Jack London’s novel The Iron Heel, first published in 1908, is a piece of proletarian literature, explicitly, showing the rise of oligarchic tyranny in the United States. The work belongs to the revolutionary classics that makes the reader to look back on America circa 1912 when the capitalist oligarchy takes over the country and smashes all progressive socialist-oriented opposition.
By his novel, J. London is close to the actual reality of the USA of 1912 – 1920. One can find some resemblance between the lifeway of the protagonist Ernest Everhard and Eugene V. Deb. Both are keen advocators of socialism and view capitalism as a consumptive machine for a society. At that time around 1912 American radicalism reached its high – water mark. Mass strikes in Lawrence and Massachusetts led to the fact that Eugene V. Deb, a labor organizer and Socialist Party presidential candidate polled nearly a million votes, nearly 6 percent of the total. He was the first politician in American history, who won the largest vote for socialists ever before. But, later, a series of anticommunist raids targeted socialists, mass arrests and deportations followed in the reality appear to be clear predictions of The Iron Heel by Jack London.
The whole book is based on Karl Max’s views on unsustainability of capitalism and its brutal antidemocratic repressive regime. In his novel the author presupposes that the Socialist Party would become a mass party and overthrow the capitalism and some centuries later the Brotherhood of Man would be established. Jack London’s scenario never came up to life, and in the actual life the Socialist Party remained small and not widely accepted. America’s subsequent involvement had a devastating effect on the Socialist Party. Government repressions against socialist war resisters and a bitter conflict among the membership over nationalist loyalties destabilized the Party. And, as a result, in 1919 its membership and power declined precipitously (J.Parini, Ph.W.Leiniger, 2005).
Despite the increasingly hostile political climate, proletarian fiction continued to appear. Jack London’s The Iron Heel is deemed as a socialist world utopia supporting socialist ideology and rejoicing at capitalist crisis.
Shor, F. (1998). Power, Gender, and Ideological Discourse in ‘The Iron Heel’. In Leonard Cassuto, Jeanne Campbell Reesman: Rereading Jack London (pp. 75-91). Stanford University Press.
Barley, T. (1995). Prediction, Programme and Fantasy in Jack London’s ‘The Iron Heel’. In David Seed: Anticipations: Essays on Early Science Fiction and its Precursors (pp. 153-171). Syracuse University Press.
Whalen-Bridge, J. (1998). Political Fiction and the American Self ( pp. 73-100 ). University of Illinois Press.
Parini J. & Leininger Ph. W. (Eds.). ( 2005 ). The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature ( pp. 421-423 ). Oxford University Press.