in the Socialist Voice always included an ‘employable’ formula to the success of the relevant socialist group, thereby promoting the activity and involvement of its local readers. Likewise, the Socialist Voice covered the impediments, setbacks, and defeats of various socialist groups around the world, never failing to warn its readers of the similar fate that would visit them should they remain stagnant and uninvolved. In some cases the Socialist Voice would equate the conditions which had bred a distant socialist misfortune with the state of its local movement in order to arouse concern and prevent complacency. An example of this tactic can be found in the March 18th, 1911 issue. The Socialist Voice publicized the agenda of D.C. Coates, one of the five commissioners of Spokane, Washington at the time. The newspaper lauded the reforms that Coates had engineered and goaded its readers' competitive urban spirit, warning "Seattle comrades must make haste or Spokane and not Seattle will be the Milwaukee of Washington."
The Socialist Voice often contained fabricated dialogues in which the object of socialism, the benefits of a socialist state, and the dangers concomitant with capitalist rule were all expressed. These dialogues were clearly intended to engage readers as most of them contained admonitory messages to the members of the local socialist movement. In one such dialogue, entitled "The Question of Wages," found in the October 14th, 1911 issue of the Socialist Voice, a capitalist, "George," and a nameless socialist discuss the principles of socialism. After explaining the object of the socialist party, it is inquired of the socialist how he proposes to attain this goal, to which the socialist answers, "It’s up to us to arouse the working class to fight for its own emancipation. They have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to gain."
In other pretended exchanges, characters express their appreciation for local socialists who contribute to the paper and help to sustain the movement, or they allude to their disappointment at the inactivity and passivity of Seattle’s working class, and remind readers that even their minimal involvement in the fight against capitalism is crucial.
Catering to Women and Children
Child labor, poverty, and its toll on families were major concerns of the Socialist Voice. In several issues articles tell of children’s misfortunes as underage workers in the factories. These misfortunes are the result, states the Socialist Voice, of parents’ inability to provide for these children since they themselves are locked in poverty. These articles are especially poignant and effectively demonstrate the toll capitalist rule took on the working-class family and on the bodies of the children themselves.
The Socialist Voice sought to gain women’s favor as well. It devoted at least one article in every issue to the wives of laborers, female laborers themselves, and widows of laborers. It solicited women to join the fight against capitalism, to fight for their wages, for their husbands’ wages, for pensions, and for the health of their children. In an article entitled: "To Our New-Made Citizens - Women!" (March 11, 1911) the newspaper applauded the long-awaited political rights granted to women. It encouraged to use the vote and their new power to their advantage and the advantages of their husbands and children. It urged them to improve their intelligence and realize their power. In a column entitled "Woman and Socialism", in the July 8th, 1911 issue, the Socialist Voice developed a lengthy definition of the ‘woman’, which is slightly inconsistent with the above-mentioned article’s acknowledgment of women’s political efficacy and intellectual capability. Woman is described as conservative, constructive, and preservative. She "feels rather than reasons" and that "it is her function to nurture, develop, and give birth to ideas as well as children." The articles slightly contradict one another but seem as though they would have been effective in soliciting women’s involvement where all issues were concerned.
The view of women as the bearer of children and central to civilization shows up in another "Women and Socialism" column in which men are urged to fight for the improvement of their homes and their families’ health. The article calls upon to fight against capitalism and abandon their complacency for the sole reason that their wives must be provided for since they are the bearers of children and upholders of the human race. Here, the implication is that if the wives of working-class men are not provided for, or are in poor condition, then they (women) cannot sufficiently continue proliferating or be successful doing so.
.Religion and Morality
The Socialist Voice often defended itself against charges that socialists preached atheism or were immoral. It described itself as a purely political paper and likewise, claimed the socialist movement was a purely political movement. In an article, "The Church’s Attitude and Ours," in the August 26th issue, the Socialist Voice states:
The Socialist Voice responded with similar intent to concerns that socialism would destroy morality. It stated that it was capitalism, rather, would destroy morality. "[Socialism] would destroy that moral duplicity that brands a drunken working man as a vile wretch and lands a whisky-soaked capitalist as a good fellow." With this example and others of double-standards of morality, the Socialist Voice clawed at the seemingly well-established, unshakeable foundation of the capitalist. It endeavored in other places to deflate the public’s notion of the far-removed capitalist. In an article which calls itself a "dissertation on that strange beast the Gentleman", found in the July 8th, 1911 issue, the newspaper exposes the inauthenticity of the gentleman’s (capitalist’s) gentility and the flaws in the way he came into his money. It talks about the gentleman’s ignorance of working-class occupations, and about his unfamiliarity with working-class, i.e. industrial, locales ("the reason for his clean shoes and sweat-free garments"). It identifies the qualifications of the capitalist, two of which are inherited money and residence: "… if even the second cousin of a gentleman navigated a pushcart then that gentleman would be no gentleman." In this article and others, and caricature illustrations as well, the Socialist Voice depicts the capitalist as a bloated, greedy, and heartless man, indifferent to the sufferance of the laborer. These frequent portrayals of the tyrannical capitalist, the disadvantaged laborer, and the hostile relationship between them, were also intended to provoke the readers of the Socialist Voice to action.
In conclusion, the Socialist Voice was an informative, inspirational, and coercive newspaper which endeavored to expand and fortify the local socialist group. Those who wrote for the Socialist Voice involved themselves in community socialist events and happenings, thereby promoting their paper and serving as literal ‘mouth pieces for the working class’, i.e., they spread propaganda vocally and publicly, as well as through the paper itself, a most popular medium at the time. The Socialist Voice provided comprehensive reports on socialist happenings around the world, and manipulated these reports (with the intent of arousing local readers) so that they were subtly suggestive of (mock) competition among socialist groups everywhere.
The Socialist Voice asked that its readers expend themselves for their own sake and the sake of the movement. One can imagine, considering the elements of poignancy and urgency in its articles, that the Socialist Voice was at least in part responsible for the expansion and sustenance of the local socialist movement during its time in circulation.
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Like most Socialist papers, The Socialist Voice kept its readers abreast of Socialist politics. One campaign the paper followed closely was D.C. Coates' successful bid to win election to a commissioner position in Spokane.
Like many newspapers on the left, The Socialist Voice featured cartoons maligning the exploitative nature of capitalism. Additionally, the paper featured fictitious dialogues where characters argued over the merits of socialism.
The Socialist Voice usually contained at least one column, and often an entire page, dedicated to recounting women's role in promoting and advocating for socialism.
Throughout the pages of the paper, the editors frequently argued that capitalism was inherently immoral. Here, the paper's editors take issue with the ethical claims of capitalist "gentlemen."
Copyright (c) 2001 by Jordan Shay