In the West, however, the Party was far less consensus-driven in its politics, and more heavily influenced by industrial unionism - a movement more concerned with organizing at the workplace than at the polls. It was also a time of tremendous public interest in social change, with all manner of social reformers, from the Salvation Army to Socialists, jockeying for prime corners on San Francisco's Market Street, preaching to those who stopped while passing by. Eugene T. Kingsley himself was arrested for lecturing the public at the street corner - on the charge of obstructing a thoroughfare - and many others of the Socialist Labor Party would follow in mass arrests of other SLPA public speakers between the years 1895 and 1896.
What was at stake for these street-corner lecturers was the right, in the era before mass communication, to effectively organize as a public activity in a manner which befitted legitimate political activity. The city had long permitted political meetings to be held on thoroughfares, and the status of Socialist lecturing as respectable and democratic political participants was very risky. The SLPA responded in kind with protests, court battles, and silent marches, but were ground down by the weight of civic opposition to their public activities - through mass arrests and public dispersal. Eugene Kingsley was frequently at the centre of this, both at the bully pulpit and on the podium.
During his 1896 May Day lecture, Kingsley proclaimed that revolutionary politics "could not mix with mere reform any more than could oil and water." While the battles over free speech on the streets of San Francisco would ultimately be at best a standoff for the SLPA, Kingsley himself would continue to face the problem of mixing revolutionary politics with legitimate political activity for the remainder of his career. Nowhere would this be more apparent than with his move to British Columbia in 1902.
Next: The Old War Horse - Socialism in British Columbia