Frank Zeidler is Dead

by Harry on July 24, 2006

Via Scott McLemee I see that Frank Zeidler, former socialist mayor of Milwaukee and all-round good chap, died a couple of weeks ago. A wonderful obit here. Even conservatives can celebrate him — he was married just once, for 67 years, and they had 6 children. A good innings and a great life.

For CT extra credit, which cast member refers to Zeidler in Waynes World?



Beryl 07.24.06 at 10:50 am

Alice Cooper?


Beryl 07.24.06 at 11:23 am

But the idea, expressed frequently, that Zeidler was the “last socialist ever elected mayor” in the US, is patently wrong. I voted for Bernie Sanders in Burlington VT.


Fronts NYC 07.24.06 at 11:53 am

Alice Cooper, and did you know that Milwaukee is an Indian name for “The Good Land”?


Dr. Free-Ride 07.24.06 at 11:54 am

It was Alice Cooper. But what made it art was the terribly sad look in Alice’s eyes when Wayne and Garth were not into the proffered lesson on Milwaukee history.

We really can’t understand how lonely it can be to be a rock and roll icon.


gray 07.24.06 at 12:34 pm

Thanks for that link.

What a great person and what a great and productive life.

Would you know of more ( ie more links) US Socialists who gained prominence in civic life? I’m curious for its own sake, but I find it useful to note them when I’m debating ( ahem) the sort of crank who thinks all leftwingers are Stalin.


harry b 07.24.06 at 12:48 pm

gray — Helen Keller springs to mind immediately. Most people have heard of her…. Please, others, jump in (Scott M is a particular expert on this).


SamChevre 07.24.06 at 12:52 pm

I am not certain they would have described themselves as socialists, but FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt would almost certainly be described as socialists today.

Huey Long


joel turnipseed 07.24.06 at 1:38 pm

Norman Thomas was actually considered, if I’m not mistaken, a fairly “mainstream” part of American intellectual debate. Scott Nearing had some pretty good innings, as well… not to mention Jack London, Upton Sinclair, et. al.


Scott McLemee 07.24.06 at 5:23 pm

Jack London counts — but he was part of the scary-ass wing of the American socialist movement of his day. One radical journalist who visited him around 1912 got an earful of London’s racial theories, most of which he left out of the profile he published at the time. But when he recalled the meeting in the late 1940s, he said London would have seen eye to eye with Hitler on pretty much everything.

Altogether more appealing American socialists would include Helen Keller, Bayard Rustin, A. Philip Randolph, Woody Guthrie (“This Land” is the American Internationale, if you really listen to it), Dorothy Day, and too many heroic but forgotten labor and civil-rights people ever to mention.


gray 07.24.06 at 5:24 pm

Thanks for your replies.

If I could clarify my request, while I am aware of, and appreciate the Roosevelts and those of a similar national stature (although Helen Keller was news to me) my particular interest is those who managed to make a contribution or attained a profile outside of literary or academic endeavour.


harry b 07.24.06 at 6:10 pm

There’s my near namesake, Harry Bridges, a great union leader. Fiorello LaGuardia (after whom the airport is named). Jane Addams. Harry Hay. Many of the leaders of the early civil rights movement.


astrongmaybe 07.24.06 at 7:09 pm

Cesar Chavez


Beryl 07.24.06 at 7:40 pm

To continue the trend… Eugene Debs (with a few caveats).


Beryl 07.24.06 at 7:53 pm


will u. 07.24.06 at 9:35 pm

A public park in my hometown was until recently called Socialist Park, I believe because the Socialist Party donated the land. At some point it was renamed to the banal Willow Glen, which might as well be the name of a subdivision.

Partially due to German influence, the town had a socialist mayor and was the home of Socialist Presidential candidate Darlington Hoopes. The surrounding area is still quite red, although that means something altogether different in contemporary politics.


mcd 07.24.06 at 11:05 pm

Albert Einstein

King C Gillette (founder of Gillette company)

Horace Liveright (publisher)

Edward Bellamy (“Looking Backward”)


SamChevre 07.25.06 at 7:15 am


Known for literary work in a sense–he was a journalist, but a very political and influential one–would be Lincoln Steffens. (And “The Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens” is an awesome book if you are interested in unintended consequences.)


nameless 07.25.06 at 9:33 am

Let me subtract a few names from the list: LaGuardia (who ran as a Republican, remember) and the Roosevelts were reformers, but never Socialists, with or without the capitalization. Chavez likewise: while he headed a popular movement/union with social democratic ideals, he was no socialist (he purged the CPUSA supporters from the union in the 1970s). Huey Long was closer to a fascist than a socialist; he did not allow any popular movements that he was not the head of to function and liked being escorted by state troopers armed with machine guns. Draw your own comparisons to Venezualan liders of today.

And let me add a few who were not socialists for their entire career, but either began or ended that way: Martin Luther King (at the end), Walter Reuther (at the beginning), Sidney Hillman (ditto) and A.J. Muste (likewise). And, as already mentioned, Randolph and Rustin.

By the way, what are the caveats to Debs?


nameless 07.25.06 at 9:34 am

Venezuelan, my apologies to those who know how to spell.


Urinated State of America 07.25.06 at 9:54 am

Well, Edward Bellamy, the clergyman who wrote the pledge of allegience (without the ‘under God’ part) was a Christian Socialist.

John Dewey, the shaper of the student-centered American educational philosophy.

More obscure, but Max Schactman (sp?), Michael Harrington, Irving Howe, and Sidney Hook. (Soem might argue with Hook, but he considered himself a democratic socialist ’til the day he died). All with impeccable anti-communist credentials.

Orwell, though not American, is always a good one to throw in the face of wingnuts.

James Connolly (of the Irish Easter rising) worked for the IWW (the ‘wobblies’), as the IWW could give him a paying job, before returning to Ireland.

Jack London, as folks have mentioned above, is more problematic. In my mind, there’s a good chance that, given his racialist views, he would have done an Oswald Mosley had he lived longer.

More at:


astrongmaybe 07.25.06 at 11:04 am

nameless – at the risk of hairsplittery, what criteria would you use? Nationalization of the means of production, distrib. and exchange? Internal party democracy?


nameless 07.25.06 at 10:08 pm

I don’t think it’s splitting hairs. Here’s my definition, very ad hoc, as applied to Chavez: Nationalization of the means of production is not enough; Venezuela did that back in the 1960s, and wholly reactionary regimes can do it and have done it. Distribution of that wealth through social programs is a further step in the left direction, but also not necessarily socialist. To the extent that HC has split open the old crony labor federation that is a positive step, but so did Gen. Lazaro Cardenas and it took 60 years to sever the ties between the CTM and the PRI. I can’t get over my suspicion of paratroopers, golpistas and lideres, no matter how deeply red they may appear; without a movement capable of building popular power what was gained can be lost too quickly and too easily.

To quote an authentic Socialist, without caveats:

I do not want you to follow me or anyone else; if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition.


gray 07.26.06 at 12:21 am

Well thank you all again for your contributions.

I’ve kept wiki busy the last couple of days and enjoyed it immensely.

It has been interesting, but not surprising, how many of them have come from groups marginalized by the society of their day.


matt d 07.26.06 at 9:41 am

I don’t know much about Chavez, but how does purging his union of members of the Communist Party disqualify him from being a socialist? That sounds perfectly consistent with the kind of socialism I admire.

Comments on this entry are closed.