On Thursday 28th July at 4pm, the unusual story of Tom Hickey, the Dubliner and friend of Mother Jones who tried to convert Texas to socialism, will be told by Professor Peter Buckingham at the Maldron Hotel Shandon. All are welcome.
Tom Hickey came to the United States from Ireland in 1892, became a machinist, and soon joined the Knights of Labor and the Socialist Labor Party. His party boss, Daniel De Leon, recognized the potential in this Irishman and even made him an “enforcer” against those who questioned the boss’s authority. The enforcer, though, eventually found himself forced out and moved west to start a new life. Ultimately, Hickey landed in Texas and saw an opportunity to use syndicalism as an organizing tool to build a state socialist party.
He did just that. Within a few years, Hickey transformed the faction-ridden Socialist Party of America in Texas into a force strong enough to threaten the Republican Party at the ballot box. He gained a large following thanks to a unique mixture of evangelical rhetoric and militant industrial unionism. He enlisted the help of many party comrades, including Mother Jones.
Biographer Peter H. Buckingham points out that Hickey failed to deliver his people into the Promised Land. Violence, poll taxes, voter suppression, and other forces made voting for socialist candidates problematic; the Democratic Party soon co-opted the more appealing elements of socialism into watered-down, reformist planks for the Texan voter. By the time Hickey died of throat cancer in the mid-1920s, his moment in the spotlight had passed.
“Red Tom” Hickey is an important contribution to Irish, Texas and American history, capturing a time that Buckingham argues was the second sustained crisis in American history: a democratic society wrestling with the effects of industrial capitalism.
After presenting an overview of the life and times of Thomas Aloysius Joseph Hickey, Buckingham will examine the special bond that developed between Mother Jones and Red Tom. When no one else would dare to cross Party Secretary, Mahlon Barnes, she revealed his sexism and greed as only Mother could, thereby saving Hickey from scandal and expulsion.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PETER H. BUCKINGHAM is Professor of History Emeritus at Linfield University in McMinnville, Oregon, USA, and the author of several books, including Rebel against Injustice: The Life of Frank P. O’Hare and America Sees Red: Anti-Communism in America, 1870s to 1980s. He resides in McMinnville.
The Rebel Newspaper.
University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UT San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.
The Rebel masthead
The great appear great to us only because we are on our knees
Let Us Arise.
The Irish Times report of the talk by Peter Buckingham at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival, 2022: https://www.irishtimes.com/history/2022/08/02/irish-man-tried-to-turn-texas-into-a-bastion-of-socialism-cork-conference-hears/