Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/330/5588

From The Socialist newspaper, 17 January 2004

Books that inspired me

The Jungle, By Upton Sinclair

US PRESIDENT Theodore Roosevelt, it is said, choked on his breakfast and turned vegetarian when reading an advance copy of Upton Sinclair's expose of the meatpacking industry. The Jungle's graphic account of the presence of chemicals, diseased meat and rodent excrement in sausages is enough to turn anybody's stomach!

Alistair Tice

Appearing at a time when the practices of the "Beef Trust" were already under investigation, Sinclair's book, which quickly became an international bestseller, helped force through Congress the long-stalled Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act which became laws in June 1906.

Sinclair was one of the school of journalists and authors known as "muckrakers" who developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, exposing corporate and political wrongdoing in American society. He was introduced to socialism in 1902 and wrote The Jungle following the defeat of the 1904 Chicago stockyards strike.

The novel is based around the Lithuanian immigrant Rudkus family who come to America yearning a better life but instead find the wage slavery and misery of the mill, factory, sweatshop and slum.

In particular, Sinclair shows the brutal working conditions in Packingtown - of physical danger, insecurity, fear, exploitation, corruption and filth.

Sinclair's description of the slaughterhouse makes you, the reader, feel as though you can smell the warm, sweet, sickly stench rising from the blood and guts you are standing in! And the suffocating stink of the fertilizer plant makes your guts wretch as you are reading about it.

It is this 'jungle', these inhuman working conditions, that break the spirit of the novel's central character Jurgis (pronounced Yoorghis). He arrives in America as a strong, hopeful young man, marries his true love Ona in the first chapter, and optimistic to build a better life for his family.

He overcomes each adversity by working harder and determining that he will not be beaten. But within a few years he loses his job, his home, his wife (who dies unattended in childbirth), his son (who also dies), his freedom (he is jailed for beating up his wife's foreman who had raped her) and finally his hope (turning to drink, and abandons what's left of his family)!

You're reading the book thinking things can't get any worse, then they do! But as this tragic story unfolds, the capitalist system of the "Beef Trust" and corrupt politicians is laid bare.

Sinclair doesn't ram the political conclusions down your throat- indeed Jurgis, whilst seeing the injustice of it all, still gets trodden further and further down. With his spirit broken, he survives only by sinking into graft and corruption, and then works as a scab foreman during the stockyards strike.

Sinclair started writing The Jungle as a serialisation for the socialist newspaper Appeal to Reason but he didn't know how to finish the story. He was writing the novel to propagandise for socialism but had, in damning capitalism, taken Jurgis so low, 'lumpenised' him, that such a conclusion could not flow from his demoralised, broken state. So the ending is contrived and socialism has to be brought in from outside.

Jurgis, taking shelter in a meeting hall, finds himself at a socialist election rally and becomes aware of the speaker who appears to be directly addressing him. Through the orator's evangelical speech, Sinclair expounds his case for socialism. As he admitted later: "I went crazy at the end of the book and tried to put in everything I knew about the socialist movement."

Jurgis is converted, a bit like a religious conversion, reflecting Sinclair's recent discovery of socialism and the strong Christian influence in the American socialist movement at that time. Even so, it is powerful, passionate and persuasive, and provides an optimistic rallying call of: "Chicago will be ours!"

Sinclair remained active in the socialist movement for over 20 years but in 1933 he registered as a Democrat, and leading the 'End Poverty in California' (Epic) coalition, won the primary and then narrowly lost the election for state governor. He continued to write well into his eighties winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1942.

The conditions Sinclair raged against have been spread by capitalist industrialisation to sweatshops around the world. Workers still lose their jobs, their homes and their families. Food is still adulterated (see the articles below and left). The current US president may have choked on a pretzel, but we still need socialism.

 

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 17 January 2004:

Stop Top-Up Fees

Top-Up Fees - Your Questions Answered

Top-Up Fees - The Beginning Of The End For Blair?

"Don't let money mean more than minds."

Stop top-up fees Action Day


Socialist Party features

Asylum Seekers Fast For Their Rights

High Fat, High Sugar And High Profit

The Jungle, By Upton Sinclair

Sharon Pushes For Annexation

Haiti: Mass Protests Against Autocratic Rule

Respect Unity Coalition - what we think


Socialist Party workplace news

Fight Low Pay

CWU Broad Left Affiliates To ISR

Fight For New Workers Party


 

Home   |   The Socialist 17 January 2004   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Upton Sinclair:

triangleLaying the foundation stones of the workers' movement

Socialism:

triangleA world in crisis, ripe for revolution

triangleSocialism 2018

triangleSocialism 2017 Socialist Students meet-up

triangleLeeds Socialist Party: Religion and Socialism

Socialist:

triangle110 years ago: massacre at Santa Maria school in Chile - commemorate 21 December 1907

triangleThe Socialist's 2017 quiz

triangleTwo in five 'right to buy' homes now for let

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

14/12/17

Waltham Forest

Stop the rotten redevelopment plan, demand residents

13/12/17

London

Six months on - still no justice for Grenfell

13/12/17

Fracking

Movement growing against fracking giant Ineos

13/12/17

Devon

Totnes MP uses coffin controversy to distract from brutal NHS cuts

13/12/17

Miners

Tory plan to hold dinner at coal mining museum defeated

13/12/17

Bradford

Bradford campaign to save children's services launched

13/12/17

South London

South London health bosses' cover-up

13/12/17

Blacklisting

Unite day of action against blacklisting

13/12/17

Brighton

Brighton victory

13/12/17

Newham

Newham anti-academies strikes

13/12/17

Tamil Solidarity

Tamil Solidarity and Refugee Rights activists meeting

12/12/17

Woolwich

Support the Crossrail Woolwich walkout

7/12/17

Blacklisting

Unite protest against blacklisting

7/12/17

RMT

Anti-DOO lobby of Liverpool's transport committee

6/12/17

Donald Trump

Mobilise to stop bigoted billionaire Donald Trump's state visit to Britain

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle14 Dec Stop the rotten redevelopment plan, demand residents

triangle13 Dec Six months on - still no justice for Grenfell

triangle13 Dec Movement growing against fracking giant Ineos

triangle13 Dec Totnes MP uses coffin controversy to distract from brutal NHS cuts

triangle13 Dec Trump's incendiary Jerusalem statement reignites Israeli-Palestinian...

triangle13 Dec Labour 'purge' furore really just democracy

EU parliament, Strasbourg

triangle13 Dec Brexit deal no solution to Tory rifts

More ...

triangle18 Dec Leeds Socialist Party: Religion and Socialism

triangle19 Dec Bristol North Socialist Party: Christmas social

triangle21 Dec Wakefield Socialist Party: Socialists and the National Question

triangle6 Jan Socialist Party national women's meeting

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

December 2017

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2