CfA: Left-wing radicalism in the United States: a foreign creed?

Call for articles, deadline 31 May 2019

Red Scares have been a feature of US-American history from the end of the 19th to the middle of the 20th century. The repression of anarchists between 1890 and 1910, the Red Scare of 1919-1920 and witch hunt of the 1940s and 1950s helped develop national tools and strategies of intelligence and surveillance (Goodall, Rios-Borde) ; they took place within contexts when US-American identity was being created (reacting to the massive immigration and the industrialization of capitalism at the end of the 19th century) or reaffirmed (on the international scale after World War One, in opposition to the Soviet Union after 1945) (Gerstle, O’Leary). Anarchism, socialism and communism  were framed as foreign ideologies, by politicians, journalists and academics. « Radicalism » was perceived as belonging to other times and other places, as being in contradiction with the values of triumphant Americanism (liberalism, democracy, upward mobility) or ill-adapted to the American political context (Higham, Bell, Ceplair).

This Transatlantica issue will analyze the way in which the construction of radicalism as foreign to US-American identity was received by radicals themselves, to see how they reacted to the branding of their beliefs as un-American, and how they devised counter-discourses in order to Americanize their ideas, sometimes leading to conflict and contradiction. How can the language of patriotism be combined with a belief in internationalism ? What coalitions, what political alliances can be built while maintaining a revolutionary stance ? How can the class struggle be rooted in a discourse on US-American society without succumbing to the sirens of exceptionalism ?

The hegemony of the « national » in the study of social movements as well as in intellectual history has been largely contested by transnational history (Tyrrell) and a local history seeking to unearth the political and social experimentations born of radical ideas in specific geographical contexts (on socialism in Oklahoma, for instance, see Bissett and Plassart). Our desire to reintroduce the prism of the nation in the study of radicalism, without falling into the trap of naturalizing « the nation », stems from recent scholarly work stressing the importance of analyzing the interplay of scales (local, national, transnational) and the conflicts that might result from this interplay, for instance between internationalism and the necessity to root radical ideas in the « imagined community » (Anderson) of the nation. Are radicalism and national identity necessarily incompatible (Bantman, Turcato) ? And how does this feeling of national belonging play in the political strategies of radical activists ?

Proposals can address these issues from a large disciplinary perspective (history, social history of ideas, historiography). Possible topics include figures of the US-American left embodying the Americanization of radicalism (Daniel DeLeon, Emma Goldman, CLR James…), the repression of radicalism resting on the rhetoric of national identity (the « Americanization » defended by the American Legion in the 1920s, the opposition between American and Un-American…), the articulation and conflict between internationalist beliefs and national belonging, foreign-language radicalism (biographies of activists, propaganda in languages other than English…), the role of racial issues – or their absence – in the framing of the relationship between radicalism and national identity, comparative perspectives, theoretical approaches to the conciliation of Marxism and Americanism, controversies among historians on the relationship between radicalism and Americanism (the long posterity of Werner Sombart) and problems arising from this narrative.

Submission guidelines

Paper proposals (about 500 words) should be submitted

by May 31st, 2019.

Papers (8 000-10 000 words) will be due in October 2019.

Please send your proposals to

Transatlantica website: