Edward Bellamy’s utopian novel Looking Backward 2000–1887 is often praised as the best-selling agit-prop socialist novel of the late 19th century. In fact, it’s a wooden didactic piece which praises a purely technocractic future, disses the radical left, and is complete with the main character having a super-creepy marriage. In this passage, Bellamy clearly tries to promote the idea that the radical left of his day was a “false flag” operation:
“By the way,” said I [main character Julian West], as the doctor read aloud to us some of these items, “what part did the followers of the red flag take in the establishment of the new order of things? They were making considerable noise the last thing that I knew.”
“They had nothing to do with it except to hinder it, of course,” replied Dr. Leete. “They did that very effectually while they lasted, for their talk so disgusted people as to deprive the best considered projects for social reform of a hearing. The subsidizing of those fellows was one of the shrewdest moves of the opponents of reform.”
“Subsidizing them!” I exclaimed in astonishment.
“Certainly,” replied Dr. Leete. “No historical authority nowadays doubts that they were paid by the great monopolies to wave the red flag and talk about burning, sacking, and blowing people up, in order, by alarming the timid, to head off any real reforms. What astonishes me most is that you should have fallen into the trap so unsuspectingly.”
“What are your grounds for believing that the red flag party was subsidized?” I inquired.
“Why simply because they must have seen that their course made a thousand enemies of their professed cause to one friend. Not to suppose that they were hired for the work is to credit them with an inconceivable folly.* In the United States, of all countries, no party could intelligently expect to carry its point without first winning over to its ideas a majority of the nation, as the national party eventually did.”
* I fully admit the difficulty of accounting for the course of the anarchists on any other theory than that they were subsidized by the capitalists, but at the same time, there is no doubt that the theory is wholly erroneous. It certainly was not held at the time by any one, though it may seem so obvious in the retrospect.
Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward 2000–1887, originally published 1888.