The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

January 3, 2013

State’s Socialist Party, labor history topic of Jan. 8 lecture


— Labor historian Fred Barkey will present ”The Socialist Party in West Virginia” on Tuesday, Jan. 8, in the Archives and History library at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex, Charleston. The 6 p.m. program is free and open to the public.

The first local branch of the West Virginia Socialist Party was established in Wheeling in 1901 and by 1914 several thousand West Virginians were dues-paying members of local branches. By 1910 local Socialists began to elect candidates to office and more than 15,000 state voters cast their ballots for Socialist presidential candidate Eugene Debs in 1912.

The progress achieved on the electoral front was a reflection of the party’s strategy of increasing class-consciousness by working with unions to build the power of the labor movement. Socialists were prominent in several craft trades, including glass- and cigar-making, and proved popular with coal miners as the party was an important factor in the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek Strike of 1912-13.

For his doctoral research, Barkey examined the rise of the Socialist Party in West Virginia at the end of the 19th century through its decline before and during World War I.

On Jan. 8, the library will close at 5 p.m., and reopen at 5:45 p.m. For planning purposes, participants are encouraged to register for the lecture, but advance registration is not required to attend. To register in advance, contact Bryan Ward, assistant director of archives and history, by e-mail at bryan.e.ward@wv.gov or by phone at 304-558-0230, ext. 723.