The “S” Word: A Short History of an American Tradition … Socialism

A short, sharp, irreverent rejoinder to right-wing red-baiting.
During the Cold War it became a dirty word in the United States, but “socialism” runs like a red thread through the nation’s history, an integral part of its political consciousness since the founding of the republic. In this unapologetic corrective to today’s collective amnesia, John Nichols calls for the proud return of socialism in American life. He recalls the reforms lauded by Founding Father Tom Paine; the presence of Karl Marx’s journalism in American letters; the left leanings of founders of the Republican Party; the socialist politics of Helen Keller; the progressive legacy of figures like Chaplin and Einstein. Now in an updated edition, The “S” Word makes a case for socialist ideas as an indispensable part of American heritage. A new final chapter considers the recent signs of a leftward sea change in American politics in the face of increasing and historic levels of inequality.

Today, corporations—like other rich “individuals”—pay fewer taxes than they did in the 1950s, while our infrastructure crumbles and the seas rise. The “S” Word addresses a nation that can no longer afford to put capital before people.


  • “A chilling reminder of how much rich American history has been erased by shallow messaging. A crucial book.”
  • “Of all the giant slayers now afoot in the great American desert, John Nichols’s sword is the sharpest, his footwork the most graceful, his brain the most cunning.”
  • “The Tom Paine … of our time.”
  • “[A] search for the legacy of our homegrown radicals.”


  • Bernie Sanders “virtually ties” in Iowa caucus and calls for a political revolution

    The Iowa caucus results last night were a major victory for Bernie Sanders, who virtually tied Hillary Clinton and won nearly as many delegates in the hotly contested start of the primaries.

    Bernie's autobiography
    Outsider in the White House (now 50% off on our site) charts his political career from his time as the mayor of Burlington to congressman to US senator, and includes a substantial afterword from The Nation's John Nichols.

    Below is the preface to the new edition, written by Bernie Sanders in September 2015, which explains his decision to run for president and calls on people to come together and demand that the government work for all Americans and not the corporate elite.

    Continue Reading

  • Arun Gupta on Kshama Sawant's victory

    On November 3rd, Verso author Kshama Sawant of the Socialist Alternative party was re-elected to Seattle's City Council. Below, writer Arun Gupta discusses the victory. 

    Sawant beat the establishment at its own game. Now comes the hard part. 

    Continue Reading

  • Radically Independent: A Fourth of July Reading List

    The workingmen of Europe feel sure that...the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy. 
— Karl Marx and the First International Workingmen’s Association to Abraham Lincoln, 1864

    Today marks two hundred and thirty eight years on from the Declaration of Independence, penned by Thomas Jefferson and others. It was Thomas Paine's pamphlet Common Sense, published in The Rights of Man and Common Sense, which inspired people in the Thirteen Colonies to declare and fight for independence from Great Britain in the summer of 1776. In clear, simple language it explained the advantages of and the need for immediate independence.  The passionate cry for independence continues to this day, with the recent call for a Scottish independence.

    Continue Reading

Other books of interest