Utah, now one of the most conservative states, has a long tradition of left-wing radicalism. Early Mormon settlers set a precedent with the United Order and other experiments with a socialistic economy. The tradition continued into the more recent past with New Left, anti-apartheid, and other radicals. Throughout, Utah radicalism usually reflected national and international developments. Recounting its long history, McCormick and Sillito focus especially on the Socialist Party of America, which reached a peak of political influence in the first two decades of the twentieth century—in Utah and across the nation.
At least 115 Socialists in over two dozen Utah towns and cities were elected to office in that period, and on seven occasions they controlled governments, of five different municipalities. This is a little-known story worth a closer look. Histories of Socialism in the United States have tended to forsake attention to details, to specific, local cases and situations, in favor of broader overviews of the movement. By looking closely at Utah's experience, this book helps unravel how American Socialism briefly flowered and rapidly withered in the early twentieth century. It also broadens conventional understanding of Utah history.