Jack London was one of my favorites as a kid. It wasn't until I was in my twenties that I discovered The Iron Heel.
The Iron Heel is a dystopian novel by American writer Jack London, first published in 1908.The book had influence on others too:
Generally considered to be "the earliest of the modern Dystopian", it chronicles the rise of an oligarchic tyranny in the United States. It is arguably the novel in which Jack London's socialist views are most explicitly on display. A forerunner of soft science fiction novels and stories of the 1960s and '70s, the book stresses future changes in society and politics while paying much less attention to technological changes.
The book is unusual among London's writings (and in the literature of the time in general) in being a first-person narrative of a woman protagonist written by a man. Much of the narrative is set in the San Francisco Bay Area, including events in San Francisco and Sonoma County.
The Iron Heel is cited by George Orwell's biographer Michael Shelden as having influenced Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orwell himself described London as having made "a very remarkable prophecy of the rise of Fascism", in the book and believed that London's understanding of the primitive had made him a better prophet "than many better-informed and more logical thinkers."The book came to mind as I read about events in Ferguson. Read on below for some thoughts.
Harry Bridges, influential labor leader in the mid-1900s, was "set afire" by Jack London's The Sea-Wolf and The Iron Heel.
Granville Hicks, reviewing Kurt Vonnegut's Player Piano, was reminded of The Iron Heel: "we are taken into the future and shown an America ruled by a tiny oligarchy, and here too there is a revolt that fails."
Chapter 7 of The Iron Heel is an almost verbatim copy of an ironic essay by Frank Harris (see Jack London: Accusations of plagiarism).
London's novella The Scarlet Plague (1912), and some of his short stories, are placed in a dystopian future setting that closely resembles that of The Iron Heel, although there is no actual continuity of situations or characters.
Frederic Tuten's debut novel The Adventures of Mao on the Long March uses extensive quotes from The Iron Heel, placing them alongside details of Chinese history from 1912 to Mao's rise to power.
As we struggle to keep fascism from taking us over at the polls in November it is worth pondering what will happen if we win. It is hard for me to see things being reversed. The militarization of our police began during the Vietnam war. Our movement frightened the oligarchy and they were going to make sure they could crush us if they had to.
Fortunately, they destroyed the movement using the ballot box and things stayed relatively peaceful unless you were part of the wrong group.
Now we face some different challenges. Inequality and the war on women are but two of the more obvious escalations recently. They are also preparing in case they don't get their way with Global Warming denial. Ironically, they are also preparing for the social breakdown that will come as Climate Change progresses. They also are ready in case we wake up and try to move against Wall Street again.
All in all, I think they are doing what they must because their system is collapsing. The question is whether or not we really understand that they will not give up without resorting to violence. We knew it in the sixties and it is just as clear now.