"Red Tom" Hickey: The Uncrowned King of Texas Socialism (Elma Dill Russell Spencer Series in the West and Southwest #48) (Hardcover)

"Red Tom" Hickey: The Uncrowned King of Texas Socialism (Elma Dill Russell Spencer Series in the West and Southwest #48) (Hardcover)


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This is the fascinating biography of a bright young working man, Tom Hickey, who came to the United States from Ireland in 1892, became a machinist, and soon joined the Knights of Labor and the Socialist Labor Party. His party boss recognized the potential in this Irishman and even made him an “enforcer” against those who questioned the boss’s authority. The enforcer, though, eventually found himself forced out and moved west to start a new life. Ultimately, Hickey landed in Texas and saw an opportunity to use syndicalism as an organizing tool to build a state socialist party.

He did just that. Within a few years, Hickey transformed the faction-ridden Socialist Party of America in Texas into a force strong enough to threaten the Republican Party at the ballot box. He gained a large following thanks to a unique mixture of  evangelical rhetoric and militant industrial unionism.

As biographer Peter H. Buckingham points out, Hickey failed to deliver his people into the Promised Land. Violence, poll taxes, voter suppression, and other forces made voting for socialist candidates problematic, and the Democratic Party soon co-opted the more appealing elements of socialism into watered-down,  reformist planks for the Texan voter. By the time Hickey died of throat cancer in the mid-1920s, his moment had passed.

“Red Tom” Hickey is an important contribution to Texas and American history, capturing a moment in time that Buckingham argues was the second sustained crisis in American history: a democratic society wrestling with the effects of industrial capitalism.
PETER H. BUCKINGHAM is professor of history at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, and the author of Rebel against Injustice: The Life of Frank P. O’Hare and America Sees Red: Anti-Communism in America, 1870s to 1980s. He resides in McMinnville.
Product Details ISBN: 9781623497552
ISBN-10: 1623497558
Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
Publication Date: January 29th, 2020
Pages: 416
Language: English
Series: Elma Dill Russell Spencer Series in the West and Southwest
'Red Tom’ Hickey gives us a rollicking and fully documented ride, a blow-by-blow account of American and Texan socialism in its heyday, written in a spirited fashion that Hickey and his comrades would have appreciated. Buckingham vividly describes the tragic destruction of Hickey’s cause and his beloved newspaper, The Rebel, by the trumped-up actions of the Wilson administration.”—George Green, founder, Labor History Archives
— George Green

“Sympathetic yet nuanced and critical of the role of race in Hickey's hybrid Texas Plan to organize tenant farmers along syndicalist lines with an overlay of encampment-style Christian Socialism, Buckingham weaves a compelling narrative that will be of great interest to historians of American labor and agrarian radicalism.”—Gregg Andrews, author of City of Dust: A Cement Company Town in the Land of Tom Sawyer
— Gregg Andrews

“An astonishingly full and lively biography of an important figure heretofore remembered more for his legend than his life. “Red Tom” Hickey succeeds because of rich newly available sources, to be sure, but also because of the sweeping knowledge of radicalism and region possessed by its author, as well as his willingness to present both a leader and his limits.”—David Roediger, author of How Race Survived US History
— David Roediger

"With meticulous attention to detail, Peter Buckingham delves deeply into Hickey’s conflicted personal life, showing its effect on his equally conflicted career as activist and journalist, while simultaneously demonstrating socialism’s important role in articulating the rights of labor in an age of industrial capitalism."—Victoria Bynum, author of The Free State of Jones: Mississippi's Longest Civil War
— Victoria Bynum