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Dallas Celebrates Its Socialist Past

On June 16, socialism was celebrated in Dallas. It was a very genteel affair in a park on upscale Swiss Avenue. Dozens of white people in sporty summer attire came to listen to a charming women's classical music ensemble with a stunning soprano singing exclusively in French. Many of them had French, Swiss, or German names and were actual descendants of the utopian socialists from the La Reunion colony formed just west of the scrubby little town of Dallas in 1855. The dear lady who announced the shindig in the Dallas paper assured the readers that their ancestors weren't really socialists, but were "strong individualists" who believed that they could benefit by pooling their efforts for the common good.

Actually, Victor Considerant, who visited the area in 1853 and organized the colony, made the Texas socialists' far-reaching intentions quite clear: "I not only say to you, 'Let us enrich ourselves and live happily and free in Texas,' but let us progress with humanity and establish a land of freedom and plenty for our descendants."


In Dallas, where actual history is guarded, the story goes that these quaint Europeans with their wooden shoes and funny ideas were soon taught by the rough Texas reality that socialism won't work. Nevertheless, their contribution to the culture of little Dallas, where most of them went when the colony broke up, is spoken of proudly. They may have been lousy farmers, the story goes, but they brought the first piano into Dallas.

Many high-minded Europeans, especially Germans, left war-ravaged Europe and established socialist communities in Texas during the same period that others formed organizations to resist capitalism. The Communist Manifesto was published while progressives were planning new homes in Texas. Names of colonies like Sisterdale, Comfort, and La Reunion persist in Texas history and culture. What doesn't get mentioned much is that the colonies all ended, almost simultaneously, in 1860, when the Confederate government took over. One of the "quaint ideas" that those brave pioneers shared was an aversion to slavery. Their anti-racism got a number of them killed, and none of the socialist colonies of Texas survived the Civil War.


One of the charming East Dallas homes on Swiss Avenue today


For further study of the significant contributions of socialists to Texas:

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