(Originally published at Jacobin as "Helen Keller Was One of the Great American Socialists")
In March 1915, the Workers’
Chronicle ran an article syndicated by Appeal to Reason,
the most popular socialist newspaper in the United States, titled “Learning
From Comrade Helen Keller.” The Chronicle was a weekly
newspaper representing “the center of Socialism” in Kansas, a state in which
Eugene Debs had won 7 percent of the vote in the previous presidential election
on the Socialist Party of America (SPA) ticket.
Occasioned by a recent lecture
Keller gave to the Central Teachers’ Association in Oklahoma City, the article
praised the message being spread by “Comrade Keller” as both orator and
example. In the lecture, Keller reiterated the stock tale of her journey from
an uneducated blind and deaf seven-year-old to a world-famous college graduate,
scholar, and author thanks to the innovative pedagogy employed by Anne Sullivan
(of latter-day Miracle
She then proceeded to a brief
discourse on the subject of happiness: “Not the pleasant things alone that one
can get out of life, but the things that can be done for others are the ones
worth striving for.”
“Her whole story,” reflected
the Chronicle, “speaks eloquently of what can be done for all
children everywhere, when sane economic conditions give them a chance to
This point was more than
intimated by Keller herself during the lecture. When an audience member asked
if it was true that she was a socialist, Keller — who had publicly accepted an
offer of honorary membership in the Pittsburg, Kansas, local chapter of the SPA
the previous year — quickly replied: “Oh, yes, because it is the only way out
of the muddle humanity is in at the present time.”
the Chronicle argued by way of conclusion, ought to both
reproach and inspire
those of us who are sometimes
discouraged by the seeming great odds against the Socialist movement. When but
a fraction of the same willpower and determination that has characterized Helen
Keller’s life is infused into the Socialist movement, the Co-operative
Commonwealth will not be far distant.
Contradictions at Noontide
Aside from providing a glimpse
into the breadth of popularity enjoyed by the socialist movement in the early
twentieth-century United States, this vignette captures many of the
contradictions that characterized the lives of both Helen Keller and the
socialist movement during this period.
These contradictions orbit
around questions of disability and the role of disabled people within social
movements and society at large; ideology and theoretical conceptualizations of
how social transformation occurs; political organization and the role of party
formations in bringing about the socialist “commonwealth”; and, finally,
intersectional tension and disjuncture in the person of Keller herself along
lines of class, gender, disability, politics, and economics.
For many in the SPA during this
era, the path to socialism in the United States was a simple, almost
ineluctable, matter. They assumed that socialism was a perfectly rational
conceptual model of society in contrast to that of capitalism, and that most
people would ultimately accede to rational solutions when they were
convincingly articulated (hence the title Appeal to Reason).
Victory was thus merely a matter of spreading the gospel through an
ever-expanding base of members, voters, newspapers, electoral candidacies, and
In this schema, the timetable
of socialism mainly depended upon the degree of willpower exerted by its
adherents. To this end, one could effectively deploy the archetype of Helen
Keller as an impelling challenge to socialist activists. Of course, the unspoken
premise behind such inspirational (or reproachful) appeals was that the
readership of the Workers’ Chronicle, for instance, did not share
Keller’s “endowed” deficits and therefore had little excuse for inactivity.
In a way, this
inspiration-laden use of the persona of Helen Keller — as “she who overcame”
disability — represents a mere conversion of the disability trope so often
instrumentalized in a bourgeois framework: “If this unfortunate handicapped
person can succeed in life, then you have no excuse!”
In the context of the socialist
movement, such canards are even more jarring, as it is precisely among the
lower and working classes of society that rates of disablement are
disproportionately high. Moreover, working-class disabled people are far more likely
to be impoverished, lacking advanced education and the kind of material
resources that made such “miracles” as Helen Keller’s success possible.
While Keller explicitly and
conscientiously recognized the difference between her own social circumstances
and those of most disabled people, she nonetheless tended to lean into her
“branding” as a sort of Wonder of the World. This in turn readily lent itself
to such awe-inspired sentiments as were expressed by the Workers’
It is important to note, however,
that Keller had been virtually trained from childhood to play such a role — if
not on behalf of the socialist movement, then at least on behalf of the
progressive-reformist variant of bourgeois liberalism, which swelled between
the 1880s and 1910s.
Helen Keller’s Beginnings
By the time she was twelve
years old, Keller had become something of a national cause célèbre among
philanthropic high society. For reform-minded upper-class positivists such as
Alexander Graham Bell, who swept down to take the young Keller under his wing
for a time, the “success” of Helen Keller seemed to prove the argument that
good education, good morals, and good upbringing were all that were needed to
overcome societal problems. It was possible to create a society free of poverty,
crime, and degeneracy, the argument went — with more than a touch of noblesse
oblige and proto-eugenics — if only the problematic, deviant, and
unfortunate elements of society could be properly corrected and rehabilitated.
For her part, Keller’s teacher
Anne Sullivan chafed at such elite elements and sentiments. The child of Irish
immigrants and extreme poverty, Sullivan had experienced firsthand the
conditions wrought (or tolerated) by twentieth-century reformism. At ten years
old, partially blind, she was abandoned, along with her four-year-old brother,
to a grim Massachusetts almshouse run by the State Board of Charities in 1876.
She would later refer to the
almshouse in which she was interned as a “house of woe,” a “dead house,” and “a
crime against childhood.” When Anne’s brother died three months into their
stay, he was only one of twenty-one residents to die that month, half of whom
were children under the age of five.
After four years, Anne was
finally “rescued” from the almshouse following an aleatory encounter with a
visiting member of the State Board of Charities, who turned her over to Samuel
Gridley Howe, a prominent reformer, fellow charity board member, and founding
director of the Boston-based Perkins School for the Blind, where Anne was
enrolled. For this Anne remained grateful. Yet her cynicism and resentment
toward the privileged crust of society — whether of the benevolent or
malevolent variety — simmered in perpetuity.
Keller’s experience into
adulthood was altogether quite different. This difference partially helps
explain why her transition from a “parlor reformer” into a “Socialist and a
Bolshevik,” as she put it, traced a more deliberate and punctuated arc than
Sullivan’s. It may also explain why Keller remained throughout her life the
hopeful optimist to Sullivan’s skeptical pessimist.
Born in Alabama in 1880, Keller
spent her first eight years on her family’s moderately large country estate.
Her father was a newspaper editor and former officer in the Confederate Army;
both her parents hailed from upper-class lineages on either side of the
Mason-Dixon line. Their household included a small staff of black servants who
were most likely formerly enslaved.
Both before and after the total
loss of her hearing and vision due to a disease contracted at two years old,
Helen Keller wanted for nothing of material import. She was loved by her family
and communicated with those around her by means of improvised gestures and a
rudimentary form of signed language.
Nevertheless, when Anne
Sullivan finally “awakened” the mind of seven-year-old Helen Keller to the
realm of universal language and literacy, by spelling words into her hand,
Keller described an “ecstasy” that “set my spirit free.” Sullivan deserves
credit as a gifted, patient, and frankly democratic educator. Her pedagogy
eschewed “all elaborate and special systems of education” that impeded the
child’s ability to “go and come freely, touch real things and combine
impressions . . . instead of sitting indoors at a little round table.”
In a series of diary entries
that she later had published, Sullivan confided:
Since I have abandoned the idea
of regular lessons, I find that Helen learns much faster. I am convinced that
the time spent by the teacher in digging out of the child what she has put into
him, for the sake of satisfying herself that it has taken root, is so much time
thrown away. It’s much better, I think, to assume that the child is doing his
part, and that the seed you have sown will bear fruit in due time . . . I
regard my pupil as a free and active being, whose own spontaneous impulses must
be my surest guide. I have always talked to Helen exactly as I would talk to a
seeing and hearing child, and I have insisted that other people should do the
“Not a Proper Exploitation”
In 1909, five years after
graduating from Radcliffe College, the twenty-nine-year-old Keller made the
ostensibly surprising decision — at least as far as her family and former
philanthropic patrons were concerned — to join the Socialist Party. After it
became clear that Keller was serious about publicly advocating for the
revolutionary socialist workers’ movement, detractors among the media,
political, and economic elite charged that Keller was being manipulated by
Sullivan. They claimed that Sullivan and her ilk were “exploiting” this “poor
blind and deaf girl” and using Keller as a puppet to advance their own radical
What these critics could not or
would not grasp was that neither Sullivan nor the socialist movement forced
Keller down any particular path. Rather, Sullivan simply refused to inhibit
Keller’s curiosities and inclinations in the direction of a growing socialist and
working-class ferment, both political and intellectual. Keller herself would
reemphasize this point ad infinitum over the years.
Keller became a leading public
exponent of socialism, enjoying respect and recognition as a comrade in arms
among the rank-and-file activists and leaders of the movement alike.
These years marked the
inaugural heyday of American socialism. The first two decades of the twentieth
century saw the SPA swell to more than one hundred thousand members nationwide,
with socialist periodicals reaching an audience of up to one million, at a time
when the US population was a third of its size today. Over one thousand
Socialist Party candidates were elected to municipal, state, and federal
offices, while an incipient and often militant — for it was violently repressed
— industrial labor movement was growing in tandem.
Into this efflorescence stepped
Keller. In short order, she became a leading public exponent of socialism,
enjoying respect and recognition as a comrade in arms among the rank-and-file
activists and leaders of the movement alike.
Keller wrote hundreds of
articles for the socialist and mainstream press excoriating the ills of
capitalism and propagandizing in favor of socialism. She lectured and spoke
expansively in support of striking workers and those facing political
repression, and she arranged for the widespread distribution of her collected
writings on socialism, capitalist disablement, and gender oppression. In
socialist newspapers, she wrote as a “militant [woman’s] suffragist,” and in
the “women’s” columns of mainstream magazines, she advocated “social
transformation” over “social reform” and “superficial charities.”
Through her articles, Keller
brought disability into the class struggle, expounding in the socialist press
upon the “social causes of blindness” in the “ignorance, poverty, and
unconscious cruelty of our commercial society.” She also brought the class struggle
into the milieu of disability, arguing in periodicals of blind people that “the
welfare of the whole people is essential to the welfare of each,” and that the
same “capitalistic” conditions that oppress blind people also “press heavily
upon all working people.”
In 1913, the popular
magazine Life ran an article titled “Not a Proper
Exploitation,” which reiterated the common charge that Keller was “too much
exploited in politics” by conniving socialists and suffragists. The article
continued by picking up on a new line of attack then emerging against Keller,
ruminating on her attraction to radical politics in a grotesque display of
Perhaps it keeps her interested
in life, and is excusable on that ground, but it is not suitable. In spite of
all the wonderful things that have been done for her, her knowledge and
experience of life are necessarily limited, and her political opinions can
hardly be valuable. It is a sort of profanation to put her up to speak
Socialist pieces and walk in suffrage parades.
Such direct assaults on the
very notion that Keller was a human being in possession of ideas worth
listening to in the spheres of politics, society, or history were not only
intended to undermine the socialist movement by linking it with the babblings
of an ignoramus. They were also meant to fatally disable Keller as an
autonomous advocate of socialism by depicting her as an infant occupying itself
with objects well beyond its intellectual grasp.
Such attacks came from many
quarters and continued throughout her life — one can even find them in modern
Keller biographies. However, this was a period in which Keller felt the winds
of radical social movements at her back. These were movements that frequently
endured ruling-class attacks — by the editor’s pen, the policeman’s club, or
the vigilante’s gun — and Keller felt herself in solidarity with and supported
by the movements, including those individuals she had come to consider
(lifelong) friends and comrades.
In a widely circulated article
originally published in 1912 in the New York Call, titled “How I
Became a Socialist,” Keller declaimed the hypocrisy of self-styled
philanthropic elites who assailed working-class radicalism:
I like newspapermen. I have
known many, and two or three editors have been among my most intimate friends.
Moreover, the newspapers have been of great assistance in the work which we
have been trying to do for the blind. It costs them nothing to give their aid
to work for the blind and to other superficial charities. But socialism — ah,
that is a different matter! That goes to the root of all poverty and all
charity. The money power behind the newspapers is against socialism, and the
editors, obedient to the hand that feeds them, will go to any length to put
down socialism and undermine the influence of socialists.
The editor of the Brooklyn
Eagle leveled a particularly devious attack at her, suggesting that
Keller’s “mistakes” arose from “the manifest limitations of her development.”
Keller recalled that she had been introduced to the very same editor at a
meeting for the blind in New York several years previously:
At that time the compliments he
paid me were so generous that I blush to remember them. But now that I have
come out for socialism he reminds me and the public that I am blind and deaf
and especially liable to error. I must have shrunk in intelligence during the
years since I met him. Surely it is his turn to blush. It may be that deafness
and blindness incline one toward socialism. Marx was probably stone deaf and
William Morris was blind.
The tumultuous historical
currents of the years between 1910 and 1920 both buoyed and tugged at Helen
Keller. As the socialist movement radicalized, with the class struggle becoming
more explosive in the face of capitalist violence and mass workers’ resistance,
Keller reflected the context of military cataclysms and world-historic
revolutions in her politics.
“We, the people, are not free,”
she argued in a 1911 article:
Our democracy is but a name. We
vote? What does that mean? It means that we choose between two bodies of real,
though not avowed, autocrats. We choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. We
elect expensive masters to do our work for us, and then blame them because they
work for themselves and for their class.
Addressing a sociological
conference in 1913, she sounded a similar theme:
Some of us have imagined that
we live in a democracy. We do not. A democracy would mean equal opportunity for
all. It would mean that every child had a chance to be well born, well fed,
well taught and properly started in life. It would mean that every woman had a
voice in the making of the laws under which she lives. It would mean that all
men enjoyed the fruits of their labor. Such a democracy has never existed. . .
. But some of us are waking up. We are finding out what is wrong with the
world. We are going to make it right. We are learning that we live by each
other, and that the life for each other is the only life worth living.
When World War I erupted in
1914 and the US ruling class began making military preparations to join the
European bloodbath, Keller threw herself into the anti-imperialist wing of the
American socialist movement, delivering a series of widely reproduced speeches.
As she proclaimed in 1915, seeming to channel the Communist Manifesto:
Nothing is to be gained by the
workers from war. . . . No conqueror can beat down his wages more ruthlessly or
oppress him more than his own fellow citizens of the capitalist world are
doing. The worker has nothing to lose but his chains, and he has a world to
win. He can win it at one stroke from a world empire. We must form a fully
equipped, militant international union so that we can take possession of such a
In 1916, she delivered perhaps
her most famous antiwar speech at a mass rally held at Carnegie Hall in New
York City, which was reprinted in the New York Call under the
title, “Strike Against War.” Keller issued a lyrical, staccato appeal to the
Strike against all ordinances
and laws and institutions that continue the slaughter of peace and the
butcheries of war. Strike against war, for without you no battles can be
fought. Strike against manufacturing shrapnel and gas bombs and all other tools
of murder. Strike against preparedness that means death and misery to millions
of human beings. Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of destruction. Be
heroes in an army of construction.
By 1916, Keller’s accelerating
radicalism had begun to push her beyond what she considered to be the staid
bounds of the Socialist Party’s electoral strategy. In an enormous spread
published in the New York Tribune, Keller announced to the world
her recruitment to the cause of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
Founded in 1905 by such left
luminaries as Eugene Debs, Lucy Parsons, “Big Bill” Haywood, and James
Connolly, the IWW was conceived as an explicitly revolutionary syndicalist movement.
While the new movement was openly opposed to what its organizers condemned as
the narrow, craft, and opportunistic approach of the American Federation of
Labor, the IWW had a more complicated relationship with the Socialist Party.
Most of the early members of the IWW were cross-enrolled in the Socialist
Party, yet the two organizations came to be associated with two different
approaches, one militant, revolutionary, and based on direct action, the other
more electoral, gradualist, and reformist.
In an article with the headline
“Helen Keller Would Be IWW’s Joan of Arc,” and a subhead that read “Labor’s
Blind Champion Declares She Is Done With Half-Radical Measures and Espouses the
Cause of Revolutionists,” Keller declared:
I became an IWW because I found
out that the Socialist Party was too slow. It is sinking in the political bog.
It is almost, if not quite, impossible for the party to keep its revolutionary
character so long as it occupies a place under the government and seeks office
under it. The government does not stand for interests the Socialist Party is
supposed to represent.
While conceding that the work
of the Socialist Party was a step in the right direction, she had concluded
that “the true task is to unite and organize all workers on an economic basis,
and it is the workers themselves who must secure freedom for themselves.”
A Shaft Sundering the Dark
The years 1916 and 1917
witnessed a dramatic increase in working-class strike activity and organization
across the country, inaugurating a nationwide strike wave that would continue
through 1919. The intensification of the class struggle in the United States
during this period was matched in Europe, even as its capitalist nations
continued sending workers in uniform into the slaughter of the war, while the
US ruling class finally calculated a profitable percentage to be earned from
entering the fray.
The years 1916 and 1917
witnessed a dramatic increase in working-class strike activity and organization
across the United States.
Helen Keller, along with most
anti-imperialist socialists in the United States, despaired when the US government
began committing troops and materials to the war in the middle of 1917.
However, the Russian revolutionary process that began in February 1917 and
culminated in October of that year filled Keller with a renewed sense of hope,
“like a shaft sundering the dark!”
For Keller, the emergent
Russian workers’ state, with Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks at its head, was
an inspiring harbinger of the path that humanity might follow out of the
prevailing morass of capitalist war, exploitation, and oppression. It was a
vindication of the revolutionary socialist and “historic materialist” ideology.
She committed herself at once
to spreading and defending the gospel of this new form of society, as she did
at a packed assembly of seven hundred people in Brooklyn, New York, in 1918:
While the nations of the world
are measuring with arms the struggle for liberty, an equally important struggle
— the economic struggle — is disturbing the world. Everywhere a movement has
been launched for social and economic equality, but it has been the country of
the Russians that has taken the first step toward social revolution. . . . No
true democracy has ever been known to the Allied nations. The Russian
revolution is the first step toward democracy. It is like a magnificent sun
which is rising splendidly in a distressed world. . . . Already the Soviets
have nationalized land; have begun, under Socialistic principles, the
management of industries, have established social insurance, benefits for
sickness, accident and old age.
It is hard to overstate how
important the example of the Russian Revolution was to remain for Keller.
Throughout the many political turns she would make over the subsequent forty
years of her public life, one thing that never wavered was her belief in the essential
rightness of the revolution and the first steps it represented toward
emancipation of the working class and global humanity.
She wrote to a friend
describing how the “world-calamity” of the war had darkened her life “as
blindness has never done” until the “glad tidings” of the revolution in Russia:
It came like dawn through the
long night of humanity! It filled me with joy unutterable, akin to the ecstasy
I had experienced when as a little child I discovered the meaning of language,
and understood that finger-spelling was the key that would unlock all treasures
to me. As that knowledge had set my spirit free, so would the Revolution break
down all prison-walls and liberate the soul of mankind!
Keller did not equate any other
event before or after the Russian Revolution with the advent of her education
under Anne Sullivan. This ought to reframe the iconography that has come to
define Keller. If the first act of Keller’s life were to end with her young
hand under a water pump, as it does in The Miracle Worker, the
second would culminate with Keller in her late thirties, face alighted
euphorically as her fingertips traced a page of braille newsprint detailing the
efforts of the world’s first socialist workers’ republic.
Contradictions at Eventide
By 1924, much had changed for
Keller and the world. During the years of war and revolution between 1917 and
1920, the US ruling class directed massive and mortal repression against the
Socialist Party, the IWW, and the restive vanguard of the working class.
The key moments in this
repressive wave included the Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917 and 1918, the
“Red Scare” Palmer Raids of 1919 and 1920, and the drawn-out show trial and
execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti between 1921 and 1927. There
was also the vigilante violence of countless lynch mobs and sheriff’s posses,
centered largely in the Midwest and Southwest.
By the mid-1920s, the
revolutionary upsurge had been crushed. Although the Communist Party USA had
been formed in 1922, drawing largely upon the hardened activists of the IWW and
the left wing of the Socialist Party, it did not experience any significant
gains in size nor influence until the 1930s.
Keller found herself cut off
from the movement, concerned about her financial subsistence and that of her
companion-assistants, and increasingly surrounded by the philanthropic-reformer
types who once again flowed into her life as the revolutionary wave ebbed. Her
public advocacy of socialism diminished — though never ceasing entirely — in
the years after 1924.
Keller’s understanding of
socialism was also increasingly protean during this final act of her life. She
could wax in an intimately religious idiom or express views that were nearly
indistinguishable from official liberalism. At some points she sounded like an
Americanist, at others like a postcolonial or Third World nationalist.
Sometimes she just sounded woefully out of touch.
There is certainly much that
she did throughout these years of economic depression, fascism, world war,
genocide, nuclear bombardment, racial segregation, and McCarthyism that
displayed a uniquely laudatory firmness of principles. She openly protested the
anti-communist witch hunts of the federal government and the House Un-American
Activities Committee. Working alongside Communist Party formations, she
supported the antifascist fighters and refugees of Spain, Italy, and Germany.
She spoke out against the scourge of racial segregation and lynchings, and she
reproached the United States for its “barbarities” in unleashing atomic
“demons” and “horrors” upon the people of Japan.
However, her freedom of
expression was greatly curtailed in her capacity as official fundraiser, or
“beggar,” as she put it, for the philanthropic American Foundation for the
Blind (AFB), a paid position she occupied from the mid-1920s to the late 1950s.
The AFB promoted her as an ambassador for the sightless, an “Arch-Priestess of
the Blind,” and she rubbed shoulders with presidents, corporate executives, and
financiers. There is a certain bitter irony in the fact that Keller had long
decried the systemic oppression that forces disabled people into base
pauperism, yet she herself had been impelled into a sort of gilded pauperism.
The 1930s and ’40s witnessed
the historic emergence of organized working-class disability activism. While
Keller was appealing to Rotary Clubs and businessmen to make tax-deductible
donations to private charitable agencies for the blind, self-identified
disabled socialists and communists were protesting, picketing, striking, and
sitting in to demand economic, social, and political equality and justice.
The League of the Physically
Handicapped, for instance, and the Blind Workers’ Union, comprising hundreds of
radical disabled workers and activists, are noteworthy for the public attention
and material gains they won during mass struggles in New York City in the 1930s.
The 1940s and ’50s also saw the emergence of the National Federation of the
Blind and the American Federation of the Physically Handicapped. These two
organizations were far more “grassroots” and working-class than the AFB, and
occasional policy disputes brought them into direct conflict with the latter.
In fact, on several occasions
during the 1930s and ’40s, disabled workers went out on strike for union
recognition, better wages, and better treatment in “sheltered workshops” run by
private agencies that Helen Keller and the AFB were either directly connected
to or otherwise supported financially. In 1946, one group of thirty-five blind
workers demanding union recognition were locked out by the executives of a
workshop associated with the AFB. They wrote a letter directly to Keller,
asking for her public support.
The executive director of the
AFB, however, counseled Keller as a matter of policy not to let the AFB “get
mixed up in any controversy between blind employees and the employing agency,”
which is “much like mixing up in a family row.” In a far cry from the days of
being labeled “labor’s blind champion,” Keller pursued the issue no further.
Disability Politics and the
Tides of Revolution
The aspect of Helen Keller’s
life and legacy that has recently elicited the greatest controversy has to do
with the politics of disability. Especially for radical or radicalizing
disabled activists and individuals, there is much to resent and reject in the
vapid Keller iconography propagated throughout the dominant institutions of
society. This Keller is little more than a myth instrumentalized for public
consumption as an essentially quietist paragon of liberal “advocacy” within a
Yet even the real Keller
advanced a paradoxical
and at times conservative set of disability politics. “Learning from
comrade Helen Keller,” then, involves learning from what she did and what she
did not; what she was and what she was not. We can and should appreciate the
advances to which she gestured in the development of a revolutionary conception
of disability oppression and liberation.
However, there is also much to
be gained from studying the distance between what she contributed and what has
been contributed by disabled activists and movements since. The contemporary
works of Marta Russell, Ravi Malhotra, and Nirmala Erevelles, and the
organizational experience of groups like Sins Invalid, ADAPT, and the Harriet
Tubman Collective, among many others, are essential to this end.
politics likewise invite fruitful critical appraisal. In many ways, Keller’s trajectory
can be viewed as a barometer of the destabilizing variability inherent in the class
struggle under capitalism. As the revolutionary wave of the early twentieth
century swelled around her, Keller was swept up to immense heights of hope and
promise. Even as the wave peaked and then crashed on the shore, it left an indelible
historical artifact betrayed in the quenched sands hitherto beyond the reach of
the high-water mark. Although the retreat of the wave and the ebbing of the
tide necessitated the surrender of just-conquered redoubts of shoreline, it
does not necessitate the abjuration or obliteration of the significance of that
which had been achieved. The diminution in Keller’s radicalism and the mass
character of the socialist movement, which attended the recession of class
struggle, does not erase the demonstrative proof that a vast expansion of
revolutionary possibility exists at that juncture in which a rising historical
tide amplifies a cresting wave of struggle capable of overwhelming the breaches
of capitalist invincibility.
Such revolutionary crescendo may have faded over the years into Keller’s and our own distant past; yet still it remains our future.