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For socialists at the turn of the last century, reading was a radical act. This interdisciplinary study looks at how American socialists used literacy in the struggle against capitalism. The early Presidential campaigns of Eugene V Debs - leader of the Socialist Party - produced a concerted effort to develop a socialist literature specifically for an American readership. There followed a rapid growth in printed material which helped the movement in its rise to prominence, however, Martinek contends that this over-reliance on the printed word was also to be instrumental in its subsequent downfall.