There are two very American books that (to me) present a fundamental problem: one is The Jungle (Upton Sinclair) and the other is Jack London’s Iron Heel. Both novels present the evil greed that men are capable of and both offer a solution or at least direction for improvement based on the ideals of socialism. Neither makes the United States, even a fictional America, very appealing. It’s interesting to recall that these novels, especially the dystopian Iron Heel, represent or project bad times for an era that is now behind us: look at George Orwell’s 1984 … not even Apple Computer can erase that future, even though it is now past due.
I know nothing that I may say can influence you … You have no souls to be influenced. You are spineless, flaccid things. You pompously call yourselves Republicans and Democrats. There is no Republican Party. There is no Democratic Party. There are no Republicans nor Democrats in the House. You are lick-spittlers and panderers, the creatures of the Plutocracy. You talk verbosely in antiquated terminology of your love of liberty, and all the while you wear the scarlet livery of the Iron Heel.
That was a short speech given by one of the new Socialist members of the Congress that had worked within the system but as predicted were eventually conquered by the might of the oligarchy.
Jack London, himself a socialist, wrote an interesting dystopean novel that expressed the problems with Capitalism and developed a likely outcome of the struggle between corporations and people, or as we might express it one hundred years later, between the one percent and the ninety-nine percent. The novel is titled The Iron Heel; it is structured as a manuscript written by a key player in the revolution (as such, remember that the footnotes are a part of the fiction and often serve to lend validity to the speculative future vision).
London’s main character is a charismatic leader who speaks for the side of the working man (this man’s wife is the narrator). Here he describes the situation:
The working man on the street railway furnish the labor. The stockholders furnish the capital. By the joint effort of the workingmen and the capital, money is earned. They divide between then this money that is earned. Capital’s share is called ‘dividends.’ Labor’s share is called ‘wages.’ … the workingman, being selfish, wants all he can get in the division. The capitalist, being selfish, wants all he can get in the division. … When there is only so much of the same thing, and when two men want all they can get of the same thing, there is a conflict of interest between labor and capital … an irreconcilable conflict.
His position on the oligarchy which controls the lives of so many workers is clear: